About Me

Rabbi Chaim Coffman
Rabbi Coffman has helped people from all across the spectrum to prepare themselves properly for Orthodox Conversion to Judaism. His students admire his vast knowledge and appreciate his warm, personal attention and endearing sense of humor.
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Welcome to Rabbi Chaim Coffman's Blog!

I would like to thank you for visiting my blog, Beyond Orthodox Conversion to Judaism.

The conversion process can be a lengthy and daunting one to say the least and I want you to know that I am here to help you through it.

I have been teaching newcomers to Judaism for over a decade and over the last few years I have seen that conversion candidates really lack the support and knowledge they need to navigate the conversion process and successfully integrate into the Orthodox Jewish community.

I created my mentorship program in order to help make this whole experience as smooth and as painless as possible! (Can't do much about the growing pains, though ;)

Feel free to get to know me a little through the posts on my blog and visit the mentorship and syllabus page if you are interested in possible joining us.

I sincerely wish you all the best in your search for truth and spiritual growth.

Looking forward to meeting you,
Chaim Coffman

My Rebbe, Rav Moshe Sternbuch

In case you were wondering why I have all of these articles written by Rav Moshe Sternbuch, he is my Rebbe, and one of the gedolei hador (greatest Rabbis of our generation).

Rav Sternbuch fully endorses me and supports my mentorship program.

He is the address for all of my halachic or hashkafic (practical and philosophical) questions that I or my students may have.

The articles are based on his weekly talks on the Torah portion that the Rav gives in Jerusalem in his kollel. As a member of the kollel I get first dibbs on the photocopies and I type them up for my blog so you can all benefit from the Rav's erudition and insight.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sovereignty of Torah

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch


“And these are the ordinances” (21:1). Rashi: just as what was previously stated [the Ten Commandments] were from Sinai, so too are these from Sinai.

After describing kabolas hatorah the Torah immediately delineates the laws of interpersonal relationships, such as the provisions against cheating and stealing. This teaches us that the Torah’s civil and criminal laws are no less divine than the chukim, which cannot be derived by applying the principles of human logic. "He has not dealt so with any nation: and as for His ordinances [mishpotim], they do not know them”. Furthermore, Pirkei Ovos, which deals exclusively with ethics, starts with Moshe kibel Torah miSinai, in order to emphasize that ethical matters too are divinely ordained.

For example, the mishna (Masseches Bovo Metzia 75b) states that if an employee deceives a fellow employee upon hiring him with regard to the remuneration terms specified by their employer, the deceived worker only has a grievance against the other worker. In other words, the aggrieved party does not have a claim which he can enforce in bais din, but he is entitled to hold a grudge against the person who has wronged him. Rav Moshe Schneider zt”l said in the name of Rav Yisroel Salanter zt”l that this demonstrates that even holding a grievance is forbidden unless the halocho explicitly confirms it to be justified.


“Should you buy a Hebrew slave” (21:2)

The Chofetz Chaim zt”l noted that this section teaches us how much Hashem condemns a thief. With us a wealthy person is likely to be honored and feted even if his wealth has been amassed by dishonest means, and everyone knows it. By contrast, the Torah prescribes that if a thief cannot pay back what he has stolen, he has to be degraded by being in the service of another person for six years, and cohabiting with a Gentile maidservant.

On the other hand, unlike secular systems in which thieves are imprisoned, only to have their wayward ways reinforced by constantly sharing the company of fellow criminals, the Torah’s idea of punishment focuses not only on the restoration of the stolen object and degradation of the thief, but also on educating him. Thus, the Torah insists that the master must give his best food to the "slave". By witnessing such behavior and generally being in a Torah environment, the thief is inspired to appreciate the beauty and justice of its laws, and is more likely to be rehabilitated once he has completed his punishment.

Honesty pays

“The homeowner shall approach the judges [venikrav ba’al habayis el ho’elokim] [to swear] that he has not laid his hand upon his neighbor's property” (21:7)

The above is the plain meaning of this possuk, but a Rebbe once rendered it as follows: How can a businessman [ba’al habayis] come close to Hashem? If he has not laid his hand on his neighbor's property, in other words if he has not obtained property by dishonest means, only then can he come close to Hashem.

Bonding with our children

“And one who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death…” (21:15)

The possuk talks about someone who strikes his father or mother and about a person who curses his father or mother, but in between it refers to someone who steals a man, and sells him. Why did the Torah not put the prohibition against smiting a parent in juxtaposition to the prohibition of cursing a parent? On the face of it, these two similar prohibitions belong together.
The Ibn Ezra explains that the Torah is telling us about the origins of this extreme case of a son cursing his father. Since he was stolen from his father's house, and did not learn how to respect him, he will eventually end up cursing him. Unfortunately, we witnessed such phenomena in recent generations, when children were separated from their parents here in Eretz Yisroel. In such circumstances, the son is exposed to outsiders seeking to convince him that his father belongs to the old generation and has no understanding of today’s needs. The boy’s heart will be “stolen”, he will start calling his father names, and will eventually curse him.

Moreover, even in the absence of physical separation, if there is no close connection between a father and son, the father's influence over his child will decline. If we make it our priority to nurture a genuine connection with our children, then even if they go through difficult periods, they will never want to sever their bond with their parents.


“And you shall be a holy people to Me, and flesh torn [tereifo] in the field you shall not eat” (22:30)

When it comes to ma’acholos asuros we have to behave like “holy people" who adopt stringencies and ensure that any food enters their mouths does not have the slightest suspicion of being treif. For this purpose we have to stick only to the most reliable hechsherim, and avoid places where shochtim compete with each other as to who can shecht the most chickens or beef in an hour. Moreover, even when we are away travelling ("in the field"), we should not compromise the standards which we maintain at home.


“And all the people answered in unison and said, "All the words that Hashem has spoken we will do."” (24:3)

Why does it say that the people answered in unison?

In a public auction in which people bid against each other, the person whose bid is accepted might claim that he would not have agreed to buy the auctioned item had the other people not forced him to outbid them. Similarly, had only part of the nation agreed to accept the Torah and others followed suit, those who did not agree initially might have argued that they had been convinced to consent by those who agreed before them, and they wished to withdraw their consent. Since, however, all the people answered in unison, any such arguments could not be made.

Cancelling gezeiros

“And Moshe was upon the mountain forty days and forty nights” (24:18)

The number 40 is of great significance. For example, the mabul lasted for 40 days. Also, continuous prayer for a 40-day period for the sake of a specific purpose is a wonderful segulo. Someone suffering from misfortune, who is in need of a yeshu’o should go to shul on a daily basis especially for the sake of the prayer, he should state what he is asking for, give money to charity, and afterwards recite the fourth book of Tehilim (chapters 90-107) and undertake bli neder that if Hashem will answer his prayers, he will say the nishmas prayer continuously for a 40-day period. Many people have had their prayers answered in this way. We must not lose sight of the fact, however, that the basis of all segulos is to trust in Hashem that He will help.

Moreover, dinim (judgments) should be distinguished from gezeiros (decrees). Dinim can be overturned through prayer, segulos and repentance, whereas gezeiros are much more difficult to overturn. This could only take place on occasions such as Yom Kippur or when we pray with tears throughout the year. We also have a tradition that if someone undertakes to pray the yom kippur koton prayer every month and engages in a dialogue with the Creator from the depths of their heart with tears to the best of their ability, that is also effective for overturning gezeiros.

During the last yom kippur koton prayers (erev rosh chodesh odor) Rav Sternbuch spoke briefly about the current situation in Eretz Yisroel. He said that this was an ais zoro, and that the issue of serving in the army is symptomatic of their general goal of secularizing the nation. They are fully aware that the yeshivas are the core of the whole nation in its genuine form, and that is why they wish to undermine them as much as they can. Rav Sternbuch implored those present to bear in mind that we are still before the stage of a gezeiro, and should make the most of our possibilities of changing the situation through prayer and repentance before a gezeiro crystallizes, because such a situation would rachmono litzlon be much more difficult to overturn.

ParaShas Shekolim

Rashi brings the Medrash that Moshe had difficulties with the machatzis hashekel, and so Hashem showed him the form of a fiery coin. Why did Moshe have difficulties in understanding the shape of a coin, and what was the significance of the fire?

Moshe did not understand why specifically half a shekel was required. Hashem’s response was that the physical act of giving only constituted half of the mitzvah, whereas the emotion accompanying the act and the desire to perform the will of Hashem are complementary and indispensable ingredients. If these are lacking, then not even half of the mitzva has been performed. Since these aspects of the mitzva are intangible, they are compared to fire, which cannot be touched.

Similarly, it says that someone giving tzedoko to a fellow Jew with a sour face loses his reward. During World War Two, Rav Sternbuch went round collecting money for Rav Schneider’s Yeshiva in London. Some people refused to give anything pointing to the sign outside their door “No hawkers allowed!”, and even some of those who did give something, complained to Rav Sternbuch: "Why do people come to me all the time? I’ve had enough of this! All right, what can I do, here, take this and go!”

The act of giving is only an empty shell that has to be filled with genuine love and respect for the recipient - be he an oni or the representative of a Torah institution - based on the recognition that the money with which we are parting is not ours in the first place, and that by means of this act money is being handed over to its rightful owner, and the recipient has enabled us to come closer to Hashem.