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Friday, February 6

The Weekly Shtikle - Beshalach

It is with abundant joy and gratitude that we announce the arrival of the latest addition to our family - a baby girl born last Shabbos afternoon. We named her Yehudis after my Bubbie (paternal grandmother) a"h.

The timing of the birth of our older two daughters allowed me to focus on the significant role of women in the parsha. For parshas Beshalach, the female heroine is certainly more prevalent in the haftarah than in the parsha itself. Devorah leads B'nei Yisroel as they wage with the Canaanites and then leads the nation in songs of praise.

There is a different form of heroism found in the parsha, however. We are told briefly that following Moshe Rabbeinu's song of praise to HaShem for the great miracles at Yam Suf, Miriam separately leads the women in their own song of praise which mirrored that of Moshe. The one very obvious difference between Miriam's song and Moshe's was that Miriam's was accompanied by flutes. Rashi is bothered why they would even have been in possession of flutes. He writes (based on the Midrash) that the righteous women of the generation were so certain that HaShem would save them, that they prepared flutes while still in Mitzrayim in anticipation of one day singing the praises of HaShem's miraculous deliverance.

While the heroism in the haftarah was much more of a public nature, the heroism of Miriam and the other righteous women of the generation was more quiet and assuming. They expressed their unwavering faith in HaShem in their own private deeds.

The name Yehudis has an interesting history. I imagine many are under the impression that Yehudis is simply the feminine version of Yehudah. But if anything, the opposite is true. The name Yehudis actually predates Yehudah. One of Eisav's wives was named Yehudis bas Be'eiri (Bereishis 26:34). However, the very next pasuk indicates that these wives were hardly role models after whom we would want to name our girls. However, Rashi later (36:2) reveals that Yehudis was not her real name. Her real name was Ahalivamah but Eisav gave her the name Yehudis to fool his father into believing she rejected Avodah Zarah.

Later on in the annals of Jewish history, we find the name Yehudis in the story of Chanukah. As recounted by Mishnah Berurah (670:10) Yehudis was the daughter of Yochanan, the Kohein Gadol. There was a decree that all betrothed maidens must first spend the night with the evil general. Yehudis fed him cheese while he was drunk causing him to doze off at which point Yehudis removed his head, allowing all the women to escape. Ironically, Yehudis seems to have learned this technique - using the power of dairy - from an episode in this week's haftarah. Sisera asks Ya'eil for a glass of water but she gives him milk instead causing him to doze off and the rest is history.

But of course, it is neither of those two Yehudises after whom our Yehudis is named. The virtues of my Bubbie, a"h, were most apparent not in the public arena but in the private confines of the home. Her love and support of my Zaidie, a"h, allowed him to become the leader he was to so many throughout his rabbinic career. The love she showered upon her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and the pride she could so vividly express with just a smile were her hallmark. It is our wish that our Yehudis grow up to truly emulate these virtues.

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Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
EzBulka@hotmail.com
http://weeklyshtikle.blogspot.com
http://dikdukian.blogspot.com

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