January 16, 2020


1.17.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

I am dedicating this parashah to my father, Jerry Borovitz, z”l, on the 54th anniversary of his death and to my brother, Stuart Borovitz, z”l, on the 19th anniversary of his death.

This week’s parashah is Sh’mot.  This translates to “names.”  It is the first parashah of the second book of the Torah.  Jewish Tradition teaches us that there are Three Crowns: the Crown of Wealth, the Crown of Royalty, and the Crown of Priesthood.  Yet the Crown of a Good Name outweighs them all.  This was the essence of my father’s life.  He lived a life of a Shem Tov, a “good name.”  He was raised in Cleveland, Ohio by my grandparents who were wealthy in morality and name, not money.  My father learned at an early age that how you treated other people was of paramount importance.  He taught us, his children, that every person matters.  He showed us by his actions to be as passionate for the rights and needs of others as we are of our own. My father believed and treated each person as if they mattered!  He did not differentiate because of race, color and/or religion.  He believed in showing each person dignity and reverence.  My brother, Stuart, had MS from his mid-twenties till he died at fifty-five.  He would sit outside the “old home” in Cleveland, saying hello to everyone.  He would say that it is nice to notice people and let them know they were being welcomed.  Stuart was the unofficial greeter at Montifiore in Cleveland, Ohio.  Both my brother and my father believed deeply in the dignity, worth, and uniqueness of each soul and lived being human in all of their affairs!

How do you treat others?  What is the name you have made for yourself?  Are you as passionate for the rights and needs of others as you are of your own?  Do you show others the same dignity and reverence that you show yourself?

 Also in this parashah, it says: “There arose a new King over Egypt who did not know Joseph.”  How is this possible?  Over the years of studying this parashah with residents, one recurring theme has been that it shows the new King had no gratitude for Joseph and for Joseph’s saving of the Egyptian people.  This started me thinking about my father.  He was man of deep gratitude.  He showed his gratitude for people in a myriad of ways.  He invited people to our home for dinner; he never let anyone who worked for him go hungry.  He was grateful to his parents and showed this by speaking to them every day.  He was grateful for and to his children.  He never missed an event that we participated in, even though he was a travelling salesman.  My father cared deeply for others and showed his gratitude for them by letting them always know that they are/were important.  Gratitude has to be an action.  Gratitude, ultimately, is a statement of Responsibility. Living gratefully is being responsible to and for the kindnesses showed towards us.  My father lived this type of responsibility and taught all of his children how to live this way.

How do you act gratefully towards others?  How are you responsible for and to people who have helped you?  Whom have you forgotten about that you need to remember?

 This week we learn the story of Moses.  We learn how he is a reluctant hero.  He doesn’t want the job of leader and redeemer.  He tries to turn God down a few times.  One of the things we learn in this parashah is God’s name as well.  When Moses asks God, “Who shall I say sent me?” God responds, “Eyeh, Asher Eyeh” – “I will be what I will be” – sent you.  God gives us God’s name in the future tense.  I think this is to teach us that we will make our own name by what we do with our skills and our life.  This is where my father excelled.  He made his name great by his actions.  He would not discriminate in the work world because of race.  At a time when Black men were getting paid less than White men for the same job, my father raised the wages of the Black men at a business he bought.  This caused the white workers to quit!!  My father didn’t care, he would work with the people who wanted to work “color blind.”  He taught his children how to love family and all human beings and God.  He taught us the importance of kindness, love, compassion, and Truth.  My father’s Hebrew name was Ya’akov, Jacob.  He wrestled with God and humans and prevailed.

What name will your actions cause you to be called?  How will your life impact the lives of others in a positive way?  How are you taking advantage of the opportunities to excel at being human?

 Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Mark