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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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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, February 12, 2015

Ethics of our Fathers: Chapter 4 Mishna 15: If you have the right teacher, you will go far!

"Rabbi Elazar ben Shamua said, 'Let the honor of the student be as dear to you as your own, and the honor of your colleague be like the reverence due to your teacher, and the reverence for your teacher be like the reverence for heaven'".

The Mishna begins by telling us that a teacher has to be careful when dealing with a student to the extent that they should be dear to him as your own. We could understand that a teacher must treat his student with proper respect but does the student have to be as dear to you as your own?

If teachers want to be successful they have to not only have a firm grasp of the material at hand but they then have to give it over in a way that their students can comprehend it. Half the battle is getting the students trust and getting them to do what they need to do.

If the teacher shows great patience and sees the student as dear to them as their own, they will be successful in explaining the material and keep the students intrigued and enjoy what they are learning. Successful teachers inspire their students, showing them proper respect while trying to give over the information.

Although one may have students that are not the easiest to deal with, to say the least, they need to show restraint, compassion and patience at all times. If one is able to do that, they will be successful.

The next part of the Mishna tells us that the honor of your colleague is like the reverence due to your teacher. If we would treat people giving them the proper respect that they deserve i.e. like we would for a teacher, they will come to have more respect for us and become better people because of it.

The reason is because when they learn by the example of their peers, they inevitably will want to emulate the character traits that make them such an inspirational person. This will lead them to be inspired by them which will create a tremendous kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d's name.

This person will equate the goodness of their colleague to the fact that they observe the Torah and its laws. They will be awe-inspired and declare "thank G-d this person's father taught him Torah or thank G-d this person's teacher taught him..."

Leading by example and not the "do as I say but not as I do motto" will go far in influencing others. This will lead to a greater reverence for G-d because of the how the person acts and interacts with others.

This leads to the last part of the Mishna which tells us that the reverence we have for our teacher should be like the reverence we have for heaven. If a person does not look at their teacher (at least a Torah teacher) as someone who is like an angel, then they can't learn Torah from them. This does not mean that people are not infallible but one has to realize that if the Torah they learn from their teacher inspires them, changes them and helps them reach there potential in spiritual growth, then that will lead to a greater reverence for heaven.

On the other hand, if the teacher is someone who has bad character traits or the like then the message will not get across and the student will lose respect for them, certainly not creating a greater reverence for heaven. This is the like the famous story with Bertrand Russell.

He was a teacher of ethics but was clearly very unethical. When one of his students asked him "how could you teach ethics and be so unethical?" he responded by saying that "if I taught mathematics would you expect me to be a square?" This is not a Jewish concept and we do not compartmentalize things in such a manner.

We have to strive and grow and become the best people we can; that starts with having the right teachers that can give us the information and inspire us and help us in that endeavor.  The successful teachers are the ones that put all their effort into their craft, giving the students what they need and keeping them focused!


Chelsey Kent said...

This is very good. Thank you Rabbi Coffman!