Rabbi Oury Cherki

Beshalach (Haftarah) - "And Deborah Sang…"

Translated from Hebrew. Published at the Noahide World Center website and in Shabbat B'Shabbato.

There is a lot to be learned from the poem of praise which Deborah wrote (Judges Chapter 5).

- Like every victory song, it teaches us that we should rejoice about a victory over the enemies of Israel. In addition, we should also be happy about the suffering of our enemies: "By the window she sat looking, and weeping, Sisera’s mother... In this way let all of Your enemies be lost, G-d". [28, 31].

- We should thank G-d for a military victory even if it appears to have been achieved by human action. The tribes waged war and took advantage of natural events, such as the sudden surge of the Kishon River. It stands to reason that today we should recite the Hallel to praise G-d for our current redemption.

- The memory of the momentous events at Mount Sinai spontaneously rises up when we come to praise G-d, even though they are not the theme of the poem: "Mountains became fluid before G-d. This is like Sinai, when it faced the G-d of Israel". [5]. This shows the primal character of the story of these events and the impression it left on the nation. It is contrary to various theories of a void which were raised by generations of Bible critics.

- Even after victory, lessons should be derived from failures during the war. Deborah gives voice to praise for the tribes which participated in the war, while she harshly criticizes the tribes which refused to help, including putting a Divine curse on the city of Meroz.

- The participation in the battle is not "with G-d’s help" but rather "in order to help G-d" [23]. The purpose of the war is to sanctify the name of G-d in His world, and the victory is a fulfillment of the will of G-d.

- The warriors do not depend on their spiritual merits, such as Torah study, the performance of mitzvot, and good deeds. Rather, they show dedication during the battle: "Zebulun risked its life to the death, and Naphtali did the same on the heights of the battlefield" [18].

- The fight must be continued even in situations of technological weakness without despair: "Was even a sword or a spear seen among the forty thousand fighters of Israel?" [8].

- We learned from Yael, the wife of Chever, the Kenite, that a single individual has the power to determine the outcome of an entire campaign. Let no man ever say, Who am I that I can bring salvation to Israel?

- Even a mighty warrior like Sisera can fall in the end if he remains captive to his own lusts, as can be seen from the words of the wise women who advised Sisera’s mother. After all, the true mighty person is the one who conquers his own evil inclinations: "Let those who love him have the mighty power of the rising sun" [31; see Gittin 36b].

- When the Shechina – the Divine presence – is present, the prohibition that "the voice of a woman is sexually arousing" is not in effect. This was derived by the Chida ("Rosh Yosef", Beshalach, page 223) and by his teacher the "Or Hachaim" (ibid). That is how they interpreted the verse, "Be happy and joyous, she who sits in Zion" – that is, women can sing without any qualms – "for the Holy One of Israel is within your midst" [Yeshayahu 12:6]. We can thus view the singing of "Jerusalem of Gold" in a positive light, during the time when the Shechina temporarily appeared among us during the Six Day War.