July 16, 2024 ~ Shabbat BALAQ. Maqam MAHOUR.

Shabbat Vayesheb - שבת וישב


מלא משאלות לבי נשמת
יצא למלוך מבית סורים שמחים
אודך אל טובות גמלת פזמון ספר תורה


וימצאהו איש והנה תעה בשדה - Of our many interactions that take place each day, most appear to be inconsequential, but one can never be too sure. When a young Joseph, in Genesis 37:13, is sent by his father to Shechem in search of his brothers, he is unable to locate them. Before giving up, Joseph encounters a man in the field. Instead of minding his own business, this man asks "What are you looking for (וישאלהו האיש לאמר מה תבקש)?" The man then says that earlier, he overheard the brothers saying to one another "let us go to Dothan" (נלכה דתינה). Joseph goes to Dothan, finds his brothers, and the rest is history. We never hear about this man again, but in retrospect, this man plays a key role in the narrative. Although this single interaction had negative immediate consequences, it ultimately led to great redemption. It is important for us to treat all of our interactions with utmost care, because we never know which interactions will lead to our salvation. Beth Torah Bulletin, December 9, 2017.


וישמעו אחיו - Every group needs a good leader to help guide them in the right direction. Initially, for the Children of Israel, there was very poor leadership. When the brothers sought to kill Joseph, Reuben, the first born, requested to stop the murder, but compromised to throw him into a pit instead. As a leader, he was not powerful enough to do the right thing and completely defend Joseph. The brothers saw Reuben's tactics as weak and untrustworthy, and therefore went to search for a new leader. It is with Judah's more practical approach of selling Joseph in order to completely avoid any bloodshed where the words וישמעו אחיו, "and the brothers listened/ affirmed" (Genesis 37:27), are written. Despite the agony that this brought on their father, the acceptance of Judah's plan is indicative that they trusted his judgement as honest and sincere, and this is why they continuously gravitated towards him as their new leader (Beth Torah, 12/24/16).


וימאן ויאמר אל אשת עבדיו - When Joseph is seduced by the wife of his master, Potiphar, he faces a big challenge. As readers, one wonders what Joseph is thinking when Potiphar's wife demands to sleep with him? Based on Genesis 39:8, one may assume that Joseph's immediate refusal to accept her advances is an automatic reflex due to his righteousness. The rare shelashelet cantillation note on top of the word וימאן ("and he refused"), however, traditionally suggests hesitation. In the words of the Minhat Shai (1560-1626), "from the Ta'amim of the Torah, we can understand what is not written in the text." In this case, the shelashelet reveals Joseph's inner thoughts of being extremely uncertain of what to do next. Joseph knows that if he sleeps with Potiphar's wife, he could get away with it. Despite this, he has such fear of God and loyalty to his master, Potiphar, that he refuses her offers knowing very well of how much trouble this will get him into. Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, December 1, 2018.


את אחי אנכי מבקש- Throughout his youth, Joseph regularly taunts his brothers with his dreams and flaunts the special robe given by his father. Even his father, becomes furious at him for talking about his dreams. Despite the hatred that has been festering in the minds of the brothers, the reader sees that the young Joseph loved his brothers and did not anticipate for any of the subsequent events to occur. When Jacob sends Joseph to seek the brothers, he willingly accepts the task and thinks no danger of it. When a stranger asks Joseph what he is looking for, he states in Genesis 37:16, "I seek my brothers." These words reveal that Joseph is completely oblivious to the animosity that he caused and thinks that he is on loving terms with his brothers. Meanwhile, the brothers, filled with jealousy and anger, feel the exact opposite about him. The lesson here is that one should always be very careful with how they behave towards others and not be surprised by negative consequences if others are offended by the way you treat them. Beth Torah Bulletin, December 21, 2019.

Maqam of the Week: RAHAW / NAHWAND

On Shabbat Vayesheb (Genesis 37:1- 40:23), services are conducted in Maqam RAHAWI-NAWAH (older sources) or NAHWAND (newer sources). A reason for RAHAWI-NAWAH is in order to incorporate the pizmon Yassa Limlokh (page 363) into one of the pieces of prayers (i.e. Semehim). This pizmon by Rabbi Yisrael Najara (1555-1625) is a 16 stanza poem based on the story of Joseph. A reason for NAHWAND, a maqam that conveys the mood of conflict, is because there is intense family conflict between Joseph and his brothers. PIZMON SEFER TORAH: Odekha El Tobot (page 372) for Hanuka. Sephardic Pizmonim Project, www.pizmonim.com.