am i off the hook?

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ו׳ באדר ה׳תשע״ה (February 25, 2015)  |  Blog  |   beismedrash



Today, when most frum kids attend Jewish schools or yeshivos, it’s common for parents to rely on “the system” to provide their children with a proper education, and if a child doesn’t do well we’re quick to blame the schools and teachers. When shuls offer Shabbos davening programs for the kids, that part of their education is outsourced too.

Is this a wonderful benefit to living in a thriving Jewish community, or is it reason for concern? Continue Reading

he came to the rebbe’s door with muddy boots

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ו׳ באדר ה׳תשע״ה (February 25, 2015)  |  Blog  |   beismedrash


Mishpatim – 22 Shevat

My grandfather used to own a grocery store in Crown Heights and his children relished the opportunity to deliver groceries to the Rebbe’s house. One winter day, young Herschel Lipskier arrived at the Rebbe’s house with a delivery and found another young man, Baruch Shlomo Cunin, removing the snow with a gas snow-blower. Cunin called out to him, explaining that the machine needed more gas, and asked him to ask the Rebetzin’s permission to phone someone who could help. Continue Reading

run along now and play

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ו׳ באדר ה׳תשע״ה (February 25, 2015)  |  Blog  |   beismedrash



Before sending the kids off to play in an indoor playground, most mothers will remind their children about the rules. No shoes, no food, no pushing, wait your turn, etc. Hopefully the kids will listen and have a good time without hurting anyone.

Does it make a difference if the mother and children are Jewish? Jewish kids dress differently, but do the differences extend further than that?

There are two words that would probably be in that prep speech from a Jewish mom that make all the difference: kiddush Hashem. “Remember, kids, to act in a way that will make Hashem proud…” Continue Reading

my father’s 20th yuhrtzeit

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ו׳ באדר ה׳תשע״ה (February 25, 2015)  |  Blog  |   beismedrash



For my 14th birthday, my parents promised me a calculator watch (a luxury in 1995), but Hashem had other plans. Just four days before my birthday my parents were in a car accident; my father’s neshama returned to its maker and my mother, may she live and be well, was in the hospital for several months.

On my birthday, during shivah, my brother-in-law asked me what my parents had planned to give me, and several hours later his parents, Rabbi Dovid and Mrs. Faigy Rapoport, presented me with the watch. Continue Reading

what do they think?

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ו׳ באדר ה׳תשע״ה (February 25, 2015)  |  Blog  |   beismedrash

The Jewish Inferiority Complex


A Jewish diamond merchant was heading to a lunch meeting with several non-Jewish clients. Nearing the restaurant, they passed several orthodox teenagers clad in baseball caps and jeans, clearly trying to blend in. One of the clients turned to the Jewish merchant and said, “It’s a shame that these boys aren’t proud of who they are. One of the reasons our firm does business with you is because we see that you’re a proud Jew. You turn down meetings that would interfere with your Sabbath and holidays, you dress as a proud Jew, and the modest dignity with which you treat women is uncommon in the business world. You’ve shown us that a person who’s deeply committed to Judaism will demonstrate integrity in business too.”

It’s An Old Story

The Jewish inferiority complex is nothing new.

In this week’s parsha, we read about the last of the ten plagues, the death of the first-born Egyptians. While Hashem went from house to house killing the Egyptian first-borns, the Jews were commanded to stay at home and eat a festive meal with the korban Pesach (to celebrate their imminent freedom).

Interestingly, Chazal tell us that if a first-born Jew was in the home of an Egyptian during the time of the plague, he would be spared. And if an Egyptian first-born was in the home of a Jew, he would still be slain.[1]

One must wonder, why would any Jew be in the home of the wicked Egyptians at this pivotal, unprecedented moment, when the rest of the Jewish people were at home, excitedly preparing to throw off the shackles of slavery and finally leave Egypt?! And why would a Jew invite an Egyptian into his home, a home clearly marked “Jewish” by the blood on the doorposts, during such an auspicious time?

Clearly, those Jews felt inferior. They didn’t believe they deserved Hashem’s gift of freedom. They didn’t feel right simply marching out of Egypt with pride; they felt the need for Egyptian validation and acceptance.

Fortunately, Hashem had compassion for these Jews as well.

The Solution?

By demonstrating our pride and strength, we earn the respect and admiration of those around us.

This, too, is seen in our parsha, when Hashem commands the Jews to borrow utensils from their Egyptian friends. Since when did the Jews have Egyptian friends?! Once the Egyptians saw the strong Hand of Hashem, they actually began to respect and befriend the Jews.[2]

As Jews, we should not feel inferior or superior to anyone. We need only be aware of, and act upon, our unique role as Hashem’s chosen people. When our clothes, music and way of speaking are noticeably different, it calls for respect.

Likewise, we should to be proud of Hashem’s gift to us, the Land of Israel, without waiting for the rest of the world’s approval.[3]

[1] See Rashi to Shemos 12:13.

[2] See Chizkuni to Shemos 11:2.

[3] Based on the Rebbe’s talk, Shabbos parshas Bo, 5736 (1976).

I’m the boss over me!

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ו׳ באדר ה׳תשע״ה (February 25, 2015)  |  Blog  |   beismedrash



What would life be like if you were completely financially secure?

It’s Raining What?!

The only time Pharaoh admitted that he was wrong and Hashem was right was after the seventh plague-hail. Why did this plague speak to him more than any of the others?

The hail fell with enough velocity to destroy and kill on their own, even without the added element of fire which would consume the crops as soon as the hail crashed to the ground.

Why was the fire necessary? And if Hashem wanted to punish the Egyptians with fire, why not make it a separate plague? We know that Hashem tries to work within the framework of nature as much as possible,[1] but here He combined fire and water, which cannot naturally coexist in a single space. Continue Reading

the rebbe’s message to the nazi

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ו׳ באדר ה׳תשע״ה (February 25, 2015)  |  Blog  |   beismedrash



When the Nazis, y’mach she’mam, invaded France in the spring of 1940, their first order of business was to go door-to-door registering each person’s nationality and religion. Their intention was, of course, to identify all the Jews. The Rebbe and Rebbetzin lived in Paris at the time but were not home when the officer came. Trying to protect the Rebbe and Rebbetzin, the person who answered the door gave the neutral answer, “Orthodox,” which can refer to any religion.

When the Rebbe returned home and heard what was done he immediately went to the Nazi offices and, to their utter disbelief, asked that they correct his file and identify him as a Jew![1] Continue Reading

Afraid of the dark?

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ו׳ באדר ה׳תשע״ה (February 25, 2015)  |  Blog  |   beismedrash

How we Survive


The scene is dramatic. Yaakov calls his sons to his bedside to bless them before his passing. He wants to tell them about the end of their exile and the coming of Moshiach, but the Shechina’s presence departs and he is unable to do so.

Shocked by his sudden loss of Divine presence, he fears that perhaps one of his sons is straying from Hashem’s ways, as had been the case with the sons of his father, Yitzchak, and grandfather, Avraham. Perhaps this is the reason Hashem won’t allow him to impart such G-dly information.

He questions his sons but they reassure him, saying “Shema Yisrael,” -”Like you, we have only one G-d in our hearts.” Grateful and relieved, Yaakov answers “Baruch shem…etc.” (Because of this exchange, we say the Shema every morning and evening.)[1] Continue Reading

let it go?

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ו׳ באדר ה׳תשע״ה (February 25, 2015)  |  Blog  |   beismedrash

There’s a Plan


Let It Go?

After harboring grudges for many years and in general becoming easily offended by people, a friend of mine attended a workshop to deal with his feelings. There he learned that he has the right, and the strength, to cut hurtful individuals out of his life entirely.

How does that sound to you? Continue Reading

he’s a great therapist; he can speak to animals

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ו׳ באדר ה׳תשע״ה (February 25, 2015)  |  Blog  |   beismedrash

Just How Different Are We?


Johnny paid his way through college by waiting tables in a restaurant.

“What’s the usual tip?” asked a customer.

“Well,” said Johnny, “this is my first day, but the other guys said that if I got five dollars out of you, I’d be doing great.”

“Is that so?” growled the customer. “In that case, here’s twenty dollars.”

“Thanks. I’ll put it in my college fund,” Johnny said.

“By the way, what are you studying?” asked the customer.

“Applied psychology.”

—————— Continue Reading