Monday, July 10, 2006

The quote-hunter strikes (it rich) again: Korach and Chukkat-Balak edition

I’m sitting in synagogue at Ansche Chesed last Sabbath (Shabbat Korach) when I hear this one: Ki lo yitosh HaShem et amo baavur sh’mo hagadol, ki hoil HaShem laasot etchem lo l’am, For HaShem will not forsake His people for the sake of His great name, because it has pleased HaShem to make you for a people unto Him (translation from the Hertz Chumash, with some tweeking). (Haftarat Korach, Shmuel Aleph/ Samuel One, , chapter 12, verse 22.) Given Siddur Sim Shalom’s (dis)organization (grumble, grumble, kvetch and mumble), it takes me 10 minutes of hunting (or half the rabbi’s sermon, poor man) to locate the quote in said prayer book. This is, of course, partly because I start by looking at what I call “the usual suspect” :), namely, “U’va l’Tzion goel/V’Atah kodosh, yoshev t’hillot Yisrael.” Wrong. Okay, second usual suspect in the category “collection of random quotes in which one is most likely to find a random quote,” namely, "Baruch HaShem l’olam, amen v’amen.” Bingo! Finally found it in the Siddur Sim Shalom prayer book (1985 edition) on page 206. (In the Artscroll Siddur Kol Yaakov, Nusach Ashkenaz, it’s on page 264; and in the Birnbaum HaSiddur HaShalem, it’s on page 197.)

I apologize to those of my readers who either don’t read Hebrew and/or can’t make head nor tail of Hebrew that's transliterated, that is, written using English letters. Sometime, there’s just no clear way to transliterate that makes it obvious how a word is supposed to be pronounced. By way of attempted clarification, “baavur” sounds like “bah-ah-vure” (rhymes with “sure”), and “hoil” sounds like “hoe-eel.” (How one can hoe an eel is beyond me. And why would anyone want to, since eels are treif/non-kosher? Um, never mind. :) )

This week was considerably trickier, given that, since the West Side Minyan reads in accordance with the triennial cycle, I mostly ignore the leining/chanting and just read the whole parsha/weekly portion of the Bible in English. But here’s something relatively new in my life—I now speak Hebrew just barely well enough that sometimes I can spot a phrase that I know in Hebrew from seeing and/or hearing it in English! “A star out of Jacob.” ??? (Parshat Balak, Numbers, chapter 24, verse 17.) "Darach kochav miYaakov, There will step forward a star from Jacob.” You can see it in the Artscroll Siddur Kol Yaakov, Nusach Ashkenaz, on page 624. You can read about it in my Tuesday, February 21, 2006 post, “Holier than thou? How I ruined my own Shabbos, for which, unfortunately, the link is no longer working (and the comments are no longer accessible). But the best thing to do with this quote is to listen to it here (have patience--this quote is toward the end).

Much better known is this quote, from earlier in Parshat Balak, Numbers, chapter 24, verse 5: Ma tovu ohalecha Yaakov, mishk’notecha, Yisrael, How goodly are your tents, Jacob, your dwellings, Israel.” This is one of the few quotes, if not the only one, that is now used in Jewish liturgy (being what a persons says when entering a synagogue) despite having originally been spoken by a pagan prophet.

Last, but not least, is this goody from the end of Haftarat Balak, Micah, chapter 6, verse 8: “Higid l’cha, adam, mah tov u-mah Hashem dorésh, kiy im asot mishpat, v’ahavat chesed, v’hatzéah lechet im Elokecha, It has been told to you, human, what is good and what Hashem requires of you, that is, to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your G-d.”

Here are the previous posts in my “quote-hunter" series (which wasn't originally planned as a series, but seems to have ended up as one, just because it's a recurring theme of mine--I get a kick out of quote-hunting, as you will gather, if you haven't already):

Parshat Nitzavim-Vayelech: Choosing Judaism in Torah times, the joys of quote-hunting, and more

See the post at the top of the screeen in my September 2004 archive, my Monday, September 27, 2004 “The Yamim Noraim/High Holidays: Concerning quotes, cantors, qualms, and kavannah”—not for love or money can I get the hyperlink to this post itself to work, nor are the comments accessible anymore.

"The quote-hunter finds another one"

"The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly—High-Holiday-Season Highlights, part 1: Elul forshbeis (appetizer), aka “prep time” "

"High-Holiday-Season Highlights, part 5: A singer learns the other half of it, literally"

"High-Holiday-Season Highlights, part 6: “ . . . v’hayita ach saméach, & you will be altogether joyful"


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