May 27, 2024 ~ Sh BEHUQOTAI. Maqam NAHWAND.

Shabbat Vayera - שבת וירא


Extreme Kindness

והוא ישב פתח האהל כחם היום - Abraham’s trait of extreme kindness (חסד) is what qualifies him to be considered “the father of our nation.” In Micah 7:20, it is his Hesed (תתן אמת ליעקב חסד לאברהם) that most exemplifies him for posterity. In Genesis 18, when it comes to his hospitality, Abraham plays a very active role in the process by standing at the entrance of his tent to actively seek to invite guests (וישא עיניו וירא). Abraham seeks these guests specifically at noon (כחם היום); the hottest and most uncomfortable part of the day to be outdoors. Not only did Abraham perform these acts alone, but he positively influences others to rush (מהרי) and partake in these experiences. It is because of acts like these as well as knowing that Abraham “observes God’s path” (ושמרו דרך ה׳ לעשות צדקה ומשפט) that God is hesitant to withhold anything from Abraham (המכסה אני מאברהם) and decides to confide in him about future events. Beth Torah Bulletin, 11/4/17.

Remained Standing

ואברהם עודנו עמד לפני ה׳ - "And Abraham remained standing before God" is the last part of Genesis 18:22. According to the Tiqqun Soferim (as cited by Rashi), however, the original text read "And God remained standing before Abraham," but it was later changed. Tiqqun Soferim refers to about 18 scribal changes made to the Tanakh for various reasons. According to this tradition, the two subjects are reversed, and the word 'God' is replaced with 'Abraham' in order to preserve the honor of God. Rather than write that God remained standing before Abraham, the scholars didn't want to give the impression that God was waiting for a human (which can be viewed as disrespectful). Despite all this, there is absolutely no evidence in the Septuagint, Samaritan Pentateuch, the Dead Sea Scrolls, or any other known ancient sources that there was ever an original Torah text reading "And God remained standing before Abraham." Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, October 27, 2018.

Lot's Contribution

וישקף על פני סדם ועמרה - As Abraham witnesses the devastation of Sodom (Genesis 19:28), we can only imagine the sense of failure that he experiences for a calamity that should have been avoided. Abraham only has the audacity to petition God to spare Sodom, because he assumes that his former confidant, Lot, after many years together, has become a role model and positive influence on his society. It comes as a disappointment when it is apparent that Lot has accomplished absolutely nothing; not following Abraham's example of steering people towards the path of righteousness. As the descendants of Abraham, we have been blessed with many fine role models who actively shape our lives. Unlike Lot, who laid low and contributed nothing to his society, we must actively seek ways to become those role models and make a positive impact on the lives of those around us (Beth Torah, 11/19/16). 

Minor Gestures

וְאַ֨בְרָהָ֔ם הֹלֵ֥ךְ עִמָּ֖ם לְשַׁלְּחָֽם - In Genesis 18, we read about Abraham's exemplary behavior in his interactions with his guests. One detail that may go unnoticed is at the end of the story when Abraham shows his hospitality by not only showing his guests to the door, but by walking with them to escort them onto their journey (Genesis 18:16). The reason this small detail resonates with me is because during my childhood, after each Shabbat lunch, I recall my grandparents, David and Esther Betesh, had the tradition of walking with my family all the way to the corner of their block on Ocean Parkway and Avenue U to escort us on our way home. In doing so, they may not have realized that they were following Abraham's example, but they always followed this habit to demonstrate their high level of respect towards their guests. Such gestures like these may have appeared minor at the time, but they certainly did not go unnoticed. Beth Torah Bulletin, November 16, 2019.

A Little Water

יֻקַּֽח־נָ֣א מְעַט־מַ֔יִם - When Abraham encounters three men passing by, he gets very excited for the opportunity to invite them and host them for a big meal. He starts off, however, in a very subdued way in order not to scare them away. When he first talks to them, he asks them politely to please not pass by without having "a little water to wash their feet (Genesis 18:4)," "recline under a tree," and enjoy "a piece of bread." In a clever tactic, Abraham uses minimal terms, such as "a little water" or "piece of bread (singular)," in order to lure these people in. Once these men agree, Abraham, feeling like a big winner, leaves them and enthusiastically starts the process of preparing a very festive meal of cakes, lamb, butter etc. Rabbi Elazar, mentioned in the Talmud (TB Baba Messia 87.), says that righteous people, such as Abraham, "say little but do more" (אמור מעט ועשה הרבה). The Talmud contrasts this trait with those who say a lot in public in order to get others to think they are great, but in the end don't follow up with their words. It is apparent to us that when Abraham performed good deeds, he did so not in order to receive praise from others, but rather because he truly loved to help other people. Beth Torah Bulletin, November 7, 2020.

Maqam of the Week: NAWAH

For Shabbat Vayera (Genesis 18:1- 22:24), Maqam NAWAH is applied according to the majority of Aleppo sources, though many will go with the minority opinion (Maqam BAYAT). H Moshe Ashear used to mix both maqams for this week. NAWAH is familiar to most as the maqam that we use each week for Qabbalat Shabbat. Gabriel A Shrem used to say that in Psalms 93:5, the words "Nawa Qodesh" allude to the angels; ornaments to God's throne and who proclaim His holiness. This connects to our Torah portion, because we read about the angels who rescue Lot. Sephardic Pizmonim Project,