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By Rabbi Dovid Siegel | Series: | Level:

Shoftim 4:4

This week’s haftorah calls upon us to demonstrate total faith in Hashem. Throughout the era of the Shoftim the Jewish people fluctuated between devout service of Hashem and practices of idolatry. They would typically become comfortable with their life setting and stray from the proper path. In response, Hashem would send one of the powerful nations to oppress the Jews and call them to return to Him. In this week’s haftorah, the Jews strayed severely from the path and Hashem sent Yovin, the king of C’naan to capture them and annex them to his empire. After Yovin ruled over the Jews for twenty years Hashem responded to their initial stages of repentance and sent them the Prophetess Devorah to inspire them to great heights. The Jewish people merited an incredible miracle and Devorah composed a most moving song of praise over Hashem’s great revelations.

Barak, the leading Jewish general at the time was instructed to lead ten thousand men and charge into the C’naanite lines. Yovin, the king of C’naan had gathered an army of hundreds of thousands and prepared a massive attack. Hashem stepped in and created an illusion of enormous dimensions and the C’naanites retreated and fled for their lives. Then, Hashem brought blazing heat to the area and the C’naanites went to cool off in the Kishon Brook. The brook overflowed and the C’naanites were swept into the water and drowned. Devorah sings about this miracle and says, “The Kishon Brook swept them away, that ancient brook Kishon, my soul treads with strength.” Devorah refers to the Kishon as a figure of the past which seems to relate the Kishon to some earlier incident. Our Chazal in Tractate Pesachim (115b) explain that this earlier incident was in fact the splitting of the Reed Sea which we read about in this week’s sedra.

Chazal quote a peculiar conversation between Hashem and the angel who was appointed to take charge over the sea. They expound upon a passage in Tehillim (106) which indicates that the Jewish people lacked a dimension of faith when crossing the sea. They reasoned that they were unworthy to have a miracle done exclusively for their sake. They therefore entertained the possibility that the Egyptians were also spared from drowning in the sea and had actually exited safely on the other side. Hashem instructed the angel in charge to spit the dead Egyptians onto the shore so that the Jewish people would realize what had truly transpired. The angel accepted but responded that the fish deserve their newly acquired present and therefore requested from Hashem to provide a replacement sometime in the future. Hashem agreed and informed the angel that the Kishon Brook would eventually sweep the replacements into the sea.

The above discussion indicates a direct corollary between the splitting of the Reed Sea and the Kishon Brook. It suggests that there was a missing dimension of faith at the sea which was finally rectified at the Kishon Brook. It seems that the Reed Sea was not permitted to serve in its fullest capacity by swallowing the Egyptians due to the shortcomings of the Jewish people. In truth, the splitting of the sea served a dual function; its splitting provided salvation to the Jewish people and its returning provided destruction for the Egyptian nation. This second function was not openly seen by the Jewish people due to their doubts regarding its actuality. Although they learned about it in retrospect they were not eyewitness to it. Their lack of merit produced that the sea could not act in its usual manner by swallowing the Egyptians but instead was forced to spit them out and prove the authenticity of its role in their destruction. The angel’s response to this was that the sea deserved a perfect role in miracles and it should have the opportunity of complete demonstration of the revelation of Hashem. The response of Hashem was that the miracle of the Kishon Brook would serve this capacity in full.

In the days of Devorah a similar climate existed to that of the Jews when exiting Egypt and the Jewish people didn’t feel worthy of great revelations. However, when Barak was instructed to charge against the C’naanites he responded immediately and acted out his role. His ten thousand men demonstrated total faith in Hashem and believed whole-heartedly that Hashem would perform an open miracle solely on their behalf. This time there was no doubt and no need existed for Hashem to prove the extent of His involvement on behalf of His people. This time the sea was granted its complete role and was permitted to swallow the C’naanites never to return them to the shore. The revelation of the Reed Sea was finally complete and the complete miracle of the Kishon reflected the perfect faith of the Jews in Hashem.

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