Blog Archive

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.
View my complete profile


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 13, 2015

Ethics of our Fathers: Chapter 5 Mishna 9:The differences between a wise person and a fool

"There are seven characteristics of a stupid person, and seven of a wise man. The wise man does not speak in the presence of one who is greater than he is in wisdom; he does not interrupt the speech of his companion; he is not hasty to answer; he questions and answers properly, to the point; he speaks on the first point first, and on the last point last; regarding that which he has not learned he says: 'I have not learned'; and he acknowledges the truth. The opposites of these traits are to be found in a  stupid person'"

The Mishna here mentions the differences between a wise man and a stupid person (golem). .A golem the commentaries tell us is something that has not been finished or completed. If someone learns from another person but cannot himself make inferences or reason practically then they are called a golem because their wisdom is not recognizable. At the same time, they will not possess these character traits that make them into a wise person.

A wise person has many different characteristics that make him wise. One is that he does not speak in the presence of someone greater than he is in wisdom. This is important because we all have egos and want to express our important opinions and have influence over others. If there is someone greater than us, we then have to lay ourselves down, so to speak and nullify ourselves to them. This is a true act of humility because it shows that we respect others greater than ourselves and we don't put ourselves in a position of thinking we are something we are not!

The wise person also does not interrupt the speech of his friend. This means that when a person speaks, we let them finish even if we have something to say while they are talking. This is a good character trait to have because it not only shows patience but it displays respect we have for the other person even if we disagree with them. We don't cut them off from what they are saying but we listen, be attentive and then speak.

Answering questions is also an important aspect of a wise person. They have to know how to answer questions firstly and then answer them in order, point by point. This shows clarity of what is being spoken about and give the listener the ability to digest what they are being told in a clear, precise manner. There is nothing worse than asking a question and getting an answer that is above them or doesn't make sense or is not the order which the person asked it.

The last part of the Mishna explains that a person should never give an answer they are not sure about. They should admit that they are not sure or have to research it or send it to someone who is more knowledgeable in that particular subject. We want to show people our vast knowledge but we have to admit when something is out of our league and pass it on to someone more qualified.

This does not show a lack in us but it reflects honesty about the subject at had where the person can get what they need. If we try and give information on something we are not sure about or think we have certain ability that we don't then we are not only short changing people but we could cause them tremendous damage. The true wise person knows their place and when to say that this is above them and they should be referred to someone else!