One of 12 biblical judges was female, Devorah, and her story is recounted in the Book of Judges 4:4-5:31. We read about Devorah, who was also a prophetess, on Shabbat Shira, Sabbath of Song, which took place last month, on Jan. 18-19.
This is the story: Devorah rallies her husband, Barak, the Israelite army general, to action against Yavin, the king of Canaan, and his seemingly invincible general, Sisera. The Israelites win and when Sisera flees the battlefield, he arrives at the tent of Yael, who plies him with milk until he becomes drowsy and then hammers a tent peg into his forehead, killing him.
Devorah then sings a song in praise of God, the heroes and the heroine of the story. (This is why it is read on Shabbat Shira.) The poem is lengthy and complex, reflecting, according to a commentary by Rabbi Mordechai Willig, that she was a cerebral leader, a judge and military strategist.
Devorah, he says, represents women who work out of the home, as many more women do than in past generations, which provides an opportunity for sanctifying God’s name. When people see a Jewish woman’s honesty and politeness, they are moved to love God.
The song of Devorah, says Rabbi Willig, demonstrates there are many ways for women to perform God’s work