May 18, 2024 ~ Shabbat EMOR. Maqam HOSENI.

Shabbat Reeh - שבת ראה


The Path

וסרתם מן הדרך - In the wilderness of Phoenix, Arizona, I used to hike Squaw Peak every week. When climbing this mountain, there was a designated path to get to the top, and this is the trail that everyone took. One time, however, thinking that I can beat the system by getting to the top quicker, I intentionally went off the path. Big mistake. The amount of times that I slipped on loose rocks causing me to land in thorns of cactus are too numerous to count. This experience caused me to understand the concept mentioned in Deuteronomy 11:28 about "straying off the path" (וסרתם מן הדרך) and the danger of pursuing ways "that you don't know" (אשר לא ידעתם). For me, this parable represents the choice of "paths" that we all have. It is the Torah's recommendation (for our own sake) that we choose a path that is most familiar to us, our families, and our community, and not an alien one; often a path to nowhere. Beth Torah Bulletin, August 19, 2017.


ודרשת וחקרת ושאלת היטב - "Innocent until proven guilty" (Presumption of Innocence) has become the standard when conducting civil affairs. Although this idea is attributed to Julius Paulus Prudentissimus, a third century Roman jurist, who said "burden of proof is on he who declares, not on he who denies," this very principle can be traced back to the Torah. In the case of wicked people who proselytize to "worship foreign gods," the death penalty is applied only after intense scrutiny. This harsh verdict, as per Deuteronomy 13:15, is delivered only after "you investigate (ודרשת), and you inquire (וחקרת), and you interrogate thoroughly (ושאלת היטב)." To maintain absolute justice in society, extreme care is always given to the investigation process in order to make sure that no one is ever punished in error. This also teaches us never to jump to conclusions. In any scenario, we must always make sure to thoroughly evaluate all the facts prior to making decisions. Beth Torah Bulletin, August 11, 2018.


שמור את חדש האביב - One holiday, I got an Aliya, and the letter Shin (ש) from "Shamor Et Hodesh HaAbib" (Deuteronomy 16:1) caught my eye as being the first letter of the page. Years later, in a discussion with Mr Norman Didia, he explained to me that every page in the Sefer Torah starts with the letter Vav (Vavei HaAmudim), except for about 5 spots (varying between Torah Scrolls). When he tested me where I thought those spots were, I immediately said that one of them was "Shamor Et Hodesh HaAbib" and he was impressed. The exceptions to this rule can be remembered with the mnemonic בי״ה שמ״ו. Regarding the letter Shin, there are about 5 opinions of where it could be the opening letter of the page. They are: "Shemor-Lekha" (Exodus 34:11), "Shenei HaSeirim" (Leviticus 16:8), "Shemor VeShama'ta" (Deuteronomy 12:28), "Shamor Et Hodesh HaAbib" in (Deuteronomy 16:1), or "Shofetim VeShoterim" (Deuteronomy 16:18). Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, August 31, 2019.

Son of Your Mother

כִּ֣י יְסִֽיתְךָ֡ אָחִ֣יךָ בֶן־אִ֠מֶּךָ אֽוֹ־בִנְךָ֨ אֽוֹ־בִתְּךָ֜ - In Deuteronomy 13:7, there are instructions of what to do if one of your closest relatives approaches you to entice you to worship pagan gods. In this context, the Torah lists one's relatives from the one you are most likely to listen to to the one you are least likely to (Abarbanel). The first person to be mentioned is 'your brother'. In regards to a 'brother', the Masoretic Text only specifies 'son of your mother,' whereas the Dead Sea Scrolls (4Q30), Septuagint, and Samaritan Pentateuch also include 'son of your father or son of your mother.' Despite not having the words 'son of your father,' most Rabbinic sources (including Targum Yonatan) agree that the term 'brother' obviously implies 'son of your father' too. Hizquni comments that the list of family members is meant to list those closest to a person, and when it comes to brothers, those who share only the same mother are typically much closer than those who share only the same father. This is because brothers who only share the same mother but not the same father tend to care about each other more, not get as jealous of one another, and don't need to share an inheritance after the mother passes away. Beth Torah Bulletin, August 15, 2020.

Maqam of the Week: BAYAT (ASHIRAN) or RAST

For Shabbat Re'eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17), there are many opinions as to what maqam to apply for the prayers. Here is the breakdown by the number of sources: BAYAT/ASHIRAN (9), RAST (9), SIGAH/IRAQ (5), NAWA (3), NAHWAND (1), SABA (1). Although Maqam RAST is listed in Shir Ushbaha Hallel Vezimra (Red Pizmonim Book), H Moshe Ashear selected Maqam BAYAT in order to herald the new month of Elul by applying the BAYAT melody of Elekha Hashem ("Halabi tune of En Kelohenu") for Semehim.