June 24, 2024
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June 24, 2024
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Zera Shimshon on Parshas Naso

דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם אִישׁ אוֹ אִשָּׁה כִּי יַפְלִא לִנְדֹּר נֶדֶר נָזִיר לְהַזִּיר לַידֹוָד

(במדבר ו:ב)

The halachos of Nazir are written in this week’s parsha and therefore the haftarah is in Sefer Shoftim (13:2-25) the section that describes the events leading up to the birth of Shimshon, who was a Nazir from birth.

A short summary of the haftarah: There was a couple, Manoach and his wife, Hatzlellponi, who were childless. One day, a malach (angel), appeared to Hatzlellponi in the field and told her that she should refrain from drinking wine and not come in contact with a corpse because she is about to give birth to a child, and this child should be a nazir—never to have a haircut. He also told Hatzlellponi that her son will save Bnei Yisroel from their enemies.

Hatzlellponi went to her husband, Manoach, and told him what had happened to her in the field with “ish haElokim.” Manoach prayed to Hashem that this “ish haElokim” should reappear in order to give them specific instructions how to raise this child. Hashem answered Manoach’s prayers and one day, when Hatzlellponi was alone in the field, this “ish haElokim” returned.

Hatzlellponi ran to inform her husband and Manoach returned with his wife to the field to ask from him how they should raise this child. The “ish haElokim” repeated what he previously told his wife and added that not only should the newborn child not take a haircut, but he should also not drink wine or any other products from grapes. After he finished instructing them, Manoach invited him to eat with them but he refused. Manoach then sacrificed an offering to Hashem, since in the times of the Shoftim, it was permitted to offer a sacrifice anywhere—since the Bais Hamikdash in Yerushalayim was not yet built. The malach then disappeared in the fire and they realized that the being they thought was a prophet was really a malach.

Zera Shimshon asks: Why did the malach reappear to Manoach’s wife and not to Manoach himself? There was no reason for him to appear to her to persuade her to abstain from wine, not to come in contact with a corpse, and not to cut her future son’s hair, since she didn’t oppose anything he told her. In addition to this, it was Manoach’s prayers that caused the malach to return! Why then did the malach appear to Hatzlellponi a second time and he didn’t directly appear to Manoach?

Zera Shimshon gives an answer built on an idea written by Rabbeinu Bechai (Devarim 22:7) and the explanation of the Yalkut Shemoni’s (Shoftim remez 40) of why Hatzlellponi always refers to the one that appeared to her as “ish haElokim” and not the malach or simply “the man.” Rabbeinu Bechai writes the reward Hashem gives a person for the performance of various types of positive commandments is not “one size fit all.” Hashem gives different rewards for different mitzvos, just like there are different punishments for committing different aveiros (sins). Two examples he gives are that the reward for performing the mitzvos of shiluach hakan and honoring one’s parents is long life, while the reward for engaging in hospitality, hachnasas orchim, is the blessing of bearing children.

The answer of the Yalkut Shemoni (Shoftim remez 40) why Hatzlellponi refers to the one who appeared to her as “ish haElokim,” is that when the wife of Manoach saw the malach, she was unsure if he was a malach or a person, so she concluded that he must be a prophet of Hashem and not a malach. This is what she meant when she told Manoach that an “ish haElokim” appeared to her.

In light of these two ideas, the reward for hospitality, hachnasas orchim, is giving birth to a child and Manoch’s wife was initially unsure if the one who appeared to her was a malach or a person. Zera Shimshon explains that, although, it might seem to us that it would have been more reasonable for Hashem to reappear to Manoach instead of his wife, Hashem intentionally chose this course of action for their own benefit. How is this?

When the malach appeared to Hatzlelponi, she couldn’t determine if it was a malach or a mortal person. On the one hand, he looked very very kodesh, but on the other hand, he had a physical earthly body. She, therefore, concluded that he was a prophet of Hashem; kadosh like a malach but is also a person. Based on this conclusion, after he finished instructing them how to raise their child, they invited him to a meal and made an effort to perform the mitzvah of hospitality. (In truth, they did not perform the mitzvah of hospitality, hachnosas orchim at all, since this being was a malach, however Hashem “adds actions to good intentions” and it was as if they did the mitzvah). The reward for hospitality—as we saw in Rabainu Bechai—is begetting children.

Therefore, it comes out that her flawed and incorrect conclusion bestowed upon them the blessing of having a child! Had Manoach witnessed the “ish haElokim” before his wife, he might have discerned that the being was truly a malach and would not have invited him to partake in a meal. Consequently, they would have been devoid of the merits necessary to conceive a child. However, since Hatzlellponi had encountered the angel twice and was certain that he was a person, when Manoach finally saw him, he also assumed he was a human prophet. It was due to their merit of striving to be hospitable that they became deserving of having a child.

In summary, the haftarah describes the story of Manoach and his wife, Hatzlellponi, a childless couple. Hatzlellponi encounters a malach in the field who informs her that she will give birth to a special child—a nazir—and he will save Bnei Yisroel. She shares this with Manoach, who prays for the malach to reappear and provide them with further guidance. The malach returns and repeats the initial instructions, adding that the child should also abstain from wine and grapes. Manoach invites the malach to eat, but he refuses and ultimately reveals his true identity as a malach.

Zera Shimshon asks: Why did the malach appear to Hatzlellponi the second time, instead of Manoach? Zera Shimshon answers that Hatzlellponi’s conclusion that the angel was a human prophet, caused their subsequent act of hospitality, which resulted in their merit to have a child. However, if the malach would have appeared to Manoach he would have discerned that the one who appeared to them was a malach and not a prophet, which would have resulted in them not inviting him to eat and they would have lacked the merit of having a child, which they earned by performing the mitzvah of hachnasas orchim.

The practical lesson to learn from this haftarah is not something unfamiliar, but rather something that requires constant reminder and internalization: “kol d’avid Rachmana, l’tav ovid—Whatever Hashem does is for the good.” Despite encountering confusing and painful situations throughout our lives, we must acknowledge that just as Hashem appeared to Hatzlellponi—instead of Manoach—seemingly without reason, it, ultimately, served the benefit of Manoach and his wife. Similarly, all of our experiences ultimately serve our own benefit. While we may not immediately see how this is, it is crucial to recognize and accept that this is the reality.

HaRav Shimshon Nachmani—author of Zera Shimshon lived in Italy—about 300 years ago, in the time of the Or HaChaim HaKodesh. The Chida writes that he was a great mekubal and wrote many sefarim—including sefarim about “practical Kabbalah”—and asked that all of his sefarim be buried after he passes away, except for Zera Shimshon and Niflaos Shimshon on Avos. HaRav Shimshon Nachmani had one child who died in his lifetime (hence the name “Zera Shimshon”) and in the preface, he promises for people who learn his sefarim after he dies, “ … And your eyes will see children and grandchildren like the offshoots of an olive tree around your tables, wise and understanding with houses filled with all manner of good things… and wealth and honor … ”

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