July 16, 2024 ~ Shabbat BALAQ. Maqam MAHOUR.

Shabbat Lekh Lekha - שבת לך לך

Maqam SABA

יגדל אלהים חי לברית מילה שמחים
אתה אהובי נקדישך
אהלל ואגילה פזמון ספר תורה

Terah's Legacy

וימת תרח בחרן - After witnessing the tragic death of one son and an infertility struggle of another, Terah, a native of Ur Kasdim, along with his family, embark on the Land of Canaan to break away from home and start anew. For reasons left unclear, Terah interrupts the journey and stops mid trade route in the merchant outpost of Harran (southeastern Turkey). Once in Harran, he gets so comfortable that he settles there; essentially abandoning his mission to reach Canaan. The Torah, in Genesis 11:32, does not look favorably on those who abandon their goals, and therefore simply documents that "Terah died in Harran" (וימת תרח בחרן). Unfortunately, as a quitter, Terah becomes a footnote in history, and for all the 205 years that he lived, he has no legacy other than his involvement in the "worship of other gods" (Joshua 24:2). It is only much later on that his son, Abram, gets back on the proper track to complete the journey that his father started. Beth Torah Bulletin, October 28, 2017.

The Hebrew

ויגד לאברם העברי - When described by outsiders, Abram is referred to as "the Hebrew" (Genesis 14:13). Besides for this being a reference to his nomadic lifestyle or ancestry (Eber son of Shem), there is an added meaning to "Abram Ha-Ibri," which literally translates as "Abram, the one who stands on the other side." We see many examples of how Abram's behavior was different from the norm. When Abram receives word that Lot was held captive, he immediately mobilizes to rescue him. This is remarkable, because he did this for an estranged nephew to whom he had a poor relationship with. Shortly after this, we read that Abram turns down significant wealth from the King of Sodom, because Abram did not want him or anyone else to take credit for his prosperity. From these stories and more, we see that our patriarch was a true "Hebrew;" proudly behaving in ways that were above and beyond any "normal person" (Beth Torah, 11/8/16).  

Short and Sweet

ומלכי צדק מלך שלם - All aliyot to the Torah are viewed as big honors for the recipients. According to Aleppo tradition, however, there is added significance to the Sixth Aliya, Shishi, due to the words “very good” being written in association with the Sixth Day (Genesis 1:31). As a result, the aliyot stops are always arranged in order to give the Sixth Aliya the nicest portion; keeping it short in order to limit it to nice words and blessings. This is true in Perashat Lekh Lekha where most sources designate Genesis 14:18-20 as the Sixth Aliya. In this portion, we read about Malki-Sedeq. After Abram is victorious in war, he is greeted by Malki-Sedeq, king of Salem, with bread and wine. At this time, Malki-Sedeq, who also serves as a priest of God, blesses Abram and praises God, Master of the heaven and earth, who protects Abram from his enemies. Abram is so inspired by Malki-Sedeq that he dedicates a tithe (ten percent) of his earnings to him. Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, 10/20/18.


אֵ֔שׁ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָבַ֔ר בֵּ֖ין הַגְּזָרִ֥ים - On the dark Saturday night of November 4, 1995, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated after a peace rally in Tel Aviv. Buried in the all the controversies of this event, I recall some discussions about this event being hinted in the Torah. Coincidentally, the prediction was found in Lekh Lekha, the very Torah portion of that day. Genesis 15:12 discusses the "Covenant of the Parts" between Abraham and God. The verse says, "with sun set, it was dark, there appeared a smoking furnace, and a flaming torch passing between the pieces" (אש אשר עבר בין הגזרים). In rearranging the spaces of the letters, one can form the words אש, אש, רע, ברבין ; meaning shots were fired on Rabin. One can not deny that the words found in the text is exactly how it played out in real life. If the above is true, and the concept of "Bible Codes" is authentic, the mystery remains whether there are any other future events hinted at in the Torah. Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, November 9, 2019.

Spiritual Guidance

וְאֶת־הַנֶּ֖פֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר־עָשׂ֣וּ בְחָרָ֑ן - As Abram embarks to the Land of Canaan, he takes his wife, nephew, possessions, and as Genesis 12:5 states, "HaNefesh Asher 'Asu BeHaran" (הַנֶּ֖פֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר־עָשׂ֣וּ בְחָרָ֑ן). Bible scholar Professor Robert Alter translates these words as "the folk they had bought in Haran." Although there is no dispute that Abram had servants, one might also be inclined to translate these words as "the souls that they made in Haran;" referring to the lives in which Abram helped establish with his spiritual guidance. This approach, which is supported by the Targums as well as the Midrash, envisions Abram as one who interacts with strangers and guides them towards a righteous path of ethical monotheism. The commentators, Rashi and Ibn Ezra, both acknowledge that there are two interpretations. Whereas they both acknowledge the approach supported by the Midrash, they also acknowledge that in the Plain sense of the text, the word "'Asu" (עשו) refers to acquiring wealth, and in this case, the people acquired as servants. The above serves as an example of how the Torah can be read in different layers (Peshat or Derash), and how differing interpretations can both be accepted as equally legitimate. Beth Torah Bulletin, October 31, 2020.

Maqam of the Week: SABA

For Shabbat Lekh Lekha (Genesis 12:1- 17:27), Maqam SABA is selected for the services according to the Red Pizmonim Book and all other known Aleppo sources (Damascus sources: Maqam SIGAH). This maqam has many associations, but is known by the Aleppo community as the maqam used at the Berit Mila (circumcision) ceremony, being that the Arabic word 'Sabi' means 'baby boy.' This is applicable to our Torah portion, because we read about the Berit Mila covenant between G-d and Abraham. HAZZANUT: Semehim: Yigdal Elohim Hai for Mila, Naqdishakh: Ata Ahubi (page 410). Sephardic Pizmonim Project, www.pizmonim.com.