This week’s haftorah shows the effect of the Jewish nation’s faith in Hashem irrespective of their level of mitzva observance. After the passing of Moshe Rabbeinu’s devout disciple, Joshua the Jewish people were led by numerous judges. Their authority and influence was considerably limited and the Jewish people adopted foreign cultures and strayed from the Torah’s ways. They typically fluctuated between sincere service of Hashem and repulsive idolatry. Hashem would respond to their abhorrent behavior and release one of the powerful nations to oppress them. The Jewish people would hear the message and sincerely return to Hashem until they succumbed again to foreign influences.
This week’s haftorah speaks of one of those times when the Jewish nation severely strayed from the path. Hashem responded and permitted Yovin, the king of Canaan to capture the Jewish nation and annex her to his mighty empire. After twenty years of firm control the message hit home and the Jewish people began to repent. Hashem recognized their initial stages of repentance and sent the Prophetess Devorah to help them complete the process. They merited through her efforts an incredible miracle and Devorah composed a moving song of praise describing Hashem’s revelations.
The miracle occurred when Devora instructed the leading Jewish general, Barak to select ten thousand men and charge into the Canaanite lines. Yovin 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 forcing the Canaanites to flee for their lives. In the midst of this, Hashem sent blazing heat to the battle front and brought the Canaanites down to the Kishon Brook to cool off. At that exact moment, Hashem caused the brook to overflow and drown the Canaanites. Devorah sang about this miracle and said, “Kishon Brook swept them away – that brook of age my soul treads with strength.” (Shoftim 5: 21) Devorah referred to the Kishon as a brook of age seeming to relate it an earlier experience.
Chazal explain that this earlier incident was, in fact, the splitting of the Sea of Reeds recorded in this week’s parsha. They quote an intriguing conversation between Hashem and the angel appointed over the sea of Reeds. Chazal reflect upon a verse in Tehillim (106:7) that indicates the Jewish people’s imperfect faith while crossing the sea. Chazal explain that although the entire nation heard Moshe Rabbeinu’s prediction of Egypt’s downfall at the sea many found it difficult to accept in full. Hence, after the sea miraculously opened they entertained the possibility that Egyptians were also safely crossing and would continue their chase. The Jewish people felt undeserving of a miracle performed solely for their sake and reasoned that the sea split in numerous places. Hashem dispelled this fiction and instructed the angel over the Sea of Reeds to cast the dying Egyptians onto shore. When the Jewish people saw this they understood retroactively what truly transpired for them.
The angel, however, argued that the fish deserved their promised prize of thousands of Egyptian bodies and requested a replacement in the future. Hashem consented and informed the angel that the Kishon Brook would eventually sweep replacements into the sea and grant the fish their earlier present. (Mesichta Pesachim 115b)
The above discussion suggests a direct corollary between the splitting of the Sea of Reeds and the overflowing Kishon Brook. It points to a missing dimension of faith at the sea that was ultimately rectified through the Kishon Brook. The analogy of the fish reflects the Jewish people’s imperfect perception of Hashem’s miracles. The splitting of the sea served a dual function- to rescue the Jewish people and to punish the Egyptian nation. The first function was fully accomplished however the second was not. Although the mighty Yam Suf waters delivered the Egyptians their fair share of brutal torture it did not drown them. In essence, the sea played an imperfect role in Hashem’s miraculous scheme. This undoubtedly reflected the Jewish people’s imperfect faith in Hashem’s miracles and concern for His people. The angel of the sea responded to Hashem that the sea deserved a perfect role in Hashem’s miracles and should be granted future opportunity for a perfect revelation of Hashem’s might. Hashem responded to the angel that the miracle of the Kishon Brook would serve this capacity in full.
In the days of the prophetess Devorah the Jewish people’s spiritual level suffered serious decline. They shared similar feelings with the Jewish people at the Sea of Reeds and feel unworthy of great revelations. They recently began their long process of return and could not imagine Hashem performing miracles on their behalf. However, when Devora instructed Barak to select ten thousand men and charge into the massive Canaanite army he immediately accepted his role. He and his men demonstrated total faith in Hashem and believed wholeheartedly 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 they had no doubts and Hashem did not need to prove His involvement on behalf of His people. The sea was therefore granted its full role and its fish eagerly devoured the wicked Canaanites sent to it by the Kishon brook. This miracle was unequivocally clear and bore testimony to all of Hashem’s absolute commitment to His people and total involvement on their behalf. Although their mitzva observance was far from perfect they were sincerely committed to rectifying it and deserved Hashem’s grace and favor.
We learn from this the power of absolute trust in Hashem. Many question how the present Jewish people could deserve to witness the miraculous era of Mashiach. Our spiritual level is far from perfect and certainly does not warrant Hashem’s intervention on our behalf. Let us draw strength and encouragement from our Haftorah’s lesson and realize what Hashem expects from us. The road to return is undoubtedly long, however, Hashem only asks for sincerity. Let us resolve to follow Hashem’s lead wherever He takes us and trust that He cares for us in untold proportions. In this merit we will hopefully be privileged to witness Hashem’s greatest revelations ever to be seen, surpassing even those in Egypt and at the Sea of Reeds.
Text Copyright © 2002 Rabbi Dovid Siegel and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is Rosh Kollel of Kollel Toras Chesed of Skokie.