Haftarah: Nasso: Reading the Text I
“And there was a man from Tzarah, from the family of Dan, and his name was Manoach, and his wife was barren and had not given birth.” The verse begins as if Manoach is to be the focus of our story. Yet, we will soon see that it is his wife, not he, who is the main subject, at least, at the beginning.
We pointed out in the Thematic Questions that the Angel appeared to the wife because she was to follow the restrictions of a Nazir as long as the child was in her womb. However, we have also pointed out that the verse calls our attention to the simpleness, or, seeming simple mind of Manoach. Therefore, we must say that although Manoach’s role is not central at this time, eventually it will be.
Why does the verse say both that the wife of Manoach was barren and had not given birth? Obviously if she was barren she could not have given birth.
The verse wants us to know that she had never given birth and that she did not even have the physical organs necessary to have a child. This will make the birth of Samson all the more miraculous, leading us to ask, why was it necessary for the birth of Samson to be so extraordinary? We find the same type of miracle with the birth of Isaac who was born to a barren woman as well. However, Isaac seems to be much more essential to the development of the nation then does Samson. We also do not find the idea of the sanctity of a Nazir in the birth of Isaac.
We find one other leader being separated even before conception, Jeremiah. Jeremiah, a Kohen, which is also referred to as “Nizir Elokav.” Is there a connection?
We have a general rule which states that when a verse introduces someone by saying that “there was a man,” that the verse is informing us that the person was quite important. We can expect more from Manoach.
This Haftarah actually begins with the second verse of a chapter. The opening verse states that the Jews were doing evil in the eyes of God, and that God had given them over into the hands of the Philistines. With all the other Judges we find the Jews sending me, being punished, repenting and crying for help, and then, God sending a Judge to save them. Yet, in this story we find God appointing a Savior who will be unable to help them for quite a while. Even so, the appointment was now, at the time of conception.
Can it be that this step of separating Samson at conception, and informing his mother that he will save the Jews was an important step in the salvation of the Jews and not simply preparation?
The Alshich haKadosh says that these steps were to stimulate the Jews to repent. We will have to see if this is so; for when the woman informs her husband about the appearance of the “holy man,” and his promise, she happens to leave out that the child is destined to save the Jews; something which would certainly seem to be an important part of the news!
Why would the Jews repent upon hearing that a savior has been born? Would they believe Samson’s parents? Why was it necessary to find a Judge among those not yet born, instead of the quicker route, choosing someone who was already an adult?
The Alshich haKadosh says that the Jews had to know that Sampson had inherent sanctity because they would be later confused by his strange actions.
Perhaps people who were aware that the woman had no children suspected that she was barren. This would mean that when she was obviously pregnant, people would know that a miracle had occurred. A miracle gives hope. The miracle would allow the people to believe that the child soon to be born would be someone special. They would associate his strange physical appearance, his strength, and his even stranger actions with the miracle of his conception and birth.
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