Each year on Tu B’Shvat we can fulfill the Torah’s Mitsvah (Leviticus 19:23): “When you come to the Land, you shall plant fruit trees.”
Tu B’Shvat is the first of a three month consecutive Jewish holiday series, the others being Purim and Passover, that fall on the 15th day of the month, which is the full term of the lunar cycle.
Just as a full term pregnant woman gives birth to the baby her body has created during the term of her pregnancy; these holidays celebrate the importance of Jewish woman in Jewish life.
Two of these three holidays explicitly start with a pair of woman. Purim starts with Vashti, who converted to Judaism after her exile from the Persian court, and Esther who was one of seven female prophets according to the Talmud (Megillah 14a).
Passover starts with Miriam, who would grow up to become a prophet; and Pharaoh’s daughter Bitya, who according to the Midrash converted to Judaism and left the Egyptian court to go with Moses and Miriam.
So were there also two Jewish women who were connected to the planting and harvesting of trees that we should know about?
Definitely. One was Deborah, the Prophet and Judge who held court under a palm tree named after her. (Judges 4:4-5) Deborah was the best known female prophet since the time of Miriam (Exodus 15:20), a generation or two previously.
Deborah had inherited from her mother some of the wooden tent pegs that secured Miriam’s tent, which was always erected close to Miriam’s well, that according to the Midrash followed the Jewish People in its travels in the Sinai wilderness.
This connection between Miriam the prophet and Deborah the prophet is why the story of Deborah’s leadership is the haftarah to Be-shallach where the Torah states that Miriam was a prophet.
Deborah started the liberation of northern Israel from Canaanite domination when she called the tribes of Israel to battle; and summoned Barak to lead them.
The revolt was finished off when the tent dwelling, convert to Judaism, Jael the Kenite, killed the Canaanite general Sisera with a wooden tent peg (Judges 4:18-22) that had first belonged to Prophet Miriam, which Jael had received from Prophet Deborah on the twentieth anniversary of Jael’s conversion to Judaism.