July 16, 2024 ~ Shabbat BALAQ. Maqam MAHOUR.

Shabbat Vayishlah - שבת וישלח



כי אם ישראל יהיה שמך - Having many challenges in life should not define a person. It is how one deals with them that will ultimately determine ones legacy. By all accounts, our forefather, Jacob, was dealt with an unusually difficult set of circumstances. Whether it be surviving a brutal exile, being exploited by his relative, or suffering from family disharmony, it is his perseverance in all of these areas that has earned him the new title "Israel." The name 'Israel' represents someone who faces struggles, with both God (spiritual) and with people (physical), but who comes out victorious. Regarding the ongoing dispute with his brother, we see that Jacob recognized that he could not continue living in a state of war and that it was best to move on by making peace. It is very befitting that our nation officially adapted the name "Israel," because we are a group constantly facing obstacles, but then overcoming them (Beth Torah, 12/17/16).

Esav's Kiss

ויפל על צוארו וישקהו ויבכו - As Esav reencounters Jacob, "he runs to him, embraces him, falls on his neck, he kisses him, and they wept together" (Genesis 33:4). From a plain reading of the text (Peshat), one is left to assume that Esav has moved on with his grievances and is sincerely happy to reunite with his brother. By the word 'וישקהו' ("he kisses him"), however, there is a dot on top of each letter. There are ten instances in the Torah (MT) where dots are found. In Abot of Rabbi Natan 30b, it is suggested that Ezra the Scribe placed dots on certain doubtful words that he thought needed to be deleted, but ultimately decided to leave them in place. A Midrash attributed to R. Yannai claims that Esav did not come to kiss Jacob, but rather to bite him (Genesis Raba 78:9); with the dots symbolic for Esav's bite marks. Whether or not one agrees with this extreme interpretation, the mystery remains as to why there are dots placed on top of this word. Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, 11/24/18.

National Identity

והיינו לעם אחד - What exactly is an Israelite? Upon his return from exile, Jacob must establish a distinct national identity for his family if they are to exist as a separate entity within the Land of Canaan. At times, this task is met with certain challenges. For example, after reconciling (Genesis 33), Esav suggests that the two camps travel beside one another (נסעה ונלכה ואלכה לנגדך). To this request, Jacob politely opts out by citing the fragility of his children and cattle in their travels. In doing so, Jacob assures his camp's purity by avoiding unnecessary mingling. In Genesis 34, however, when Dina is held captive and a Hivite-Israelite merger is insisted (והיינו לעם אחד), Jacob is not as fortunate, an embarrassing episode of terror ensues in order to defend Israel's purity. It is not until Bet El (Genesis 35), where all idols are disposed and where Israel is defined as a group which exclusively worships the one supreme God, that a national identity is firmly established. Beth Torah Bulletin, December 2, 2017.  


קָטֹ֜נְתִּי מִכֹּ֤ל הַחֲסָדִים֙ - What is the correct cantillation note for the word "Qatonti" in Genesis 32:11; is it a RABIA (written in the Qoren Tanakh) or a GERISH? To answer this, we must consult with what is considered the most authoritative Masoretic Text Tanakh in existence- the Keter Aram Soba, or the Aleppo Codex. Although we do not have access to those pages from the Aleppo Codex today, we know what those pages had, because in 1857, Rabbi Ya'aqob Sapir sent a letter to Aleppo with 550 questions about words and Ta'amim in the Keter, and this letter was responded to by H Menashe Sittehon who carefully examined the Keter and provided all the answers. This large list is referred to today as "Meorot Natan." In the Meorot Natan, the answer to the above question is that the Aleppo Codex had a GERISH above the word Qatonti. It should be noted, however, that using a RABIA is based on the Ben-Naftali tradition, and the GERISH is based on the Ben-Asher tradition. Therefore, both options have sources to back them up. Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, December 14, 2019.

Maqam of the Week: SABA / SIGAH / BAYAT

For Shabbat Vayishlah (Genesis 32:4- 36:43), Maqam SIGAH/IRAQ is listed in 11 sources, BAYAT/HOSENI is listed in 9 sources, and SABA is listed in 6 sources. The selection of SUHV (Red Pizmonim Book) is Maqam SABA or SIGAH. An explanation for SABA (Hebrew: army), the maqam for Berit Mila, is because Jacob prepares for war against Esav. Another reason for SABA is because the Hivites are deceived into undergoing Berit Mila (Genesis 34). An explanation for SIGAH, a maqam associated with the building of the tabernacle, is because in Bet El, Jacob fulfills his vow of building an altar (i.e. Tabernacle). In the notes of H Moshe Ashear from the last four years of his life, we see that he prayed Maqam RAST for two years, and Maqam SIGAH the other two years. Sephardic Pizmonim Project, www.pizmonim.com.