The portion from the Prophets that we chant this Shabbos opens with the following words:
“Devorah was a prophetess, ‘aishes lapidos’ – a woman of fiery enthusiasm; she judged Israel at that time. She would sit under the Date Palm of Devorah
between Ramah and Beth-el on Mount Ephraim, and the Children of Israel would go up to her for judgement.” (Judges 4:4,5) – The translation of “aishes lapidos”
as “a woman of fiery enthusiasm” is according to biblical commentators such as the Ralbag and Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch.)
The judges who were appointed to judge the People of Israel also taught the people Torah. And the place where Devorah taught and judged the people was known
as “The Date Palm of Devorah.” As we know, the verses in our Sacred Scriptures can have several levels of meaning, and I would therefore like to suggest
a deeper reason why this tree became known as “The Date Palm of Devorah.” As we discussed in the previous letter, the life-giving words and deeds of the
righteous are compared to the life-giving fruits of the date palm, as it is written: “A righteous person will flourish like a date palm” (Psalm 92:13).
Devorah – through her life-giving words and deeds – had become a nurturing “tree”; thus, the place where this righteous teacher nurtured our people became
known as “The Date Palm of Devorah.”
The story that we chant this Shabbos first mentions “The Date Palm of Devorah” before it tells the story of how Devorah was able to inspire our people to
fight against a strong enemy that was oppressing us (Judges, chapter 4). And the story concludes with the victorious “Song of Devorah” (chapter 5). Perhaps
this sequence serves as a reminder that our ability to live securely in the Promised Land derives from our willingness to follow the Torah teachings which
Devorah taught us. Before we can merit to sing the “Song of Devorah,” we first have to sit under the Date Palm of Devorah.
The Torah is our covenant with the One Who gave us this Sacred Land. And the way for our people to achieve lasting prosperity and shalom in the Land is
through rededicating ourselves to the path of the Torah, as the Compassionate One proclaimed:
“If you will walk in My statutes and keep My mitzvos and fulfill them; then I will give you your rains in their seasons; the earth will yield its produce,
and the tree of the field will yield its fruit. Your threshing season will extend until the vintage, and the vintage will extend until the sowing season.
You will eat your bread until you are satisfied, and you will live securely in your land. I will grant shalom in the land, and you will lie down with none
to frighten you; I will cause harmful beasts to disappear from the land, and a sword will not cross your land.” (Leviticus 26:3-6)
We have tried various other methods to achieve true shalom in the Land, but they have not worked; however, if we help each other and all our brethren to
renew the Covenant, we can merit the complete fulfillment of the following verse from the “Song at the Sea” that we chant this Shabbos:
“You will bring them home and implant them on the mountain of Your heritage, the place prepared to be Your dwelling-place that You, O Compassionate One
have made – the Sanctuary, my God, that Your hands established” (Exodus 15:17).
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See Below)
P.S. Rabbi Moshe Cordovero was a leading kabbalist of the 16th century who lived in Tsfat, a city in the northern region of the Land of Israel. Among his
works is a book which offers a kabbalistic interpretation of the mitzvah to emulate the ways of the Compassionate One, and the title that he gave to this
work is, “The Date Palm of Devorah.” Although he does not explain the reason for this title, it is reasonable to assume that his choice of this title indicates
that the Date Palm of Devorah alludes to life-giving spiritual fruits.
Targum Press has published an English edition of this classical work, which is titled “The Palm Tree of Devorah”; it is distributed by Feldheim:
Hazon – Our Universal Vision: