13th Shevat 5782 \ January 15, 2022
By Jordan Blanchard
This Week’s Readings:
Torah: Exodus 13:17-17:16
Haftarah: Judges 4:4-5:31
Chadashah: Luke 1:26-38;41-42
The Torah Portion for this week is Exodus 13:17-17:16. In it, we see Pharaoh finally agree to let Israel go…and then change his mind again. The only difference is that this time he changes his mind as they are already on their way out the door. The Israelites are guided both day and night by 2 pillars, a pillar of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night. As Pharaoh and his chariots approach Israel, the people fear, but Moses speaks to them words of comfort. G-d is true to His promise and protects Israel allowing the sea to split for them, the angel and the cloud stays between them and the army, and finally the waters come crashing down on Pharaoh and his army. The effect of this moment on the Hebrew people is documented in 14:31 where it tells us “…the people feared Adonai, and they believed in Adonai and in His servant Moses.” Moses and all of Israel praise G-d in song, glorifying Him and recounting the events of the Exodus. Israel then faces a series of challenges: shortages of food and water, contamination of water, and attack by the Amalekites. An interesting and I think important observation (which I would have missed had it not been for a commentary) is that Israel complains when the Egyptians attack, when they go without water, and when they go without food, but they do not complain when the Amalekites attack. This could be due to the fact that having seen G-d provide for them in their military encounter with the Egyptians, they do not doubt that He can do it again. As for the food and the water, they hadn’t seen G-d provide like that before, and ultimately their trust in Him lacked the imagination to extend beyond their experiences.
The Haftarah Portion for this week is Judges 4:4-5:31. In it we see the weak and apathetic Barak chastised by the wise prophet Deborah. Even though she prophesies his victory, Barak will not go unless she accompanies him. It is this lack of faith that leads Deborah to prophesy that Sisera will be given to the hand of a woman, at the expense of Barak’s honor. Barak and his army have victory and Sisera takes flight. He ends up in the tent of Yael, trusting that political allegiances are stronger than the will of G-d. Unfortunately for Sisera, this is not true. Yael assassinates Sisera, fulfilling Deborah’s prophecy. To be specific, she hammers a tent pin through his temple! The whole affair is commemorated in song, including praise of Yael as “most blessed among women.” Subsequently, Israel enjoys 40 years of peace.
The B’rit Chadashah Portion is Luke 1:26-38;41-42. The angel Gabriel greets a woman named Miriam saying “greetings, favored one! The L-RD is with you!” As is the case for many Jews today, this type of veneration makes Miriam uncomfortable. Gabriel tells her of things to come, that she will give birth to the Messiah. Mary asks how this can be since she is a virgin, and Gabriel tells her He will be conceived by the Ruach Ha-Kodesh. Miriam faithfully replies, “let it be done to me according to your word.” Finally when Miriam is with Elizabeth, the Ruach moves in her and she blesses Miriam with the same saying as Deborah sang of Yael, “blessed are you among women.”
Though quite different in application, Miriam and Yael share a willingness to see G-d’s will be done; and despite their very different callings, both are called “blessed among women.” In Yael we see the virtue of putting allegiance with G-d above any political allegiance; and whereas the Israelites struggle to comprehend the limitless bounds of G-d’s sovereignty, Miriam is able to trust in Him even when the miracle prophesied to her is both inconceivable and unprecedented. It’s okay if you’re different; G-d can use you. Ladies, you may be a Proverbs 31 woman…or you might be a Judges 4 kinda gal. Either way, He can use you. All of us, women and men, can look upon the loyalty of Yael and the faith of Miriam and find examples of righteousness worth pursuing. As He is the L-RD Almighy Who was King, is King, and will be King, let us find it within ourselves to trust what He has done, what He is doing, and what He is going to do. And if we can’t find it in ourselves, we can certainly find it in Him. Shabbat Shalom!