Rosh Hashanah Day One: Hanna’s Story
We read the story of Chanah on Rosh Hashanah because that was the day she was “redeemed” by God and granted a child. We tend to focus on Chana’s effective prayer and God’s positive response. However, the Haftarah does not
end with the miracle of Samuel’s conception and birth, it includes Chana’s prophetic song. It is all too easy to forget that we are not only interested in God’s response to our prayers; we are also concerned with our response to God answering a prayer.
The Zohar describes Chanah’s song as one of the two most powerful in the entire Bible, the other being the Song of Deborah in the Book of Judges.
Chanah did not sing her song immediately after the birth of Samuel. She waited until she had the opportunity to bring him to Shiloh, the home of the Mishkan, to live with the High Priest, Eli. She did not know until that moment if God had responded to her entire prayer. Chanah had not simply prayed for a child; she had prayed for a child who would be dedicated to God. She could sing only after she realized that God responded to all of her prayer.
We do not know what the Heavenly Court will decide on Rosh Hashanah. We will not know until we can look back on the year from the perspective of the following Rosh Hashanah. However, we must ask ourselves if our Rosh Hashanah prayer includes a song of celebration for all the prayers answered over the past year. Our supplications are empowered by expressions of joy and gratitude for the gifts we received over the past year.
(I suggest that we study the words of Chana’s song and compare them to the text of the Amidah of the High Holy Days.)
Chanah used her song as an opportunity to reflect on her successful prayer. “My mouth widened over my enemies, because I rejoiced in Your salvation.” Chanah did not believe that her prayer was successful because of her merit. She attributed her success to her trust that God would judge her meritoriously. We do not pray on Rosh Hashanah with the assumption that we merit God positively answering all our prayers. We pray with the confidence of a child looking to a parent. We trust in God’s love and commitment to guide us in maximizing our lives.