By Leah Larson
HerStory was a feature in which we interviewed a different historical Jewish woman in each issue. This interview with Devora first appeared in issue #10, Winter 2006/07
What time period do you live in?
After the Jews entered Eretz Yisroel, they were led by many judges in a transition time after great leaders like Moshe and Yehushua, but before the first king. Before I began judging, the people were uninspired and lacked leadership. They were in a vicious cycle of sinning, being punished, repenting, things finally getting good….and then sinning again.
What is your job?
I am a prophetess (nevia) and judge (shofetes) of Bnei Yisroel. There were seven prophetesses throughout history, but I am actually the only female judge. It seems like usually men have the public leadership roles. But Hashem chose me as the judge, and I’m determined to be the best judge I can be.
I judge from under a palm tree outside. I am careful about modestly, so I choose to judge men from outside instead of in my home.
Do you do have any side jobs/hobbies besides judging and prophesizing?
Yes, I also make the wicks for the menorah in the mishkan. I make the wicks very thick to increase the light they give off. I must tell you, my husband used to not be too interested in learning and spirituality. But I wanted to gently expose him to it, so he delivers the wicks to the mishkan for me. Thank G-d, now that he goes to the mishkan often, the atmosphere inspired him to learn more and help me ‘spread the light’, the light of Torah.
What is your technique in leading and judging the Jews?
I consider myself a mother of Israel. Instead of being harsh and threatening, I gently encourage and inspire the people and show them that I believe in them. It’s a similar technique to how I encouraged my husband. I believe this is a special gift that only a woman can add as a leader.
How were you involved in the war against Sisera?
As the leader of the Jewish people, it was also my job to lead them during war. I was the commander-in-chief of the army. My ability to prophesize helped me keep the people strong throughout war, reminding them that Hashem said that in the end they will overcome the enemy. And in the end they did, and I sang a special shira of praise to Hashem.
Do you think this uniquely female leadership was good for the Jewish people?
Definitely. During this time period I mentioned that the Jews were in a constant cycle of sinning and repenting, usually peace couldn’t last more than a few years before the people would sin and an enemy would attack. However, during my leadership there were forty steady years of peace. So it’s obvious that this mothering type of leadership really affected the people positively.