It’s a very “girl power” haftorah this week. The Israelites were being trounced by the vast armies of King Jabin of Canaan and his general Sisera. Deborah the Prophetess instructs Barak, son of Abinoam to “gather your men toward Mount Tabor, and take with you ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and Zubulun (2 of the 12 tribes). And I shall draw to you to the brook Kishon Sisera…with his chariots and his multitude; and I will give him into your hand.”
Barak and Deborah led the offensive maneuver. Sisera responded to the Israelites’ mobilization as expected and headed to the Kishon River. The haftorah tells us the Canannites had to fight on two fronts that day: against Barak & Deborah’s army below and from the heavens above, and were said to be severely crushed.
Sisera, the defeated general, fled on foot and sought asylum at the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, a tent-maker. She agreed, bringing him into the tent and offering to hide him. He must have been relieved at the seeming safe haven, as he rested, falling asleep after the grueling battle. It would be a rest from which he would not awaken however; as we’re told Jael pounded a tent peg through his temple as he slept.
What a way for the ladies to turn the tide of the battles! Deborah (or Dvora) means “bee.’ Rocky’s trainer advising to “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” comes to mind. Deborah was the fourth Judge of Israel, and the only judge mentioned in the Torah, which describes her as both a counselor and a warrior. The portrayal of Deborah and Jael as strong, intelligent, independent women is significant—having a non-royalty female as a both a legal judge and a leader in battle would have been extremely forward-thinking during that era, about 12th century BCE.
Casey (Kefira) McCarty is a published author living in Ohio. She is the Assistant Director of the Columbus Idea Foundry, a community workshop space, and is an artisan who crafts jewelry, Judaica and fine art available online and in Central Ohio galleries and boutiques. You can find her online shop at www.sinemetudesigns.etsy.com