It's always amazing to me to see the impact that womens wisdom has had on the destiny of the Jewish people. We women have so much to learn from our feminine forebears. These insights into the story of Devorah are from an inspiring shiur I once heard in Eretz Yisrael from Rebbetzin Chaya Legomsky*.
From Under the Date Palm of Devorah
Following the death of Yehoshua, B’nei Yisrael were bereft of dynamic leadership. Yehoshua, like Moshe Rabbenu, had guided his generation through the trials and spiritual heights of the desert, and into Eretz Yisrael as conquerors. The ensuing leadership void led to several cycles of a downward spiritual spiral, forcing Hashem to remove His providential protection from the people.
Our enemies invaded and oppressed us. Each time we cried out for Hashem’s salvation, He answered by choosing a new leader, a Judge. The Judge inspired our teshuva and drove out the foreign influence. Then, the people could again enjoy a long period of peace and abundance. Devorah is one such Judge whom Hashem selects to lead His people back into His service.
Why do the people need Devorah as their leader at this particular time in our history?
Let’s see who Devorah is. Judges (4:5) tells us she is, "...a prophetess, the wife of Lapidot...She would sit under the date palm of Devorah… and the children of Israel would go up to her for judgment.”
"...a prophetess, the wife of Lapidot," She is a prophetess. But essential to her identity is that she is a wife to Lapidot, indicating that Hashem values her role as a woman dedicated to her home, as well as her prophecy. Devorah’s home and her relationship with G-d are intertwined.
Rashi says that lapidot means “wicks.” Devorah would send her sincere, but unlearned husband to the Mishkan with wicks she made for use in the Menorah. Lapidot became involved with the kedusha of the Mishkan and connected to the redemptive light of the Menorah. He was then inspired to spread that holy light among the Jewish people.
Devorah's ability to see the inner greatness of her husband is exactly the trait Hashem needs for an embittered nation. With her vision, her womens wisdom, she helps people rekindle their own light of love for the Torah.
Life's True Sweetness
“...She would sit under the date palm of Devorah,” Devorah means “bee.” A bee's defining attribute is that it will sacrifice its life in order to protect its honey. Devorah’s willingness to leave her home and move into the public realm is an act of great self sacrifice.
We usually think that it is self-sacrifice to stay at home, setting our personal drive and ambition aside to care for the needs of our family. Yet our home exactly the place where we discover life's true sweetness.
Devorah sees her life's mission completely fulfilled as wife and mother in her home. But Hashem extends her mission to her people. She sacrifices her own sense of fulfillment and emerges into this larger leadership role because this is what Hashem wants of her. Yet, she feels the sting.
“… and the children of Israel would go up to her for judgment.” Even in the public nature of her calling, Devorah refuses to sacrifice her femininity. Rather than assert herself among the people, she sits outside beneath a palm tree, and waits for them to approach her.
B’nei Yisrael have fallen far. In order for Hashem to save them, they need to express a desire for teshuva, to return to a life of Torah. But they do not even know how are where to begin. Devorah’s unwavering availability engenders a sense of security in her broken people.
How does Devorah' woman's wisdom inspire this renewal?
Finally, we come to the date palm itself. The core of the date palm and the source of its sweet nectar is actually called the heart of the tree. Just as a mother knows that the best way to influence a child is to appeal to the core of goodness, that sweet purity that lies within, Devorah nurtures, encourages and motivates her followers by appealing to their inner goodness. Words from the heart penetrate the heart.
She sings, "I arose as a mother in Israel.” The Malbim comments that like a mother, Devorah brings new life into the world in the form of a nation full of hope and optimism for their future.
Devorah’s destiny is also ours: To know that our home and relationship with G-d are intertwined, to see greatness in all our family members, and to be accessible to them.
*"-born and bred in London, England, balances her private work as a therapist practicing Torah-based counseling with her career of teaching. She is sought after for her expertise in areas such as the Jewish calendar, philosophy of the mitzvot, and women's issues. Mrs. Legumsky studied at Keele University in England from which she holds degrees in English Literature, Education and Philosophy. She attended Neve Yerushalayim College for Women and is currently a senior lecturer at Eyaht, Ner L'Elef, Ohel Sara Imeinu, JEWEL and GEM."
The date itself gives an insight into how we can apply our G-d given womens wisdom toward running our homes by emulating how Hashem runs the world.
The book of Torah insights, recipes and practical tips
designed to bring majesty to the mundane.