July 19, 2024 ~ Shabbat BALAQ. Maqam MAHOUR.

Shabbat Behar - שבת בהר סיני


The Sabbatical

וידבר ה׳ אל משה בהר סיני לאמר - A famous question is asked: "What does the topic of the Sabbatical Year (שמיטה) have to do with Mount Sinai (הר סיני)?" The rabbis, in various commentaries for Leviticus 25:1, take this question as an opportunity to remind us that it is not only the Ten Commandments (אבות) presented on Sinai that are important, but also the details of hundreds of Torah laws that may be derived (תולדות) from them. For example, we were commanded on Mount Sinai to "safeguard the sanctity of Sabbath day" (שמור את יום השבת לקדשו) by granting a day of rest to all of the workers. The words בהר סיני, however, come to teach that it isn't enough to only observe the Fourth Commandment regarding the Sabbath day, but also the many laws that are derived from the Shabbat. This includes releasing all slaves, forgiving all debt, and not working the land on the Sabbatical Year. Beth Torah Bulletin, May 20, 2017.

The Hataf Patah

וּֽשֲׂדֵ֛ה מגרש עריהם לא ימכר - In Leviticus 25:34, what is the pronunciation of the first word (וּֽשֲׂדֵ֛ה); U'SADE or U'SEDE? The answer comes down to how one pronounces the Hataf Patah under a non-guttural letter (שֲׂ). There are many other locations of words with similar occurrences. Some say that 5 of them are pronounced like a Patah (UZAHAV, *USADE, USHAQA, USHAMA’, USHAVE), whereas the remainder are pronounced like a Sheva-Na’ (like a quick Segol). Others disagree. Minhat Shai, in "Ma'amar HaMaarikh", states that one should pronounce a word according to what is shown; meaning, a non-guttural letter with a Sheva (shown as two vertically aligned dots) should be pronounced like a Sheva-Nah or Sheva-Na’ as dictated by grammatical rules. On the other hand, a non-guttural letter with a Hataf should always be pronounced like a Sheva-Na’, irrespective of the grammatical rules. Therefore, the correct pronunciation is U’SEDE. Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, May 25, 2019.

Minding One's Business

ויראת מאלהיך וחי אחיך עמך - We are often told to "mind your own business" and not to get involved in the financial affairs of our family members, our friends, or our neighbors. There are times, however, that this does not apply. The repetition of the words "fear your God" three times in Leviticus 25 reminds us of the importance of doing the right thing even when no one else is watching. If there is a financial downturn, and you witness a "brother" (or fellow community member) in distress, you must do whatever is possible to preserve that person's dignity and keep them out of debt (slavery). Leviticus 25:36 mandates that all loans be interest-free and that we must ascertain that this person has a roof over their head (וחי אחיך עמך). When it comes to the plights of others, the Torah is aware that most people mind their own business and look the other way. That is why we are reminded to "fear your God" (ויראת מאלהיך) and intervene on their behalf. Beth Torah Bulletin, May 12, 2018.

Catch Him

וְכִֽי־יָמ֣וּךְ אָחִ֔יךָ וּמָ֥טָה יָד֖וֹ עִמָּ֑ךְ וְהֶֽחֱזַ֣קְתָּ בּ֔וֹ - A major theme in the Torah is for members of society to help one another. Leviticus 25:35 says if your "brother stumbles," meaning that they are collapsing economically, you need to catch him from falling. Rashi (1040-1105) asks what difference is it whether you help him now or wait until he hits rock bottom? Rashi answers (based on Sifra, Behar, Section 5) by bringing an analogy of a donkey that is carrying a heavy load on its back. If the donkey starts to struggle in walking, a single person can easily step in and successfully help keep the donkey standing. However, once the donkey falls on the ground, not even five people can help lift up that donkey again. Meaning, the same goal of getting the donkey to walk again will require more than five times the effort compared to helping it early on. The same is true with a struggling person. If one is "caught" early on, helping them get back on their feet is relatively easy. However, if one completely falls, it is much harder to help this person. Beth Torah Bulletin, May 16, 2020.

Maqam of the Week: NAHWAND or NAWAH

2020 only- For Shabbat Behar-Behuqotai combined (Leviticus 25:1-27:34), prayers are conducted in Maqam NAWAH or NAHWAND. NAWAH may be an option, because Nawah is the maqam for Qabbalat Shabbat, and Behar starts off with the concept of working the land for six years and allowing it to rest on the seventh year (Shemita is similar to Shabbat). NAHWAND may be an option in order to apply melodies to celebrate the upcoming Yom Yerushalayim. HAZZANUT: Semehim: Yerushalayim Shel Zahab (page 208a).