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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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Followers

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, January 29, 2015

Parshas Beshalach: Why did 3/4 of the Jews not want to Leave Egypt?

"So G-d turned the people toward the way of the Wilderness to the Sea of Reeds. The Children of Israel were armed when they went up from the land of Egypt" (Exodus 13:18).

In Rashi's second explanation of this verse he tells us that only one out of five went forth from Egypt, and four parts of the people died during the three days of darkenss becaue they were unworthy of being delivered. During the three days of darkness Rashi explains (Exodus 10:22) that there were two types of darkness. One type of darkness was of gloom when no man saw another during those three days and there was moreover another period of three days darkness twice as thikck as this when on man rose from his place.

G-d brought darkness there Rashi explains because there were wicked people amongst the Jewish people of that generation  who had no desire to leave Egypt and these died during the three days of darkness so that the Egyptians might not see their destruction and say, 'These (the Jewish people) too have been stricken as we have. Could it really be after all the affliction that the Jewish people suffered at the hands of the Egyptians that three-quarters of the Jewish people did not want to leave Egypt?

Rav Moshe Sternbuch Shlit"a in Chochmah and Da'as explains that when there are revealed miracles like what happened in Egypt, G-d demands more from us. This means that since G-d changed nature and punished the Egyptians, the Jewish people witnessing these miracles should have in fact lived to a much higher standard and were judged accordingly.

This does not mean that these Jews were heretics and denied G-d but rather their hearts did not see the goodness of what G-d did for them and therefore were judged as being evil! This means that when we are saved from some serious dilemma whatever it may be, we not only have to recognize it as such but our actions should change for the better because of it!

When we live in a world of G-d's presence is hidden, we have to strengthen ourselves even more in our belief in Him.  The Ari z"l (Rav Isaac Luria) explains that the inner levels we hope to acquire in spirituality take great effort to acquire but today we can merit great things in spiritual terms easier than in previous generations.

This obligates us every one of today since it is so easy to acquire these levels compared to previous generations, we should not waste this precious time! There are those righteous people who explained this in the following light.

They claimed that when they die, they won't rest until they are able to bring the messiah here. The problem is that after they die, they come to someone in a dream and tell them that in the next world they see things totally differently.

They see what can be accomplished today where G-d's presence is hidden and where we can acquire great spiritual levels much easier than in previous times. After the coming of the messiah, we will not be able to do this and therefore it is worthwhile to delay the redemption.

This is one of the acts of chesed that G-d does for us to help us gain merits in a much easier way and lift ourselves to levels we did not think was possible. Imagine what we have to gain!! Let us not waste our time in this world and acquire the greatness that is possible.

Shabbat Shalom

Ethics of our Fathers: Chapter 4 Mishna 13: Take Responsibility for your Life

"Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov said: he who performs one mitzvah gains for himself one advocate; he who commits one transgression acquires for himself one accuser. Repentance and good deeds are as a shield against punishment"

Every deed whether good or bad is recorded. Just like a video camera films things to be watched and preserved, so too our actions are taped from above. The Mishna explains that with each action, a person acquires an advocate.

This advocate the commentaries tell us is an angel. This angel will come to testify on that person's behalf when the person dies and gets judged by G-d. At the time of judgement G-d gathers all the angels created from the actions of that person where they will testify to what the person did at that time.

G-d will then look at all these angels and after evaluating all the information will judge that person and decide where that soul will go. He will decide how the action was performed, where the person was holding at the time and look at other factors before determining the soul's fate.

This concept would be difficult to understand if not for the technological advances that have occurred over time. Even if we do understand this idea on an intellectual level, practically speaking it is very difficult to fathom.

We live in a world where G-d's presence is hidden and we see "contradictions" where the righteous suffer and evil people seem to have it easy. Although this is an age-old question, nonetheless we have to try and live our lives with this idea in the forefront of our minds.

If in fact our actions are going to judged and recorded, shouldn't we be more careful of what we say and how we act? How could we even think of not doing what G-d wants from us if we know that this awesome judgement will take place in the future.

Although this may be true, since we don't see it with our own eyes or we haven't met people who have been in that world and come back, it becomes in essence mental gymnastics. The Mishna here tells us that we have to take what we do seriously because there are repercussions for our actions.

Many think that even if G-d exists, why would He waste His time with mankind if we are not even close to His level? Therefore people make the mistake and think that their actions don't matter.

The Rambam in the laws of repentance tells us that we have to look at the world as if it is teetering on a scale with its potential destruction based on the next action that person takes. If they make the right decision and do something good, then the scale slides to the side of good; if that action is bad, then the scale slides to the other side.

This means that everything is really in our hands and we have the ability to change the world just by what we do. We have to try to the best of our ability to continue to do G-d's will, keeping the world in a good equilibrium.

The end of the Mishna says that even if we deserve punishment, we can push it off through our good deeds and repentance. These two things can act as a shield against our bad actions. The more good things we do and if we sincerely repent for our wrong doings, they protect us from Divine wrath.

With that being said, the Jew's responsibility to the world is nothing short of awe-inspiring. We need to take stock of our lives on a daily basis constantly looking at our actions to see if we are still going on the right path.

There is an idea to take an accounting of one's actions during the day (cheshbon hanefesh) before we go to sleep which helps us understand if we accomplished good things or bad things during that particular day. This will give us food for thought about what we want to change in our lives and then go out and try and make that happen.

Commitment comes with a price and we have to be prepared to do whatever it takes to make G-d proud of us and continue to guide us and protect us!!



Thursday, January 22, 2015

Parshas Bo: Sacrifice yourself to Torah

"Moshe called to all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Draw forth or buy for yourselves one of the flock for your families, and slaughter the pesach-offering. You shall take a bundle of hyssop and dip it into the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with some of the blood that is in the basin, and as for you, no man shall leave the entrance of his house until morning. Hashem will pass through   to smite Egypt, and He will see the blood that is on the lintel and the two doorposts; and Hashem will pass over the entrance and He will not permit the destroyer to enter your homes to smite." (Exodus 12:21-23)

Moshe tells the Jewish people that they have to slaughter a lamb (one of the gods of the Egyptians) and place the blood on the doorpost of their homes so that G-d will see it and not let the destroyer kill them. The commentaries tell us that this was the last thing the Jewish people had to do so that they could leave Egypt. Why does G-d make them do this and make it a precondition to leave if He had already promised them they would leave Egypt after the last plague?

After witnessing all the plagues and destruction of Egypt, were the children of Israel not prepared spiritually to leave? Would their slave mentality be a hindrance to them as they went out into the desert?

One possible way of understanding this is that G-d wanted to make sure they truly believed in Him even after all the miracles that G-d had performed. By killing their god in front of them would be the ultimate test in their submissiveness to Him to show their loyalty.

This is the ultimate sacrifice of giving over one's self for the sake of doing G-d's will. How could they possibly have the strength to do something like this without feeling the wrath of Pharaoh and what he might do. This was precisely the test that G-d needed to put them through.

This would show beyond the shadow of a doubt their commitment to Him and how far they were willing to go to serve Him. This is a tremendous lesson for all of us.

We go through life sometimes asleep and doing things by rote. We get up, wash our hands, make the appropriate blessings, keep shabbos, the festivals but we are disconnected in many ways and merely go through the motions.

G-d wants us to take the bull by the horns so-to-speak and give every ounce of our strength every day to serve Him properly. This may come at a price that we may have to pay.

This means that sometimes we may have to do things that the Torah wants which will make others feel uncomfortable or possibly jeopardize our jobs or friendships. We have to be willing to do whatever G-d wants from us even if it makes others uncomfortable.

Torah comes first in every aspect. We need to live our lives in accordance to its laws and sacrifice ourselves to keep it. We don't live our lives to be popular or to be political right; we do what we need to do because this is G-d's will.

If we would look at the world in such a way and live up to the high standards that the Torah has for us and not worry about world opinion or what our friends or neighbors might think, the Jewish people would look very different today.

May G-d give us the strength to serve Him properly.

Shabbat Shalom


Ethics of our Fathers: Chapter 4 Mishna 12: Don't Squander Spiritual Opportunities

"Rabbi Meir said: 'Do rather less business and occupy yourself with the Torah; be humble before all men; if you neglect the Torah, you will have many disturbing causes in your way but if you toil in the Torah, G-d has abundant reward to give you'".

The first part of the Mishna tells us that we should minimize the amount of time we put into our livelihood and occupy the majority of our time with learning Torah. Livelihood is very important because without that, one won't be able to study!

This means that we should try and find a livelihood that can make us enough money but be free to learn as much Torah as possible. When choosing a field of work this should be of utmost priority. Although it is not always easy to find, our goal in this world is to provide for ourselves and our families while maximizing the amount of time we learn Torah.

The next part of the Mishna is a continuation of learning Torah because if we learn properly and truly internalize the eternal messages we will be humble and realize what our real task is in this world! The Torah will become part of ourselves which will help us strive and realize our potential through great effort in learning it.

If we don't learn Torah properly or even neglect it then G-d will send difficulties our way. This means that if we have the opportunity to learn and don't or we don't learn at all then G-d will rebuke us by sending us difficult challenges. These are seen as a wakeup call, so-to-speak that will hopefully take us out of our slumber and put us on the right track.

Just as parents don't like to rebuke their kids, they sometimes have to and correct their errant behavior. So to, G-d wants the best for us but sometimes has to punish us for our wrong actions.

If we try and maximize all our efforts to try and learn and better ourselves spiritually, G-d himself will give us reward. Even though G-d has different messengers to do His work, in this case, G-d will see to it Himself that His beloved ones receive the merit they deserve.

If G-d has to mete out justice, G-d forbid, He does it through His messengers whereas the reward comes straight from him. Although we know this to be true, we don't keep Torah and do mitzvos for the sake of reward.

We do them because we believe it is the right thing to do regardless of whether we get reward or not! When we realize the great opportunity that G-d gives us to learn His Torah and keep His mitzvos, we must not squander it.

That being said, it is not an easy task but at the same time, when we put in the effort we see the results. No one puts in effort and sees nothing; everything we do builds on previous things and makes us stronger in our beliefs!
Friday, January 16, 2015

Parshas Va'eira: Gratitude, its for Everyone

"Hashem said to Moses, 'Say to Aharon, 'Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt; over the rivers, over their canals, over their reservoirs, and over all their gatherings of water, and they shall become blood; there shall be blood throughout the land of Egypt, even in the wooden and stone vessels'". (Exodus 7:19)

G-d commands Moshe to tell Aharon to take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt. Why was the first plague done through Aharon and not Moshe?

Rashi answers that since the water protected Moshe when he was placed in the basket, he was not allowed to strike it during the plagues of blood and frogs. The commentaries learn from here that a person has to show gratitude to others even if that thing is an inanimate object!

The water although they can't speak or hear Moshe was not allowed to strike it for the first two plagues, all the more so, a person should show gratitude to others for things that they have done for them! This is an important lesson for many reasons.

The first thing we learn is that a person is considered an ingrate if they do not show gratitude to others. If someone does a favor for us we should reciprocate and help them if they need it.

While there is an obligation to help others in general, here we are required to do more because of the help we received from that person. If we don't show gratitude, then we deny the goodness the other person has done for us!

We live in the :"me" generation! Everything revolves around me and everything is coming to me! I heard someone once say that they became who they were despite their parents; as if to say that they didn't need their parents for anything or be thankful for what they have done for them.

I asked that person simply if they themselves took them out of their mother's womb? Did they dress themselves from the beginning and earned a livelihood at a tender age "despite their parents? As to be expected, there was no response!

We have to teach our children and give them guidelines in this area. They can't always get what they want (even if we could afford it) because their friends have it or because they think they deserve it for whatever reason; this will spoil them and teach them nothing!

We have to teach them to say thank you and appreciate what their parents do for them. They also have to learn to help and do chores and be an active participant in the family. This teaches them responsibility and never to take things for granted.

Another important lesson this teaches is to realize how lucky we are and to be happy with what we have. We don't have to be looking at others and what we lack but we should appreciate what we have and use these things to serve G-d better.

What we see today is horrific of how some people treat others and the disrespect they have for them. Could I be that conceited and think I am so great without appreciating what others have done for us?

May we learn this valuable lesson and appreciate others that have helped us in lfie.

Shabbat Shalom

Ethics of our Fathers: Chapter 4 Mishna 11: Don't Get Caught up in this world

"Rabbi Yonasan said, 'Whoever fulfills the Torah despite poverty shall in the end fulfill it in the midst of wealth; whoever neglects the Torah in the midst of wealth shall in the end neglect it on account of poverty'".

A person is obligated to learn as much Torah as they can. The learning should not be done in a rudimentary way but the ideas should be acted upon and internalized. One is exempt from learning if they are busy trying to earn a living.

This means that earning a living exempts a person from learning Torah and when they are not, there is an obligation for that individual to learn. At the very least, a person has to find time during the day and night to learn which we call being "kovea itim l'Torah".

Even if a person lives in difficult times, they should nonetheless learn Torah to the best of their ability. This is the promise of the Mishna. When a person learns and dedicate themselves to Torah even if they are suffering financially, G-d will repay them!

Not only that, they grow spiritually and gain things that they would not have imagined were they to have more money at their disposal. Many people have said that the greatest learning they accomplished was when they were going through difficult times. Why is this so?

When a person has money and his physical needs taken care of, they pray differently and don't rely on G-d. They will feel satisfied from their actions and seemingly forget G-d is the one pulling the strings.

This will lead to complacency, apathy and disrespect for Torah and mitzvos. This is not always the case, but the more a person has financially, the more he comes to forget about G-d. We would benefit tremendously if we always prayed with a sense of urgency even if everything seems to be going fine.

We live in a very transient world and things can change at the blink of an eye. Unfortunately we don't see things that way but that is the reality of the situation. There can be financial upheaval or even physical ailments that can overcome a person instantaneously without warning.

A person came to visit the Chofetz Chaim in Radin and could not believe the poverty in which he lived. He offered to buy him new furniture to replace the old ones so the Chofetz Chaim could have the semblance of a "real life".

When the Chofetz Chaim heard that he asked his guest where his furniture was. The man replied that he took a few things with him on his trip but he left the rest at home because he was just passing through for a short time. The Chofetz Chaim replied that he was also passing through ie through this world for a short amount of time, so why do I need new furniture? What will be its purpose?

Wealth can lead a person to think that everything they have accomplished is based on the work of their hands. The Mishna comes to tell us that the more satisfied we are here in this world "enjoying:" things, the more we will neglect Torah and pay a severe price for that.

If we would live like the mentality of the Chofetz Chaim and realized that we are only here in this world for a short period time, we would live our lives differently!! Every day we are here is a gift and we have to take advantage of it. If we get caught up in this world, it will cost us later.
Thursday, January 8, 2015

Parshas Shemos: Serving G-d even in Dire Straits!

"And it was because the midwives feared G-d that He made them houses" (Exodus 1:21).


Rashi here mentions that the houses that they were given for saving Jewish children were the houses of the priesthood and kingship. Rav Moshe Feinstein z"l in Drash Moshe asks why this verse needs to be stated;  after all, do we receive reward for the mitzvos that we do in this world?

Rav Moshe explains that a kohen needs to teach the people and serve G-d by doing the service in the Temple. He therefore needs to love his fellow Jew and have good character traits while sacrificing himself for the sake of the Jewish people.

They should serve G-d and the Jewish people through fear of heaven so they won't make mistakes in their ability to do what G-d expects of them. A king as well needs to have proper judgment and character traits to rule the people.

Sometimes they will be tested and could make costly mistakes that could result in thousands of deaths G-d forbid. He must have proper fear of heaven to insure that these mistakes are not made, keeping his enemies at bay and ruling properly.

The reason that fear of heaven is so important is because without it, they could put their people in tremendous danger. They must have a clear head at all times, really on G-d to help them iin times of great stress.

This is a timely message for all of us. We often see that life throws us curves that we weren't expecting. Not only that, it seems that the situation we have been placed in is impossible to navigate. It is times like these that we throw our hands up to heaven and declare that we only rely on You to help and guide us!

We have seen throughout the last 3,000 years that when the chips are down for the Jewish people, we cannot rely on the nations or anyone else to help us. G-d runs the world and helps in all situations even if we don't witness it directly.

If we look into our lives, we will have witnessed many times how that help has come and saved us from a perilous situation. Even if we are in dire straits, they don't last forever and eventually pass.

At the same time, we have to dig deep in the trenches of our belief in G-d and strengthen the idea of his control over the world even if we don't understand what is happening. We have seen over the last few months, many attacks against Jews in many parts of the globe based on tremendous hatred and calling for our destruction.

Before the messiah comes, the Jewish people have to persevere the difficulties of the times. We have to learn more, be nicer to others and work on our bad character traits and bring the light of the Torah to the world. That is only the way there will be peace in the world while we still have to live our lives and continue to do mitzvos!

Shabbat Shalom

Ethics of our Fathers: Chapter 4 Mishna 10: Have Respect for others

"He used to say: 'Do not judge alone, for none may judge alone except One (G-d); do not say (to your co-judges), 'Accept my view," for they (who are in the majority are entitled to say that, but not you."

The first part of the Mishna explains that one should judge alone, even if they are an expert. This may seem strange because after all, if the person is an accepted expert, why should he not be allowed to judge by himself?

The commentaries explain that it is considered a praiseworthy act of piety to gather two other judges. The reason is because even though a person may be an expert, it is still better to get the opinion of others. An expert is also fallible and the opinion of others will sharpen his knowledge as well!

Although one is not allowed to judge by themselves, if 2 litigants decide that they will have their case heard by this judge he is allowed to judge the case. This idea is only an act of great piety but there are circumstances whereby it would be allowed.

The last part of the Mishna explains that the expert cannot say to his co-judges that they should accept his view since they are the majority and the halacha is that in a case that is judged, you go after the majority.The end of this Mishna teaches us an important point.

Even if someone is an expert compared to the other judges that sit with him, he nonetheless has to show humility and respect their opinions even if he doesn't agree with them. He cannot force his opinion on them since they are in fact the majority!

In life there are times where we will have disagreements with others and think that we have the right to try and influence others so that they will come to agree with us. Even if we are an expert in that subject, it does not give us the right to denigrate others if they don't agree with our position.

We sometimes lose sight of the fact that not everyone will share our viewpoint which as many will say "makes the world go around". At the same time, we cannot allow people to spew heretical positions that cause a desecration of G-d's name!

This is a very fine line which we have to be careful of. Sometimes even if our position will be unpopular, we still may have to defend it even if people don't like it. At the same time, we don't proselytize to others; we act by example displaying impeccable character traits.

The Torah is way of pleasantness and all its paths are peace. When we see all the infighting amongst the Jewish people all claiming they are defaming others for the sake of heaven, we see that we have a long way. This was the reason the holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed as well!

May we seek to learn from every person and never "show off" our knowledge and ram it down others throats. That won't bring others closer to Judaism, just the opposite, it will send people further away, despising the priceless heritage that they have!
Friday, January 2, 2015

Parshas Vayechi: In the end it will be good

"But Yosef said to them, 'Fear not, for am I instead of G-d? Although you intended me harm, G-d intended it for good: in order to accomplish it is as clear as this day that a vast people be kept alive" (Genesis: 50:19-20).

As we have seen from the story of Yosef and the brothers, it is clear that when Yosef told over the dreams, he was giving over prophecy of what would happen in the future. The reason Yosef had to tell these dreams even at the risk of his brothers hating him more was because these were not ordinary dreams but actually prophecy and when a prophet receives prophecy he has to tell it over!

This led Yosef to be sold and eventually live in Egypt. While he was there, he rose to be second-in-command to Pharaoh where he told him the answer to his enigmatic dreams whereby there would be years of plenty and famine. "Coincidentally" the famine reached the land of Israel and Yaakov told his children to go get food from Egypt otherwise they would die of starvation.

The brothers go down to Egypt and we have our story. The Torah does not waste words on telling us things we don't need to know or are irrelevant. The purpose of the story of Yosef and his brothers is these two verses. The brothers realized their mistake in mistreating Yosef and showed their true remorse for their actions.

This is when Yosef reveals himself and wishes to see his ailing father. After Yaakov dies, the brothers are still worried about their mistreatment of Yosef and the repercussions that may occur now that Yaakov is no longer alive. Yosef assures them that they have nothing to fear because everything is under control by G-d and the purpose of everything was so that he could save them from the famine.

This is what occurs in our everyday lives even if we don't understand it. This means that people have many trials and tribulations throughout their lives. We see them as something bad and difficult to deal with but in the end they help us become the people we are; we just have to know how to look at it.

Even if the end result is bad, the purpose of it could be to save the Jewish people from something much worse. As the Jewish people prayed for the recovery of the three boys that were taken captive and subsequently killed, they did not die for nothing.

The Israelis searched high and low for these boys and in the end attacked many positions of Hamas in the Gaza strip. This lead to the discovery of a complex network of tunnels where there could have even been a worse catastrophe as the plans of the Hamas were foiled.

While the death of the three boys was indeed tragic, the end result was that they saved hundreds perhaps thousands of lives with the discovery of these tunnels! This is but one example that even though the boys died, we know that everything comes from above. Here they were the sacrifice which in the end saved thousands of lives!

Yosef is telling us a lesson for all generations. G-d is the designer of the world. He orchestrates everything down to the last minutia running the world. We think that the world runs on auto-pilot through nature; isn't G-d really behind nature?

We need new glasses in which to view the world. G-d has many messengers at His disposal which can cause good or bad things to happen. In reality everything G-d does is good; we just have to step back and view the world that way even if things don't seem like that.

This is what Yosef is showing us in speaking with his brothers. G-d runs the world; even if you think you are doing bad things to me G-d sees it otherwise and continues to put his plan into action whereby in the end it will be good.

Shabbat Shalom

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Ethics of our Fathers Chapter 4 Mishna 9: Don't Judge to Quickly

Rabbi Ishmael his son said: 'He who avoids entering into litigation (and seeks a friendly settlement) rids himself of hatred, robbery and perjury; he who proudly lays down decisions is foolish, wicked and arrogant'"

The first part of the Mishna tells us that it is a good thing to avoid litigation and seek a friendly settlement. Rabbenu Yonah explains that even though there is  Torah obligation to have judges (Deuteronomy 16:18) and that we should seek out justice (Deuteronomy 16:20) and have our cases litigated properly, that is only in a case where there are no other judges.

This means that although there is the obligation to have judgement done, who says that I am the one to be a judge! The Mishna here tells us that it is better to avoid it so that you don't enter yourself into many doubts that could possibly come up. Not only that, it takes tremendous responsibility in judging the cases and only those qualified should partake in such an endeavor.

Even if someone was wronged by someone else, it is better to avoid litigation if at all possible. After sitting in a rabbinical court for 5 years, it is clear that this is the truth. The reason is that these cases take time and the longer it goes on for, the more upset and aggravated people get.

If at all possible it would be better to make some sort of compromise rather than enter this whole arena. If not it could lead to hatred, robbery and perjury. Why is this so?

One may hate the judges if they find him obligated in the case. By stealing this means that maybe the person obligated to pay was in fact not guilty and therefore would be exempt in this case. A person could also be obligated to swear when he doesn't need to do so and will do it for nothing!

The last part of the Mishna explains that a person has to be careful not to proudly lay down decisions is foolish, wicked and arrogant. The reason is that they hastily rule on a decision without considering all the facts or looking into it properly; this makes him a fool.

This person will be considered wicked because they show that they do not have any fear of heaven because they think they can judge and answer without properly looking into the case at hand! They will also be considered arrogant because here they are trying to show how quickly they can answer and how wise they are!

In reality this is a recipe for disaster because they will skew the law and will end up perverting justice which is just the opposite of what the Torah wants from us! They think they are doing the world a tremendous service when they doing just the opposite.

We learn from here the importance of choosing the right judges who have proper knowledge and fear of heaven. Even if someone has the requisite knowledge and "passed their exams" it does not qualify them as a judge. Without the component of fear of heaven and humility, they will make mistakes and cause havoc!

As we can see, the more knowledge one has, the greater their evil inclination. We should all use the gifts that G-d has given us for the right things and keep proper perspective of who we are!