Reflections on Eicha
In a story spanning several chapters, Gidon rises from the lowest of the low to emerge victorious against an enemy that had terrorized the Jewish people for years. The process through which he gains the confidence to fight Midian and lead his people is remarkable and contains numerous messages about leadership, faith, and other motifs. We will explore some of these ideas through a careful reading of the text, aided by classical commentaries and midrashic interpretations. As we learn how Gidon came to rise and how his sons came to fall, we will uncover some of the many ways this story of the Prophets is relevant for all time.
Reflections on Eicha: Lesson 1
Welcome! We’ll begin our studies of Gidon at the beginning, with introductions to the book of Shoftim (Judges) in general, to the state of the Jewish people just before Gidon came into the picture, and to Gidon himself. As we begin to get to know our hero, we will examine what hints we can find – even in his humble beginnings – of the powerful leader he would become. Along the way, we will pick up some insights into various themes, such as how the Jewish people might be(come) worthy of divine assistance.
Reflections on Eicha: Lesson 2
As we ended our discussion last time, Gidon had just been instructed to “go with this, your strength, and save Israel from Midian.” We wondered which strength the angel might be referring to, as Gidon had not yet demonstrated any overt might. In this week’s class, we will explore Gidon’s state of mind at the time of this encounter and where he might find the strength to become the leader his people need. We will then consider the nature of Gidon’s skepticism of his G-d-giving mission, including comparisons to another (more) famous leader who was also hesitant to accept his role without miraculous proof behind him.
Reflections on Eicha: Lesson 3
We left of last week by highlighting some points of comparison and contrast between Gidon and Moshe. In this week’s class, we will continue that discussion and complete our study of chapter 6 with further explorations of what Gidon needs to do, and have done, in order to progress into his role and lead his people in battle against Midian.
Reflections on Eicha: Lesson 4
In this week’s class, we will complete our discussion of what Hashem asked of Gidon, and what Gidon further asked of Hashem, before the war against Gidon could commence. After all the tests between G-d and Gidon, we will find that even his soldiers must be put to the test, though the precise purpose of the test is subject to some debate: What does it take to become one of only 300 men selected to carry out a miraculous victory against Midian? We will also return yet again to another question: What does it take to convince Gidon, at long last, that he truly is the one selected to lead the people in that miraculous victory?
Reflections on Eicha: Lesson 6
Last week, we learned how Gidon’s battle strategy actually avoided much battle, and discussed the degree of divine providence involved in the Jewish victory over Midian. As we concluded the lesson, the people of Ephraim had just helped round up some of the feeling Midianites, including two princes. This week, we will see other sides of Gidon’s leadership as he faces conflict from within: first, with the people of Ephraim who are unhappy with their assigned role in the battle; then, with the residents of two cities who display a shocking lack of respect to their new hero. What can we learn from the various groups Gidon must face? How will Gidon react to each group, and how does each interaction help build our picture of him as a leader?
Reflections on Eicha: Lesson 7
We have followed Gidon through the ups and downs of his stepping into the role of “Shofet,” and the quesion that remains is whether he leaves that role on an up or on a down. We will see how the Jewish people embrace and then betray him, explore how he grew through his experiences and what he seems to want out of his role, and ask questions about his legacy.