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Yael: the courage of a woman with delicacy

Published on Tuesday September 15th, 2020

At the time of the Judges (Shoftim 4: 1-24), the Jewish people were in the hands of the Canaanites who oppressed the Jewish people. The General of their Army, Sisera, was also a brutal and cruel man who took a malicious pleasure in making the Jewish people suffer. After twenty years of suffering, the prophetess Deborah and General Barak defeat Sisera and all his army. When he was defeated, he sought refuge and he was attracted by a beautiful voice from a tent. Yael had a very beautiful voice. So beautiful that no one could resist her (Megillah 15a): "Enter, lord, enter my home, do not be afraid!" Sisera was only too happy to accept this invitation from Yael, which would allow him refuge from the Jewish army who were pursuing him.

Yael gave him milk, and Sisera, exhausted by the drink, fell into a deep sleep. Taking advantage of this moment, Yael went to fetch one of the pegs from her tent and she thrust it into his head, ending the days of this tyrant who had subjected the Jewish people to the worst cruelties. Yael went out to welcome General Barak: "Come, I'll show you the man you're looking for." He followed her and saw Sisera, lying dead at her feet, the oppressors were defeated, and the Jews were free again. These were happy days for the Jews, and, above all, they became faithful again to Hashem in the days of Deborah and Barak, thanks to Yael's bravery.

What was Yael's merit for deliverance to come through her?

Yael was a woman with immeasurable strengths and an extraordinary beauty and a seductive voice, which added to her tenacity and courage. However, her merit came from the fact that, despite her exceptional talents, she knew how to balance things and knew her priorities. She was, above all, a wife and mother. She is rightly described as "the wife of Chever the Kenite", that is, for her, her home, was of paramount importance.

Our Sages also present her as "a perfectly secretive, honest, and discreet woman, who behaved in accordance with her husband's will" (Tanna Debe Eliyahu Rabbah 9 and Yalkut Shimoni), and not as a heroine braving all dangers. It was not by chance that she used the peg of her tent, which is the symbol of the home in the Torah, to commit the act of killing Sisera.

One could also wonder why did she use a peg from her tent and not a sword. This is because, even "in the heat of the moment", she did not lose herself, and forget the halacha that a woman may not use a weapon - except in case of emergency. For her, this was not an emergency! She kept a cool head and went outside to take a peg from her tent, while Tanna Debe Eliyahu Rabbah 9 and Yalkut Shimon slept, to finally pierce his head, and all this, without going against any Jewish law...

The text tells us that Tanna Debe Eliyahu Rabbah 9 and Yalkut Shimon had the habit, every time his army came back victorious, to bring back one woman per soldier in booty, which he called "Rechem" that is to say "uterus". For him, the woman was nothing but an object destined to satisfy the lowest instincts of his soldiers. No wonder a man who despised women so much deserved to be put to death by a woman!

Although a superficial analysis of things might lead us to think that Yael seduced a man and invited him into her tent, her name testifies that she was pure from all fault. Ya-El (twice the name of Gd): G-d joined her in her name, to testify that she was pure and that she committed no sin.

It was the symbol of courage and bravery which, in all its feminine finesse, materialized at a decisive moment for the Jewish people and allowed them to experience deliverance.

Simcha G - © Torah-Box

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