Sunday, January 16, 2011

Haftora of DEVORA

Every Shabbat after the reading of the weekly portion of the Torah, in synagogues across the globe, Jews then read the haftora. The haftora is a selection from the prophets that is thematically linked to the weekly portion.
This week, we read the portion of "Beshallach" with the splitting of the Red Sea, followed by the "Shira" (song) that was sung by Moses and the people, as well as Miriam and the women.The Shira celebrates the victory over the Egyptians when G-d drowned them in the sea, after they pursued the Jewish people.
The Shira in the haftora is sung by the prophetess Devora and her general Barak ben Avinoam. It celebrates the victory over the Canaanites after G-d "swept them away in the Kishon River."
In the Exodus story of the splitting of the Red Sea, we know that Moses and the Jewish people miraculously crossed the sea bed on dry land. Then when the Egyptians pursued them, the water returned to its place, and the Egyptians were tossed and drowned.
In the story of Devorah, Artscroll explained that the Radak said, "The Canaanite army [led by Sisera] rode into Kishon, either to flee or to maneuver for an attack, and the shallow, lazy brook suddenly became a raging torrent. But when the Jews waded into the water, they were able to walk firmly and confidently." Sisera's chariots became mired in the mud, and the Canaanite general ran away.
The Raise Your Spirits Theatre Company is just about to finish its run of JUDGE! The Song of Devora after a dozen performances. The smash-hit musical is the sixth production of the women's theater company, which presents Biblical musicals.
About 4000 women from all over the country, who had the opportunity to see JUDGE!, sat in their synagogues today tapping their feet as the haftora was being read. Especially for them, the haftora came alive.
Of course, my favorite part was not the war or the victory, but the intorduction of one of the most powerful women in the Middle East, Sisera's mother (played by me)! After the battle is over, she searches for him, weeps for him, worries why he has been delayed. The only comfort Sisera's mother can accept is when her wisest of women suggests that he is busy dividing the booty (including slave girls).
While Sisera's mother is happy that her son might be dividing up the colored garments, treasures and women, we all know that Sisera and his army have been destroyed. The haftora ends, "So may all Your enemies be destroyed, O' Hashem! And let thoes who love Him be like the powerfully rising sun."
Photos by Rebecca Flash Kowalsky, .

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