July 19, 2024 ~ Shabbat BALAQ. Maqam MAHOUR.

Shabbat Huqat - שבת חקת


Hebrew Transliterations

חֻקַּת - Upon searching on Wikipedia for this week's Torah portion [חֻקַּת], I came across three different spellings of its name; Chukat, Hukath, or Chukkas. All of the above spellings, based on Numbers 19:2, are totally incorrect and represents a lack of knowledge of the relationship between the Hebrew and English alphabets. To better understand the proper method of transliterating Hebrew words, one must be familiar with the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet; the original source of each letter. This ancient alphabet, similar to the Phoenician alphabet, was used by the ancient Israelites during biblical times until about the 5th century BCE when it was slowly phased out by the Assyrian alphabet. For the word, חקת, using Paleo-Hebrew, one will see that the Het ( 𐤇 ) directly corresponds to an H, the Qof ( 𐤒 ) to a Q, and the Taf ( 𐤕 ) to a T. The above demonstrates that the spelling of חקת as HuQaT is the only correct transliteration of this word. Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, July 13, 2019.

A Red Heifer

ויקחו אליך פרה אדומה תמימה - On the farms of Herbert Celler near Lakewood, NJ, a Red Heifer was born in April 2013. This means that the purification ashes required to perform Temple services would finally be available for the first time in two millennia. Historically, only 9 other Red Cows supposedly met the strict criteria needed to qualify as "Temima" (translated as "perfect" or "flawless"). Many rabbis traveled to this farm to see the Red Cow and were truly amazed. Hopes faded, however, on July 1, 2015, when the cow surprisingly gave birth to a black calf. According to the Maimonides' Mishne Torah, the act of impregnation is considered a form of work, thereby disqualifying this cow from services. It was not meant to be. Although it is frustrating to lose this opportunity to fulfill this important Hoq (statute), it is reassuring to know that the Jewish people are constantly on the lookout to fulfill this difficult commandment. Beth Torah Bulletin, July 1, 2017.


כה אמר אחיך ישראל - The closest route to the Land of Canaan from Qadesh, the location where Israel camped, is through Edom, the nation consisting of Esav's descendants. In a reasonable request to Edom's king, Moses, in Numbers 20:14, uses the term "brother" (אחיך ישראל) to describe their relationship. Edom's cold negative response (לא תעבר) accompanied by their army, surprises the Israelites despite the guarantees that only the main road would be used (דרך המלך נלך). Feeling hurt and rejected, Israel quietly turns away (ויט ישראל מעליו), moves on, and ultimately uses another path to reach their destination. Yet, in his final discourse, Moses teaches "do not abhor the Edomite, for he is your brother" (Deuteronomy 23:8). Although at times they do not act like our brothers, Moses implores the Israelites to acknowledge their status as family and take the high road in all interactions with them. This is because it is always important to preserve your family. Beth Torah Bulletin, June 23, 2018.


יַ֚עַן לֹא־הֶאֱמַנְתֶּ֣ם בִּ֔י לְהַ֨קְדִּישֵׁ֔נִי - What did Moshe and Aharon do wrong to deserve strict punishment? Numbers 20:12 says that "You did not trust in me enough to sanctify me in front of the Children of Israel." If we read what God commands Moses, "talk to the rock in front of them" (Numbers 20:8), and compare it to what Moses does, "Moses raises his hand and hits the rock twice with his rod" (Numbers 20:11), we find that Moses did not carry out God's command exactly as it was commanded. In addition, Moses scolds the people by calling them "rebels" (שִׁמְעוּ־נָא֙ הַמֹּרִ֔ים) and then more importantly says that "WE WILL release for you water" (נוֹצִ֥יא לָכֶ֖ם מָֽיִם). Instead of Moses mentioning that God will give the people water, Moses changes the language a bit and says that "we" will give you water. For Moses to include himself into the equation, by taking credit in something that he had no real part in, this diminishes God's role and he misses the opportunity to make a Qiddush Hashem, a sanctification of God's name. Beth Torah Bulletin, July 3, 2020.

Maqam of the Week: HOSENI

For Shabbat Huqat (Numbers 19:1- 22:1), Maqam HOSENI, often described as "a high BAYAT," is applied, according to most sources (dissenting: MAHOUR or AJAM). HOSENI, the maqam used for Matan Torah, is applied, because we open with Zot Huqat HaTorah; words that reconnect us to the receiving of the Torah. Another explanation is because the description of the Red Cow, "Temima," meaning perfect/flawless, is also used in Psalms 19:8 to describe the Torah. Despite this connection to the Torah, no Matan Torah tunes are applied to the prayers. PIZMON SEFER TORAH: Ma Neima Veyafa (page 299).