July 16, 2024 ~ Shabbat BALAQ. Maqam MAHOUR.

Shabbat Vayigash - שבת ויגש


Embarrassing the Brothers

ויקרא הוציא כל איש מעלי - In the Talmud (Baba Messia 58b), Rabbi Nahman son of Isaac quotes: "Those who pale their friend's face in public is as if they spilled blood" (כל המלבין פני חברו ברבים כאילו שופך דמים). In other words, openly embarrassing someone is similar to murdering them. In Genesis 45:1, we see how careful Joseph is to avoid this and to protect the dignity of his brothers. When Joseph is ready to reveal himself to his siblings, he is aware that doing so has the potential to damage their reputations. To avoid creating a spectacle, Joseph orders his entire staff to leave the room. As onlookers, the staff's presence would inevitably cause this private episode to become public knowledge throughout the land. Therefore, Joseph, in an effort to protect their images, insists on confidentiality. We learn from this example of how important it is to preserve the dignity of a fellow person.  Beth Torah Bulletin, December 23, 2017.


ותחי רוח יעקב אביהם ויאמר ישראל - Throughout the Torah, our forefather is referred to as either Jacob or Israel. When the name 'Israel' is applied, it is usually a display of strength, unity and elevation. When Jacob learns that Joseph is still alive, the name 'Israel' suddenly reappears (Genesis 45:27-28) to illustrate Jacob's uplifted spirit. The revival of the name 'Israel' teaches us that only when there was unity of the family did Jacob have hope for the future and experience true happiness. When there were signs of disunity and hatred in the family, such as after the sale of Joseph, hope was diminished, and the term 'Israel' was used less often. When it comes to our people, we may not always agree with each other on every issue or any issue, but what makes us the great nation of 'Israel' is our ability to remain united and respectful despite our differences (Beth Torah, 1/7/17).


כל הנפש לבית יעקב הבאה מצרימה שבעים - How many people went down to Egypt? The Masoretic Text (MT) says that "all the souls of Jacob's household coming to Egypt is 70," (Genesis 46:27). The Septuagint (LXX) and the Dead Sea Scrolls, however, list 75 as the grand total. The Septuagint reaches this number by including Joseph's descendants: (1) Makhir (son of Menashe), (2) Gilead (son of Makhir), (3) Shutalah (son of Ephraim), (4) Taham (son of Ephraim), (5) Edem (son of Shutalah). These extra 5 people are mentioned elsewhere in the MT (Numbers 26), but could not be included in this tally of 70, because this list only includes those who were already born at the time. Being that Menashe and Ephraim are still young when meeting their grandfather, Jacob, for the first time (Genesis 48), it is impossible for them to of already had grandchildren at the time. This is why the Masoretic Text omits the 5 extra descendants in their tally of 70. Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, 12/15/18.

Overcoming the Past

אַֽל־תִּרְגְּז֖וּ בַּדָּֽרֶךְ - When Joseph sends the brothers to relay the news to their father, he advises "Al Tirgezu BaDarekh" (Genesis 45:24). There are numerous approaches to explaining this statement. According to Rashi (1040-1105), one approach to explain this is that the brothers should not quarrel or argue with one another along the way home about who is to blame for selling Joseph into slavery. An argument like this is likely to place blame on one or two specific brothers in order to salvage the remainder's reputations. The very thought of losing full respect from Jacob, their father, is a serious fear for the brothers. Knowing the brothers, however, Joseph encourages them not to worry on the road; meaning, to put the past events behind them and start a new page in their relationship. This is an important lesson that we can learn from Joseph. In life, there are times that people may have offended you or acted against you, but certain scenarios may warrant one to overlook the events of the past, as horrible as they were, in order to live a better future. Beth Torah Bulletin, January 4, 2020.

Maqam of the Week: BAYAT

For Shabbat Vayigash (Genesis 44:18- 47:27), Maqam BAYAT is applied according to at least 17 Aleppo sources (other opinions include: Maqam SABA, MAHOUR, or SIGAH). The definition of the Arabic word 'BAYAT' is an oath of allegiance to an emir when one submits themselves and pledges loyalty. In this case, the BAYAT is performed by Judah who submits himself to Joseph (the emir) and declares his loyalty. Similarly, Maqam BAYAT is used at a Bar Misva, because this is when one makes the BAYAT commitment to be loyal to God and to observe the commandments. Sephardic Pizmonim Project, www.pizmonim.com.