July 18, 2024 ~ Shabbat BALAQ. Maqam MAHOUR.

Shabbat Vayehi - שבת ויחי



ויחי יעקב - Between every perasha, there is usually a paragraph break to show a separation. The breaks are either Setuma (ס); a spacing of 9 letters on the same line, or Petuha (פ); beginning a new line. Vayehi, however, the portion about Jacob's death, is a "closed perasha;" the only perasha in the Torah to begin with no spacing at all. The reason for no break is because the opening of Vayehi (47:28) is a continuation of the previous story. The first part of this chapter describes Joseph's rule over Egypt's economy. As a result of his strength, Joseph put the Israelites into a great economic situation where they grow and multiply. Jacob's difficult request of burying him in Hebron (end of chapter 47), can only be completed by someone in a great position of power (beginning of chapter 47). There is no separation between the two sections of Genesis 47, because only Joseph, in a very high position, is able to win Pharaoh's approval and fulfill this promise. Tiqqun Highlight, Beth Torah Bulletin, December 22, 2018.


ישמך אלהים כאפרים וכמנשה - When Joseph sees Jacob placing his right hand on the head of Ephraim and his left hand on the head of Menashe, he is displeased (וירע בעיניו). He tries to fix the situation by moving his father's hands to the proper positions, but Jacob insists that he is fully aware of what he is doing (ידעתי בני ידעתי). He wants Ephraim, the younger son, to realize that he has high potential to become great even though he is not the eldest. He also does this to monitor Menashe's reaction. A happy ending to the long story of feuding siblings is that Menashe passes the test by remaining quiet and not showing any signs of jealousy. It is then that Jacob declares "May the Lord make [the people of Israel] like Ephraim and Menashe;" brothers living in harmony with one another. Only after Israel witnesses the progress (peace between brothers), is he truly content with his life and ready to depart (Beth Torah, 1/14/17).

White Teeth

ולבן שנים מחלב - In Genesis 49:12, Judah is blessed by Jacob with "teeth whiter than milk." It goes without say that white teeth are important for ones self-esteem and overall health, but what is the deeper meaning of this blessing? Whereas our teeth remain concealed behind our lips, it is only when we smile that our teeth are shown to those around us. We learn from this that Judah is blessed with a constant showing of his white teeth and a continuous smile. My late Uncle Saul A Shrem (1919-2017), whose smile always brought happiness to others, taught me the importance of a smile. Smiling, whether happy or sad, "doesn't cost you anything," he used to say, and "can give so much to the recipient." In the words of Stanley Gordon West, "when you smile, the world smiles with you." The trait of being able to smile is what enables Judah to connect with his brothers and in turn is what draws them to reciprocate by appointing him as their leader. Beth Torah Bulletin, December 30, 2017.

Good Parenting

אָר֤וּר אַפָּם֙ כִּ֣י עָ֔ז - There was a time in my youth when I regularly did not listen to instructions from elders and started trouble around the house. After being reprimanded by my mother, I remember asking "Am I a bad person?" She immediately replied, "No, you are not a bad person, but sometimes, the things that you do are not good." I always thought that this was an intelligent way to answer my question, because this meant that she still expected me to improve my behavior. Had she responded that I was a bad person, I could have used this response as a way out and stop trying to improve. This is an example of good parenting. When Jacob gathers his sons before his death, instead of blessing Shimon and Levi, he reprimands them. In his reprimand, Jacob says "Cursed be their anger" (Genesis 49:7). The commentator Rashi (1040-1105) is keen to note that Jacob does not actually curse them, themselves, but rather, only their anger. According to this, upon hearing this reprimand, Shimon and Levi should have felt sorry for their previous actions, but should not lose hope and should not feel that they can't make future improvements. This, too, is another example of good parenting. Beth Torah Bulletin, January 11, 2020.

Maqam of the Week: HIJAZ

On Shabbat Vayehi (Genesis 47:28- 50:26), Maqam HIJAZ is applied to the prayers according to all Aleppo sources. The dissenting opinion of Maqam SABA is cited by Damascus sources. This maqam gets its name from the 'HEJAZ' region, which is the western province of the Arabian Peninsula. This location includes Mecca and Medina, holy to the Islamic faith, as well as Jeddah, the second largest city in Saudi Arabia. The melody of this maqam is associated with sad events, such as funerals. It is warranted here, because we read about the death of Jacob and the funeral procession. Sephardic Pizmonim Project, www.pizmonim.com.