WAS SAMSON A NAZIR? THE HAFTARAH FOR NASO
Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah
The Haftarah for parashat Naso relates part of the famous tale of Samson (Judges 13:2-25), reminding us that like other significant biblical women, Samson’s mother was ‘barren’. However, in her particular case, an angel of the Eternal appeared to her, saying: ‘Take care not to drink wine or beer or eat anything impure’, / for you shall soon be pregnant and bear a son, and his hair shall never be cut because from the womb he will be a nazir of God…’ (13:4-5).
As usual the Haftarah is echoing an aspect of the Torah reading. But in Naso we learn that it was the individual him – or her – self, who chose to become a nazir, signalling their consecrated state by refraining from any intoxicants and grape products, not cutting their hair – and not touching the dead (Numbers 6:1-8). Moreover, living life as a nazir was for a limited period only – and the parashah goes on to outline the offerings to be brought by the nazir at the end of their nazirship (Numbers 6:13).
Was Samson a nazir? He didn’t cut his hair, so, clearly, he maintained his mother’s vow. But his enduring commitment is more like that of Samuel, the son of the once-barren, Hannah (First Samuel 1): Each son, set apart for God, both Samson’s unnamed mother and Hannah paid a price for the blessing they received.
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