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.
Thursday, August 28, 2014

Parshas Shoftim: Take Precaution in Guarding our Precous Souls

"Judges and officers shall you make in all your gates which the L-rd your G-d gives you throughout your tribes and you shall judge the people with righteous judgement" (Deuteronomy 16:18).

Rav Moshe Feinstein in Derash Moshe asks why does it say for you, it would seem superfluous here. Rav Moshe learns that a person has to be a judge over himself to see if his actions are good and fitting in this world, He also has to "police" himself to see if he is doing what the "judge" wants him to!

This is how a Jew is supposed to look at the world. How can I better serve my creator? How can I guard myself against transgression? How can I better defend myself against the evil inclination and succeed against it?

Although this is how we should live everyday, we take more stock of our actions during the month of Elul as we prepare for Rosh Hashanah. We are preparing ourselves for the ultimate judgement which will effect our lives!

During this time, we examine and reexamine what we have been doing and what we could possibly do better. We will take on extra stringencies to show G-d we want to reach higher spiritual levels as we prepare for these awesome days.

The Rambam in Hilchos Teshuvah (laws of repentance) tells us that we have to look at our everyday life as if the scale is hanging in the balance between good and evil and my action right now will determine if the scale goes to one side or the other. We may think that our actions don't matter or are insignificant but in reality they have the ability to change the world!

G-d gave us a pure soul and we have to do our best to guard it against the impurity of the physical world! We have to tune into our spiritual selves keeping and guarding the Torah to the best of our ability. We are human and make mistakes but even so, we have to brush ourselves off, get up and continue again in our quest for spiritual potential!

We are guarding our precious soul for the "judge" who has given it to us. May we use these precious days to give our judge the proper respect and love He deserves!

Shabbat Shalom

Ethics of our Fathers: Chapter 3 Mishna 20: Enjoying this world comes at a price

"He used to say: 'Everything is given on pledge, and a net is spread for all the living (none can escape divine justice) ; the store is open and the storekeeper (G-d) allows credit; the ledger is open and the hand writes; whoever wishes to borrow may come and borrow, but the collectors go around regularly every day and exact punishment from man, whether or not he realizes (that he is punished for his sins); they have good authority on which they can rely, since the judgement is just;  and all is prepared for the banquet (the reward for the righteous is assured).

The first part of the Mishna explains that whatever we have in this world is loaned to us and we shouldn't think that we will pass it on to our kids or our loved ones. The reason is because everything belongs to G-d and He can decide to take it away if He chooses. This is the reality which we must live by.

Rabbenu Yonah gives us a parable with which to understand this. A person walks into a certain place and doesn't find anybody there. He walks into a house and finds a table set up and on it many delicacies of food and drink. He eats and drinks and says, 'All this I have merited and I will do with it what I wish! He doesn't realize that someone else must have brought it there and in the end he will have to pay back what he benefited from'.

This means that even though we are given free reign to live as we want, we will have to give an accounting for our actions after we die. Even in justice G-d has mercy and He will judge a person measure for measure.

The rest of the Mishna explains in terms of a shopkeeper and credit that he gives to his customers. They come and borrow on credit but at the end, they still have to pay. This is a parable to life in this world.

We are given the opportunity to enjoy this world and everything inside it. We have to know how to do that! G-d has given us instructions in the form of the Torah that guide our everyday life from when we wake up in the morning until we go to sleep at night.

If we use the world properly, then everything is good; the rain will come in its proper time,there will be peace in the land... If we don't do what we are supposed to do, then there is strife and evil runs rampant.

Everyone has to take stock of their lives and try and change to live as G-d wants to do. There are repercussions for our actions as well. We will only understand to what extent after death when G-d shows us what we did in our lives and what we had the potential to do,

Woe to the person that had great potential and wasted it on their desires in this world. G-d gave us a great world where we could strive to great spiritual heights.. Let's use it properly and grab it!
Thursday, August 7, 2014

Parshas Ve'eschanan: If you add or subtract mitzvos from the Torah, you only lose out

"You shall not add to the word  which I command you, neither shall you diminish it, that you may keep the commandments of the L-rd your G-d which I command you , Your eyes  have seen what the L-rd did because of Ba'al Pe'or: for all men that followed Ba'al Pe'or, the L-rd destroyed them from among you." (Devarim 4:2-3)

Rav Moshe Feinstein z"l in Derash Moshe asks what is the connection of not adding or subtracting from the mitzvos to serving Ba'al Pe'or? He tells us that the mistake of Enosh and his generation was that they thought serving idols was a sanctification of G-d's name.

After all, if G-d created the stars, planets..and they are so big and serve a tremendous purpose in our solar system and galaxy, then G-d must have put them there for us to worship as well. This does not mean we don't need to worship G-d but these creations that come from Him are also worthy of worship!

The problem is that G-d never gave us a command to worship them. Not only that, they are adding on to the mitzvos that G-d has given us and that is part of the fundamental mistake they made. This led to G-d being forgotten and these other creations being worshiped entirely!

How far that generation and future generations fell! They recognized that G-d created the world and everything in it. They also thought that these things were so incredible that they could be worshiped as well.

In essence these things were worshiped and G-d was forgotten about! This Rav Moshe continues, led the Jewish people to even worship the idol of Ba'al Pe'or. They added on to mitzvos that had no business being added on to!

The Torah is very specific of what we have to do and what we are not allowed to do. When we start adding on or detracting from the mitzvos, we are saying that we know better than Torah. Maybe this mitzvah doesn't apply today, or we have to make it fit in to the times we live in...However we want to define it, we only lose out when we try to add or subtract mitzvos!

We can see from the so called other movements what happens when you decide to play G-d and delete mitzvos from the Torah: assimilation and intermarriage. These are the two biggest things today that threaten the Jewish people from going into oblivion.

This is what the Torah is teaching us. We have to understand the mitzvos in their entirety and keep them to the best of our ability to sanctify G-d's name in this world!

Shabbat Shalom

Ethics of our Fathers: Chapter 3 Misna 19: If G-d knows what we will do, what happened to free will?

"Everything is foreseen (by G-d), yet freewill is granted (to man); the world is ruled with Divine goodness, yet all is according to the amount of man's work"

The first part of the Mishna explains that G-d foresees everything we do. If this is true, how do we reconcile the next statement that we have freewill? After all, if G-d knows what we are going to do, how am I really free to do what I want?

The commentaries explains that we have the ability to do either good or bad. We have free choice to go in either one direction or the other. This does not contradict the fact that G-d knows what we are going to do. We still have to go out and do it!

The reason that G-d set up the world like this is so that we will get more reward for the positive actions that we do. If we were created only do His will, we would be robots. This is not what G-d wants! He put us in this world with different character traits, drives and urges to help us reach our potential.

These actions can also cause G-d's ire when we have not done what He wants us to do! Although the first man ate from the tree of knowledge, he made our challenges that much more difficult.

His intention was to bring the evil, so-to-speak inside of us so that we would have to constantly fight against our evil inclination. That way, when we were presented with different options of what do do in a particular situation, if we chose the right way, we would get even more merit for our good actions but at the same time suffer the consequences when we did the wrong thing.

The only problem with this, though is that the Talmud tells us that G-d calls him an apikorus (heretic). The reason being is that even though Adam may have been right in his thinking, nonetheless, it was not the way G-d established the world to be run!

This leads to the last part of the Mishna about G-d's judgement. G-d has tremendous compassion when looking at what man does. In reality, we have no one to blame but ourselves for what happens to us because ultimately we are responsible for our actions.

The only question is when we do something that G-d doesn't want us to do, how does He view it? He takes into account what the action was, why we did it and where we were holding at the time. He therefore judges us at the present time, not for what great things we may do in the future, thereby making the judgement harsher.

This is a tremendous act of chesed G-d does for us. Even though He may put us in precarious situations to see how we will react, nonetheless, He doesn't put us in a situation we can't handle! We are judged by what we do, not by what our future holds!