Devorah by Devorah: A retelling based on midrash and modernity– By Deborah L.R. Kornfeld

Deborah, Prophet and Judge
Deborah, Prophet and Judge

You know, Chamoodim*, Safta** didn’t always stay home and bake cookies and play Uno with you. Long ago I was a super woman with a cape and a torch and work to be done and wars to win. Eshet Lapidot-(Torch Woman) was my hashtag. God provided the spark. Baby on my hip and one on my lap. I Listened and judged while the babes (your moms) nursed and napped. Under the palm tree day after day, this one told me his tzores and that one complained of his neighbors. The Rabbis thought I sat under that palm tree outside because it was proper and more appropriate, but the truth was it was hard enough keeping the house tidy with my crazy working hours and an active family and I didn’t want everybody traipsing in with their dirty, dusty feet. I got good at the judging gig and the people listened to me and trusted me and my reputation grew.

In the meantime life was tough for us, once again we were under the rule of the Cannaites who oppressed us and we cried out to God. God answered and I got called into action. It didn’t seem to make much difference to God that I was a female. If you’ve read the text you’ll see it just says, “and Devorah was a woman prophetess” no parades or big speeches about it. I was ready.

Now came the ultimate test. A battle to regain our sovereignty. This battle was as big as Joshua’s battle. The odds were against us. General Sisera had all the modern tools of warfare- nine hundred iron chariots and tons of soldiers. It was hard to convince your Saba Barak to enter the battle. I actually lost my patience with him and said some words that turned out to be true, but I do regret saying them. I prophesized that Sisera would meet his demise at the hand of a woman. I admit, I have a sharp tongue. In the end, I had to go down to the battle field with him which raised a couple of eyebrows.

I didn’t have a choice, I was commissioned by the Almighty to get this battle off the ground. I have to hand it to Saba he wasn’t this big macho guy falling apart or giving up just because I had knocked his masculinity just an itsy bitsy bit. He proved himself on the battlefield leading ten thousand soldiers from various tribes against Sisera’s forty thousand men. I was there strictly for strategy, moral support, war cries and so on. It was an incredible battle, we didn’t lose one man and Sisera’s army was demolished, finished, kaput. Saba, the army and I all worked our butts off, but this was no human victory. The weather changed “the earth trembled and the heavens dripped.”  And to top it all, out of nowhere came Yael and her tent pin fulfilling my prophecy and killing Sisera. It was a little brutal, and frankly I was happy to keep my own hands clean.

I am telling you when we finished we were on a battle high. We were jumping and dancing and then we sang. Saba Barak and I sang this poem. It came out spontaneously, together we just opened our mouths and through our laughter and tears we sang. I called myself “Mother of Israel” and I did rip into some of those tribes who had shirked their duty. I held a grudge or two. But I never forgot that our victory was due to the Almighty. I was a super woman, but I was human. The rabbis say that I lost my gift of prophecy because I was arrogant. The truth is I didn’t need it anymore. The people returned to God and there were forty years of peace and Saba and I went home.

So Chamoodim, have some cookies. I’ll show you my cape and my torch again. The flame is now an ember. We’ll keep it alive, you and me and Saba and your children when they grow up. You never know when we might have to raise the torch again. You never know when you might need a super hero, you never know when you might be called upon to be that super hero. But now my dears, it is time to go to sleep. Sweet dreams.

*Chamoodim is an endearment term used mostly for children
**Safta is the Hebrew term for grandmother