A few weeks ago, a 13 year old mystery was solved. Archaeologists had uncovered a 3,200-year-old round bronze tablet with a carved face of a woman at an excavation site that they believe was Harosheth Haggoyim, the local base of Sisera, captain of the Canaanite Army of King Yavin.
Archaeologists from the University of Haifa realized that the tablet, found at the El-ahwat excavation site near Katzir, is part of a linchpin that held the wheel of a battle chariot in place.
Oren Cohen of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa was quoted as saying that the round, bronze tablet, about 2 cm. in diameter and 5 mm. thick, features a carved face of a woman wearing a cap and earrings shaped as chariot wheels.
While studying ancient Egyptian reliefs depicting chariot battles, Professor Cohen noticed unique decorations! -The bronze linchpins fastening the chariot wheels of royalty and distinguished individuals were decorated with people’s faces. Cohen explained that these faces were those of captives, foreigners and enemies of Egypt.
If you were Sisera, the supreme leader of the Canaanite Army, would you put the faces of enemies on your gorgeous bronze engraved chariot? I think not.
If you were Sisera, you would take into battle with you something that reminded you of the one you loved the best. That is what warriors have done throughout the generations. Knights took the scarves of their ladies fair. Fighter pilots in World War II wrote the names of the loves they left behind on the nose of their plane.
Today macho fighters write their girls' names in tattoos on their arms.
Sisera must have done something similar. On the linchpin of his chariot, he put the face that meant the most to him in the world.
History and Me
And this is where I enter history. This year the Raise Your Spirits theater company is taking the stage with its latest production "Judge, the Story of Devorah." The show's director, Toby Klein Greenwald (and a co-writer with Yael Valier), sent out notice about the find to our cast: http://www.5tjt.com/international-news/7616-archaeologists-identify-sisera-chariot-in-sefer-shoftim .
Well, in this year's play, I portray Sisera's mother. Nowhere can we find a closer relationship between a mother and son than Sisera and his Mom. The Jewish People even learn how to blow the shofar on our holiest days, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, by the 101 heart wrenching cries of Sisera's mother, when she discovers he has been killed.
The image of Sisera's super-beloved mother waiting by the window has inspired artists throughout the generation to paint that woman who loved her son more than all else. She is the ultimate mother, "Through the window she gazed; Sisera's mother peered through the window, 'Why is his chariot delayed in coming? Why are the hoof beats of the carriages so late?'" (Judges 5:28)
Okay, she was calmed by possibilities of her son's brutality, but it takes a lot to comfort such an attached mother, right? "The wisest of her ladies answered her, and she too, offers herself responses. 'Are they not finding and dividing loot? A comely [captive], for every man; booty of colored garments for Sisera, booty of colored embroidery, colored, doubly embroidered garments for the necks of the looters." (Judges, 5:29-30 - Artscroll Tanach translation)
Really...a soldier goes into battle. His goal is to destroy the enemy and then bring back his gold and silver, weapons and priceless goods. What is Sisera going to bring back? Besides the slave girls (and what mother doesn't want a few more slaves to do the laundry and the cleaning), he's bringing back colored garments and embroidery – clothing and beautiful goods that his mother would love.
If in the heat of battle, he's spending time shopping for his mother, then whose face is going to be on his chariot??….Ba ba boing – his mother's, of course!
And why am I so sure?
Because in preparing for my role as Sisera's mother, I've carefully studied the Story of Devorah, and I know my character and that of my son's very well.
Our relationship is as close as mother and son could ever be. And so, despite what the hoity toity archaeologists and scientists say about the face on the linchpin of Sisera's chariot, I know in my very soul that when my son the general goes into battle, he takes not only my image in his heart, he takes my face on his wheels.
Hey... it even looks like me.