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The Birth of Shimshon

The Haftorah for Parshat Naso (Shoftim13:2-25) is the fascinating story of the birth of Shimshon (Samson), who would grow up to have a complicated life, yet still be a great hero for the people of Israel.

The obvious connection to the parsha is the fact that Shimshon was a nazir, and was forbidden to cut his hair, drink wine or become impure. But his form of nezirut was much more extreme than what the parsha describes, as a typical nazir only had these restrictions for 30 days, but not only was Shimshon a Nazir for life, his nezirut started in utero, as his mother had to take upon herself these very same restrictions. In fact, the gemara in Massechet Nazir refers to this phenomenon as Nazir Shimshon, a special type of extreme nezirut that was named after him.

But there is also a less obvious connection to the Parsha, in the discussion of the Sotah. When an accused woman is found to be not guilty as a result of the ritual of the bitter waters, she is rewarded with an immediate pregnancy and the birth of a son. The assumption is that the suspected sotah was barren and unable to conceive a child, and miraculously becomes pregnant.

While no one suspected Shimshon’s mother of adultery, she, like the mothers of so many other great leaders of Israel, Shimshon’s mother was barren and unable to have children. Sarah was barren at first, as was Rachel (Yoseph’s mother), and later Chana (Shmuel’s mother).

In the parsha, the portion of the nazir comes right after the portion of the sotah. The connection is clear that even though wine and alcohol are permissible, and even sanctified, in Judaism, too much alcohol can lead to frivolous behavior, and thus the suspicion of adultery (this can be too much alcohol on the part of the husband OR the wife).

And in the Haftorah, the refraining from alcohol on the part of Shimshon’s mother removes any doubt from anyone in Israel that Shimshon is the child of his mother and father, and that no one EVER behaved inappropriately.

Shimson’s nameless mother (the gemara in Baba Batra identifies her as Tzlelponit) is clearly the main character in this story. The angel appeared to her alone first. And the second time, he appeared first to Shimshon’s mother, and only later did her husband, Manoach, join her. The Angel’s instructions were directed at Shimshon’s mother, both on her pregnancy and how she should raise the child.

She was clearly a tzadeket, and was thus chosen by God for this special task, as she had to take on extra responsibilities in giving birth to and raising Shimshon.

Jewish tradition teaches us that a mother's behavior during pregnancy can have both spiritual and physical implications for the child. This includes food consumed by the mother (even though non-Kosher food may be allowed for a mother if absolutely necessary, consult a local Orthodox Rabbi if need be), this is clearly something that is avoided. There is also a tradition for a pregnant mother to increase her observance of Torah and Mitzvot on behalf of the child, as we believe this will have an effect on him or her as well. In the story of Shimshon all this is just taken to a higher level

It’s interesting to note that modern science agrees that a pregnant woman should not have alcohol, and should be careful with what she consumes in general, out of concern for the baby’s health. Shimshon’s mother was clearly ahead of her time - another important lesson from the Haftorah!



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