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By Rabbi Dovid Siegel | Series: | Level:

Shoftim 4:4

This week’s haftorah calls upon the Jewish people to display total faith in Hashem, irrespective of their personal level of spirituality. Throughout the era of the Judges the Jewish people fluctuated between devout service of Hashem and practices of idolatry. They would typically become secure in their ways and enjoy the comforts of their land which would inevitably cause them to stray from the path of Hashem. In response, Hashem would send one of the powerful nations of the world to oppress the Jews and remind them that it was time to return to the ways of the Torah.

In this week’s haftorah, we read about one of those times when the Jews strayed severely from the proper path. In response, Hashem sent Yovin, the king of Canaan to capture the Jewish nation and annex it to his mighty empire. After Yovin’s firm control over the Jews for twenty years, the message finally began to sink in and the Jews started to repent. Hashem responded to their initial stages of repentance and sent them the Prophetess Devorah to inspire them to complete the process. Through Devorah’s efforts the Jewish people merited an incredible miracle and Devorah composed a most moving song of praise describing Hashem’s great revelations.

Barak, the leading Jewish general of the time was instructed to select ten thousand men and charge into the Canaanite lines. Yovin, the king of Canaan had gathered an army of hundreds of thousands and planned a massive attack against the Jewish people. Hashem intervened on behalf of His people and created an illusion of enormous proportions, which forced the Canaanites to retreat and flee for their lives. In the midst of all of this, Hashem brought blazing heat to the battle front and the Canaanites went down to the Kishon Brook to cool off. At that exact moment, the brook miraculously overflowed and the Canaanites 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.” (Shoftim 5: 21) Devorah refers to the Kishon as an ancient brook, seeming to relate the Kishon to an earlier incident in Jewish history. Our Chazal in Tractate Pesachim (115b) explain that this earlier incident was, in fact, at the time of the splitting of the Reed Sea which we read about in this week’s sedra.

Chazal (ad loc.) quote an intriguing conversation which took place between Hashem and the angel appointed by Hashem to control the Reed Sea. The Rabbis reflect on a passage in Tehillim (106) which indicates that the Jewish people were seriously lacking in their degree of faith in Hashem even while crossing the sea. Although they heard the message of Moshe Rabbeinu regarding the destruction of the Egyptians some doubted the authenticity of Moshe’s prophecy and found it difficult to believe that it would actually transpire. Therefore when the sea miraculously opened and remained open there were those who entertained the idea that the Egyptians were also crossing the sea in safety. The reason for this doubt was because some of the Jewish people felt undeserving of a miracle of such great proportions. Now that the sea actually split it was difficult to believe that it would immediately cave in on the Egyptians. They therefore entertained the possibility that the Egyptians were also crossing in safety. In order to dispel this fiction, Hashem instructed the angel in control of the Reed Sea to arrange for the sea to spit out the dead Egyptians onto the shore. Once the Jewish people would see the dead Egyptians, they would understand what had truly transpired inside the sea. The angel fulfilled his command but responded that the fish deserved their newly acquired gift of Egyptian bodies and requested for a replacement sometime in the future. Hashem agreed and informed the angel that the Kishon Brook would eventually sweep replacements into the sea and the fish would retrieve their ancient gift.

The above discussion suggests a direct corollary between the splitting of the Reed Sea and the overflow of the Kishon Brook. It reveals that there was a missing dimension of faith at the Reed Sea but that it was finally rectified in Devorah’s times at the Kishon Brook. The analogy of the fish reflects an incomplete sense of the miracles of Hashem. Although the Egyptians drowned in the sea, this did not complete their destruction process and they remained intact laying on the sea shore. Due to the shortcomings of the Jewish people the Reed Sea was not permitted to function in its fullest capacity by swallowing up the Egyptians. In truth, the splitting of the sea served a dual function; to provide salvation for the Jewish people and to destroy the Egyptian nation. Although the first function was fulfilled to perfection, the second was not carried out in its entirety, because of the doubts of some Jewish people. Their lack of faith caused that the sea could not act in its usual manner but was instead forced to cast the Egyptians onto the shore to prove its authentic role in their destruction. The angel’s response to this phenomena was that the sea deserved a perfect role in miracles and should have the opportunity of a perfect demonstration of the hand of Hashem. To this Hashem responded that the miracle of the Kishon Brook would serve this capacity in full.

In the days of Devorah a similar spiritual climate existed to that at the Reed Sea and the Jewish people didn’t feel worthy of great revelations. They had recently begun the long process of return and could never imagine that Hashem would perform miracles on their behalf. However, when Barak was instructed to select his ten thousand men and charge against the massive Canaanite army he accepted his command immediately and acted out his role. He and his men demonstrated total faith in Hashem and believed whole-heartedly that Hashem would perform an open miracle solely on their behalf. Although their level of spirituality was far from perfect they displayed total faith in Hashem. This time there was no doubt in their minds 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 Canaanites without casting them out onto the shore. Hashem’s revelation of the Reed Sea was finally complete because the subsequent miracle of the Kishon was met with perfect faith in Hashem. We learn from this to trust in Hashem and His prophets, irrespective of our assessment of our own spiritual level. Hashem truly cares about us and will deliver whenever the need does arise.