The Haftorah this week is from the Book of Judges, Chapter 4:4 through Chapter 5:31. Sephardim begin the Haftorah with Chapter 5, verse 1, while Yemenite Jews commence with Chapter 4, verse 23.

The central character in this week?s Haftorah is Devorah. The Talmud in Tractate Megillah (14a) states that Devorah was one of seven female prophets who prophesied for Israel (the other six were: Sarah, Miriam, Hannah, Avigail, Chuldah and Esther). She was from the tribe of Naftali. The Targum states (Judges 4:5) that Devorah was a wealthy woman who owned palm trees in Jericho, orchards in Ramah, olive trees in Beit-El and other property as well. The Talmud in Tractate Megillah (14a) states that Devorah used to make wicks for use in the Tabernacle in Shilo. Expanding on this, the Yalkut Shimoni (Shoftim 42) states that she was careful to make the wicks thick so that they would give off greater amounts of light. As a result, G-d told her, ?Devorah, you sought to increase my light; I too will increase your light in Judah and Jerusalem.?


The Haftorah begins by telling us that Devorah was a judge over Israel and that she sat under a date tree to adjudicate disputes. Devorah sent word to Barak telling him that G-d had commanded that he take with him 10,000 soldiers from the tribes of Naftali and Zevulun and go out to wage war against Sisera and his army. G-d would deliver the enemy into his hands. Barak responds by saying that he will go only if Devorah accompanies him, to which she replies that she will. Barak gathers his forces and proceeds to Mt. Tavor. Sisera, hearing about Barak?s deployment, takes his forces to the Kishon brook, as he is afraid of doing battle on the mountain. Devorah tells Barak to descend from the mountain and fight Sisera, because G-d will enable him to prevail. G-d indeed confounds the enemy and destroys them all, except for Sisera, who flees the battlefield. He hides in a tent belonging to Yael, wife of Chever the Kenite. Yael gives Sisera milk to make him drowsy and, once Sisera falls asleep, she kills him with a tent peg and hammer. Yael then shows Sisera?s body to Barak, who had been pursuing the enemy general. The Jewish people were saved and Devorah and Barak sing a song to mark the occasion. Devorah lambastes the other tribes of Israel for not coming to the defense of their brethren in the battle and she praises Yael for her courage. She closes the song by expressing the hope that all of G-d?s enemies will meet a fate similar to that of Sisera.

Connection Between the Haftorah and the Parsha:

In the Parsha, Moshe and the Jewish people sing a song to rejoice over the downfall of Egypt at the Red Sea, while in the Haftorah, Devorah and Barak sing a song to mark the defeat of Sisera.

A Burning Desire for Justice

When introducing Devorah, the Haftorah states, ?And Devorah the prophetess was the wife of Lapidot. She judged Israel at that time (Chap. 4, verse 4).?

The Question:

Why is Devorah?s husband referred to as ?Lapidot? ? wasn?t his name really Barak?

The Answer:

According to the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Shoftim 42), Devorah?s husband had three names: Barak, Michael and Lapidot. The Ahavat Yonatan (cited in Maayanah Shel Torah) says that ?Lapidot? comes from the Hebrew word ?Lapid?, which means a torch, implying that the phrase in the verse ?eshet Lapidot? does not refer to Devorah?s husband, but rather to Devorah herself, meaning ?a woman of torches.? The Ahavat Yonatan says that Devorah was referred to as a torch because she was inflamed with determination to mete out judgment on the wicked. She was not excessively lenient or indulgent, rather, she wished to see that justice would be done.

The Lesson:

Prior to the events of September 11, one word that had seemingly dropped out of the English language was ?evil.? Journalists and politicians alike generally refrained from using it, perhaps because its usage involved making a moral judgment and, in an age of relativism, such absolutes as ?good? and ?evil? came to be seen as archaic or simplistic. Sadly, it was only after the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that many people began to realize that there is such a thing as outright ?good? and ?evil? in this world and that lines must be drawn between the two.

As we saw above, Devorah?s passion for upholding justice and punishing evil was a dominant element of her personality, so much so that the text of Judges sought to emphasize it by referring to her as ?eshet Lapidot? ? a woman of torches. As we know, torches in ancient times served as a method of providing light and banishing darkness. Hence, the symbolism linking the two ideas ? the quest to defend good and punish evil is essentially the quest to bring light to the world and chase away gloom. Guided by this moral clarity, Devorah and Barak led the Jewish people to victory over their enemies. Let us hope that our own leaders of today will be infused with a similar determination to root out the evil of Palestinian terrorism once and for all. The only way for good to survive, and ultimately prevail, is to dispel the danger posed by the forces of evil. Let there be no mistake ? in this ongoing conflict, we are the good guys, and the Palestinians are the bad guys. Don?t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Jewish Jericho

The Haftorah states that Devorah judged the Jewish people while sitting under a date tree. The verse says: ?And she sat under Devorah?s date tree between Ramah and Beit El on Mount Efraim, and the Children of Israel went up to her for judgment (Chap. 4, verse 5).?

The Question:

Why does the verse mention all of these places when informing us where Devorah judged?

The Answer:

Rashi says, based on the Targum Yonatan, that the verse is not intended to be taken literally. Rather, it is telling us that Devorah was an affluent woman with financial interests in each of these places. According to the Targum Yonatan, ?She lived in the city of Atarot. Devorah was financially independent. She owned date trees in Jericho, orchards in Ramah, oil-producing olive trees in the wetlands of the Beit El plateau and white soil in Tur Malka.? Hence, the verse mentions the various locations to indicate to us that she owned property and assets in different parts of Israel.

The Lesson:

Earlier this week Israel?s armed forces briefly entered the Palestinian-controlled city of Tulkarem to track down and capture wanted terrorists. It was not the first time they had entered areas under Palestinian control in recent months and it is unlikely to be the last. Yet each time such actions take place, both the Palestinians and their supporters are quick to accuse Israel of ?re-occupying? the territories, as if Israel?s presence in these areas is somehow illegal or unjust. Yet, as we saw above, Devorah owned property in Jericho and Beit El, in what is now referred to by the media as ?the West Bank?. That is to say, some 3000 years ago, centuries before the Koran was written or the United Nations was even founded, places such as Jericho and Beit El were lived in by Jews, worked by Jews and owned by Jews.

Hence, it should be clear for all to see that Israel is not ?occupying? territory, it is liberating it. We are not entering these areas as conquerors or foreigners. We are returning to them, for they belong to us. They are ours by Divine right and they are ours because our claim to them stretches back longer and more compellingly than anyone else?s. To assert otherwise is not only false, it is to ignore the overwhelming evidence, which the Bible provides, that the Land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel and not to anyone else.


Michael Freund served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Prime Minister?s Office from 1996 to 1999.