[The Haftorah this week is from Shoftim [Prophets-, Chapter 4 and 5 which talks of the leadership of Devorah and her song. ]
Devorah was a prophetess who led the Jewish nation. She merited prophecy and leadership because she was (verse 4) “Ayshes Lapeedus” the wife of some guy named Lapeedus. He wasn’t the brightest bulb in the world and she respected him as her husband, nonetheless. She would make candles and send him out to “light” the study halls so he could find a way to gain reward in Torah learning. Greatness comes from working with what our soul is supposed to be doing, not trying to be someone else or force our spouses to be something they are not. Most folks I meet are trying to either change who they are, change their spouses or change the circumstances that G-d dealt them. That means that instead of living their lives, they are scrambling to try to change their lives into the movie script they think it should be. Devorah did not do that. If G-d gave her lemons, she made lemonade. If G-d dished up tomatoes, she made ketchup. She dealt with what was sent her way.
And she did it with the utmost respect, deferring to her husband, taking him along as “co-captain” so they appear to be leading together. Not only did she deal with her reality, she made her spouse feel like a million dollars.
Devorah had to lead a battle against Sisroh and his army. Another woman, Yael, ends up killing Sisroh. Again, when introducing the main woman, it says she was v. 17 “ayshis Chaver” the wife of someone named Chaver. Again, we have a great woman who accorded her husband amazing respect, even as she took on any responsibility that came her way. She went out of her way to kill Sisroh with a tent peg, rather than a weapon, to show that she wasn’t trying to be a guy, but being a woman who was rising to the necessity of the occasion. When we need to go ahead and take care of things, whether becoming leaders, fighting wars, bringing the livelihood home, whatever the circumstances that force us out of the stereotypical role of our gender, we must not leave behind who we are and still be able to accord respect to the spouse that might not be there doing what we are doing.
At one point in Devorah’s song, she describes why she rose to the occasion, [chap. 5, v. 7] “kamtee aym b’yisroel” as a mother she realized she needed to do whatever had to be done. Yet, because she boasted of what she was doing, she lost her prophecy for a few moments. Hence she says right after that “ooree,” wake up Devorah, asking for a return of her prophecy. Even if we do superhuman things because of our mothering instinct, we have to avoid boasting. For any success is G-d given. When we take credit (I’ve been guilty of doing this, catching myself saying “I made that Shidduch” as if just by suggesting a boy for a girl I, puny me, was really the matchmaker) and when we think we really are pulling the strings, we negate the fact that any success we have is really G-d allowing us that notch in our belt. Since saying that line about that shidduch I pulled off, I haven’t made another Shidduch. I’m in dry spell right now! Ooree, oh me, wake up, I know I messed up, G-d makes Shidduchim.
Yet, even if G-d is the One who really makes things happen and battles be won or lost, that doesn’t absolve us from action. The last thing I’ll point out in this week’s Haftorah is the scathing rebuke given by Devorah to the tribes that didn’t come to battle with the rest of the Jews. When you see a fellow Jew in trouble, it is our obligation to step in and help fight that battle. When you see a need, you must try to fill it. We cannot sit complacently while others suffer.