July 19, 2024 ~ Shabbat BALAQ. Maqam MAHOUR.

Shabbat Haye Sara - שבת חיי שרה


רם בנה מקדשך וארנן לך שועת
יחיד מלך נאמן שמחים
מרומי ברך לחברת ק''ק מגן דוד פזמון ספר תורה

Advanced in Days

ואברהם זקן בא בימים - When Abraham was old (זקן), the Torah also states (Genesis 24:1) that he was "advanced in days" (בא בימים). This redundancy may be written to compliment our patriarch who has lived a life where each "day" mattered. Abraham has lived a meaningful life with the mission of promoting God's values of justice and righteousness throughout the world. With strong ambition, not a single day went by where he wasn't preoccupied with changing people's lives. As his descendants, we owe it to ourselves and to the memory of Abraham to find purpose in life and to infuse meaning into each day of our lives. We should be careful not to waste our time with meaningless routines, but rather attempt to turn each and every day into an opportunity to accomplish something different. This way when we are "old," we will also be "advanced in days" (Beth Torah, 11/26/16).


ויאמר ה׳ אלהי אדני אברהם - The shalshelet is a musical note that looks like a jagged zigzag line on top of a word. This obscure note is one of the rarest cantillation marks throughout the entire Torah. In fact, it is only used on four occasions: in Genesis 19:16, Genesis 24:12, Genesis 39:8, and Leviticus 8:23. It has been suggested that this note is reserved for cases of hesitation and uncertainty. Any time a shalshelet is seen, an explanation is warranted. When Abraham's servant is charged with the mission of finding a wife for Isaac, he does not take immediate action. According to Midrash, the servant, who had a daughter of marriageable age, had a conflict of interest. In Genesis 24:12, the shalshelet is used on top of the word 'Vayomar' (and he said) when he took the first serious step of finding a wife by talking to God. Although he hesitated at first, as the shalshelet may indicate, he ultimately makes the decision not to be selfish and to help his master. Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, 11/3/18.

Filling the Void

וינחם יצחק אחרי אמו - Why did Isaac wait until age 37 to start looking for a wife? One suggestion is because there were incredibly high standards for the position of Isaac’s future wife. Firstly, in order to avoid assimilation, Abraham dismisses the prospect of Isaac marrying a local Canaanite woman. In addition, to avoid losing his foothold in the land, Isaac is forbidden to leave Canaan in search of a wife. Because of this difficult criteria, marriage is delayed for Isaac. With the loss of his mother, however, there is a tremendous void in Isaac’s life that needs to be filled. This void, one can imagine, leaves Isaac in a cloud of confusion, despair, and sadness. It is only when Abraham realizes that he needs to pass his blessings onto Isaac that he sends his most trusted servant to Harran in search for a suitable match. After all is said and done, Genesis 24:67 reports that when Ribqah is brought to Sarah’s tent, “Isaac found comfort after his mother.” Beth Torah 11/11/17.  

To the Tent

וַיְבִאֶ֣הָ יִצְחָ֗ק הָאֹ֙הֱלָה֙ שָׂרָ֣ה אִמּ֔וֹ - For the word "Haohela" in Genesis 24:67, is the accent on the letter Aleph (HaOhela), or on the Heh (HaoHela)? Although most in our community, including Mickey Kairey, read it "HaOhela" (accent on Aleph), there are those that read "HaoHela" (accent on Heh). An explanation provided by Mr Norman Didia favoring "HaOhela," is that the Tere-Qadmin cantillation symbol, with two arcs above the word, indicates where the accent should be. The first of these arcs is placed above the accented syllable – in this case above the Aleph. In addition, under the Heh, there is Hataf Segol, which has the grammatical rules of a Sheva Na’. Since a Sheva/Hataf is not considered a Tenu'ah (vowel), it cannot represent the accented part of the word. In summary, as shown by the cantillation symbol, and by the grammatical rules applied to a Sheva/Hataf, the accented part of the word must be on the Aleph; making it HaOhela. Tiqqun Highlight, Beth Torah Bulletin, November 23, 2019.

Alien and Resident

גֵּר־וְתוֹשָׁ֥ב אָנֹכִ֖י עִמָּכֶ֑ם - When Abraham seeks to find a suitable burial plot for his recently deceased wife, he approaches Bnei Het, the local inhabitants of the land. Abraham opens his request by explaining "I am an alien (foreigner) and a resident among you" (Genesis 23:4). When the people of Het hear this self-demeaning description, they correct Abraham by saying; "Hear us, my master, you are an ambassador of God within us." In addition, the Hittites respect Abraham so much that they grant him permission to bury his deceased anywhere he would like. The way that Abraham describes himself in relation to the locals says a lot about how he saw himself. On the one hand, by saying that he is a "resident," he is acknowledging that he is someone who happens to live in that certain location. On the other hand, by saying that he is an "alien," he is reminding everyone that he sees himself as an outsider and not someone who ever wishes to assimilate with them. This idea of separation has become a defining trait of the Jewish nation living in exile; acting as good law-abiding citizens in our place of residence, but at the same time, thinking of ourselves only as guests in a foreign land. Beth Torah Bulletin, November 14, 2020.

Maqam of the Week: HIJAZ

On Shabbat Haye Sara (Genesis 23:1- 25:18), Maqam HIJAZ, which is named after the Arabian Peninsula, is applied to the Shabbat morning prayers according to the Red Pizmonim Book and all Aleppo sources. This maqam, reserved for funerals and mourning, is warranted here, because we read about the death of Sara and then Abraham and their burials in Me’arat HaMakhpela in Hebron. Damascus sources list Maqam SABA to mark painful occasions. Sephardic Pizmonim Project, www.pizmonim.com.