Naso

Judges 13:2-25

In the centuries after Joshua's conquest of Canaan, "there was no king in Israel," as the Book of Judges emphasizes. A historical pattern recurs: the Israelites sin by worshipping the idols of local nations they failed to drive from the Land; God punishes them by having enemies attack; God appoints an ad-hoc savior (a “judge”) to fight off Israel’s enemy; peace is obtained; Israel sins, and the cycle starts over. The Haftarah opens after a period of Israelite sin. God sent powerful warriors, the Philistines, from the Mediterrean to settle along Canaan’s southern coast, where they dominated for forty years (13:1). The Haftarah recounts the miraculous experiences surrounding the birth of Samson, who will “begin to save Israel from the Philistines'' (13:5); they remain Israel’s foes for generations after Samson’s dramatic death, until King David’s time. Samson’s birth is heralded by repeated angelic visits to his barren parents, particularly his mother. The angel instructs her to raise him as a Nazarite from the womb, adopting certain Nazarite and other practices while pregnant. (Unlike the Parashah’s Nazirite laws, Samson is not instructed to avoid contact with corpses.) Notably, his father, Manoah, consistently misunderstands the angel and its instructions to his wife. Samson’s extraordinary birth leads to his unusual career as an Israelite savior, which differs dramatically from all other Biblical heroes.

Haftarah Breakdown

Verses 2-5: An angel appears to Manoah’s wife, commanding her to prepare for Samson’s birth.

Judges 13:3

The Lord’s angel appeared to the woman, and said to her, "Behold now, you are barren, and have not borne; you shall conceive and bear a son.”

וַיֵּרָ֥א מַלְאַךְ ה' אֶל־הָאִשָּׁ֑ה וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֵלֶ֗יהָ הִנֵּה־נָ֤א אַתְּ־עֲקָרָה֙ וְלֹ֣א יָלַ֔דְתְּ וְהָרִ֖ית וְיָלַ֥דְתְּ בֵּֽן׃

Verses 6-7: She relays her vision and the angel’s commandments to her husband.

Judges 13:7

He [the angel] said to me, “Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. Now do not drink wine or strong drink and do not eat anything defiled, for the child shall be a Nazir to God from the womb to the day of his death.”

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר לִ֔י הִנָּ֥ךְ הָרָ֖ה וְיֹלַ֣דְתְּ בֵּ֑ן וְעַתָּ֞ה אַל־תִּשְׁתִּ֣י ׀ יַ֣יִן וְשֵׁכָ֗ר וְאַל־תֹּֽאכְלִי֙ כׇּל־טֻמְאָ֔ה כִּֽי־נְזִ֤יר אֱלֹקים֙ יִֽהְיֶ֣ה הַנַּ֔עַר מִן־הַבֶּ֖טֶן עַד־י֥וֹם מוֹתֽוֹ׃ {פ}

Verses 8-11: Manoah wishes to speak to the “man” (i.e., the angel) himself; God indulges his request.

Judges 13:11

Manoah arose and went after his wife. He came to the man and said to him, "Are you the man that spoke to the woman?" He said, "I am."

וַיָּ֛קָם וַיֵּ֥לֶךְ מָנ֖וֹחַ אַחֲרֵ֣י אִשְׁתּ֑וֹ וַיָּבֹא֙ אֶל־הָאִ֔ישׁ וַיֹּ֣אמֶר ל֗וֹ הַאַתָּ֥ה הָאִ֛ישׁ אֲשֶׁר־דִּבַּ֥רְתָּ אֶל־הָאִשָּׁ֖ה וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אָֽנִי׃

Verses 12-14: The angel repeats his commands for Manoah to hear.

Judges 13:13

The Lord’s angel said to Manoah, “All that I said to the woman, she must keep.”

וַיֹּ֛אמֶר מַלְאַ֥ךְ ה' אֶל־מָנ֑וֹחַ מִכֹּ֛ל אֲשֶׁר־אָמַ֥רְתִּי אֶל־הָאִשָּׁ֖ה תִּשָּׁמֵֽר׃

Verses 15-21: The angel declines Manoah’s offer of food, miraculously ascending to heaven amidst Manoah’s sacrifice to God as he and his wife look on.

Judges 13:20

It came to pass during the flame’s ascent from the altar heavenwards, that the Lord’s angel ascended in the altar’s flame. Manoah and his wife saw, and fell on their faces to the ground.

וַיְהִי֩ בַעֲל֨וֹת הַלַּ֜הַב מֵעַ֤ל הַמִּזְבֵּ֙חַ֙ הַשָּׁמַ֔יְמָה וַיַּ֥עַל מַלְאַךְ־ה' בְּלַ֣הַב הַמִּזְבֵּ֑חַ וּמָנ֤וֹחַ וְאִשְׁתּוֹ֙ רֹאִ֔ים וַיִּפְּל֥וּ עַל־פְּנֵיהֶ֖ם אָֽרְצָה׃

Verses 22-23: Manoah fears that he will die after seeing the angel, but his wife knows better.

Judges 13:23

His wife said to him, “If the Lord desired to kill us, He would not have taken a burnt offering and a meal-offering from our hands, nor would He have shown us all these things, nor would He now have told us such things.”

וַתֹּ֧אמֶר ל֣וֹ אִשְׁתּ֗וֹ לוּ֩ חָפֵ֨ץ ה' לַהֲמִיתֵ֙נוּ֙ לֹֽא־לָקַ֤ח מִיָּדֵ֙נוּ֙ עֹלָ֣ה וּמִנְחָ֔ה וְלֹ֥א הֶרְאָ֖נוּ אֶת־כׇּל־אֵ֑לֶּה וְכָעֵ֕ת לֹ֥א הִשְׁמִיעָ֖נוּ כָּזֹֽאת׃

Verses 24-25: The birth and early life of Samson.

Judges 13:24

The woman bore a son and called his name, Samson. The lad grew, and the Lord blessed him.

וַתֵּ֤לֶד הָֽאִשָּׁה֙ בֵּ֔ן וַתִּקְרָ֥א אֶת־שְׁמ֖וֹ שִׁמְשׁ֑וֹן וַיִּגְדַּ֣ל הַנַּ֔עַר וַֽיְבָרְכֵ֖הוּ ה'׃

Connections

The Zohar asserts that Samson’s connection with God was intermittent, like that of Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar.

Zohar Genesis 194a

"It came to pass in the morning that [Pharoah’s] spirit was troubled." (Gen. 41:8) What does “his spirit was troubled” mean? Rabbi Yossi said: “It has already been explained: of Pharaoh, it is written “his spirit was troubled,” and of Nebuchadnezzar, it is written, "his spirit was [very] troubled” (Dan. 2:1). Pharaoh is described as “troubled” because he comprehended the dream but not its interpretation... "and [Pharoah’s] spirit was troubled" [better] corresponds to [Samson, about whom Jud. 13:25 states], "the spirit of God began to trouble him"- for he spirit would appear and disappear, come and go, yet not settle upon him properly. Hence it states, "The Lord’s spirit began to trouble him"- when it began to settle upon him. Here, too, the spirit would appear, leave, then appear, but would not settle upon him, so that he could understand.

וַתִּפָּעֶם רוּחוֹ. מַאי וַתִּפָּעֶם. רִבִּי יוֹסֵי אָמַר, הָא אוּקְמוּהָ בְּפַרְעֹה כְּתִיב וַתִּפָּעֶם, וּבִנְבוּכַדְנֶצַּר כְּתִיב, (דניאל ב׳:ה׳) וַתִּתְפָּעֶם, וְאוּקְמוּהָ דְּהָא בְּפַרְעֹה כְּתִיב וַתִּפָּעֶם, בְּגִין דְּהֲוָה יָדַע חֶלְמָא, וּפִשְׁרָא לָא הֲוָה יָדַע... אֲבָל תָּא חֲזֵי, וַתִּפָּעֶם רוּחוֹ, כְּמָה דְאַתְּ אָמֵר, (שופטים י״ג:כ״ה) לְפַעֲמוֹ, דְּהֲוָה אָתֵי רוּחָא וְאָזִיל, וְאָתֵי וְאָזִיל. וְלָא הֲוָה מִתְיַישְׁבָא עִמֵּיהּ עֲדַיִין כְּדְקָא יְאוּת. וְעַל דָּא כְּתִיב, (שופטים יג) וַתָּחֶל רוּחַ ה' לְפַעֲמוֹ, דִּכְדֵין הֲוָה שֵׁירוּתָא. אוּף הָכָא רוּחֵיהּ אִתְעַר בֵּיהּ, וְאָזִיל וְאִתְעַר, וְלָא הֲוָה מִתְיַשְּׁבָא עִמֵּיהּ לְמִנְדַע.

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the Jewish creators of the famed DC Comics character, Superman, drew on Samson as one of their inspirations for the character. Superman premiered in Action Comics #1.

With emendations, all translations are from Sefaria.org.

To dedicate, comment, or subscribe, email haftarahhelper@gmail.com