July 16, 2024 ~ Shabbat BALAQ. Maqam MAHOUR.

Shabbat Vayesse - שבת ויצא

Maqam AJAM

מי יספר חסדי האל נשמת
ידידי רועי מקימי שמחים
יעטר יה לעם סגר פזמון ספר תורה


ויצא יעקב מבאר שבע וילך חרנה - A common adage often used to console someone is "when one door closes, another one opens." When one door closed on Jacob as he was sent into exile (ויצא), he did not despair, but continued to walk (וילך) to the many open doors in front of him. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, Jacob, a poor refugee, left his problems in the past, and made the best of the situation. During his years in exile, he managed to build a life for himself by getting married, having children, and earning great wealth. The same thing happened later when the Children of Israel were in Egypt. It was during this exile that Israel established itself as a great nation. It is important for us to remember that with each setback, there is an opportunity to make many positive changes. No matter how bad a particular situation seems, it is important to be like Jacob and keep "walking" (Beth Torah Bulletin, 12/10/16).

Leah's Fifth Son

ותקרא שמו יששכר - The name יששכר, introduced in Genesis 30:18, presents many scholars with a difficulty in pronunciation. According to Professor Shnayer Z Leiman, the early authorities (Rishonim) agree that there is only one correct pronunciation but differ as to what it is. The various opinions include: *(1) Yis-sa-khar (dagesh in first sin; qamas under first sin; second sin completely silent), (2) Yi-sa-khar, (3) Yish-sa-khar (shin followed by sin), (4) Yi-sas-khar (both sins pronounced; patah under first sin). The Aleppo Codex ascribes to the Ben Asher pronunciation of Yis-sa-khar (opinion 1). In addition, the Remah, the Minhat Shai, and many other later authorities support this pronunciation. Despite the development of Ashkenaz communities applying various pronunciations of יששכר throughout the Torah, all Sephardic and Yemenite Jews agree to pronounce יששכר in accordance to the first opinion (Yis-sa-khar) alone. Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, November 18, 2018.

Living the Dream

ויפגעו בו מלאכי אלהים - When things were not looking promising, Jacob dreams of a calm place where angels ascend and descend from God's heavenly throne. Although Jacob saw the angels in a dream, he never expects to see them in real life. Instead, he makes a vow to return to the place and dedicate a temple to God should he survive his exile. Jacob, a refugee living in a dangerous world with no allies, wealth, or army, had good reason to doubt his survivability. Yet, he continues confidently on his journey. Jacob's confidence came from his trust in God. Upon his return from exile, Jacob, possessing a large family and tremendous wealth, merits to encounter the actual angels of God (ויפגעו בו מלאכי אלהים) that he saw in his dream many years prior. Seeing these angels in real life and not in a dream is a symbol that all that Jacob has wished for in his dreams have now been accomplished and what was once a dream is now a reality. Beth Torah Bulletin, 11/25/17.  


וַיִּירָא֙ וַיֹּאמַ֔ר מַה־נּוֹרָ֖א הַמָּק֣וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה אֵ֣ין זֶ֗ה כִּ֚י אִם־בֵּ֣ית אֱלֹהִ֔ים וְזֶ֖ה שַׁ֥עַר הַשָּׁמָֽיִם׃ - Immediately following Jacob's prophetic dream, he awakes in fear and in awe with a renewed assurance that God will protect him. He feels that the location of the dream is where God is closest to him, and therefore needs to be marked with a large stone in order to build a House of God there once he returns in peace. The words that he exclaims, "How awesome is this place!" (Genesis 28:17), best captures the feelings experienced and the sense of a renewed spirit to move forward into the wilderness of life. In the Syrian Sephardic Jewish tradition, this specific verse is recognized as one with special importance. In a tradition that is said to have originated in Kilis (Turkey), in the Shabbat afternoon services (Minha), the verse is inserted immediately after the Torah is returned and prior to the Qaddish leading into the Amida. According to tradition, the afternoon services on Shabbat, which is the last of the four prayers to be recited on Shabbat, has special significance being that it is "Et Rasson" (עת רצון); the most opportune time and when God is most near. Therefore, in order to effectively relay that feeling of awe and fear, this verse is recited. Beth Torah Bulletin, 11/28/2020.

Missing Word

וַיִּתֶּן־ל֛וֹ אֶת־רָחֵ֥ל בִּתּ֖וֹ ל֥וֹ לְאִשָּֽׁה - Rarely do we have a scenario of a word that is found in one Torah scroll yet missing in another. Yet, in the footnotes found in many modern-day Humashim, such as the Soncino, for the verse Genesis 29:28, it is written "some books omit the word 'Lo' (לו)," referring to the second "Lo," between the words "bito" (daughter), and "le'isha" (as a wife). The only commentator to address this issue is Rabbi Yedidia Norzi (1560–1626), also known as the Minhat Shai. The Minhat Shai comments that although some manuscripts (of Ashkenaz origin) that he has seen are missing "the second Lo," all the manuscripts from Spain include this word and this is more authoritative. After personally searching many texts, including the Leningrad Codex, I have not been able to locate a single text that omits the "second Lo." In addition, even more ancient texts, such as the Samaritan Pentateuch, include "the second Lo." Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, December 7, 2019.

Maqam of the Week: AJAM

For Shabbat Vayesse (Genesis 28:10- 32:3), services are conducted in Maqam AJAM (or GIRKA) according to 16 Syrian sources (dissenting opinion is SABA). Traditionally, the word 'Ajam,' meaning 'foreigner', was used to refer to the Persians. The melody of this maqam is joyous and has become associated with the wedding ceremony. This relates here, because in this Torah portion, we read about Jacob’s wedding ceremony in the House of Laban. HAZZANUT: Semehim: Yedidi Ro'ee Meqimi (page 417); mentions Rachel coming with her sheep. Sephardic Pizmonim Project, www.pizmonim.com.