July 16, 2024 ~ Shabbat BALAQ. Maqam MAHOUR.

Shabbat Eqeb - שבת עקב


Slow But Steady

לא תוכל כלתם מהר פן תרבה עליך חית השדה - As a reward for obeying the commandments (והיה עקב תשמעון), God promises the Israelites that they will be successful in their mission of conquering the land. The advances, however, will occur "little by little" (מעט מעט), because achieving the goal too swiftly, as per Deuteronomy 7:22, will allow wild animals to come and fill the void left by the absence of inhabitants (פן תרבה עליך חית השדה). By not disillusioning the people by promising them an easy road ahead, Moses teaches a valuable lesson: Success is often a gradual process. If one has a worthwhile goal, they should know that hard work will be required, and should not feel discouraged if the goal is not completed quickly (לא תוכל כלתם מהר). In the words of the Ancient Greek storyteller, Aesop (620- 564 BCE), it is the "slow but steady that wins the race." Beth Torah Bulletin, August 12, 2017.


ממרים הייתם - As Moses recalls some episodes from the past, he rebukes the people by saying “you have been defiant (ממרים) before God from the day I have known you” (Deuteronomy 9:24). In Masoretic scribal tradition, as verified by the Minhat Shai, the first letter of the word “Mamrim” is written with a small letter Mem (מ׳ זעירא). One may speculate that the Mem is written small in order to draw attention to this word. Without the first letter of the word "Mamrim" (disobedient), we are left with the word "Marim" (bitter). Because the Israelites were bitter (מרים) from their lives in Egypt, this is the reason that they are constantly defiant (ממרים) towards God. When people act in ways that are not praiseworthy, rather than judge them, it would be more helpful to understand things from their perspective. In the cases of the Israelites, by using a small Mem, Moses hints that the source of their defiance has to do with their bitterness from their lives as slaves. Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, August 24, 2019.


ואהבתם את הגר כי גרים הייתם בארץ מצרים - When I first arrived in Scottsdale, Arizona, to begin Dental school, I was anxious about making new friends and fitting in. Walking into Congregation Beth Tefillah for the first time, however, I was immediately acknowledged by Rabbi Pinchas Allouche and by all the other congregants. Instead of ignoring a random person from out of town, these people treated me like family. For me, the warm greetings of welcome eliminated my fears and gave me the confidence needed to be successful in my new setting. By instructing the Israelites "to love the foreigner" (Deuteronomy 10:19), Moses teaches the value of empathy. Being that the Israelites were previously foreigners in Egypt, they are the most opportune nation to know how it feels to be in this exact position. It is for this very reason that Moses specifically calls upon the Israelites to step up and always treat an outsider with utmost dignity and mercy. Beth Torah Bulletin, August 4, 2018.

Mining in Israel

לֹֽא־תֶחְסַ֥ר כֹּ֖ל בָּ֑הּ אֶ֚רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֲבָנֶ֣יהָ בַרְזֶ֔ל וּמֵהֲרָרֶ֖יהָ תַּחְצֹ֥ב נְחֹֽשֶׁת׃ - Deuteronomy 8:9 states that the Land of Israel is a land that "you will lack nothing." Meaning, anything found in the world, can, theoretically, also be found in the Land of Israel. In addition to springs, streams, and fountains of water flowing from the plains and the mountains, and the seven species of fruits (Deuteronomy 8:7-8), the Torah states that this land has rocks of iron (ברזל) and has hills where one can mine copper (נחשת). I looked this up and found that copper mines in the Timna Valley, just north of Eilat, do exist and mining has been conducted there since at least the 5th millennium BCE. In regards to more precious metals such as gold, 1 Kings 9-10 indicates that vast amounts of gold from the wealthy port of Ophir was used in the construction of Solomon's palace as well as the Temple. Apparently, during King Solomon's time, Ophir was considered to be part of Israel's jurisdiction, but there is no consensus of where this gold wealthy port is located today. Some say India, others say Africa. These days, traces of gold have been found near Eilat; thereby attracting many to invest in businesses involved in the gold mining there. Beth Torah Bulletin, August 8, 2020.

Maqam of the Week: SIGAH

For Shabbat Eqeb (Deuteronomy 7:12- 11:25), the third perasha of Sefer Debarim, the Shabbat morning prayers are conducted in Maqam SIGAH according to all Syrian sources except three which cite Maqam RAST. SIGAH (from Persian "See-Kah"), literally means "third place," and is named such because on the Arabic music scale, this maqam starts on the third note (in relation the first note, which is Maqam RAST). The main theme of this perasha is the observance of the laws of the Torah, and since the Syrian melody of Torah is chanted in Maqam SIGAH, this is the connection.