The haftarah for Beshalach (known as Shabbat Shirah, “the Sabbath of Song”) is about Deborah the Prophetess.1

She summoned her general, Barak, to wage war against the mighty Canaanite general Sisera and his army. Barak insisted that Deborah go with him to battle, which she agreed to do. She told him, however, that he wouldn’t be credited with the victory; rather, a woman would have that honor.

They went to war and completely destroyed the Canaanite army, but Sisera got away on foot. He ran to the tent of Chever the Kenite, thinking that he would be safe there since there was a good relationship between him and the Canaanite king. Chever’s wife was Yael, a courageous woman. She hid him in her tent, giving him a false sense of security. He asked for some water, and instead she gave him milk, which made him sleepy. As he slept, she took a tent peg and a hammer and drove the peg into his temple, and he died.

Yael is the woman who was credited for the victory, as she put an end to Sisera.

Deborah sang a song to commemorate the victory, and there was peace for 40 years.

This connects to our parshah, which tells of the splitting of the sea, when we were finally free from the Egyptians, and the song we sang on that momentous occasion.

The song by the sea was sung by both the men and the women. Why is the song of the haftarah only that of a woman, Deborah?

When we look at the parshah, we see that there was a difference between the way the men sang and the way the women sang. All the men did was sing. When the women sang, however, the verse says: “And all the women went out . . . with tambourines and dances.”2 Why was there more joy by the women than by the men—that they not only sang, but had tambourines and danced as well? And why tambourines?

“According to the pain, so is the reward.”3 All the Jewish people suffered in Egypt, but the women suffered more. Seeing their newborn babies being thrown into the Nile was worse than the hard labor the men suffered. Although it affected the men as well, what happens to a baby has more of an effect on a mother.

Now that they were finally free of Pharaoh, the joy was so great that not only did they sing, but they danced and played tambourines. And because the women’s joy was greater, we read the song of Deborah, a woman.

Our great sages tell us that “in the merit of righteous women our ancestors were redeemed from Egypt, and in the merit of righteous women we will be redeemed in the future.”4 The parshah and the haftorah highlight three women—Miriam, Deborah and Yael—because we can learn from each of them about the righteousness of women. The parshah also mentions “all the women” because there is a lesson to be learned from them as well.

The Torah refers to “Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister.”5 Why not the sister of Moses? Because it is referring to the time before Moses was born. The name Miriam comes from the word mar, which means “bitter,” since she was born around the time that the bitter servitude began. As a little girl, she witnessed Pharaoh’s evil decree: “Every boy that is born should be thrown in the river.”6 She prophesied that her parents would give birth to the savior of the Jewish people. She had complete trust in G‑d that this prophecy would come true. And when Moshe was put in a basket in the river, the Torah tells us that she “stood at a distance to see what would become of him.”7 And she continued to wait for the next 80 years, knowing that it would surely come to pass.

She suffered bitterly and felt the suffering of her people. And now as they crossed the sea, and they were free at last, she witnessed with great joy as her prophecy had come true.

From Miriam, we learn of the great trust righteous women instinctively have. This is also seen in all the Jewish women of the time, as they prepared tambourines, trusting that G‑d would redeem them. These are the tambourines they took with them as they left Egypt into the desert, trusting that they were in G‑d’s hands.

We know that the women suffered terribly as their babies were being thrown into the Nile. There is a lot of symbolism here. The Nile was Egypt’s god; it was the river that sustained them. In other words, they worshipped making a living. We, on the other hand, serve G‑d, and know that our sustenance comes from Him.

Most children spend more time with their mother than their father. This means that the mother’s influence is so important. Some make the grave mistake of throwing their children into the river of making a living, to the detriment of a proper Jewish education. However, the strong Jewish mother puts G‑d first, knowing that our sustenance is from Him. She saves her children from the Nile and makes sure to give her babies the best Torah education, so that they will grow up in G‑d’s way. This is the greatest nachas a parent could have.8

The haftarah calls Deborah the wife of Lapidot.9 The word lapid means a “flame” because she would make the wicks for the Mishkan in Shiloh.10 Her wicks would light up the Mishkan, and from there, the light would spread to the whole world.

This is the calling of all Jewish women—to fill their own Mishkans, their homes, with the light of Shabbat candles, which has a profound impact on her family. It is symbolic of the atmosphere that she sets in her home, as she has an effect on her husband and her children, making her home a dwelling place for G‑d and His blessings.

Deborah would judge the people sitting under a date palm. Why? Because a date palm’s fronds are high up on the tree and don’t really give shade. She did this out of modesty, so as not to be alone with the men whom she judged and advised.

In Deborah’s song, she blesses Yael to be “blessed among the women of the tent.”11 This refers to our matriarchs—Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah—who were known for their modesty. The tent also refers to the home, which means her commitment to her spouse.

I am amazed by the greatness of Jewish women because I can see that they sense and feel the pain of the exile more than we men do. I see how much my wife Dina endures, with such grace. Despite everything, she takes the time to be present and lift the spirits of others; I am at a loss for words.

These noble traits of Jewish women are what brought the redemption from Egypt, and these same traits will bring the future redemption, the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon!1213


Dedicated to my wife Dina, a truly great woman, in honor of our 21st wedding anniversary, which falls on this Shabbat, on 15 Shevat.