A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was childless, unable to give birth. The angel of the LORD appeared to her and said, “You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son.” — Judges 13:2–3
The Torah portion for this week is Naso, which means “count,” from Numbers 4:21–7:89, and the Haftorah is from Judges 13:2–25.
I recently read an inspiring story about an Israeli couple, Shlomo and Shiraz, who had struggled for years with fertility issues. Finally, after six years of disappointment, the couple found out that they were expecting twins! Their prayers had been answered abundantly, and when the time came, two healthy children – one girl and one boy – were born. But the story does not stop there.
Shortly after the birth of the twins, Shlomo and Shiraz discovered that their son had Down syndrome. However, these joy-filled parents explained how they never felt despair from the news — only endless love and gratitude for the gift of their child. Shiraz admits that without the six hard years of longing for a child, she may not have been able to handle the news as gracefully as she did. In fact, studies have shown that approximately one-third of parents who give birth to children with Down syndrome abandon their babies in the hospital. But for Shlomo and Shiraz, their son was a gift that they greatly cherished even if he came in packaging that was different than expected.
The title of Shlomo’s new book which tells the family’s story, This Is the Son That I Prayed For, says it all. Sometimes our prayers are answered in ways that we didn’t expect, but they are answered nonetheless. Moreover, sometimes God waits for the right moment to answer our prayers – sometimes a very long time – so that we might recognize His answer for the blessing that it truly is.
In this week’s Haftorah reading, we learn about another Israelite woman who struggled with having children. We know her only as the wife of Manoah and future mother of Samson, the great hero of Israel. She, too, prayed for many long years for a child. Finally, an angel appeared to her and told her that while she was technically barren, she would become pregnant and give birth. However, there was a caveat. Her son would be a Nazarite from even before his birth, and many restrictions would apply to him and her as well.
He would be dedicated to God from birth and would be destined to lead Israel. Perhaps, had Samson’s mother received such news the first time she prayed for a son, she might have been upset. Why must her child be singled out from the rest? Why must he be taken from her and given over to God? Yet after years of praying and waiting, all she could feel was joy and gratitude.
Friends, don’t be discouraged when prayers aren’t answered right away. Sometimes, it’s just not the right time. Keep praying and keep believing – and then be thankful for what you have prayed for!
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President