Devorah And Barak

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Recurso Tipo: Shiur - Aula em: English
Idade: 12-16
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Objetivo de Recursos


  1. The chanichim should analyze the leadership skills of Devorah and Yael versus Barak. Devorah and Yael step up to the challenge and provide leadership from the side, when no leadership is coming from the men.

  2. The chanichim should start to see the instability of the Shoftim cycle there is no one clear leader (Devorah, Barak or Yael?) and the disunity of the Shevatim (only the ones in danger come to fight).

Recurso Conteúdo

Written by- Sarah Gordon

Many of the ideas from these shiruim are adapted from the book "Shofet HaShoftim" by Yisroel Rozenson, published by Machon Herzog.

Shiur #7:


  1. The chanichim should analyze the leadership skills of Devorah and Yael versus Barak. Devorah and Yael step up to the challenge and provide leadership from the side, when no leadership is coming from the men.

  2. The chanichim should start to see the instability of the Shoftim cycle there is no one clear leader (Devorah, Barak or Yael?) and the disunity of the Shevatim (only the ones in danger come to fight).

Background: The best way to go about this is to probably go through the Perek with the chanichim, pointing out details and asking pointed questions on specific pesukim and then triggering discussions on the various issues and themes that arise from the text.

Perek 4: Bnei Israel sin again, Shoftim cycle starts again, Bnei Israel are attacked by King Yabin of Canaan from the city of Hazor.

This is a new enemy. Before, Bnei Israel were fighting external enemies Moav, etc. Now we are fightingCanaan in the north (Hazor was their main city, there are a lot of archeological digs there). This is an internal nation one of the nations we were supposed to kick out! And now they are still here and attacking us, a direct result of us not finishing up the Kivush. Canaan is the local superpower in the Middle East, they are much more technologically advanced them Am Israel they have iron chariots. This is a flashback to Shoftim Perek 1:19, where Shevet Yehuda could not kick out some of the 7 nations because of their iron chariots. The bad guys here is Sisera, the general of Canaan.

Who is Devorah?

4-5: She is the only shofet who actually does that for a living she sits and judges! Interstesting that she is also a shofet even before the battle, she is called a Neviah, unlike Ehud who is appointed to go and fix the problem. She is a pre-existing shofet.

4: Devorah is called eshet lapidot.

Either: Rashi 4:4: She made wicks for the mikdash

Ralbag: A. Lapid=lightening=Barak, she was Baraks wife

B. Eshet Chayil she was a gibor and had high level of neviah which appeared like lightening - lapid

Metzudat David: Eshet Chayil, strong like lightening (lapid).

Devorah is presented as a very strong leader and it seems that she is seen as the ikar and main character and not Barak. She sits and judges in a central place. She also is a very fiery speaker. We see this in her speeches to Barak to convince him to go and fight, and later on in the next perek, in her Shirah, with her charif criticism of the shevatim who do not come and fight.

***Another theme to bring out here is that leadership in this Perek is coming from unlikely sources. Firstly, Devorah is a woman. This is not to be sexist, but this was not a time when it was common for women to be leaders! Especially militarily. Usually in this time the men were the shoftim, but because the leadership is NOT coming from the men (due to a lack of leadership!) the women are stepping up and taking control. Leadership is coming from the sidelines: Women; Devorah, and even non-Jews; Yael.

***Aditionally its not only the leaders that are coming from non-conventional sources, but also the ways in which they fight. We will see that Devorah will use her koach hadibur, strength of speech against or in place of the military might of men. Dvar Hashem versus the military might of the iron chariots. Yael will not fight with conventional weapons but will use a tent peg and milk to kill Sisera, not a sword. Unlikely leaders using unlikely methods but all to their credit people who you wouldnt expect to be leaders in these specific ways stepping up to the challenge and bringing their unconventional methods of fighting.

6-7: Devorah versus Barak:

Devorah is trying to convince Barak to be the Moshiah in this story.

Sounds like she already told him have I not told you already that Hashem said to take an army and go fight? So go already!! Shes nudging him.

Firstly we see from here that Devorah is instigating this G-d sends her a message and now she goes to push Barak to step up to the challenge. She wants him to become the leader and do the fighting, she wants to lead and guide from the sidelines. Barak refuses to go why? What does this say about Baraks leadership skills?? Why doesnt Devorah go and fight herself? What do you think about their leadership roles here what are the different roles of Barak and Devorah supposed to be? Is Barak justified in not wanting to go?

Why didnt Barak want to go alone?

Ralbag 4:8: Wanted Devorah there because with her (being the neviah) there will be more hashgacha, and Hashem will help the army more.

Malbim 4:8: Thought that (1) No one would believe him and join the army unless she came to show it was legitimate.

(2) A miracle wouldnt take place unless she was there so it could be in her zechut.

Abarbanel: Issue of authority, kedei lechazek levav Israel broatam haneviah imo shetzivta bazeh, people will have more morale and be more willing to fight and support the war if this Neviah is there, to show its a legit war.

**This is also another sign to the deteriation of the Shoftim. Up until now Shoftim were more courageous; Ehud, Otniel, Shamgar now Shoftim start doubting themselves and want signs before they go and fight we will see this again with Gidon who is always asking for signs from G-d, and also from Yiftach.

8-10: Either way it seems from Baraks response that he lacks self confidence in himself to be able to lead the nation (you can also discuss this with the chanichim is Baraks reaction understandable? Did you ever feel this way when faced with a leadership opportunity?).

Devorah really wants Barak to be the military moshiah and she will be the brains behind the operation, directing it spiritually from the sidelines. But Barak will not go alone and will not step up, so Devorah agrees to go, even though she does not think its her role. But this is in unideal backwards Shoftim role where the ppl who you dont expect to be at the frontlines have to step up because of a lack of leadership (not because women couldnt be on the front lines just that in biblical times, its unlikely that they were military leaders, plus she is a Neviah not a military Shofet, despite her gender).

Devorahs response is that if you dont want to go yourself and be the real moshiah, then I will come with you but that there will be a consequence to this! The war will not end the way it usually does with the Moshiah (Barak) getting the glory, but the victory will be in the hands of a woman.

What does this mean? That if Barak doesnt want to step up and be the rosh here, then he wont be the rosh or in charge with the glory at the end.

Who do you think Devorah is talking about when she says the war will be won by a woman? Which women? Pshat is her Devorah, since shes coming too. But really we will see at the end its another woman Yael. Theres even a play on words that literally the battle will be won by the hands of a woman, because Yael kills Sisera with her hand a tent stake.

Pasuk 11: Foreshadowing about the end of the story. The Kenim: Descendants of Yitro, like Yael, who live in the land because the Jews let them live there (since we like them since theyre related to Yitro, and Yitro was buddies with Moshe), but they also have a peace treaty with Sisra! So on one hand they seem to be straddling the fence here. They are living on Israel territory but loyal to Israels enemies Canaan. They are trying to be neutral (or you could say the fact that the separated from the rest of the Keni means that they traded their loyalty to the Jew for loyalty to Sisera. This will become important later, since Yael will totally throw this neutrality and loyalty to Canaan out the window and side with the Jews by killing Sisera, against her familys loyalties.

The Battle:

10-Barak sets out with troops from Zevulun and Naftali. ***Only 2 tribes come to fight! Only the ones who it concerns. There is no achdut of the shevatim here in fighting for Israel!

12- Sisera and his chariots are down in Wadi Kishon. Barak takes his troops up above Sisera onto Har Tavor.

Now the Jews are high up on Har Tavor advantage. Chariots cant go up there. Sisra knows that so he goes down to the valley to nachal kishon, where the chariots can wait. (A Wadi is a river bed assumedly now the river is not hard core flowing but just a little muddy nothing that Sisera doesnt think his chariots can handle).

Pasuk 14: Devorah has to push Barak to go! Nudging him again Hashem said to attack! Devorah has to push Barak to make the move because its scary the ill equipped Israel army against iron chariots. Devorah here is using her koach hadibbur to spur Barak into action.

Miracle: Hashem makes Siseras chariots useless, vayaham messes up wheels just like what Hashem did to the Egyptians chariots at krait yam suf. The only way to win is by Hashem stepping into help. Hashem takes away the Caananites high tech weapons.

***Another theme you can point out is the contrast between Am Israel and how they are fighting and how Siseras army fight. Bnei Israel are always walking or running places- using raglav their feet; (Pasuk 6: lech, Pasuk 8: telchi imi, Pasuk 9: telech im Barak, Pasuk 10: vayaal beraglav). On the other hand is Sisera who is always with his iron chariots they ride, they have the technology, the advanced weapons. But at the end it comes full circle, as G-d destroys the chariots and makes them useless, and in order to escape Sisera must ditch his chariot and run away Pasuk 15 vayanas beraglav using his feet, like Am Israel were before.

The End of the Battle:

Barak, even though he steps up to the battle, however he fails at the end. Nebach, the last scene is him running after Sisera to be the hero of the battle , but when he gets there Yael is already waiting for him and goes out to him, she is the active one (pasuk 22) telling him: Go inside, the person you are looking for is dead.

Also interesting that Barak is not leading the battle! He is running after those who are fleeing, going for glory, not being the real leader spurring on the troops. What does this show about his leadership skills? Or is he running dafka after the head of the other army to kill him kill the general. A perfect set up for a showdown between Barak and Sisera, but it is ruined because at the end it is Yael vs Sisera and Barak is left out of the picture.

We will talk more about Yael tomorrow, but basically from Baraks perspective we see that his role as a leader is overshadowed by the roles of these 2 women characters Devorah and Yael. He invites Devorah because he doesnt want to go alone, but Yael steals the show at the end and Barak gets none of the glory as Devorah stated in Pasuk 9.

Yael is the woman who gets the glory with Devorah, she invites Sisera in to her tent. Why does he run there? Because he has a peace treaty with the Keniim they will grant him asylum. She welcomes him in and then she kills him with a non conventional weapon, a tent peg and not a spear. Why? If you had to choose a weapon to kill someone with, why would she choose this?? There are no swords in her tent, or any sharp kitchen knives???

Davka showing that she is using feminine kochot, not koach barzel, not the military might of weapons/chariots, but using unconventional, shoftim style weapons to win the battle. We see here also how everything is backwards in Shoftim land, the source of victory coming from side, from non Jews and women (again, not in a bad way) but not from the people who are supposed to be the military leaders in that biblical time period - the men.

(More about Yael tomorrow)

Leadership lessons:

Sometimes in life the people who are supposed to be the leaders are not stepping up. Sometimes you are not the likely leader in a certain situation but you need to step up because the leader who is supposed to be in charge is not doing their job. It could be when you are a madrich and the rosh eidah is not around. It could be when you are in your school or community and no one is stepping up to create a program or to fix a problem. In Pirkei Avot it says: Bemakom sheein ish histadel lehiyot ish weve got to step up and take initiative as leaders even if its not part of our usual comfort zone we have to be more like Devorah and not have the fears of Barak.

Conclusion: Devorah and Yael take initiative and step up to be the leaders, when leadership skills are lacking from the men and especially from Barak. This is a theme in shoftim, people are not stepping up to be the leaders, so the leadership has to come from different and unlikely sources. Also, we see the theme of the different style of fighting of Am Israel, Devorah and Yael versus that of Sisera; koach hadibbur, unconventional weapons and raglav, versus the military might of the chariots and of weapons.

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