May 19, 2024 ~ Shabbat BEHAR. Maqam SIGAH.

Shabbat Debarim - שבת דברים



איכה אשא לבדי טרחכם ומשאכם וריבכם - In one of his final speeches, when describing the difficulties of governing the people alone, Moses uses the symbolic word of despair, "Ekha," or alas (איכה). More specifically, in Deuteronomy 1:12, he uses this word to describe normal nuisances of everyday life; "problems, burdens, and disputes" (טרחכם ומשאכם וריבכם). The reason Moses was not hesitant to use such a strong word ("Ekha") is because he knew that even small arguments and "bickering" (ריב) among people often has the potential to escalate into larger fights if not taken care of early on. This comes to teach us that in order for us to prevent the large calamities of "Ekha" (i.e. destruction of our nation) and to be deserving of the blessing mentioned in the previous verse (יסף עליכם ככם אלף פעמים), it is incumbent upon us to be proactive in preventing problems by avoiding unnecessary friction with others. Beth Torah Bulletin, July 29, 2017.


הבו לכם אנשים חכמים ונבנים וידעים - To deal with all the “troubles, burdens, and quarrels” facing the nation, Moses, in Deuteronomy 1:13, seeks help from men who are wise (חכמים), understanding (נבנים), and experienced (ידעים) to act as their judges and advise them with their problems. Locating people with such rare qualities is not easy, but this idea was overwhelmingly supported by the nation (1:14). Just as the entire nation faces hardships, we, as individuals, are constantly faced with various pressures and problems in this world. Following the example of appointing judges, one must never be hesitant to seek the advice and council of those around us who have more wisdom (חכמה), understanding (בינה), or knowledge (דעת). It is for similar reasons that when Jews recite the daily “Amida” prayer, they ask God for these same traits in order to be granted the wisdom, understanding, and knowledge (חכמה בינה ודעת) to help find solutions to life's problems. Beth Torah Bulletin, July 21, 2018.

Change of Subject

ונפן ונעבר - On my family's Shabbat table, whenever a discussion gets heated and we need to change the topic quickly, someone yells "MDZ" and the topic is dropped. The word "MDZ" is used to prevent my grandfather, MDZ, from getting sucked into a conflict. In the Torah, there are 3 times where the Masoretic Text has a “Break in the Middle of the Verse” (פסקא באמצע פסוק) in order to drop a subject and move on. In all three cases, a paragraph is abruptly closed mid-sentence with a “Pasqa” (Atnah) and not with a "Sof Pasuq." In Genesis 35:22, news that Reuben sleeps with Bilha, Jacob's concubine, gets out, and the subject is abruptly closed. In Numbers 25:19, the text moves away from the plague of Pe'or (transgressions with Midianite women). In Deuteronomy 2:8, we start to read of how "our brothers, the children of Esav" do not allow us through their land, but the Torah quickly changes the subject and focuses our attention elsewhere. Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, August 10, 2019.

Move Forward

רַב־לָכֶ֥ם שֶׁ֖בֶת בָּהָ֥ר הַזֶּֽה׃ - After receiving the Torah at Mount Horeb, it seems as though the Israelites wanted to linger there and continue to enjoy the benefits of being taken care of by God and enjoying God's direct communication with them. It was then, according to Moshe's speech, that God says "Too much of you sitting on this mountain" (Deuteronomy 1:6), meaning, they have overstayed their welcome and now is the time to move on. A wise person once told me that in life, if you are not moving forwards, then you are moving backwards. The message here is that one should avoid getting too comfortable in any one location, position, or situation, and that there is always a need to grow and develop and progress. If one gets too comfortable where they are, they are bound to miss out on all the other opportunities passing them right by. Moshe opens up his speech with this message; that as Israelites, we are not stationary but rather always on the move to accomplish or experience something new. Beth Torah Bulletin, July 25, 2020.

Maqam of the Week: HIJAZ

On Shabbat Ekha, as we mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple, all sources, both those from Aleppo and Damascus, agree that prayers are conducted in HIJAZ, the maqam reserved to express death, mourning, and sadness. The Damascus tradition, as well as some Aleppo sources, specifically state that this is the only Shabbat of the entire year that Maqam Hijaz is applied. Even though, the Torah portion, Debarim (Deuteronomy 1:1- 3:22), is the first of a new book, Maqam Rast is overridden by Tisha B’Ab. PIZMON: Elyon Al Kol Ramim (page 487).