Thursday, January 17, 2008, 3:08 PM
On Friday night at sundown we celebrate Shabbst Shirah
This is "Shabbat Shirah", and "shirah" or ("shir") means in Hebrew either song or poem. This is a sabbath for poetry. You may have noted that the haftarah is another long biblical poem, the Song of Deborah. The reason for the name, of course, is the "shirat hayam", the "song of the sea", which forms the high point of today's reading, the song of triumph which Moses and the children of Israel sang after the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea.
Song of Devorah
The Prophetess Devorah then sings a song in praise of G-d and of the heroes and, mainly, the heroine of the story. This great song is of course the reason that this selection was chosen as the Haftarah of Shabbat Shirah. In the song, she praises the Tribes of Israel who valiantly participated in the Battle, and castigates those Tribes who, because of their cowardice, would not go.
One interesting verse reads, "From the heavens they fought, the stars from their pathways, fought against Sisera." (Shophtim 5:20) One wonders at the nature of the miraculous intervention of the "stars" on behalf of Israel. Perhaps it was an "open miracle" of the incredibly fortuitous timing variety, and the Battle coincided with an intense meteor shower, which provided illumination well into the night, and aided in the pursuit and defeat of Sisera and his forces.
The song closes with a portrait of Sisera's mother awaiting the return of her son. Her ladies-in-waiting assure her that the delay is certainly due to the tormenting of the captured Israelite women and the division of the plunder and booty of the war. But the next-to-final verse "says it all:" "So may all Your enemies be destroyed, Hashem; And let those who love Him be like the powerfully rising sun." (Shoftim 5:30)
In the celebration of our great Jewish women I want to add this web site for you.
Katrina's Jewish Voices