Cleaving to the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
וכל העם רואים את הקולות ואת הלפידים
“And enlighten our eyes with Your Torah, and cleave our hearts to Your commandments.” (2nd blessing of Shema)
At the giving of the Torah described in this week’s parsha the People so-to-speak saw with their eyes “the voices and the flares of fire” as we see in our title quote. This miraculous symphony of mixed sensation is only one of the many miracles at the grand prophetic vision found in the Giving of the Torah. The famous Amoraic master’s teaching that ‘everything is hinted in the Torah’ calls for a comparison between the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai to the battle of Barak and Deborah next to Mount Tabor in the Land of Israel, which is explicitly described as being miraculous ‘like Sinai’ (Judges 5, 5).
According to the Targum of Yonatan ben Uziel, the comparison between Mount Tabor and Mount Sinai hints to the well-known Midrash describing how Mount Tabor and other mountains wished that the Torah be given upon them. However, Mount Sinai was chosen because of its relative ‘lowliness’ and humility. Nevertheless, because of this ’embarrassment’ towards Mount Tabor, Rashi explains, the term ‘Anochi’ is repeated twice in context of Mount Tabor in the Song of Debora as a kind of ‘compensation’ for the ‘Anochi’, the first word of the ten commandments given on Mount Sinai, instead of Mount Tabor. In a similar light, Rebbe Nahman of Breslav (L”M 14) explains the name of Mount Tabor to be indicative of the breaking – ‘tviru’/Tabor (‘breaking’ in Aramaic) of the arrogant who see themselves as ‘mountains’. In this way we can say that while Mount Sinai represents initial humility, Mount Tabor represents ‘gained’ humility through the breaking of arrogance.
This message of Mount Tabor provides us with clues to the secrets of victory in this battle of Barak and Debora. Indeed, according to our Sages, Barak and Debora said before God ‘do not perform (a miracle) for our sake’, and God answered them that indeed ‘I will do for my sake alone.’ There are many other parallels between the battle next to Mount Tabor and the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. For example, the word ‘lapidim’ – ‘flares of fire’ appears by Mount Sinai while ‘lapidot’ is a nickname for Barak, the husband of Debora (according to our Sages),who leads the battle at Mount Tabor. Also the name Barak itself seems to allude to the ‘barak’-lightening at the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. ‘Deborah’ also seems to allude to the ten ‘dibrot’/’aseret hadvarim’ (Deut. 10, 4) – utterances at Mount Sinai. Interestingly, the origin of Barak is from ‘Kedesh Naftali’, one of the three Refuge Cities in the Land of Israel Proper (West Bank of Jordon River).
In the past we have explained at length the relationship between these Refuge Cities, and how they all stem from the power of Hebron (of course ordained by HaShem). In a nutshell, we explained that ‘Kedesh Naftali’, literally the ‘holy city of Naftali’, represents the unique filial piety of Naftali towards the Patriarchs to which he is singled out from all other tribes in the teachings of our Sages (see Midrash Raba Naso and more), and therefore his ‘holiest city’ receives the special status of a Refuge City just like the City of the Patriarchs, Hebron (interestingly ‘Kiryat Shmonah’ (sounding very close to ‘Kiryat Arba’) of today is adjacent to ‘Kedesh Naftali’…). Therefore, we may say that it is through the spirit of the Patriarchs of Kedesh and of Hebron that Barak draws his courage to fight the Canaanites by Mount Tabor, reminiscent of Mount Sinai, which is itself reminiscent of the Temple Mount as we explained in parshat Shmot.
Here again we see a fascinating synthesis between the spirit of Hebron (tied to the attribute of ‘awe’ acc. to our Sages) with the spirit of Jerusalem (tied to the attribute of ‘humility’) as if coming forth in the form of lightening – Barak between Mount Tabor and the Kishon River (near ‘Afula’ of today) in the Battle of Barak and Deborah, the Battle of HaShem.
Real Stories from the Holy Land #154
“One morning I remembered that I needed to pay a student in my kollel, so I decided to call him to meet him and pay him. However, just that moment this student ‘happened’ to meet me on the very road I was walking on (both of us don’t live close to where we met)… A bit later, several kilometers away, I started pondering what Providence I had witnessed just before, when again I ‘happened’ to ‘bump into’ this student once again…” M.G