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Deborah: Oldest of All Judges Chapter 5 in Torah

September 27, 2013

How is this that the oldest text of the Torah concerns a leader who is a woman when all the time it seemed that males dominated everything although of course this is absurd.  Women were the inspiration for the primordial lives of everyone on earth and yet we act as if they are of little value.  Who is in charge?  We know the answer to this.
Deborah: Prophet, Mother And Judge
Judges Chapters 4 – 5
Historical Background
“Deborah became Judge at a time when Israel was experiencing a spiritual and moral decline, partly due to the loss of their national leaders, Moses and Joshua. “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was proper in his own eyes.”  Judges 17:6; 21:25 
“There were episodes of extreme sinfulness that caused Yahveh to remove His protective providence from Israel, and foreign oppressors would exercise control over parts of the country.  Nevertheless, the people never lost their allegiance to the Torah and it’s Giver. Yahveh chose leaders (judges) who rallied the people to repent and regain His favor, expel the oppressor and enjoy a period of tranquility, until the nation slid downward again and the whole cycle would repeat. In reading the Book of Judges, it is essential to note that the combined years of peace and righteousness far outnumbered the years of failure and persecution. Judges were always chosen by Yahveh, and whenever they called for repentance the people responded.”
“Why did Yahveh appoint Deborah to the highest public office in the land, at a time when women were not permitted to hold public office?”
Deborah’s Ability To Inspire
“Deborah was already well known as a prophetess and respected for her godly character. As a prophet, she did not formulate rulings in the traditional manner, but was Yahveh’s spokesperson. For this reason, she was considered an exception to the ruling that a judge be male. Her feminine character was appropriate for leading that particular generation, as Deborah herself stated: “I arose as a mother to Israel.”  Judges 5:7
“Deborah’s unique vitality radiated from the privacy of her own home to the public, where it inspired the entire nation. Her ability to inspire and empower was the source of her effectiveness, both as a public leader and as a wife.”
“The Torah tells us that Deborah was the “wife of Lapidot” ~ Lapidot means “torches” ~ Together with her husband, Deborah made wicks for the Menorah in the Temple, thus helping to spread the light of Yahveh among her people. Her hope and aspiration were that each person will find a deeper understanding and connection to Yahveh. For that reason Yahveh selected her to motivate Israel to re-embrace Torah.” 
Deborah prophesied and led her nation from her seated place under a date palm. “A prophetess, the wife of Lapidot; she sat under the date palm of Deborah, between Ramah and Bethel on Mount Ephraim, and the children of Israel went up to her for judgement.” Judges 4:5
“The date palm was a symbol for Deborah’s generation. Just as the life giving sap of a date palm is limited to its trunk, Deborah’s generation had limited access to the life force of Torah, because it had so few Torah scholars. The date palm’s minimal shade represents the relative absence of spiritual and physical protection without Torah. On the other hand, it was also a symbol of Israel’s strength, and the concentration of sap in the trunk typified the unity of their faith. These characteristics seemed to be contradicting, yet both extremes were true of the Prophetess‘ generation.”
“Deborah’s understanding of Israel’s potential for spiritual greatness stemmed from her maternal love. She held hope for Israel and inspired a renewed sense of value as Yahveh’s chosen people, and exhibited a woman’s ability to instill rather than impose, to invigorate rather than force, and to cultivate rather than command.”
“As judge, Deborah brought a feminine sensibility to a male dominated office. She referred to herself as a “Mother to Israel” and her commitment to nurturing fit this title. Deborah’s leadership style was selfless, focusing on the people rather than on herself. This, together with her appreciation and knowledge of Torah and her prophetic gift, marked her for national rejuvenation. Deborah embraced and utilized the full extent of a woman’s power for positive change. As wife, judge, prophetess and mother, and in the role of commander-in-chief, she was indeed ‘a Mother to Israel’, sustaining her feminine power to educate, encourage and uplift, even in times of war.”
Regarding Israel’s battle against Jabin, the book of Judges states: 
“Yahveh sold Israel into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, the captain of whose host was Sisera. And the children of Israel cried to Yahveh, for he (Jabin) had nine hundred chariots of iron and twenty years he strongly oppressed the children of Israel.”  Judges 2:3
“While Israel was no military match for Sisera, Deborah prophesied that Yahveh will nonetheless lead them to victory. As commander-in-chief, Deborah showed the same unwavering dedication to Torah that she exhibited as judge. She staffed her army with members from the families of Zebulun and Naphtali – two of the twelve tribes of Israel.” 
“She sent and summoned Barak and said to him, Behold, Yahveh, the Elohim of Israel, has commanded saying, go and gather your men to mount Tabor, and take with you ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and the children of Zebulun. And I will draw out to you, to the brook of Kishon, Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude, and I will deliver him into your hand.”  Judges 4:6-8 
“Barak responded: “If you will go with me, then I will go, but if you will not go with me, then I will not go.”  Judges 4:8  It was not because of his lack of faith in Yahveh’s Word that Barak made this request. Rather, he wanted Deborah’s presence to insure that Israel will acknowledge the miraculous success of his mission in her presence.”
The Song Of Deborah
“Barak’s name appears favorably in the famous “Song of Deborah” which praises Yahveh for His assistance in Jabin’s defeat: “Deborah sang, as well as Barak son of Abinoam, on that day saying, Bless Yahveh.” Judges 5:1-2
“The “Song of Deborah” celebrates Israel’s victory and return to Torah observance. Time and again in her song, Deborah connected Israel to their divine lifeline, referring back to the moment when the Torah was given at Mount Sinai.” 
“While leading the nation, Deborah continued to function as judge, teacher and commander-in-chief, however, she saw herself primarily as “Mother to Israel.”  The word “mother” is linked to Deborah’s patient nurturing of the nation of Israel back to spiritual health, much like a mother would nurture her child back to physical health. Deborah had the capacity to inspire change with a mother’s ability to admonish, in ways that encouraged and motivated her followers to create a better life.”
“Accordingly, when we effect positive change and inspire strength and commitment in others, we contribute to our own well being. As we grow in spiritual service and awareness, we influence our family, benefit others and partner with Yahveh in changing the world around us.”
Admonishing The People
“Why did the tribes of Reuben stay behind with the sheep… the tribe of Gad stayed east of the Jordan? The tribe of Dan remained by the ships, the tribe of Asher stayed by the coast and remained along the shore… But the people of Zebulun did risk their lives in battle; so did the people of Naphtali.”  Judges 5:16-18
Deborah’s reason for condemning the tribes that did not take part in the battle: “For they did not come to the aid of Yahveh with the victors.”  Judges 5:23
“Israel’s conquest and settlement of the Land was a slow and painful process. They faced constant harassment from the Canaanites on the higher land, and the Philistines on the southern coastal plain, and their survival depended on their loyalty to Yahveh, while disloyalty always led to disaster.”
“In her song of joy and praise to Yahveh for the victory over Jabin, the Prophetess reprimanded the tribes of Reuben, Gad, Dan and Asher for not joining in the war effort against the Canaanites. At the same time she praised the tribes that did participate – namely Zebulun, Issachar, Naphtali, Ephraim, and Manasseh.”
“For they did not come to the aid of Yahveh with the victors.” 
Why does the verse not say “they did not come to the aid of Deborah and Barak”?
“Yahveh helps us in our daily life and through that help He shows us that He is the source of all our blessing. The victory over the ‘superior’ Canaanites made a deep impression on all who were part of it. When the people of Israel witnessed the miraculous intervention in their favor “they believed in Yahveh.”  Knowing by hearsay is not the same as knowing by actual experience. The people’s renewed faith would not have taken place so readily had they not actually been there at the time.”
“The absent tribes only learned about the miracles by report. Had they been present, there would have been unity throughout northern Israel, resulting in a revival and total abandonment of idolatry. To Deborah’s great disappointment, the opportunity to unite the people as a nation was thus lost, thus Israel continued in their tribal existence until Samuel came to power.”
“To “come to the aid of Yahveh” means to be where Yahveh can be their aid – to let Him bring the people to One Faith. Deborah criticized the more distant tribes for not having participated in this unique spiritual opportunity to come close to Yahveh, and to create the unity that Israel needed for survival and success.”


1. Now Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam sang on that day, saying.   א. וַתָּשַׁר דְּבוֹרָה וּבָרָק בֶּן אֲבִינֹעַם בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא לֵאמֹר:
2. “When breaches are made in Israel, when the people offer themselves willingly, bless the Lord.   ב. בִּפְרֹעַ פְּרָעוֹת בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל בְּהִתְנַדֵּב עָם בָּרְכוּ יְהֹוָה:
3. Hear, O kings, give ear, O princes; I, to the Lord I shall sing, I shall sing to the Lord, the God of Israel.   ג. שִׁמְעוּ מְלָכִים הַאֲזִינוּ רֹזְנִים אָנֹכִי לַיהֹוָה אָנֹכִי אָשִׁירָה אֲזַמֵּר לַיהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:
4. Lord, when You went forth out of Seir, when You marched out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, the heavens also dripped; also the clouds dripped water.   ד. יְהֹוָה בְּצֵאתְךָ מִשֵּׂעִיר בְּצַעְדְּךָ מִשְּׂדֵה אֱדוֹם אֶרֶץ רָעָשָׁה גַּם שָׁמַיִם נָטָפוּ גַּם עָבִים נָטְפוּ מָיִם:
5. The mountains melted at the presence of the Lord, this (was at) Sinai, because of the presence of the Lord, the God of Israel.   ה. הָרִים נָזְלוּ מִפְּנֵי יְהֹוָה זֶה סִינַי מִפְּנֵי יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:
6. In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, caravans ceased, and travellers walked on crooked paths.   ו. בִּימֵי שַׁמְגַּר בֶּן עֲנָת בִּימֵי יָעֵל חָדְלוּ אֳרָחוֹת וְהֹלְכֵי נְתִיבוֹת יֵלְכוּ אֳרָחוֹת עֲקַלְקַלּוֹת:
7. The open cities ceased, in Israel they ceased, until I Deborah arose; I arose as a mother in Israel.   ז. חָדְלוּ פְרָזוֹן בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל חָדֵלּוּ עַד שַׁקַּמְתִּי דְּבוֹרָה שַׁקַּמְתִּי אֵם בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל:
8. When they chose new gods, then there was war in the cities; was there seen a shield or a spear (when the) forty thousand (went against) Israel?   ח. יִבְחַר אֱלֹהִים חֲדָשִׁים אָז לָחֶם שְׁעָרִים מָגֵן אִם יֵרָאֶה וָרֹמַח בְּאַרְבָּעִים אֶלֶף בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל:
9. My heart is toward the lawgivers of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people, (saying,) ‘Bless the Lord.’   ט. לִבִּי לְחוֹקְקֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הַמִּתְנַדְּבִים בָּעָם בָּרֲכוּ יְהֹוָה:
10. The riders of white donkeys, those that sit in judgment, and those that walk on the path, tell of it.   י. רֹכְבֵי אֲתֹנוֹת צְחֹרוֹת ישְׁבֵי עַל מִדִּין וְהֹלְכֵי עַל דֶּרֶךְ שִֹיחוּ:
11. Instead of the noise of adversaries, between the places of drawing water, there they will tell the righteous acts of the Lord, the righteous acts of restoring open cities in Israel. Then the people of the Lord went down to the cities.   יא. מִקּוֹל מְחַצְצִים בֵּין מַשְׁאַבִּים שָׁם יְתַנּוּ צִדְקוֹת יְהֹוָה צִדְקֹת פִּרְזֹנוֹ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל אָז יָרְדוּ לַשְּׁעָרִים עַם יְהֹוָה:
12. Praise! Praise! Deborah. Praise! Praise! Utter a song. Arise Barak, and capture your captives, son of Abinoam.   יב. עוּרִי עוּרִי דְּבוֹרָה עוּרִי עוּרִי דַּבְּרִי שִׁיר קוּם בָּרָק וּשֲׁבֵה שֶׁבְיְךָ בֶּן אֲבִינֹעַם:
13. Then ruled a remnant among the mighty of the nations; the Lord dominated the strong for me.   יג. אָז יְרַד שָׂרִיד לְאַדִּירִים עָם יְהֹוָה יְרַד לִי בַּגִּבּוֹרִים:
14. Out of Ephraim, whose root was against Amalek; after you (will be) Benjamin with your abaters; out of Machir came down officers, and out of Zebulun they that handle the pen of the scribe.   יד. מִנִּי אֶפְרַיִם שָׁרְשָׁם בַּעֲמָלֵק אַחֲרֶיךָ בִנְיָמִין בַּעֲמָמֶיךָ מִנִּי מָכִיר יָרְדוּ מְחֹקְקִים וּמִזְּבוּלֻן מֹשְׁכִים בְּשֵׁבֶט סֹפֵר:
15. And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah, as was Issachar with Barak; into the valley they rushed forth with their feet. (But) among the divisions of Reuben, (there were) great resolves of heart.   טו. וְשָׂרַי בְּיִשָּׂשׂכָר עִם דְּבֹרָה וְיִשָּׂשׂכָר כֵּן בָּרָק בָּעֵמֶק שֻׁלַּח בְּרַגְלָיו בִּפְלַגּוֹת רְאוּבֵן גְּדֹלִים חִקְקֵי לֵב:
16. Why do you sit between the borders, to hear the bleatings of the flocks? At the divisions of Reuben, (there are) great searchings of heart.   טז. לָמָּה יָשַׁבְתָּ בֵּין הַמִּשְׁפְּתַיִם לִשְׁמֹעַ שְׁרִקוֹת עֲדָרִים לִפְלַגּוֹת רְאוּבֵן גְּדוֹלִים חִקְרֵי לֵב:
17. Gilead abides beyond the Jordan; and Dan, why does he gather into the ships? Asher dwelt at the shore of the seas, and by his breaches he abides.   יז. גִּלְעָד בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן שָׁכֵן וְדָן לָמָּה יָגוּר אֳנִיּוֹת אָשֵׁר יָשַׁב לְחוֹף יַמִּים וְעַל מִפְרָצָיו יִשְׁכּוֹן:
18. Zebulun is a people that jeopardized their lives to die, as did Naphtali, upon the high places of the field.   יח. זְבֻלוּן עַם חֵרֵף נַפְשׁוֹ לָמוּת וְנַפְתָּלִי עַל מְרוֹמֵי שָׂדֶה:
19. The kings came and fought; then fought the kings of Canaan in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo; they took no gain of money.   יט. בָּאוּ מְלָכִים נִלְחָמוּ אָז נִלְחֲמוּ מַלְכֵי כְנַעַן בְּתַעְנַךְ עַל מֵי מְגִדּוֹ בֶּצַע כֶּסֶף לֹא לָקָחוּ:
20. From heaven they fought; the stars from their courses fought against Sisera.   כ. מִן שָׁמַיִם נִלְחָמוּ הַכּוֹכָבִים מִמְּסִלּוֹתָם נִלְחֲמוּ עִם סִיסְרָא:
21. The brook Kishon swept them away, that ancient brook, the brook Kishon; tread down, O my soul, (their) strength.   כא. נַחַל קִישׁוֹן גְּרָפָם נַחַל קְדוּמִים נַחַל קִישׁוֹן תִּדְרְכִי נַפְשִׁי עֹז:
22. Then were pounded the heels of the horses by reason of the prancings, the prancings of their mighty ones.   כב. אָז הָלְמוּ עִקְּבֵי סוּס מִדַּהֲרוֹת דַּהֲרוֹת אַבִּירָיו:
23. ‘Curse you Meroz,’ said the messenger of the Lord, ‘curse you bitterly (you) inhabitants thereof,’ because they came not to the aid of the Lord, to the aid of the Lord against the mighty.   כג. אוֹרוּ מֵרוֹז אָמַר מַלְאַךְ יְהֹוָה אֹרוּ אָרוֹר יֹשְׁבֶיהָ כִּי לֹא בָאוּ לְעֶזְרַת יְהֹוָה לְעֶזְרַת יְהֹוָה בַּגִּבּוֹרִים:
24. Blessed above women shall Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, be; above women in the tent shall she be blessed.   כד. תְּבֹרַךְ מִנָּשִׁים יָעֵל אֵשֶׁת חֶבֶר הַקֵּינִי מִנָּשִׁים בָּאֹהֶל תְּבֹרָךְ:
25. Water he requested, (but) milk she gave him: in a lordly bowl she brought him cream.   כה. מַיִם שָׁאַל חָלָב נָתָנָה בְּסֵפֶל אַדִּירִים הִקְרִיבָה חֶמְאָה:
26. She put forth her hand to the pin, and her right hand to strike the weary; she struck Sisera, pierced his head, and wounded and penetrated his temple.   כו. יָדָהּ לַיָּתֵד תִּשְׁלַחְנָה וִימִינָהּ לְהַלְמוּת עֲמֵלִים וְהָלְמָה סִיסְרָא מָחֲקָה רֹאשׁוֹ וּמָחֲצָה וְחָלְפָה רַקָּתוֹ:
27. At her feet he sank, fell, lay; at her feet he sank (and) fell; where he sank, there he fell down dead.   כז. בֵּין רַגְלֶיהָ כָּרַע נָפַל שָׁכָב בֵּין רַגְלֶיהָ כָּרַע נָפָל בַּאֲשֶׁר כָּרַע שָׁם נָפַל שָׁדוּד:
28. Through the window the mother of Sisera looked forth, and peered through the window; why is his chariot late in coming? Why tarry the strides of his chariots?   כח. בְּעַד הַחַלּוֹן נִשְׁקְפָה וַתְּיַבֵּב אֵם סִיסְרָא בְּעַד הָאֶשְׁנָב מַדּוּעַ בֹּשֵׁשׁ רִכְבּוֹ לָבוֹא מַדּוּעַ אֶחֱרוּ פַּעֲמֵי מַרְכְּבוֹתָיו:
29. The wisest of her princesses answer her, she too returns answers to herself.   כט. חַכְמוֹת שָׂרוֹתֶיהָ תַּעֲנֶינָּה אַף הִיא תָּשִׁיב אֲמָרֶיהָ לָהּ:
30. ‘Are they not finding (and) dividing the spoils? A damsel, two damsels to every man; a spoil of dyed garments to Sisera, a spoil of dyed garments of embroidery; dyed garments of embroidery for the neck of the spoiler.’   ל. הֲלֹא יִמְצְאוּ יְחַלְּקוּ שָׁלָל רַחַם רַחֲמָתַיִם לְרֹאשׁ גֶּבֶר שְׁלַל צְבָעִים לְסִיסְרָא שְׁלַל צְבָעִים רִקְמָה צֶבַע רִקְמָתַיִם לְצַוְּארֵי שָׁלָל:
31. So may perish all Your enemies, O Lord; but they that love Him (should be) as the sun when he goes forth in his might.” And the land rested forty years.   לא. כֵּן יֹאבְדוּ כָל אוֹיְבֶיךָ יְהֹוָה וְאֹהֲבָיו כְּצֵאת 
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