My Name is … WHAT?!: Yitro 2019

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: What is the worst name you’ve used to refer to another person? What is the worst thing someone has called you? Do you take insults of your name with a grain of salt, or do they haunt you in some way?

As God reveals the 10 commandments to the Israelites on Mount Sinai, the people learn early on that disgracing God’s name will not be tolerated:

The Pitch: “You shall not swear falsely by the name of Adonai your God; for Adonai will not clear one who swears falsely by God’s name.” – Exodus 20:7

Swing #1: “Thou shalt not carry the Name of God on they person in a dishonest manner. This means: Thou shalt not pretend to be more honest and pious than thou really are.” – Or HaHayim

Swing #2: “This prohibition includes even mentioning God’s name unnecessarily without the context of an oath. It is as if the Torah had said: ‘Do not bring this name over your lips.’” – Rabbeinu Bahya

Swing #3: “Lord’s name? Strange gods? Spooky language! Designed to scare and control primitive people. In no way does superstitious nonsense like this apply to the lives of intelligent civilized humans in the 21st century.” – George Carlin, “The Ten Commandments”, from Complaints and Grievances, HBO, 2002

Late-Inning Questions: What do our commentators say are the indirect consequences (if any) at taking God’s name in vain? At a time when public figures, including some politicians, mock other peoples’ names, does this commandment have extra resonance today? When we shame someone else’s name, does our own name suffer more?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: We’re just two weeks away from our visit from our Scholar-in-Residence, Dr. Mitchell Bard, who will speak both Friday night and Saturday at the synagogue about the importance of Israel and stopping the BDS movement. Join us for our FNL and Saturday services February 8th-9th to take part in these vital conversations.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of insulting names, numerous Major League players carried dubious nicknames throughout their careers. Joe Medwick, for instance, was known in most baseball history books as “Ducky”. Thankfully, we don’t often refer to him by his full nickname during his playing days: “Ducky Wucky”. (Seriously.)

Shabbat Shalom!