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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, April 3, 2013

The Laws of Mourning Between Passover and Shavuos and the Death of the Students of Rabbi Akiva

     There is an obligation to start counting the Omer from the second night of Passover until the holiday of Shavuos. During this time, there are customs of mourning due to the fact that 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva died. We don't have marriages, get haircuts or listen to music.

One question that we may ask is why did these students die? If they were great rabbinical scholars in their own right, shouldn't they have realized that something seriously was amiss when more than 700 people died a day until they stopped dying on Lag B'Omer?

The Talmud  (Yevamos 62b) tells us that the reason they died was because they didn't show proper respect one to the other. If these were truly rabbinic scholars, how could it be that it didn't dawn on them to show proper respect for their fellow colleagues?

This can be understood in the context of a Yeshiva. In a Yeshiva, men learn with a chevrusah (study partner) trying to understand the text that they are learning. The reason one learns with a study partner is that even if one is very smart, he has his biases of how he looks at situations. Therefore, it is good to learn with someone else to bounce off ideas to see if they are getting to the truth of what they are learning.

As one is learning though, they have to remember that if they think their chevrusah is wrong in his understanding of the topic at hand, why is that? Do they think that only their opinion is right and therefore they will tear apart the other's opinion just to show that they are right or are they interested in debating the issue to get to the crux of the argument and understand the intricacies of the complexity of the text?

If the idea is to make yourself look better at the expense of the other regardless if the person may be right or not, is wrong. Then the idea is to make yourself look better at the expense of your learning partner and what you are doing is just mental gymnastics. 

The purpose of the Torah is to make you a better person and learn to the best of your ability of what the texts tell us and how it impacts our lives. If we don't take the lessons the Torah teaches us to heart, then we are just learning another discipline that has no connection to our lives. 

This is what the students of Rabbi Akiva lacked. Although they were great rabbinical students, they seemed to have forgotten the basic idea of having proper respect for the people around them. They didn't understand that the most important thing was getting to the truth regardless if your idea was right or wrong.

It is a tremendous knock at one's ego to hear that their opinion is flawed for this or that reason. The truly great person as long as they are learning for the sake of analyzing the truth will admit they have made a mistake and take the other opinion and move forward. The problem is that we don't like to admit we have made a mistake but that is how we learn and expand our knowledge!