Shabbat Naso 5772

As interesting as Samson’s life was, the story of his birth announcement is just as fascinating. We read this story as the haftarah for Parshat Naso because both passages address the curious case of theNazir, whose dedication to God and holiness is to the extreme. You can read the full text of the haftarah here, but in short, a childless couple encounter an angel, whose promises of the birth of a special child are greeted by the husband, Manoah, and his unnamed wife with varying degrees of credulity.

At the very end of the story, God’s angel ascends in the flame of Manoah’s well-meaning offering. Though both Manoah and his wife hit the deck in awe, their verbal responses are quite different. He says (Judges 13:22), “We shall surely die, for we have seen a divine being.” She replies (v. 23), “Had the LORD meant to take our lives, He would not have accepted a burnt offering and meal offering from us, nor let us see all these things; and He would not have made such an announcement to us.”

The hysteria of Manoah’s response is tempered by his wife’s logical analysis of events. If we read the entire chapter carefully, we’ll notice that this is just the last of several moments where Manoah “just doesn’t get it, ” leading the rabbis to observe that “Manoah was a boorish, ignorant person” (Bavli Berakhot 61a). What else is there in Manoah’s behavior that leads the rabbis to this character analysis? And what lessons can we learn from the way he conducts himself? On Shabbat morning, we’ll look closely at the haftarah and what it teaches us.

Wishing you Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi David Wise