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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, September 3, 2015

Parshas Ki Savo: Do we really have free will?

"It shall be that if you listen to the voice of Hashem, your G-d to observe, to perform all of His commandments that I command you this day, then Hashem your G-d will make you supreme over all the nations of the earth. All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you, if you listen to the voice of Hashem your G-d" (Deuteronomy 28:1-2)

 If we look at this verse and many similar to it throughout the Torah, there is a fundamental question we must ask: what happened to free will? If we keep the commandments and do what G-d wants us to do, what will be our reward: we will be supreme over the nations and get all these blessings. Great, where do I sign up, how hard can it be, right?

If only it were that easy. The Torah continues and tells us the curses the Jewish people will receive if we don't live up to its expectations. This again begs the question that if this is true and we receive these curses, what happened to free will?

The answer is nothing happened to free will because we still have it!! Even if the Torah promises us the greatest wealth, fame and everything that goes with it for keeping the Torah and mitzvos, we still have the ability to walk away and do nothing. Even if we know that we will G-d forbid receive these curses, no one is forcing us to walk in either direction.

This is important because regardless of what trials and tribulations are thrown in our directions, we are the ultimate deciders whether we are going to go in one direction or another. That being true, although we may say that this free will is limited because in reality G-d is orchestrating everything behind the scenes putting ourselves in these situations, we still have to go through it and react!

How we react will determine the judgment G-d is going to give us through the actions that we do. You will say though if G-d is omnipotent and omniscient then He knows what I am going to do anyway, so do I just go through the motions anyway and let what happen, happen?

The answer is that we are given an opportunity on a regular basis to either raise ourselves to higher spiritual levels or G-d forbid to degrade ourselves and our souls! No one holds a gun to our head telling to act in a certain way or we are going to suffer the consequences.

As the old cliche goes, we make the beds that we sleep in. Our actions whether they are good or bad will have repercussions. An example of this is a pregnant woman that smokes crack and her baby comes out deformed. Is it the baby's fault?

No, but there is a reality, that if this action is done, the results will be disastrous. No one told this woman to do what she did but the baby ends up paying the price for this callous action. So too, spiritually speaking our actions have repercussions.

An example of this is a mamzer (a child born from a forbidden union) who can only marry someone from the same status or a convert. This child did nothing wrong to deserve this but there is a spiritual reality and that is that this person is stuck and can only marry someone that came into existence from a similar union!

As we see from this parsha, a person has a choice to go into one direction or another and the result of that decision can have tantamount repercussions! G-d gave us free will for a reason, regardless of what the reward or punishment would be for our actions. We don't always do the right thing and for that we will have to pay a price but even if we do the right thing, we are not doing it because of the reward and benefit we will receive.

There are so many things that occur in our lives that we have difficulty making sense of that even if we saw reward and punishment directly meted out for our actions that still wouldn't negate our free will because of all the other things around this.

How can this be so? The reality is that most people at one time or another have had a miracle occur for them. This miracle though may have made some impact on the person's life but we very easily forget these things! That being said, we could say that takes away our free will but G-d gave man an uncanny ability to forget and go back to our "everyday" lives.

May we live our lives to the fullest, never taking anything for granted!!

Shabbat Shalom