July 18, 2024 ~ Shabbat BALAQ. Maqam MAHOUR.

Shabbat Shelah - שבת שלח


Be The Man

כלם אנשים - “In a place where there are no men," Hillel teaches, "be the man” (Abot 2:5). When Moses dispatches spies to scout the Land of Canaan, the most prominent tribal leaders are selected. Numbers 13:3 writes “all are men” (כלם אנשים); presumably people of great authority, charisma, and stature. Ironically, of all twelve men, only two, Kaleb (Judah) and Joshua (Ephraim), exhibit leadership qualities by providing optimistic reports of the land and their ability to succeed in conquest. Unlike Joshua who has close ties to Moses, Kaleb, an individual with no strong ties to Moses, shows great courage by going completely against the majority of the nation (ויהס כלב את העם). Kaleb sees that he is in a place "where there are no men," and decides to step up and "be the man." Because of their abilities to be strong leaders when no one else would, Joshua and Kaleb both merit to become the only people from their generation to inherit the land. Beth Torah Bulletin, June 9, 2018.


עלה נעלה וירשנו אתה כי יכול נוכל לה - When the spies observe the inhabitants, the infrastructure, and even the fruits of Canaan, they grew intimidated; casting serious doubts about the nation's ability to move forward with the conquest. It was Kaleb Ben Yefune, the one "Jewish" spy (from the tribe of Judah), who saw the exact same obstacles and encouraged others to think more positively. When everyone else lost hope, Kaleb's lone voice of "we can certainly do it!" (Numbers 13:30) created an optimistic outlook on the difficult road ahead. Ten of the spies were eventually punished, not because they deemed the pending task as too difficult, but because they did not believe in the ability of God to deliver on His promise. We learn from this story that when faced with challenges in life, it is the Jewish way to trust in God and then have the confidence to move forward and not be dissuaded by doubts. Beth Torah Bulletin, June 17, 2017.

True Greatness

ועתה יגדל נא כח אדני - After the story of the spies, God plans obliterate the Israelites. It was not until Moses' plea to advocate on the nation's behalf that God reconsiders. In Numbers 14:17, Moses says that "God's power will be great" if He acts mercifully and forgives the nation. Masoretic scribal tradition indicates to write a large letter Yod in the word "Yigdal" (יגדל). An explanation for the large Yod is that while God may have performed many miracles up until this point, no act of God would be as great (יגדל) as being able to overlook this crime and forgive the people. Although the people deserve to be punished, it would be considered the most greatest act of God not to act with justice, but rather with mercy. In Numbers 14:20, God says "I pardon them as you asked" (סלחתי כדברך). In order to be truly "great," one must learn from God and act mercifully when it comes to others; even if they have wronged you and even if they don't merit forgiveness. Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, June 29, 2019.

The Full Name of Joshua

לְמַטֵּ֥ה אֶפְרָ֖יִם הוֹשֵׁ֥עַ בִּן־נֽוּן - There is ambiguity regarding the full name of Joshua. In Numbers 13:8, it is "Hoshea Bin Nun," representative of Efraim. Later, in Numbers 13:16, Moses calls him "Yehoshua." Rashi, quoting the Talmud, says that the Yod was added as a prayer for God ("Yah") to save him ("Hoshea") from the plot of the spies. In regards to "son of", the Masoretic Text refers to him as "Bin," not "Ben." Radak says that since the words "Ben" and "Nun" are both small words, pronouncing it Bin-Nun makes it easier for one to read. The Ramban says that there are a few places where the word "Bin" is substituted for Ben (see Proverbs 30:1, Jonah 4:10, Deuteronomy 25:2). In this case, Bin is substituted for Ben from the word "Binah," meaning understanding. Joshua was called this out of respect, because he was known to have a mind of understanding. Regarding the name of Joshua's father, 1 Chronicles 7:27 records the proper name as Non, not Nun. Nun should only be used in conjunction with the word Bin (son of). Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, June 20, 2020.

Maqam of the Week: HIJAZ

On Shabbat Shelah (Numbers 13:1- 15:41), prayers are conducted in Maqam HIJAZ according to the Red Pizmonim Book. Maqam HIJAZ, named after a region on the Arabian peninsula, is generally applied to evoke the mood of sadness. The reason for applying a maqam that symbolizes mourning is because we read about the episode of the spies and its tragic aftermath. Despite the above opinion, most older Aleppo sources indicate to apply Maqam IRAQ or NAWAH. Nowadays, the Jerusalem tradition, as practiced in Knis Ades, is to apply Maqam NAHWAND. Sephardic Pizmonim Project, www.pizmonim.com.