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Celebrating Life – or Death?

Feb 8, 2023

חָדְל֧וּ פְרָז֛וֹן בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל חָדֵ֑לּוּ עַ֤ד שַׁקַּ֙מְתִּי֙ דְּבוֹרָ֔ה שַׁקַּ֥מְתִּי אֵ֖ם בְּיִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

Deliverance ceased, Ceased in Yisrael, Till you arose, O Devora, Arose, O mother, in Yisrael!

kha-d'-LU f'-ra-ZON b'-yis-ra-AYL kha-DAY-lu AD sha-KAM-tee d'-vo-RAH sha-KAM-tee AYM b'-yis-ra-AYL

Judges 5:7

By Rabbi Elie Mischel

On January 27th, 2023, a Palestinian terrorist murdered seven Israelis, including a 14-year-old boy, at a synagogue in Jerusalem. Incredibly, the terrorist chose to carry out his cruel and heinous murder of innocent Jews on International Holocaust Remembrance Day – a stark reminder that evil is alive and well in our generation.

When news of the murders became public, Palestinians throughout Judea, Samaria and Gaza shamelessly celebrated. Thousands of Palestinians in the Balata “refugee camp” (Balata is not actually a refugee camp; it was founded 73 years ago and currently has over 30,000 residents) celebrated in the streets, screaming “God is great,” setting off fireworks, firing guns, honking car horns and giving out sweets to children.

The sickening cruelty and murderous culture of Palestinian society are deeply jarring. But a close study of Israel’s Biblical enemies shows that they are far from the first society to celebrate murder.

The prophets who authored the books of the Bible often draw parallels that we are meant to notice and reflect upon. One of these easy-to-miss parallels is found in Deborah’s song of thanks to God after the people of Israel’s miraculous victory over the evil general Sisera and his army.

“Deliverance ceased, Ceased in Israel, Till you arose, O Deborah, Arose a mother in Israel!” (Judges 5:7).

In this verse, Deborah is described as a “mother” of the people of Israel – an unusual description given that Deborah was a judge, prophetess and leader of Israel! Why is Deborah described as a “mother” of the nation?

I believe that the prophet intends to contrast Deborah with another mother mentioned in chapter 5 of Judges – the mother of the evil general Sisera!

“Through the window peered Sisera’s mother; behind the lattice she whined: “Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why so late the clatter of his wheels?” The wisest of her ladies give answer; she, too, replies to herself: “They must be dividing the spoil they have found: A damsel or two for each man, spoil of dyed cloth for Sisera, spoil of embroidered cloth, a couple of embroidered cloths round every neck as spoil” (Judges 5:28-30).

The contrast between Deborah and Sisera’s mother is stark. Deborah is the loving mother of the people of Israel, a woman who dedicated her life to caring for and encouraging her people. She welcomed all of her “children” to sit under her palm tree, where she judged them with mercy and love.

By contrast, Sisera’s mother, waiting for her son to return home from war, comforts herself by imagining her son and his soldiers raping Jewish women, “a damsel or two for each man.” She smiles as she convinces herself that he is late in returning home because he is plundering Jewish towns and enjoying his spoils.  

As the mother of Israel proclaims life’s inherent sanctity and celebrates her people’s salvation from servitude and suffering, the mother of our enemy dreams of bloodshed! How little has changed since the time of Judges!

Magda Faul, a Christian children’s book writer in South Africa, writes about Rachelle Fraenkel, the Israeli mother of one of three teenage boys murdered by Palestinian terrorists in 2014:

“An emotional and spiritual turning point came one morning while I watched a video interview with Rachelle Fraenkel, the bereaved mother of late Naftali Fraenkel. It was clear that Mrs. Fraenkel was emotionally very vulnerable, but nevertheless courageous. At one stage, the interviewer asked her how she felt about the fact that the mother of the alleged kidnapper and murderer of her son encouraged feasting and partying to celebrate the murders and that this mother regarded her son, the killer, as a hero. Rachelle Fraenkel’s reply came with no bitterness or hate. As far as I remember, she simply said she couldn’t relate to it, to a people obsessed with death. And that Judaism is all about life” (Magda Faul, Glimpses of My Personal Torah Awakening, in Rivka Adler, Ten From the Nations: Torah Awakening Among Non-Jews, 73).

Sometimes the battle between good and evil is not complicated. May the people who celebrate life overcome the hatred and evil of the people obsessed with death. And may God comfort His people, the people who “choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Related Names and Places:

Related Bible basics: Deborah

Relate Bible Verses: Chapter 5

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