July 19, 2024 ~ Shabbat BALAQ. Maqam MAHOUR.

Shabbat Ki Tesse - שבת כי תצא

Maqam SABA


כי תצא למלחמה על איביך - "You are your own worst enemy," was my teacher Dr Leibow's message to me upon graduation. "Most of the problems you faced as a student," he said, "could have been avoided with wiser decisions." When the Torah discusses going to war "on your enemies" (Deuteronomy 21:10), the "enemy" alluded to, according to commentators, is one's inclination to make poor decisions (יצר הרע). There are three cases in context (21:10-21): marrying a war captive, the rights of the first born of a hated wife, and a rebellious son. The connection between these three cases is that one problem often leads to the next. For example, if one is lustful and marries a woman from the war, this may create family dysfunction, which may lead to the development of a rebellious child. The lesson here is that initial problems not dealt with wisely often lead to bigger problems down the road. The way to avoid future problems is by making wiser decisions today. Beth Torah Bulletin, August 25, 2018.

Lost Wallet

לא תוכל להתעלם - One Shabbat, many years ago, my father and I were walking on Kings Highway (Brooklyn), when suddenly we stumbled upon a wallet. We opened it, and saw that among the valuables was a license with the owner's home address. We hid the wallet on the side of the road where it was unlikely to be discovered (because we could not carry it), and walked to this address. Perplexed upon seeing two Jewish fellows at his door, we explained to the resident that we found his wallet on the street and that we left it there for him. This Latino gentleman was very grateful for this thoughtful gesture, and I am even more grateful to my father for this experience. Deuteronomy 22:1-4 teaches that we are obligated to make steps to improve the quality of our society by returning lost objects and by never remaining indifferent (לא תוכל להתעלם) to things that we have the power to correct. Beth Torah Bulletin, September 2, 2017.

Modesty of Thought

וְלָקַ֛ח אֲבִ֥י הַֽנַּעֲרָ - In Deuteronomy 22:13-29, we read about a defamation (מוציא שם רע) where a husband disputes his new wife's virginity. In describing the young woman (נַּעֲרָה), the Torah uses the word נַּעֲרָ (masculine spelling) without a final letter Heh (ה). The same word is used to describe Ribqa (Genesis 24) and Dina (Genesis 34:3). Using the word נַּעֲרָ to describe a young woman is limited to the Masoretic Text of the Torah, as the word נַּעֲרָה appears frequently in Nebi'im and Ketubim. Rabbi Solomon D Sassoon (1915-1985) speculated that the word נַּעֲרָ is used in place of נַּעֲרָה because the Torah requires a higher level of modesty of thought as to not allow a reader to lose concentration by having impure thoughts. Despite all this, one exception to this is in Deuteronomy 22:19 where the actual word נַּעֲרָה with the Heh appears in describing the husband's punishment if the young woman told the truth and proves to be innocent of the accusation. Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, September 14, 2019.


כִּ֤י תִבְנֶה֙ בַּ֣יִת חָדָ֔שׁ וְעָשִׂ֥יתָ מַעֲקֶ֖ה לְגַגֶּ֑ךָ - In the Summer of 1997, I accompanied my Grandma Esther to a synagogue dedication in one of our community synagogues by the Jersey Shore. In what was supposed to be a glorious occasion almost ended in tragedy. My grandmother, 72, lost her balance on the front stairs of the entrance and fell down the entire flight of stairs. Luckily, God was with her that day, she told me, and she was not hurt. She did mention, however, that this would not of happened had there been a railing by the staircase. Being that the building was brand new, the railing was one of those "finishing touches" that they did not get to yet. Years later, as I pass by this synagogue, the first thing that I look at are the grand railings at the entrance that could have prevented my grandmother from falling that day. In Deuteronomy 22:8, we have an applicable passage to this story. "When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet (protective wall) for your roof, so that you do not bring bloodguilt on your house if anyone should fall from it". The Torah warns that one must do everything in their power, even a simple safety measure, to protect themselves from preventable tragedies from taking place. Beth Torah Bulletin, August 29, 2020.

Maqam of the Week: SABA

On Shabbat Ki Tesse (Deuteronomy 21:10- 25:19), we read the laws of marrying a female captive from a war. Maqam SABA (Hebrew: army; Arabic: baby boy), the maqam used at the Berit Mila, is appropriate for two reasons. Firstly, because we open with the mention of an army, and the Hebrew word for 'army' is 'SABA'. But more importantly, since the ultimate purpose of a circumcision is to control desire and prevent promiscuity, this connects to the soldier; reminding him that it is better for him to avoid the temptation of taking a female captive. HAZZANUT: Semehim: Ki Eshmera Shabbat (SABA, page 30).