May 27, 2024 ~ Sh BEHUQOTAI. Maqam NAHWAND.

Shabbat Bereshit - שבת בראשית

Maqam RAST

יום יום תמיד לך אתפלל נשמת
חסדך קדם על כל אדם נקדישך
מימים ימימה פזמון ספר תורה


ויאמר אלהים יהי אור ויהי אור - Light- In a world whose default state is confusion, darkness, and entropy, God's first action in Genesis 1:3 is to establish order by creating "light;" differentiating it from the existing "darkness." In Isaiah 42:6, the corresponding Haftara portion of Bereshit, this same word is used to describe Israel's mission; acting as a "light unto nations" (אור לגוים). There, we read that it is Israel's role to imitate God by "opening the eyes of the blind," (לפתח עינים עורות) and by "freeing those who dwell in darkness" (להוציא ממסגר אסיר מבית כלא ישבי חשך). How can Israel accomplish this? The vehicle to provide a source of illumination to others, as per Proverbs 6:23, is the Torah and the Misvot (כי נר מצוה ותורה אור). It is only through the internalization of the values of the Torah, the ultimate source of spiritual light, that one may serve as a source of hope, inspiration, and light onto those who dwell in the dark. Beth Torah Bulletin, October 14, 2017.

In God's Image

בצלם אלהים ברא אותו - After the creation of many different animals mentioned in Genesis 1, God singles out the human and declares that this species represents the "image of God." By doing so, God provides a template to how we should interact with one another. The late Rabbi Dr Ezra Labaton of Congregation Magen David of West Deal has been instrumental in constantly repeating that every person is created in God's image and is therefore entitled to be treated with a high level of dignity and respect. The implications of this should resonate and be applied to all of our interactions with any other person irrespective of race, ethnicity, or gender. This foundational concept of the Torah should also provide us with the moral incentive to help different groups of people around the world during their times of need and to fight injustices taking place whenever reasonably possible (Beth Torah, 10/29/16).  

Large ב and Small ה

בראשית / בהבראם - Throughout Tanakh, certain letters are written large while others are written small. In Perashat Bereshit, the 'Bet' in 'Bereshit' (Genesis 1:1) is large, and the 'Heh' in 'BeHibare’am' (Genesis 2:4) is small. Although there are no definite explanations for any large or small letter, R Jacob ben Asher (1269-1343), also known as the Ba’al HaTurim, teaches that the Bet of 'Bereshit' is written large, because the Torah wanted to start on a pleasant note with the letter ‘Bet’ hinting to ‘berakha’ (blessing) as opposed to the letter ‘Aleph’ hinting to ‘arur’ (curse). Regarding the small 'Heh' in 'BeHibare’am,' a Midrashic interpretation is that 'Heh' stands for 'Hashem' (God). Therefore, instead of opening this Creation story with the vague “when they were created,” one should translate it as “when God created them.” This brings God directly back into the Creation story of Genesis 1:1 when God began to create the world. Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah, 10/6/18.

Tree of Life

לשמר את דרך עץ החיים - When Adam defies God's one (and only) command by eating from the Tree of Knowledge, he is banished from the Garden of Eden; away from the Tree of Life. To thwart humanity from achieving eternal life, Cherubim holding fiery swords, says Genesis 3:24, are stationed to guard the path to the Tree of Life. To this day, "the path to the Tree of Life" is guarded; making it very difficult for regular people to access. Although finding the Tree of Life sounds like a fantasy, in a spiritual sense, gaining access to "the path to the Tree of Life" can be taken to mean living a fulfilling, happy and meaningful life. Throughout the Bible, advice is given on how to achieve this type of elevated life. As King Solomon states in Proverbs 3:18, "it is a Tree of Life for its holders and her supporters are happy." In order for us to gain access to the Tree of Life and live happy and fulfilling lives, we must embrace the Torah and live by its eternal values and wisdom. Beth Torah Bulletin, October 26, 2019.

Notably Missing

וַיֹּ֥אמֶר קַ֖יִן אֶל־הֶ֣בֶל אָחִ֑יו וַֽיְהִי֙ בִּהְיוֹתָ֣ם בַּשָּׂדֶ֔ה - In the Masoretic Text of Genesis 4:8, it says the words "And Qayin said to Hebel, his brother," but then it says "and when they were both in the field, Qayin set upon Hebel, his brother, and killed him." What is the conversation that takes place between them immediately prior to Hebel's murder? Those who review this text cannot help but notice that the conversation that ensued is strangely missing. In reviewing further, we see that the words נלכה השדה, or "Let us go to the field," are in the corresponding texts in the Samaritan Pentateuch, Septuagint, Vulgate, Peshitta, as well as Jerusalem Targum. In addition, there are some older Masoretic manuscripts that place a space (פסקא) between the two clauses in order to alert to readers that something may be missing. Despite everything mentioned above, it should be noted that the Dead Sea Scroll text 4QGen-b, as well as Targum Onqelos and Sa‘adya’s Arabic translation, are loyal to the Masoretic text. If the Masoretic Text deliberately omits the words that Qayin said, it may be to teach the lesson that those who commit murder are so despicable that they should not be rewarded with their extra words being documented in our holy Torah. Moreover, no conflict or argument ever warrants physical confrontation let alone spilling of innocent blood. Thus, the Torah ignores the entire conversation so there can be no way to legitimize murder. Rabbi Efraim Gabbay contributed to writing this article. Beth Torah Bulletin, October 17, 2020.

Maqam of the Week: RAST

On Shabbat Bereshit (Genesis 1:1- 6:8), Maqam RAST is applied to the prayers, according to SUHV (Red Pizmonim Book), and at least 18 other Syrian sources. This maqam, defined as 'head' in Arabic, and considered the "father of the maqamat," is typically the first maqam used in any collection (diwan) of Arabic songs. This relates here, as Bereshit is the first Torah portion, or 'head,' of Genesis. Maqam RAST is also used each Shabbat at Minha services. HAZZANUT: Naqdishakh: Hasdakh Qadam Al Kol Adam (page 145). PIZMON SEFER TORAH: Miyamim Yamima (page 125). Sephardic Pizmonim Project,