At Touro Synagogue February 18, 2017
I don’t get no respect!
On Shabbat Rabbi Marc Mandel and his wife Jackie were in Detroit kvelling over their newborn grandson. But we were in good hands. Dr. Jim Herstoff led P’sukei D’zimra and Shacharit, Sam Spencer leyned Torah and delivered the sermon, and Carmi Mandel led the balance of the service. There was a minor tiff when someone thought their usual seat was occupied, but the offender gracefully said, “I’ve been saving this seat for you!” Order was soon restored.
We read Parashat Yitro, Exodus 18:1 - 20:23, one of the Torah’s the shortest parshiot. In a burst of optimism Rabbi Mandel tried to recruit yours truly; in a burst of realism Sam Spencer got the job. Co-president Dr. Naftali Sabo pointed out that Sam had the accent on the last syllable, in the Sephardic fashion.
There was a lot doing in the Parsha. At the beginning, Moshe’s father-in-law, Jethro, cautioned Moses against overextending himself and advised him to delegate some of the work. Moshe followed the advice. Nowadays, I wonder how many men accept a suggestion from a father-in-law, should one be courageous enough to tender some advice.
|Decalogue Parchment |
Yuketiel Sofer 1768
The highlight of the Parsha was the ten commandments, Asereth ha-D'bharîm עשרת הדברים, literally the ten words. The moniker “ten commandments” is a recent, and not a Jewish, innovation. Sam mentioned the division of the commandments between the first five, which are between God and man, and the second five, which are between man and man.
The fifth commandment, “Honor thy father and thy mother,” seems like it is out of place. Sam told us that the commandment teaches two important lessons, that there is something more important than ourselves, and that we did not come out of nowhere. He also said that honoring God and honoring our parents are connected, and that this honor should be extended to all, since we are created by and in the image of God.
This is very much in tune with Jewish tradition, which extends the honor to step-parents and others that raise us, including siblings, grandparents and others, whether they are related or not, and to our teachers.
Honor has its limits, and we are not expected to break a commandment at our parents request, nor to marry or not marry someone at their request.
In Judaism, honor is a two way street, and parents are expected to honor the children who honor them.
I know you’ve been wondering, so I have the name of Rabbi and Jackie Mandel’s grandson from a reliable source, “His English name is Abie and his Hebrew name is Noam Avraham. He is named after Rabbi Mandel's father who was Avraham and after his father Yaakov's grandfather who was also Avraham.”