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St. Deborah


Commemorated on December 17

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 God to remove His protective providence from Israel, and foreign oppressors exercised control over parts of the country. Nevertheless, the people never lost their allegiance to the Torah and its Giver. God chose 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.

Deborah was already well known as a prophetess and respected for her godly character. She did not formulate rulings in the traditional manner, but was God’s spokesperson. For this reason, she was considered an exception to the rule 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. Together with her husband, Deborah made wicks for the Menorah in the Temple, thus helping to spread the light of God among her people. Her hope and aspiration were that each person would find a deeper understanding and connection to God. For that reason, God selected her to motivate Israel to re-embrace the Torah.

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 God’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.

The “Song of Deborah” celebrates Israel’s victory over her enemies and the return to the observance of the Torah. Time and again, Deborah connected Israel to their divine lifeline, referring back to the moment when the Torah was given at Mount Sinai.

By permission of