This Shabbat is Shabbat Shira, the Shabbat of Song (where we read Az Yashir, the Song of the Sea and the Haftara is Shirat Devora, Devora’s song). This Shabbat we also celebrate Tu B’Shvat, the fifteenth day of the Hebrew month of Shvat, the birthday of the trees.
What is the connection between the story of Devora and the holiday of Tu B’Svat?
In the book of Shoftim (Judges) 4:4-5 we read: “Devora was a prophetess, a fiery woman; she judged Israel at that time. She would sit under the date palm of Devora, between Rama and Beit-El on Mt. Ephraim and B’nai Yisrael would go up to her for judgment.”
Why was the tree called Tomer Devora, the Date Palm of Devora?
According to Rashi, Devora was a wealthy woman who owned date palms in Jericho, vineyards in Rama, olive groves in Beit El as well as a sown grain field in Mt. Ephraim.
What is the significance of the date palm?
We learn in Bamidbar Raba 3:1: “No part of the palm tree is wasted: every part may be used: Its dates are for eating, its lulav branches are for waving in praise on Sukkot, its dried up branches are thatch for roofing (including schach for the sukka), its fibers are for ropes, its leaves for sieves and its planed trunks for house beams.
In 2008, a 2000 year old date pit was found in Israel and planted in Kibbutz Ketura. Today the tree is over ten feet tall and can make dates. We see from here that even the pits can be recycled 2000 years later.
Tu B’Shvat is our opportunity to appreciate the trees in Israel including the date palm, olive tree and grapevines which Devora the prophetess owned.
Those who are not in Israel can buy dates, olive oil and wine from Israel, all exported in large quantities throughout the world.