Fair Lawn Jewish Center Logo

Today is April 19, 2018 -

Torah Portion Mishpatim

This Is Not Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, But It Could Be! Part 2

Last week I posed the following two questions in my weekly d’var Torah. They were part of a larger educational program about the Ten Commandments, with humorous questions similar to those on the National Public Radio Program Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me.  Here are the questions again, and the answers.

Yitro is one of those Biblical characters who has more than one name. He is also called Reuel and Chovav. Others in the Bible with more than one name include:

a.   Esther, also known as Hadassah

b.   Joseph, while in Egypt, also called Josephus

c.   Bosef, the son of Esau, also called Bocephus

d.   Pinchas, the zealot, also called Feivel

Answer: In general, multiple names and/or name changes in the Bible indicate a change in the character of the individual. Abram becomes the first Jew and his name is changed to Abraham. Sarai become Sarah. However there does not seem to be any character change for Yitro despite his many names. The correct answer is a. Josephus was a Jewish historian who lived during the great revolt against Rome during the first century of the Common Era. There is no Bosef in the Bible, but Bocephus rhymes with Josephus and is the stage name used by the country music singer Hank Williams Jr. There are people who have the Hebrew name Pinchas and the Yiddish name Feival, but that, of course, is post Biblical.

2.   There are 10 Commandments. That is the same number of people that comprise a minyan. Which is a correct statement about the relationship between these two 10s?

a.   The Rabbis derive that 10 are needed for a minyan because there are Ten Commandments.

b.   In order not to count “One, two, three, etc…” because it is considered bad luck to count people, in many synagogues a person memorizes the Ten Commandments and determines whether there is a minyan by saying the Ten Commandments out loud and seeing if each Commandment corresponds to a person.

c.   Are you kidding??? The Ten Commandments have nothing to do with ten in a minyan.

d.   In ancient times, in the city of Kefar Nachum, since the culture was verbal and many texts were memorized, as people gathered for a minyan, each person would recite one of the Ten Commandments. When the tenth person arrived and recited the last of the Ten Commandments the service would begin.

Answer: In fact there is a reluctance to count people or take a census in Jewish tradition. People are not just numbers. However there is no relationship between the 10 of the Ten Commandments and the minyan. It is said that ten in the minyan is derived from the Hebrew word “edah,” which means community. The group of ten spies who bring a negative report about the land of Israel to Moses in the Book of Numbers is called an “edah.”

Thereis a Biblical verse with ten words, Psalms 28:9, that is often used to count those who are at a service to determine if there is a minyan. Sometimes you may hear sometime count for a minyan, “Not one, not two,… etc.” The correct answer is c.