July 19, 2024 ~ Shabbat BALAQ. Maqam MAHOUR.

Shabbat Ki Tabo - שבת כי תבוא


Fruits of Your Labor

ושמחת בכל הטוב - Every year right before "Finals" at the Yeshivah of Flatbush, our principal, Rabbi William Altshul, used to say: "Take a moment to think where you were a few months ago. You have all worked hard to get to this point, and now is the time for you to reap the fruits of your labor. As it says [Psalms 126:5] "Those who toil with planting will have joy in the harvest" (הזרעים בדמעה ברנה יקצרו). After each final was over, riots of celebration would fill the halls of the building as tremendous baggage was suddenly lifted from the students' shoulders. I can imagine that such was the atmosphere of joy and relief as the Israelites completed the harvest and presented their "first fruits" to the Temple. It was at this very ceremony where everyone, regardless of status, would reflect on their collective past (ארמי אבד אבי), celebrate the accomplishments of the present (ושמחת בכל הטוב), and anticipate divine generosity in the future. Beth Torah Bulletin, September 9, 2017.

Prayers in Plural

וברך את עמך את ישראל - For the tithe (מעשר) donation to the poor in the third year, the Israelite farmer declares that he has distributed his tithe to the Levite, the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow, as required. He then concludes this declaration with a prayer: "Look down from Your holy abode, from Heaven, and bless Your nation, Israel, and the ground You have given us, a land flowing of milk and honey" (Deuteronomy 26:15). By using the plural tense to conduct a prayer as opposed to the singular, the farmer is not selfishly asking for his own prosperity as an individual, but rather for the entire nation. This prayer serves as a model for how to make a request from the Almighty. By praying in plural tense, as typically prescribed in Judaism, one develops the awareness that ultimately we are all interconnected and that rather than only focusing on ones own personal needs, one should be praying for the blessings of the entire Jewish people and the entire world. Beth Torah Bulletin, September 1, 2018.

Softer Words

ואיש אחר ישגלנה - 'Qere v'Ketib' (קרי וכתיב) refers to the few times in Tanakh where there are differences between the written text and the oral reading tradition. These differences mostly stem from pronunciation disputes. In Deuteronomy 28:27 & 30, however, we have two unique cases of Qere v'Ketib that are full word replacements possibly due to the text being considered too vulgar for public readings. In the first case (Deuteronomy 28:27), "Uba'polim" (ובעפלים) is replaced with "U'bTehorim" (ובטחרים), because "Uba'polim" refers to hemorrhoids (body part that is covered) and the replacement word, 'swellings,' is more vague. In the second case (Deuteronomy 28:30), "Yishgalena" (ישגלנה) is replaced with "Yishkabena" (ישכבנה), sleep with, because the thought of "Yishgalena," of enemies raping (literally: enjoying) one's wife, is too graphic to be heard in public. In both cases, the oral tradition replaces the text with less offensive and more softer words. Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, September 21, 2019.


אֲרַמִּי֙ אֹבֵ֣ד אָבִ֔י וַיֵּ֣רֶד מִצְרַ֔יְמָה - When an Israelite brings his First Fruits to the Temple, he recites the ancient account recalling the nation's history. He begins with the words "Arami Obed Abi" (Deuteronomy 26:5). Translating the word "Obed" is in dispute and understanding the phrase requires explanations. Rashi explains that "Arami Obed Abi" refers to how Laban, the Arami, tries to destroy ("Obed") Jacob, our father, by chasing him. Ibn Ezra says that while it is true that Laban chases Jacob, he did not chase him to Egypt (as the verse states). According to Ibn Ezra, "Arami Obed Abi" refers to Jacob, himself, being lost ("Obed"); having lost all his possessions. Ibn Ezra cites sources where "Obed" refers to losing ones money (being a pauper). There are other commentators, including the Malbim, that cite that "Arami Obed Abi" refers to Abraham; describing how he was wandering ("Obed") from Aram to the Canaan and then being forced to go down to Egypt due to the famine. Regardless of the specific meaning of this phrase, there is no doubt that the intention of the text is for the Israelite to understand his own identity as one who began in a very low position, but with divine guidance, ended up victorious. Beth Torah Bulletin, September 5, 2020.

Maqam of the Week: SIGAH

For Shabbat Ki Tabo (Deuteronomy 26:1- 29:8), prayers are conducted in Maqam SIGAH (or Maqam IRAQ), according to most Aleppo sources. The reading opens with the pilgrimage (hag) to bring the first fruits (bikurim). Since the pilgrimage is done on the three festivals,'SIGAH', a word that means 'three,' is applied here. This maqam is well-known to most as the melody applied for the Torah readings. HAZZANUT: Semehim: Adon Yahid Yasad (SIGAH, page 67). Dissenting sources: Maqam SABA or NAWAH (in the notes of H Moshe Ashear, we see that he used these different maqamat on Ki Tabo from year to year).