Lamentations: Third Kinah 17
“…when they rebelled wantonly…” The Zohar, Volume 1 93b asks why Devorah and Barak chose the word פרעות for vengeance. The Zohar answers that it is a play on the word פריעה which is one step of circumcision
that is only practiced as part of the mitzvah, not in a medical circumcision. At the time of these two judges the Jews were practicing circumcision, but without פריעה, they were performing circumcision but without observing all the parts of the Mitzvah.
“No nation can have power over Israel unless they are not practicing this Mitzvah,” says the Zohar. Devorah and Barak influenced the people to observe all parts of the Mitzvah of Bris Milah, so the Jews were saved from Sisera.
The Jews were circumcising their children but not according to the Mitzvah as determined by the Oral Law. The concept of Brit Milah is not only cultural; it is a covenant between God and the Jews. The generation of Devorah wanted to identify as Jews but they had lost the sense of covenant with God. They did not experience a dynamic relationship with their Creator. They did not live with the awareness that there was mutual commitment between God and His people.
God sent Sisera to attack them, forcing them to cry out to Him and experience the reality of the relationship. They learned that when they repented, when they cried out to Him, that God would respond. They realized that God listened.
The generation of the destruction also lost the sense of covenant. They too forgot that God responds us; that He cares about everything we do and responds in kind. The long exile and all its suffering is a long lesson in covenantal relationship with God.
It is tempting to say that we observe the commandments; that we and the generations before us lived with an awareness of God. Yet it still seems that God has not responded and has allowed us to continue to suffer. The fact is that we have survived far more trouble than other nations that have disappeared. We are thriving once again both in Israel and in exile. We have experienced miracles in our time, all reminding us that God is deeply involved with us. Obviously, God wants more from us. God wants us to understand our relationship with Him on an even deeper level. God has responded. The covenant lives.