Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Week 50 (contd.): Devorah and Properly Understanding What You've Learned

The quality needed to acquire the Torah for this week is “who properly understands what (s)he learns/hears.” This is also the message of Chai Elul, in which the Alter Rebbe continued the tradition he received from his teacher the Maggid, who in turn had received from the Baal Shem Tov. The Alter Rebbe pondered what he learned from his teachers and organized it in the Tanya.[1] Similarly, his knowledge of the revealed part of the Torah, was organized in his Shulchan Aruch. The Baal Shem Tov himself said of the Alter Rebbe that he would bring two lights (Shnei Or) into the world, in the realm of the hidden aspects of the Torah as well as the revealed one.

This week’s prophetess is Devorah. There is a parallel between ants and bees (soldierlike, a small part of something greater; both also have a queens). Like the ant in Book 1, Devorah also suffered from the sin of pride, which caused her to lose her prophecy momentarily during her song. Overall, however, Devorah was extremely modest and humble, and that is what made her worthy of becoming a prophet. About her it is said, “The wisdom of a woman built her home.”[2] The word used here is Chochmah, which is the sefirah related to this week.

Devorah also represents the quality of this week in that, as a judge, it was essential that she ponder and properly understand what she heard. We also see this quality in the very song that she sang in the Book of Judges. In it, she ponders over Israel’s situation at the time, the reactions of different tribes to the war, Yael’s heroic actions, how the Jewish people asked her to sing, and the fate of Sisera and his mother. The song also contains a “back and forth” between her and the Jewish people, in which she hears what the Jewish people say to her (“Arise Devorah… arise and sing a song”) and she responds.

[1] Ha'mech'aven et shmu'ato [ ] means think over what you've heard. Create a mental filing cabinet.

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