A Model of Jewish Leadership


This Shabbat we read Parshat Beshallach and the “Song of Devorah” from the Book of Judges. The haftarah focuses on Devorah, a prophet and judge, and Barak, a general. They lead the Jews in a battle against the Canaanites.

Devorah asks Barak to gather 10,000 men and go up to Mount Tabor and fight the Canaanites. However, Barak will do this only if Dvorah comes with him. At the time, asking a woman to help lead an army was not the typical thing to do. This shows how inspirational and how important a leader Devorah was to the Jewish people.

The Jews were victorious in their battle, and they celebrate with a song led by Devorah. The song praises God and thanks Him for the victory, because they couldn’t have done it without God’s help.

This song is also the connection between the haftarah and the Torah portion, since it describes how Moshe and Miriam also lead the Jewish people in song and dance after they cross the Red Sea and escape from Pharaoh and his army. In both songs, we rejoice at our victory. From the text, we learn that we are not celebrating the defeat of our enemies, but we are rejoicing in the victory that we accomplish.

This behavior is something that we should emulate throughout our lives. For example, in school, we do not brag about the grades that we get on tests, because even if we are very happy with our grades, our classmates may not be happy with theirs, and we do not want to rejoice in someone else’s disappointment. Similarly, on the sports field, if we win a game, we don’t want to say anything denigrating to our opponents, but rather we should celebrate our own successes.

Devorah was a leader, a mother to the nation. She is one of my role models. Devorah is one of only a few women prophets, a messenger of God and the only woman judge in the Torah. God chose her to be a judge and to be a prophet from among many other people in part because of her serious devotion to Judaism. Before the battle, there was a time when the Jews prayed to idols and did not follow God’s commandments, but Devorah did not buckle underneath peer pressure. Rather, she stayed true to her beliefs and kept practicing Judaism.

I also feel dedicated to Judaism. I am fortunate to be able to attend a Jewish day school, celebrate all the Jewish holidays with my family, live in a kosher home, go to a great shul and be a part of a very special Jewish community. As I move to the next
period of my life, I hope to take on the roles of being a leader at school, at camp and in my community, just as Devorah did when she became the leader of the Israelites.

Devorah teaches us with her victory that we can do anything we put our minds to and succeed if we try hard enough. As I become a bat mitzvah, I am officially taking on the
responsibility that comes with being a Jewish adult.

Part of this responsibility is to be a leader and a role model for the Jewish people, which began with my bat mitzvah project. Like Miriam and Devorah, I love music. I arranged to play the guitar and sing at the Weinberg Center on Sunday nights during dinner, hopefully bringing some joy to the Weinberg residents. I hope to follow in the footsteps of Devorah and strive to set a good example in school, camp, athletics and extracurricular activities.

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