July 16, 2024 ~ Shabbat BALAQ. Maqam MAHOUR.

Shabbat Matot - שבת מטות


My Handshake

לא יחל דברו ככל היצא מפיו יעשה - Several years ago, my uncle put his house in Brooklyn up for sale. He got what he thought was a reasonable offer, and without signing anything ("handshake agreement"), he verbally agreed to sell the house to this buyer. Days later, in a conversation with his neighbor about the upcoming sale, that neighbor was so interested in the opportunity of buying this same house for one of his children that he immediately offered him "a blank check." To this, however, my relative blatantly refused; citing the verbal agreement with the first buyer. My relative is quoted as saying "my handshake is my word." To be a respectable “man” (איש) in the eyes of God, as in the eyes of all people, "all the words that comes from his mouth he must do" (Numbers 30:3). In addition, anytime we use our speech, we must exercise caution, because ultimately we will be held accountable for all the words that we say. Beth Torah Bulletin, July 14, 2018.


ערים לטפכם וגדרת לצנאכם - When Reuben and Gad see the fertile land east of the Jordan River, they are enamored and petition (Numbers 32:16) "We want to build (1) pens for our flocks and (2) cities for our children." In response, Moses reverses the order of their requests (32:24): "Build (1) cities for your children, and (2) pens for your sheep." The Midrash understands this reversal as a rebuke for not having their priorities straight; valuing their possessions over their children. These tribes seemed to value the assets that add to their income (i.e. livestock), over the assets that did not (i.e. children). When they heard Moses' response, however, the message of getting their priorities straight was understood. In correction, Reuben and Gad affirm that (32:26) "(1) Our children... (2) our livestock... will be there." Only after Moses sees this correction does he grant their request (32:33) for the land. Beth Torah Bulletin, July 22, 2017.


וַיִּקְרָ֧א לָ֦ה נֹ֖בַח בִּשְׁמֽוֹ - The Tere Ta'ame is a rare cantillation note that looks like a rotated Shenei Gerishin below a word. This rare note, which may substitute for a Ma'arikh, only appears 5 times throughout the Torah as follows: Genesis 27:25, Exodus 5:15, Leviticus 10:1, Numbers 14:3, and Numbers 32:42. It's melody can be described as a Pazer followed by a Tebir. The obscure melody of the Tere Ta'ame conveys the message of something unpraiseworthy in the text. In Numbers 32:42, this note is below the word "La" (לה). The context of the text discusses how a descendant of Menashe named Nobah captures a territory called Qenat and then renames the territory after himself. Assuming that the usage of the Tere Ta'ame hints to something unpraiseworthy, one might suggest that the action of naming a territory after oneself is act of hubris or excessive haughtiness (גאוה) and not a praiseworthy character trait that one should emulate. Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, August 3, 2019.


וְנֹֽאחֲז֥וּ בְתֹכְכֶ֖ם בְּאֶ֥רֶץ כְּנָֽעַן - The agreement between Moses and Reuben, Gad, and half of Menashe, is that they can start building cities on the land on the eastern bank of the Jordan River (with their wives, children, and flocks settling down), on condition that their soldiers serve armed in the Israelite conquest of Canaan. In explaining this to the other tribes, the Masoretic Text of Numbers 32:30 says "if they do not cross over with you armed, they shall receive holdings among you in the Land of Canaan." Out of respect to the two and a half tribes in front of the other tribes, Moses keeps the repercussions vague; in just four words "Venohazu Betokhekhem Be'eress Kena'an." It is interesting to note, however, that in Qumran text for this verse (found in the Dead Sea Scrolls), the repercussions are not as polite and terse; with fourteen added words inserted into this verse. Here is the Qumran Text of Numbers 32:30 (with capital letters for added words): "if they will not cross over with you armed FOR BATTLE BEFORE GOD, THEN THEIR CHILDREN, THEIR WIVES, AND THEIR FLOCKS WILL BE BROUGHT BACK TO THE LAND OF CANAAN, and they shall receive holdings among you in the Land of Canaan." Qumran Comment, Beth Torah Bulletin, July 18, 2020.

Maqam of the Week: NAHWAND or NAWAH

For Shabbat Matot-Masei (Numbers 30:2-36:13), services are conducted in Maqam NAHWAND, because the portion begins with the laws of vows and the importance of keeping ones word. Maqam Nahwand is used in cases of conflict, so one may suggest that if one makes a vow that they cannot keep, this causes conflict. Another example of a vow in this perasha is when the tribes of Reuben and Gad, in exchange for inhabiting the eastern Jordan territories, vow to stay on the battlefield until all of Canaan is conquered. Older sources indicate Maqam NAWAH; used to end a Humash.