A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was childless, unable to give birth. — Judges 13:2
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.
Sometimes when we are going through difficult times, it seems like our challenges go on forever. It seems like rain might dominate our lives while we long for the warm embrace of sunshine.
In this week’s Torah portion, we read about a person who chose to become a Nazirite. In this week’s Haftorah, we read about one of the most famous Nazirites: Samson. In Samson’s case, he was designated as a lifelong Nazirite before he was born. In our Haftorah, we read about the prediction of Samson’s birth, his requirement to live as a Nazirite, and his destiny to rescue the Israelites from their oppressors.
Until Samson’s birth, the verse tells us that his mother was barren. Not only was she barren, she was “childless, unable to give birth.” In other words, it was physically impossible for her to have a baby. What a dark time that must have been for her, trying year after year to conceive while others around her gave birth to baby after baby. It must have seemed like her prayers would never be answer and her trial might never end.
Then, one day, an angel of God appeared to Samson’s mother and told her that she would have a special baby dedicated to God. Samson’s mother was elated and she ran to tell her husband, Manoah, about the angel’s visit. But Manoah didn’t believe it, and he asked God to send the mysterious man again.
The angel reappeared and Manoah heard for himself all that his wife had already been told. Now something strange happens. Manoah invited the angel to stay for dinner, even though he knew that angels don’t eat. It’s as if Manoah was still not convinced that this man was a messenger of God. Only when the angel disappeared into a fire and ascended to heaven was Manoah convinced that the angel was sent from God.
Instead of rejoicing, however, he lamented because he believed that he and his wife would die since they had seen such a holy sight. Manoah’s wife, ever the optimist, reassured him that God would do no such thing. The Haftorah concludes with the healthy birth of baby Samson.
Friends, sometimes after we’ve been through hard times for so long, it’s hard to believe that life will get better. But don’t be like Manoah who doubted and feared even as things were getting better. Be like his wife who believed that God was sending blessings and that the future looked sunny and bright. How appropriate that she named her son Samson, a derivative of the Hebrew word that means “sunshine.”
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President