03 February 2012

Shabbat Shira

10 Shevat 5772

Beshallach is one of my two favorite parshiot 1) because it falls just before my TU b'Shevat birthday, and 2) because the haftarah features my namesake, Devorah, the Prophetess and Judge of Israel.

There are a couple of things I'd like to bring out about the haftarah from Shoftim that you may not have heard before.

First, there are those who say that Barak was Devorah's husband and that the phrase "eishet lappidoth" is explained in one of two alternative ways. One says that Devorah made wicks for the Menorah that stood in the Mishkan and the other interprets it as a descriptor for Devorah's personality, i.e. "a fiery woman." Maybe both are true.

Second, I've always wondered about what was really going on between the lines of these pasukim:

And Barak said to her, "If you will go with me then I shall go, but if you will not go with me, I shall not go."

And she said, "I shall surely go with you, but your glory will not be on the way which you go, for into the hand of a woman will the Lord deliver Sisera." And Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh.

This is what occurs to me. See what you think.

Apparently, Devorah was not planning to go before Barak insisted that she do so (another indicator that he is her husband) and he evidently thought there was every possibility she would refuse, hence the threat not to go unless she would accompany him. And then, there is her enigmatic, "...but your glory will not be on the way which you go...," as if in punishment for an inappropriate demand.

I think the key to understanding this is to be found in the rest of her response: "...into the hand of a woman will the Lord deliver Sisera."

By forcing Devorah to ride into battle among the men, something that would surely have offended her standards of modesty, it would cost Barak the personal satisfaction of killing Sisera himself. A woman's glory is her modesty and Barak took that away from her, so mida k'neged mida, his "glory" would be taken away and given over to, not one of his soldiers, but to a woman - Yael. To me, this is the indication that gender issues were at the root of this strange exchange.

My other favorite parsha is the one that follows my birthday - Parshat Yitro. It opens with Tziporah and her sons returning to Moshe Rabeinu. This also has relevance for Shabbat Shira because according to the book Reincarnation of Souls, the Arizal says that Tziporah was very sad that she had missed out on Shirat HaYam and so Hashem reincarnated her in Devorah Haneviah and gave her Shirat Devorah as a recompense.

Enjoy this excerpt from a Devar Torah on Shabbat Shira by Rebbetzin Pearl Borow:

...it is interesting to note that the Prophet Yeshayahu promises that we will say Shira at the time of Mashiach, when all of Yisrael are returned to our land. It will be the last, and the greatest, Shira. But it will only be recited when all of Am Yisrael will be in their land! We can work at bringing this part of the geula closer by helping our relatives and friends understand the importance and beauty of the Land of Israel in the everyday life of every Jew.

Perhaps Shabbat Shira is a good time to begin!
Shabbat shalom!


  1. Dear Devorah,
    Many happy returns of the day!
    Your constant reader enjoying all your posts

  2. Many thanks! Shavua tov!!