April 24, 2024 ~ PESAH. SIGAH/AJAM/BAYAT.

Shabbat Noah - שבת נח


נבחר ידיד נשמת
אשיש אל בך קדיש
אשתבח תהילות שמחים

In His Generation

נח איש צדיק תמים היה בדרתיו - Is Noah considered “righteous” by today’s standards? Resh Laqish and Rabbi Yohanan debate this very question in the Talmud (Tractate Sanhedrin 108a). Whereas Resh Laqish maintains Noah as righteous for all generations, Rabbi Yohanan points out that the word in Genesis 6:9, בדרתיו, “in his generation,” limits his righteousness to “his generation” alone. Various Jewish commentators, contrasting him with his descendent, Abraham, have criticized Noah for not doing more to save those around him. Instead, Noah remains completely silent throughout the narrative and “walks with God.” The general consensus to this question is that Noah’s silence and his lack of interest to positively influence those around him is not viewed favorably. When we see a problem in society, our role is to be more like Abraham and attempt to improve the situation, and not simply stand by and ignore it. Beth Torah Bulletin, October 21, 2017. 

Second Chance

וישחת הארץ לפני האלהים ותמלא הארץ חמס - Why does it say that the land was destroyed even prior to the flood? In Genesis 6, we read that society was broken, because its members were engaging in "Hamas," translated as acts of violence, lawlessness or deception. The crimes that saddened God most were the violations of social laws. In short, God loses all hope, because people did not have basic respect for one another. By bringing the flood, He was merely trying to restart a world already deemed irreversibly damaged. It wasn't until Noah, an upright and righteous person, that God decided to reconsider His original plan. The lesson that we learn from Noah's survival is that humanity only continues to exist today in order to fix the mistakes of our predecessors. Instead of living lives of Hamas, we, the descendants of Noah, should only pursue lives of Hesed; kindness (Beth Torah, 11/5/16).  

Variety of Texts

ויהי / ויהיו כל ימי נח - Contrary to misconceptions, there is no one version of the Torah. Though Maimonides says that a single missing or added letter invalidates an entire Torah scroll (Maimonides, Laws of a Torah Scroll, 10:1), there are some 105 differences between various texts of the Torah. Regarding Genesis 9:29, the Qoren Tanakh, which writes "Vayehi" (ויהי), differs from the Leningrad Codex (1008 CE), Rabbi Mordekhai Breuer, the Venice Edition of the Miqraot Gedolot, and the Samaritan Pentateuch, all whom write "Vayihiyu" (ויהיו). Torah scrolls found in our Syrian community have the word “Vayehi” (ויהי). The Minhat Shai commentary, authored by Italian rabbi, Yedidia Solomon Norzi (1560-1626), acknowledges differences between western European texts (ויהיו) and other eastern texts (ויהי). This commentator sides with the word “Vayehi” in order to be consistent with the three times it says “Vayehi Hanokh", "Vayehi Lemekh", and "Vayehi Noah". Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah, 10/13/18.

Vayabo Noah

וַיָּ֣בֹא נֹ֗חַ - How is "Vayabo Noah" (Genesis 7:7) read? Is the emphasis on the letter Yod (מלעיל: VaYAbo), or on the Bet (מלרע: VayaBO)? The above touches on the issue of Nesighat HaTa'am, which is described as a reading adjustment shown by repositioning the cantillation note on the first word of a word pair. The issue here is whether or not Nesighat HaTa'am applies, and the answer is reflected by the position of the Shofar Holekh. In most texts (including the Aleppo Codex, Leningrad Codex, Minhat Shai, Or Torah, Biblia Hebraica, Simanim, Ktav), the Shofar Holekh is under the letter Yod, indicating that Nesighat HaTa'am is applied; indicating to pronounce it "VaYAbo" (Mille'eil). Yet, in other texts (such as Qoren, Heidenheim), the Shofar Holekh is under the letter Bet, indicating that Nesighat HaTa'am is not applied; indicating to pronounce it "VayaBO" (Millera'). Although the first opinion is favored, both opinions represent valid reading traditions. Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, November 2, 2019.

The Dove's Olive Leaf

וְהִנֵּ֥ה עֲלֵה־זַ֖יִת טָרָ֣ף בְּפִ֑יהָ - Of all the animals on Noah’s ark, two are singled out; the raven and the dove. When Noah tries to see whether the water receded, he first sends out the raven. Without trying to find dry land, the raven quickly gives up and returns. Then Noah turns to the dove. With the dove, we see that it tries much harder to find dry land, and although it wasn’t successful at first, on the second attempt it manages to bring back an olive leaf in its mouth (Genesis 8:11). By the third attempt, the dove finds dry land and does not return again. The sages say that it is better to have a bitter food in freedom than a sweet food in captivity. Upon comparing the two birds, one might initially prefer the raven due to its larger physical stature in comparison to the smaller and weaker dove. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888), pioneer of contemporary Orthodox Judaism, suggests that one should emulate the dove, because it prefers to eat an olive leaf, which is bitter and barely edible, rather than rely on Noah, it's master, for better food. The raven, to the contrary, got so used to being well-fed by it's master that it prefers an easy life in captivity rather than a hard life in freedom. Beth Torah Bulletin, October 24, 2020.

Maqam of the Week: SIGAH

On Shabbat Noah (Genesis 6:9- 11:32), Maqam SIGAH (more specifically, Maqam IRAQ) is applied according to most sources (other options: BAYAT or NAWAH). The word 'See-kah' is Persian for 'third.' It gets its name, because this maqam is the third note on the Arabic music scale. The explanation for a maqam that means ‘three’ is because Noah has 'three' sons or because he builds an ark with 'three' levels. The melody of Maqam SIGAH is similar to that of regular Torah readings. HAZZANUT: Qaddish: Asis El Bakh (page 441), Semehim: Eshtabeah (page 31). Sephardic Pizmonim Project, www.pizmonim.com.