Strong Jewish Women

Monday, August 2, 2010

Devora, "Woman of the Flames"


Anyone who ever learned the book of Shoftim (Judges) knows the pattern:
"And the Children of Israel did evil in the eyes of G-d and they worshiped the Ba'al [a form of tree worship] And they left G-d, the G-d of their forefathers, who took them out of Egypt and they went after other gods, gods of the surrounding nations, and they bowed down to them and G-d was angry with them."
Shoftim (Judges) 2:11-12
"And the Children of Israel continued to do evil in the eyes of G-d and G-d strengthened Eglon the King of Moav [Moab] on Israel [for the reason that] they did evil in G-d's eyes."
Shoftim (Judges) 3:12
"And the Children of Israel cried out to G-d and G-d set up for them a redeemer Ehud the son of Geira and son of the tribe of Binyamin [Benjamin] left-handed [who put his sword on] his right side and the Children of Israel sent him to with a gift to Eglon the King of of Moav."
Shoftim (Judges) 3:15
"And Ehud sent out his left arm and he took the sword from his right hip and he thrust it into [Eglon]'s belly."
Shoftim (Judges) 3:21

In other words, the Children of Israel sin, G-d punishes them by sending a strengthened enemy, they cry to G-d, he sends a champion who routs the enemy and that's that... well, at least until the next time....

And that's the story all through the book of Shoftim.

One of stories that goes this way is the story of Devora [Deborah]. She is described:

"And Devora was a woman, a Prophetess, a woman of the flames, she judged Israel at that time"
Shoftim (Judges) 4:4

(The above translations are all my own interpretation of the Hebrew) Many people translate the "a woman of the flames" as "the wife of Lapidot". I prefer my translation. The Flames represent the Tora, so I believe this is a hint to all that Devora was learned in Tora law and could hold her own with any male judge.

Barak the son of Avinoam was the General of the Army and he wouldn't go to war without Devora by his side. Devora joined Barak and, with G-d's help, they defeated their enemies.

Devora then sang a song to G-d (in the same way as the generation that was released from slavery in Egypt sang a song to G-d at the Red Sea -- the woman also sang to G-d with dancing an tambourines). Because this song is similar to the song that the Children of Israel sang at the Red Sea, this portion is read as the Haftora the week the Red Sea song is read as the Tora portion (a Haftora is a portion of the Prophets that connects somehow to the Tora reading of the day).

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