Haftarah for Beshalach

Judges 4:4-5:31

The prophetess Devorah summoned Barak to lead her army. (Barak may be another name for Lapidos, and may have been Devorah's husband.) Barak considered himself unworthy and said he would only do so if Devorah agreed to go, as well. She did, but she cautioned Barak that now a woman would be credited with the victory - and she didn't mean herself!

Israel routed Sisera's army, but the general himself escaped. He ran to the tent of Yael, wife of Chever the Kenite. (The Kenites were descendants of Moshe's father-in-law, Yisro.) He asked to be hidden and for some water. She covered him with a blanket and gave him some milk to make him tired. When Sisera fell asleep, Yael took the tent peg and drove it into his temple. She then showed Barak where Sisera could be found.

Chapter 5

Like Moses and Miriam after the salvation at the Red Sea, Devorah and Barak now sang a song of praise to G-d. It's very beautiful and a synopsis can't do it justice, so be sure to read it. A few high points:

* In the song, Devorah refers to herself as a metaphorical mother to the nation. Some say that the song was Divinely inspired and that's what G-d instructed her to say. Others criticize her for her immodest choice of words.

* The Tribe of Issachar were renowned scholars. The members of Zevulun (Zebulon) supported them financially and shared in the merit of their learning (like a modern-day kollel). It's interesting to note that the song of Devorah refers to the Tribe of Zevulun as "those who wield a scribe's pen." One explanation is that it refers to the merchants of Zevulun, who wrote out receipts. Another explanation is that it refers to the scholars of Zevulun, even though Zevulun was not primarily a Tribe of scholars. (May I suggest that it is perhaps because of the merit they got from supporting Issachar's Torah study?)

* Verse 20 says that the stars in their orbits joined the battle against Sisera. Verse 23 curses the inhabitants of Meroz for not coming to help. Some commentators say that Meroz was the name of a nearby city, but Rashi quotes the Talmud in Moed Katan (16a) that it's the name of a star. So who are the inhabitants of another star? Extraterrestrials? Not necessarily, but we can't rule it out...

* The song ends with a powerful description of Sisera's mother, looking out the window, waiting for her son to return from battle. Her attendants try to comfort her with the thought that he and his men are dividing the spoils and choosing attractive captives for themselves. That his mother would be comforted by such things says quite a lot about the environment in which Sisera was raised!