OU TORAHDedicated by the Jacobs and Chill Families in Memory of Harold and Pearl Jacobs
Dora Bas Rivka Silver O'H
Midian and Gideon
After 40 years of peace, the nation once again slacked off and G-d allowed Midian to occupy the country. The Midianites were particularly cruel; they didn't just raid the Jews' crops, they destroyed what they couldn't use. (Verse 5 compares them to a swarm of locusts.) The people cried out and G-d sent Gideon (Gidon in Hebrew, but we'll stick with the English).
Gideon was threshing wheat at his winepress in an effort to conceal it from the Midianites when G-d sent an angel to give him his "marching orders." Considering himself unworthy, Gideon asked for a sign. The angel had him put meat, matzos and broth on a rock. (The broth was poured over the solid food.) a fire came out of the rock and consumed the offering. (Yes, this is a preview of the miracle later wrought for Elijah in the Book of Kings.)
That night, G-d had Gideon break apart his father's altar to the Baal and cut down his Asheira (a tree worshipped for idolatry). He built an altar to Hashem and sacrificed his father's fattened bull on it, using the wood of the Asheira for kindling. The next morning, when the people of the town learned what Gideon had done, they wanted to kill him. Gideon's father Yoash interceded, saying that if Baal has a problem with what Gideon did, and if Baal had the ability to deal with it, then Baal would deal with it himself. This earned Gideon the nickname "Yerubaal," "let the Baal handle it."
Finally, Gideon asked for a sign so that the people would know he was sent by G-d. Gideon laid out a fleece on the threshing floor. On one night, the few fell only on the fleece, not on the ground. On the next, the few fell only on the ground, not on the fleece.
A short Insight into Judges, Chapter 6In his sefer Chochma U’mussar (1,197), The Alter of Kelm writes about the importance of sharing the burdens that our fellow Jews are shouldering. He writes, “We have found in Shoftim (6,11), “And his son Gideon was threshing wheat at the winepress to hide it from Midian.” Rashi explains, “His father was beating them. Gideon said, ‘Father, your are older. If Midyan comes you will not be able to flee. You should go and I will beat.’”
“We see from here that Gideon shared the burden of the threshing with his father. In addition, he put himself into possible danger to make sure that his father was not in harm's way.”
“[Not coincidentally,] we are told immediately afterwards, ‘The angel of Hashem appeared to him, and said to him, “Hashem is with you, O mighty hero.’”
“When Hashem saw the lengths that Gideon was willing to go to share his father’s burden, Hashem decided this was the person who should be the shofeit of B’nei Yisroel. If he was willing to share the burden of his father to such an extant, then he would clearly be sensitive to the burdens and needs of the Jewish people.”
“So, too, was the case of Moshe Rabbeinu. When he killed the Egyptian, thus endangering himself and fleeing from Egypt – all for the sake of protecting a Jew for a beating – he proved himself fit to care for our people. He thus merited that soon afterward Hashem appeared to him at the burning bush and appointed him as the one to lead B’nei Yisroel out of Egypt.”
Such is the power of the merit of shouldering the burdens of our brethren.