Haftarah Nasso: Reading the Text III
“Now therefore, please be careful, and do not drink fresh wine or old wine and do not eat anything impure. For behold, you will conceive and bear a son, no razor may touch his head, for a Nazir of the Lord, the boy shall be from the womb, and he will begin to rescue the Jews from the hands of the Philistines.”
The commentaries debate as to whether she was ready pregnant or if the angel was telling her that she will conceive.
The literal translation implies that she had yet to conceive, meaning that she had to practice these laws of Nezirut even before Samson was conceived.
The angel says that the boy will be a Nazir of the Lord, the Divine Attribute of Judgment, appropriate for the next Judge of Israel.
“Begin to save the Jews,” only begin, not actually save, meaning that he will start a process. The Talmud teaches that this was because of the covenant made by Abraham with Avimelech, the King of the Pelishtim. The Pelishtim were violating the terms of the covenant, and Samson would begin, or Hacheil, which also means to nullify an oath, to respond for Israel.
Samson’s “beginning to save Israel,” is placed in the same verse as his being a Nazir, as if the two are related. It is interesting to note that the Judge who would anoint the first king of Israel and David who would crush the Pelishtim was also a Nazir; Samuel’s mother promised that her son would be a Nazir. Another mother, introduced after the important father, as in our story. It’s also interesting that Chana the mother of Samuel the Nazir, Judge, appointee and anointer of kings, who would finish off the Pelishtim, was accused by Eli haKohen of drinking too much wine.
Tzlalfonit was not commanded to not become impure, but to not eat anything impure. nothing seems straightforward.
The prohibition against cutting his hair is passive; “no razor may touch his head,” and is a normal part of Nezirut, yet is singled out.
Why does Tzlalfonit not share the most important part of the prediction that the boy would begin to save Israel, with her husband?
Everything seems tied in with beginnings: Conception, begin to save Israel, begin to nullify the oath etc. Samson would have to be conceived, born and raised in an environment of everything is new and just a beginning. Nothing is complete; even the laws of Samson’s Nezirut! Tzlalfonit is a new woman, no longer barren. He would have to be raised with awareness that he would not complete saving the Jews; his process would only be completed by Samuel the Prophet.
Israel had been rescued by one judge after another, only to fall again into sin and, as a result, into the hands of enemies. They had succeeded only at “beginnings,” but never at consistency, constancy, or completion.
They were to see their best and worst reflected in Samson.
Tzlalfonit immediately understood the message, and understood that she could only begin to inform her husband of what would happen and that the Man of the Lord would have to return to continue his message to Manoach.
A regular Nazir is not a permanent state. It is a jump start for a new stage in spiritual development.
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