Haftarah: Nasso: Identity
Judges 13:2-25: From the opening moments of the Samson story, the participants do not understand their roles. The verse introduces Manoah, but then describes how the angel appeared to his wife, not to him. He did not understand
the message and asked God to send the “Man of God” again. God answered Manoah and the angel reappeared, but, to his wife, not to him. She runs to get her husband, who is terrified and is convinced they will die because of what they had seen. “Had God wanted to put us to death, He would not have accepted from our hand an elevation offering and a meal offering, nor would He have shown us all this, nor would He let us hear such tidings at this time!” (13:23) Manoah’s nameless wife, was correct, but we can understand Manoah’s confusion. He prayed for the reappearance and the angel comes to his wife, not to him.
The angel had detailed instructions for the mother, but none for the father. Was he to be considered the father? Manoah did not receive a clear answer.
Manoah’s wife is also in a strange situation. “She was barren and had not given birth.” (13:2) The angels informs her, “”Behold now – you are barren and have not given birth (thanks – I didn’t know) but you shall conceive and give birth to a son.” (13:3) Yippee! What great news! Finally, a child. “The lad shall be a nazirite of God from the womb, and he will begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” (13:5)
Will he be MY child? I have been barren for so long and now I will give birth to a child who will belong to God. Samson’s mother did not have a clear answer.
What about the boy, Samson: Was he a boy or “a Nazirite from birth”? Was he a regular person or was he something else?
“The spirit of God began to intermittently resound in him.” (3:25) The Divine Spirit would come and go. There were moments when he was infused with the Divine Spirit and moments when he was just himself. What was he? Samson did not have a clear answer.
No wonder so much of the Samson story is about things torn in two: A lion torn in half, two foxes tied together, and two pillars. No wonder it is so challenging to understand this great and powerful hero.
We are lifted and raised in the portion of Nasso. We attain the heights of the Blessing of the Cohanim and fall with the suspected adulterous woman. We rise to dedicate the Altar of the Mishkan and we fall in sin.
What are we when God lifts us? How can we live as normal human beings with the knowledge that we can attain such phenomenal heights?
This was the challenge of Samson as it was the challenge for those who participated in constructing a House for God, and as it is for us as well as we leave the Revelation at Sinai on Shavuot. Who are we?