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Essays on Shmuel 1

Out of the mouths of babes – Shmuel the Teacher

Yechiel Shaffer

Chana presents her new son, Shmuel to the Mishkan with the following introduction:

שמואל א פרק א 

   כד) ותעלהו עמה כאשר גמלתו בפרים שלשה ואיפה אחת קמח ונבל יין ותבאהו בית ידוד שלו  והנער נער כה) וישחטו את הפר ויביאו את הנער אל עלי כו) ותאמר בי אדני חי נפשך אדני אני האשה הנצבת עמכה בזה להתפלל אל ידוד כז) אל הנער הזה התפללתי ויתן ידוד לי את שאלתי אשר שאלתי מעמו כח) וגם אנכי השאלתהו לידוד כל הימים אשר היה הוא שאול לידוד וישתחו שם לידוד

‘24. And when she had weaned him, she took him with her, with three bulls, and one ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord in Shiloh; and the child was young. 25. And they slew a bull, and brought the child to Eli. 26. And she said, oh my lord, as your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to the Lord. 27. For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of him. 28. Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord; and he worshipped the Lord there.’

This story requires some careful analysis and insightful examination.

Why does the slaughter of the animal introduce the ‘bringing of the child’ to the Mishkan?

The Radak addresses this problem:

רד”ק שמואל א פרק א 

  כה)   ויביאו את הנער: אלקנה וחנה אחרי ששחטו את הפר לקרבן הביאו את הנער בית ה’ אל עלי להיות יושב  ולומר /ולומד/ לפניו ושיחנך אותו לכל תורה ומצוה והדרש אין צריך לכתוב כי נודע הוא והוא רחוק

25. And they brought the child: Elkanah and Chana brought the child to Eli after making a sacrifice in the Mishkan, so that he will sit and study from Eli and be educated in Torah and Mitzvot. (In other words the sacrifice was a preparatory act for bringing Shmuel near to Eli to study). And the Midrashic interpretation is not neccessary to be recorded here as it is far-fetched’

The Midrash which the Redak dismisses as far fetched is found in the Midrash Shmuel (also found in Talmud Bavli: Berachot 31b):

מדרש שמואל (בובר) פרשה ג

  בא שמואל ומצאן עומדין על קרבנותיהן, אמר להן מפני מה אין אתם שוחטין, אמרו לו הרי אנו ממתינין לכהן שיבא, דכתיב ושחט את בן  הבקר לפני ה’ (ויקרא א’ ה’), אמר להן עמדו ושחטו, לא כן תנינן שהשחיטה כשרה בזרים ובנשים ובעבדים אפילו בקדשי קדשים, כיון שבא עלי ומצאן ששחטו, אמר להן מי התיר לכם את השחיטה, אמרו לו נער אחד, אמר להן הביאוהו, הדא הוא דכתיב וישחטו את הפר ויביאו את הנער אל עלי (שם שם/שמואל א’ א’/כ”ה), בקש לעונשו, באת אמו ונשתטחה על רגליו, הדא הוא דכתיב ותאמר בי אדני חי נפשך אדני וגו’ (שם שם/שמואל א’ א’/כ”ו)   אמר לה לא אנא צליתי ואת קאים, אמר לה ימות ואנא מצלי וייתי חורן, אמרה אל הנער הזה התפללתי (שם שם שמואל א’ א’/כ”ז), מן דא ומן דא לא דידי ולא דידך הוא. וגם אנכי השאילתיהו לה’

This Midrash records an astonishing interaction. Shmuel, a young boy at the time, arrives at theMishkan and finds people are waiting for a Kohen to slaughter their sacrifices. Shmuel suggests that the slaughtering of a sacrifice may be permitted by a non-Kohen. Following this young boy’s encouragement the people do not delay and slaughter the animals themselves. Eli HaKohen witnesses the Jewish people slaughtering their own sacrifices and want to know who sanctioned this activity? The Jewish People direct Eli towards Shmuel, a boy of only 4 or 5 years old at the time. This is perhaps why it is recorded that “they brought the lad” after the slaughter of the animals; the Pasuk is referring to the Jewish people and ‘after the slaughter of the animal’ being a reference to the Halachik innovation that Shmuel had implemented.

Eli HaKohen at this time felt compelled to punish Shmuel with a heavenly death sentence, a fate he can beseech Heaven for because of his elevated spiritual status. Chana comes to beg for here sons life. She claims that Shmuel is irreplaceable and that he was the son that she prayed for, no other child. Chana reminds Eli of her earliertefillot/prayers to receive Shmuel. She instructs Eli that this child will belong to the Mishkan and therefore should be spared accordingly.

This episode must elicit some exploration and critical insight.

1)    Why did Shmuel mention this law, correct as he may be, in the prescence of the Kohen Gadol who was obviously his senior and the Halachik authority? We can perhaps even suggest that by the fact that this Halachawas not being implemented at the time should have given Shmuel clear indication that the custom was for Kohen exclusive slaughtering? On a related note, why would waiting for a Kohen to perform the slaughter be such a negative experience that motivated Shmuel to implement a procedural change?

2)    Why did Eli HaKohen judge Shmuel so harshly making him liable for the death penalty? Even if he was ‘moreh Halacha bifnei Rabbo’ (deciding the law in the presence of his teacher) could Eli HaKohen have his honor in this case to present the death of such a young boy?

Rav Levi suggests a solution to explain this perplexing episode. Shmuel certainly did not intend to decide this issue in the face of the High Priest. In this scenario, the people are waiting and seem to be told to find or await the arrival of a Kohen to perform the shechita. If they perform the slaughter themselves, who will pour the blood, a Kohen is required for the pouring service. One has to conclude that in fact there were Kohanim available, as we are infomred in Chapter 2. Eli’s sons were present and were corrupting the procedure of presenting a sacrifice. The sons of Eli were keeping the sacrifices for themselves to the exclusion of others and Shmuel recognized that this as problematic behavior. He wanted to illustrate that the sacrifical service was not exclusive, as Eli’s sons had made it, even a commoner can slaughter the sacrifice if required. This statement was not transforming the Halacha but highlighting the irregularities taking place in the Mishkan service. The people listened to Shmuel and disenfranchised Eli’s sons from their stranglehold on the sacrifices.

Eli however did not view the events with the same perspective as Shmuel. He felt that Shmuel should have left it to Eli to manage how his sons were behaving. Eli was concerned that not all Kohanim were expert in the slaughter of sacrifices and his sons were experienced in this activity, this is why they were needed for this service.

Furthermore, Eli was accepting Shmuel as his personal student, this meant he must agree to call Eli his teacher par excellance and not make a decision in his prescence. This is why Eli was so tough on Shmuel so as to establish the principles of authority. This would of course be a fantastic lesson for Shmuel who becomes the principal authority amongst the Jewish people. Teaching the young Shmuel a sense of humility would serve him well later on, even if it meant declaring a possible death sentence.

Chana’s plea to Eli was very simple. This child was a gift from God. It is not within Eli’s authority to decide whether Shmual would live or die. Acknowledging the noble mission that Shmuel is brought to the world with, his existence was and will continue to be by the grace of God. While humility is a critical trait for anyone in a position of leadership, a good sense of self and mission is equally as important.

These lessons still ring true today in our world where leadership is granted by the will of people. Any leader who is bold enough too demand unquestionable leadership will surely face humbling revolutions; any leader whose mission is self-preservation will surely be challenged too produce a worthwhile mission; any leader who is too brazen too hear the critique of a young boy will surely lose touch with his people; any leader that has a youthful boldness too suggest revolutions, perhaps will have too learn too listen in more challenging scenarios.

The mantel of leadership is a heavy and ennobling burden.

Chana’s Inspiration and Aspirations

Yechiel Shaffer

שמואל א פרק א פסוק יא

 ותדר נדר ותאמר ידוד צבאות אם ראה תראה בעני אמתך וזכרתני ולא תשכח את אמתך ונתתה  לאמתך זרע אנשים ונתתיו לידוד כל ימי חייו ומורה לא יעלה על ראשו

“And she vowed a vow and she said:’ Oh Lord of Hosts, if you will surely look upon the suffering of your maidservant and you will remember me and not forget your maidservant, and You shall grant to your servant a child and he will be given to the L-rd all the days of his life, and fear (or: a razor) shall not come upon his head.”

The vow of Chana is both inspiring and confusing. Her devotion to God becomes explicit in her aspirations for the potential child yet her promise seems to be difficult. How can Chana obligate her son in a vow if he is not yet born? This is a classic case of ‘davar shelo ba leolam, something that has yet to exist in this world. The Radak considers this problem and is unable to offer a satisfactory answer.

רד”ק שמואל א פרק א פסוק יא

  יא) ותדור נדר: אני תמה איך חל נדרה על בנה שיהיה נזיר ועוד שלא היה בעולם ואיך חל הנדר עליו ואפילו היה  בעולם הרי אמרו האיש מדיר את בנו נזיר ואין האשה מדרת את בנה בנזיר ואפילו באיש לא מצאו בו טעם אלא אמרו  הלכה היא בנזיר ואם תאמר כי אלקנה עשה הנדר גם כן אחרי ששמע מאשתו זה לא ראינו והיאך הניח הפסוק לספור  עיקר הנדר וכתב נדר חנה שאינו נדר זה רחוק ויותר אני תמיה איך לא דברו רז”ל בזה הדבר כי לא מצאתי בדבריהם  בזה שום דבר לא במדרש ולא בתלמוד

"I am wondering how this vow applied to her son to be a Nazir forever? Also he was not yet born…and I am amazed that Chazal did not discuss this point and I have not found any answer in the writings of either the Midrash or Talmud."

Let us try to crystallize the potential concerns and further clarify the concern of the Radak.

1)    Her son is already Levi, what is she adding with her vow that he would not have to commit to because of his Levite status?

2)    How can Chana promise that her child will have no fear of man on him? If we suggest that this is a prophecy, then why is it recorded as part of her vow? Furthermore, we will encounter moments in Shmuel’s life where he does express fear (Shmuel I Ch. 16 Shmuel express fear of Shaul’s reaction to his chosing a new King). Does this mean that Chana’s prophecy was false?

Samuel Presented to the Priest Eli - Illustration by Avi Katz - www.avikatz.net

When we closely examine the details of Chana’s neder (vow), every nuance is explained by Chazal  (the Rabbis) in a profoundly meaningful way.

פסיקתא רבתי (איש שלום) פרשה מג

 ותדור נדר ותאמר ה’ צבאות: (שמואל א’ א’ י”א) מהו ה’ צבאות, אמר רבי יהודה בר’ סימון אמרה חנה לפני הקדוש ברוך  הוא רבונו של עולם יש צבא למעלה יש צבא למטה, הצבא של מעלה אינם [לא] אוכלים ולא שותים ולא פרים ורבים  ולא מתים אלא חיים לעולם, והצבא שלמטה אוכלים ושותים ופרים ורבים ומתים, ואיני יודעת מאיזו צבא אני, אם משל  מעלה או משל מטה, אם מצבא של מעלה אני, לא אהיה לא אוכלת ולא שותית (אלא) [ולא] מולידה ולא מתה אלא חיה  לעולם כשם שהם חיים לעולם, ואם מצבא של מטה אני, אהא אוכלת ושותית ומולידה ומתה כשם שהם אוכלים ושותים  ופרים ורבים זהו ה’ צבאות. דבר אחר ה’ צבאות א”ר יהודה ברבי סימון בפעמי רגלים עלתה חנה לב”המק =לבית  המקדש= וראתה את כל ישראל שם, אמרה לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא רבונו של עולם כל הצבאות האילו יש לך ואין לי  אחד בהם

“What is the meaning of the term ‘L-rd of hosts’? Rabbi Yehuda said in the name of Rabbi Simon: Chana said before God:’ Master of the World! There are hosts above and below; the host in heaven (angels) does not eat or drink or reproduce or die, but live forever.The hosts below (humans) eat drink reproduce and die. I do not know to which ‘host’ I belong, since if I am of the heavenly host I would not eat drink or reproduce and I would live forever as they do. If I am of the lower ‘host’ then I should eat and drink and reproduce and die just as they do (and therefore grant me a child as a lower ‘host’).

Another interpretation: ‘L-rd of Hosts’: Rabbi Yehuda in the name of Rabbi Simon said: Chana went up to the Temple on festivals and saw the Jewish people there. She said before God: Master of the World! There are all these ‘hosts’ (people) and I do not have even one of them (a child).”

Her prayers for a child are very bold and profoundly moving. The Talmud in Berachot (31b) explains further Chana’s supplication.

תלמוד בבלי מסכת ברכות דף לא עמוד ב

  אם ראה תראה, אמר רבי אלעזר: אמרה חנה לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא: רבונו של עולם, אם ראה – מוטב, ואם לאו – תראה, אלך ואסתתר בפני אלקנה בעלי, וכיון דמסתתרנא משקו לי מי סוטה, ואי אתה עושה תורתך פלסתר, שנאמר:  +במדבר ה’+ ונקתה ונזרעה זרע

בעני אמתך אל תשכח את אמתך, ונתתה לאמתך. אמר רבי יוסי ברבי חנינא: שלש אמתות הללו למה – אמרה חנה לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא: רבונו של עולם,שלשה בדקי מיתה בראת באשה, ואמרי לה: שלשה דבקי מיתה, ואלו הן: נדה וחלה והדלקת הנר, כלום עברתי על אחת מהן? ונתתה לאמתך זרע אנשים

‘If you will surely look upon… Rabbi Elazar said: Chana said before God: Master of the World! If you will look upon my plight (and grant my request) then it will be good; however if not then You will see me in another way. I will go and become a suspected adulteress (Sotah) and I will be forced to drink the waters of the Sotah and I will conceive that way as promised in the Torah (if the claim is false)…

(The word ‘maidservant’ is written here three times. Why?) Rabbi Yose, the son of Rabbi Chanina said: Chana said before God; Master of the World! There are three obligations upon women that can lead to fatal consequences if not observed properly; the laws of Nidda (menstruant woman) Challa (separation of dough for the Kohen) and lighting the Shabbat candles. Did I ever transgress any of these mitzvot? (so I deserve a blessing of a child).’

Chana’s pleas before God are sincere and heart breaking. She pours out her soul in her request for a child.

Even though we see that Chazal (our Rabbis) give such meaning to her requests here, it is still troubling that the concept of neder does not work, as this is dealing with an item which is not yet in existence and the application of a vow in such a case needs further explanation.

We will examine two approaches to this whole analysis, Rashi and Rambam.

A) Rashi

On the basis of Rashi’s interpretation to verse 11, we can suggest an original explanation on Chana’s neder (vow) and its meaning.

רש”י שמואל א פרק א פסוק יא

  ונתתיו לה: שיהא ראוי לתתו לה

 ומורה: תרגום יונתן ומרות אנש לא תהא עלוהי

‘And I will give him to God: [This means that] He should be fitting to be given to God’

‘And morah: According to Targum Yonatan this means: the fear of man should never be upon him’.

Rashi is similar to the the opinion of Rabbi Yose as seen here in Talmud, Masechet Sotah 66a:

תלמוד בבלי מסכת נזיר דף סו עמוד א

 מתני‘.  נזיר היה שמואל, כדברי ר’ נהוראי, שנא': +שמואל א’ א+ ומורה לא יעלה על ראשו, נאמר בשמשון  +שופטים יג+ ומורה ונאמר בשמואל ומורה, מה מורה האמורה בשמעון נזיר, אף מורה האמורה בשמואל נזיר. א”ר יוסי: והלא אין מורה אלא של בשר ודם! א”ל רבי נהוראי, והלא כבר נאמר: +שמואל א’ טז+ ויאמר שמואל איך אלך ושמע שאול והרגני, שכבר היה עליו מורא של בשר ודם

‘Shmuel was a Nazir, as according to the words of Rav Nehorai., as it says: And morah (meaning a razor) shall not go up upon his head… (and the proof is from the story of Shimshon who was also a nazir). Rabbi Yose said: Isn’t the word ‘morah’referring to the fear of man (as seen in Rashi’s comment above)? Rabbi Nehorai replied: Does it not say: ‘And Shmuel said; how can I go (to anoint David)? Surely Shaul will kill me? (showing fear of man)…’

Rashi is like the opinion of Rabbi Yose and understands the phrase of ‘moreh lo yaaleh al rosho’ not as the vow itself, but as a condition which applies to the vow. This means that she is saying: ‘A sign that my vow is valid (and is working) will be if my son is so feared that no one can instill in him any sense of dread or awe’. The actual vow itself (as opposed to the signs and conditions of the vow) are not spelled out clearly. Rav Levi suggests that the vow was actually to bring special sacrifices to the Mishkan, as we see later in Ch.1.

כד) ותעלהו עמה כאשר גמלתו בפרים שלשה ואיפה אחת קמח ונבל יין ותבאהו בית־יקוק שלו והנער נער

When Shmuel is older, she brings him to Eli together with 3 oxen and one ephah (measurment) of flour etc. Chana brings these items as a special offering in fulfillment of the vow she made earlier in the chapter (but which was never spelled out clearly at that time). The conditions that she mentions are her desire that her son will be worthy to dwell in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) forever and that he will be worthy to be dedicated to God at some later date.

This approach answers our original questions. Chana’s vow is not on a future object but it is on something concrete and tangible. All of her aspirations for Shmuel are not containted in the vow but her own wishes as a sign of the fulfillment of Eli’s promise that she will have a child. Even if he is a Levi, my hope, Chana says, is that he will be a worthy person to carry out holy duties and he will be fitting, to be devoted to God.

B) Rambam

The Rambam has a different approach as seen in the following section from the laws of Valuations, found in the Rambam’s foundational work, the Yad Chazaka.

רמב”ם הלכות ערכין וחרמין פרק ו הלכה לא

 יראה לי שאע”פ שאין אדם מקדיש דבר שלא בא לעולם אם אמר הרי עלי להקדישו הרי זה חייב להקדישו כשיבא  לעולם משום נדרו, ואם לא הקדיש הרי זה עובר משום בל תאחר ולא יחל דברו ומשום ככל היוצא מפיו יעשה כשאר הנדרים

    וכל כיוצא במאמרים אלו הרי זה חייב ליתן ולעשות בהן מה שאמר  כשיבואו לידו, וזה וכיוצא בו בכלל נדרים הוא לא בכלל הקדשות

 ראיה לדבר זה מה שאמר יעקב אבינו וכל אשר תתן לי עשר אעשרנו לך ונאמר אשר נדרת לי שם נדר

‘It would seem to me that even though a person cannot sanctify something which is not in existence, if he obligates himself to do so he is liable to follow through on his obligation when the object materializes, because of his neder(vow). If he does not follow through he transgresses the law of ‘not profaning his promise’and also the positive command of ‘do whatever comes from your mouth (i.e.keep your promises), which applies to vows…’

According to Rambam, Chana was saying that she commits to doing everything in her power to ensure that when her son is born he will become dedicated to God. Her vow does not obligate her potential son but it requires her to do her utmost to bring her promises to fruition. The Rambam follows the opinion of Rav Nehorai that Shmuel was a perpetualNazir and the phrase ‘umoreh lo yaaleh…..’ actually means that ‘a razor will not come upon his head’ signifying hisnezirut from birth.

When Shmuel will be born, Chana will teach and inspire him to commit to the nezirut that she had promised from before his birth. This vow is valid due to Shmuel’s own acceptance, when he actually commits to this dedicated lifestyle.

Whether we understand the vow as referring to an offering or to Shmuel’s acceptance of nezirut at the encouragment of his mother, we understand that the issue is much more complex than it originally seemed.

The profound lessons from this story deeply resonate in the world of chinuch (education). A parent’s hopes can impact a child, provided that these are accepted by the child and are not just forced upon them because of a parent’s selfish aspirations. Shmuel fully accepts his mother’s wishes and devotes himself to God and the Jewish people. With Elkanah’s dedication to inspiring the Jewish people and Chana’s commitment to a healthy, inspired education for her family, we understand the foundations of Shmuel’s life and the strength this gives him to carry out his holy mission for the future of the Jewish people.

Elkanah – The Father of Shmuel

Yechiel Shaffer

Chanah's Tefillah - illustrations by Avi Katz - www.avikatz.net

More often then not when discussing the openening chapters of Shmuel I much time is spent examining the motives, actions and merits of Chana. That being said it is critical to examine the character of both parents of our famed prophet, Shmuel. In what merit did Elkanah father the historic personality of Shmuel HaNavi (the Prophet)?

In Sefer Eliyahu Rabbah, we are presented a new aspect to Elkanah’s leadership:

אליהו רבה (איש שלום) פרשה ט 

ויהי איש אחד מן הרמתים וגו’  (ש”א =שמואל א’= א’) היה אלקנה עולה ארבעה פעמים בשנה, שלשה מן התורה ואחת שקיבל עליו, שנאמר ועלה האיש ההוא מעירו מימים ימימה וגו’ (שם שם /שמואל א’ א’/ ג’) ,אלקנה הוא עלה ואשתו ובניו ובנותיו ואחיו ואחיותיו וכל קרוביו עמו וכל בני ביתו היה מעלה את הכל עמו, אמר, שלא  (למדו) [ילמדו] דרך עבודה זרה מן הכנענים ומן הפושעים ויעשו דבר שלא כתורה. דבר אחר למה מעלה את הכל עמו, כשהיו עולין בדרך ולנין ברחובה של עיר, מתקבצים האנשים לבד והנשים לבד, שכן האיש מדבר עם האיש, אשה עם  האשה, גדול עם גדול, קטון עם קטון, והיתה המדינה מרגשת (היו) [והיו] שואלין להן (לאים ת”ל) [להיכן תלכו, ואומרים]  אל בית האלהים שבשילה שמשם תצא תורה ומשם מצוות, ואתם למה לא תבואו עמנו ונלך ביחד, מיד עיניהם משגרות דמעות, אמרו להן נעלה עמכן, אמרו להן הין, עוד לשנה הבאה חמשה בתים, לשנה אחרת עשרה בתים, לשנה אחרת הרגישה כולה לעלות, והיו עולין הימינה כששים בתים, ובדרך שהיה עולה שנה זו לשנה אחרת אינו עולה אלא בדרך אחרת, אלקנה הכריע את ישראל לכף זכות וחינך אותם במצות, וזכו רבים על ידו, הקב”ה בוחן לבות וכליות אמר לו, אלקנה את הכרעתה את ישראל לכף זכות וחינכתם במצוות, וזכו רבים על ידיך, אני אוציא ממך בן שיכריע את ישראל לכף זכות ויחנך אותם במצוות ויזכה רבים על ידיו

Elkanah's Journey - Illustration by Avi Katz - www.avikatz.net

“Elkanah used to go up to the Mishkan four times a year, three times according to Torah law and once voluntarily, as it says: “And that man went up from his city from year to year…” Elkanah went to theMishkan with his wife, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and all his relatives and household. He would say: “This is so that they would not learn the ways of idolatry from their neighbors, the Canaanites and other sinners.”Why did he take all of this entourage with him? When they were going to Shiloh, they would encamp in the street of the town they were passing through and the city people would gather there, the men and women separately, and the men of Elkanah’s party would talk to the gathered men (and women to women) each according to his/her required level. The people would ask them where are they going and they would reply that they are going to the House of God in Shiloh, from where Torah and Mitzvot emanate.” Why aren’t you coming there as well? Let us go together”. Immediately, the people would cry and agree to go with. In the next year one household became five households joining him to the Mishkan and then ten households the year after that. Eventually the whole city would go up to Shiloh. Furthermore, the route taken each year would be different to encourage even more people to come.

Elkanah is attributed with bringing Israel into merit by educating them to perform Mitzvot. God says to Elkanah: “You have merited the Jewish people to return to the Mishkan, so I will bring from you a son who will also merit the Jewish people and educate them to perform Mitzvot and many will merit through him.” (Eliyahu Rabbah Portion 9)

This wonderful description of the ‘pied piper’ activities of Elkanah transforms the narrative of the birth of Shmuel. Elkanah was as exceptional as Chanah and the ‘mida keneged mida’ (measure for measure) of meriting a son who would work diligently in the Mishkan is an obvious preamble to understanding how such a son was born to Elkanah and Chana. Both Elkanah and Chanah revolutionized the Jewish attitude towards religious worship.

Why is the attendance at the Mishkan such an integral ascpect of Torah life?

The Chinuch (Rabbi Aharon of Barcelona-12th Century) suggests:

ספר החינוך מצוה תפט

 משרשי המצוה, למען יראו כל ישראל ויתנו אל לבם בפעולת הקרבן המעורר הלבבות כי כולם מקטנם ועד גדולם חלק  ה’ ונחלתו, עם קדוש ונבחר נוצרי עדותו סגולת כל העמים אשר תחת כל השמים לשמור חוקיו ולקיים דתו, על כן יובאו  שלש פעמים בשנה בית ה’, והוא כאמרם על דרך משל הננו לאל לעבדים נכנסים ובאים בצל קורתו ובחזקתו סמוכים  לעד לעולם באהבתו וביראתו, זר לא יבא בתוכנו כי אנחנו לבדנו בני ביתו. ועם המעשה הזה יתעורר דעתנו ונכניס  בלבנו מוראו ונקבע ברעיונינו אהבתו ונזכה לקבל חסדו וברכתו

 Click above for more information on the Sefer HaChinuch

Click above for more information on the Sefer HaChinuch

“The ‘root’ of the mitzvah (to go up to the Temple three times a year – aliya leregel) is that all of Israel see and contemplate the activities surrounding the sacrifices which can inspire them to realize that they are all the inheritance of God, the chosen nation from all others under the heavens, to guard His laws and statutes. This is why the Jew must come to the Temple three times a year, as Chazal have explained, so that we realize we are like servants entering the protection of God, which is based on a perpetual and everlasting love. This is limited only to the Jewish people for we are the only members of His household. This will lead us to fear and love God and we will merit to receive His kindness and His blessing.”

The impact of witnessing the Beis HaMikdash in all its glory is reinforced by the statements of Tosfot in Bava Batra(21a):

תוספות מסכת בבא בתרא דף כא עמוד א

  כי מציון תצא תורה: לפי שהיה רואה קדושה גדולה וכהנים עוסקים בעבודה היה מכוון לבו יותר ליראת שמים  וללמוד תורה כדדרשי’ בספרי למען תלמד ליראה וגו’ גדול מעשר שני שמביא לידי תלמוד לפי שהיה עומד בירושלים  עד שיאכל מעשר שני שלו והיה רואה שכולם עוסקים במלאכת שמים ובעבודה היה גם הוא מכוון ליראת שמים ועוסק  בתורה.

“(In discussing the law of Maaser Shaini, (the 2nd tithe) which must be taken to Jerusalem, Tosfot explains why this is necessary) In Jerusalem one would see the great holiness present and when the Kohanim were performing their holy service, those present would think of becoming more God fearing. This would cause the study Torah in greater depth, as is found in the Sifre on the pasuk “That you will learn to fear…”Great is Maaser Shaini because it would lead to a greater level of Torah study, being in Jerusalem and seeing everyone working for the sake of heaven. He would also dedicate his life to the sake of heaven and, as a result, study Torah…”

Tosfot follows in the tradition of the Chinuch in describing the profound spiritual inspiration gained by witnessing the events at Mishkan/Mikdash. This spiritual impact, deeply appreciated by Elkanah, especially worked to counteract the great indifference to spiritual matters as seen throughout the book of Judges. Shmuel I continues off of the conclusion of the book of Judges and the efforts to rejuivante the spiritual nature of the Jewish people by Elkanah surely is a great merit to his leadership and personality. While Chanah’s Tefillah teaches us much about the individual’s journey towards Divine supplication, Elkanah is concerned purely for the spiritual welfare of the nation.

Some final words in praise of Elkanah can be read in the Midrash Shmuel:

מדרש שמואל (בובר) פרשה א

 ועלה האיש ההוא מעירו: נתעלה האיש בביתו, נתעלה האיש בחצרו, נתעלה בעירו, נתעלה בכל ישראל,  וכל עלויו לא היה אלא מעצמו. מימים ימימה. זה אלקנה שהוא מדריך את ישראל ומעלה אותן לשילה, ולא בדרך שהיה  עולה בשנה זו היה עולה בשנה אחרת אלא וכו’. להשתחות ולזבוח לה’

“And that man ‘went up’ from his city. This man became elevated (alah) in his home, in his courtyard, in his city and in all of Israel. All of his spiritual elevations were due to his own efforts…”

It is significant to note that in the 7th chapter Shmuel leaves his home and travels around the coutnry to judge people, just as his father traveled around to bring Jews to the Mishkan for the Jewish holidays. The merits that bring Shmuel into the world are clearly rooted in the actions of his father. The example of being amongst the people is transmitted to Shmuel and ultimately assists in the transition from the establishment of Judges to Kings. Shmuel is critical to this transition. His exposure to the entre community, over the long term, serves to elevate the entire Jewish nation in preparation for the relocation of power to a king and the transfer of holiness to Jerusalem.

Comments on Parenthood:

The Malbim suggests on the opening verse of Shmuel I (1:1):

ויהי איש אחד: יש הבדל בין כשכתוב ויהי איש [כמו ויהי איש מהר אפרים (שופטים יז, א), ויהי איש לוי (שם יט, א)] ובין כשכתוב ויהי איש אחד, שמורה שהיה מיוחד לאיזה דבר גדול, וכמ”ש ברבה במדרש (במ”ר י, ה) כל מקום שנאמר ויהי איש אחד, גדול היה, ויהי איש אחד מצרעה (שופטים יג, ב), היה מיוחד להולדת שמשון, ופה היה מיוחד להולדת שמואל:

And there was a man: We must distinguish between the use of ויהי איש, which is commonly used towards the conclusion of the book of Shoftim, and ויהי איש אחד which is used to indicate someone dedicated for greatness. Just as indicted in Shoftim (13:2) about a man who was to have Shimshon as his child, and here this special man was to have Shmuel as his child.

It is empowering to take note of the special mission that Elkanah has been charged with. What makes Elkanah unique or great according to the Malbim? What does the Prophet point out his singular, specialness? Only to illustrate the great merit he is to have the child, Shmuel. We work all our lives to leave an impact, to build a family, to perhaps grow ourselves into being someone special. Perhaps Elkanah’s unique greatness is being worthy of having a very special child.

 משרשי המצוה, למען יראו כל ישראל ויתנו אל לבם בפעולת הקרבן המעורר הלבבות כי כולם מקטנם ועד גדולם חלק  ה’ ונחלתו, עם קדוש ונבחר נוצרי עדותו סגולת כל העמים אשר תחת כל השמים לשמור חוקיו ולקיים דתו, על כן יובאו  שלש פעמים בשנה בית ה’, והוא כאמרם על דרך משל הננו לאל לעבדים נכנסים ובאים בצל קורתו ובחזקתו סמוכים  לעד לעולם באהבתו וביראתו, זר לא יבא בתוכנו כי אנחנו לבדנו בני ביתו. ועם המעשה הזה יתעורר דעתנו ונכניס  בלבנו מוראו ונקבע ברעיונינו אהבתו ונזכה לקבל חסדו וברכתו

“The ‘root’ of the mitzvah (to go up to the Temple three times a year – aliya leregel) is that all of Israel see and contemplate the activities surrounding the sacrifices which can inspire them to realize that they are all the inheritance of God, the chosen nation from all others under the heavens, to guard His laws and statutes. This is why the Jew must come to the Temple three times a year, as Chazal have explained, so that we realize we are like servants entering the protection of God, which is based on a perpetual and everlasting love. This is limited only to the Jewish people for we are the only members of His household. This will lead us to fear and love God and we will merit to receive His kindness and His blessing.”

The impact of witnessing the Beis HaMikdash in all its glory is reinforced by the statements of Tosfot in Bava Batra(21a):

תוספות מסכת בבא בתרא דף כא עמוד א

  כי מציון תצא תורה: לפי שהיה רואה קדושה גדולה וכהנים עוסקים בעבודה היה מכוון לבו יותר ליראת שמים  וללמוד תורה כדדרשי’ בספרי למען תלמד ליראה וגו’ גדול מעשר שני שמביא לידי תלמוד לפי שהיה עומד בירושלים  עד שיאכל מעשר שני שלו והיה רואה שכולם עוסקים במלאכת שמים ובעבודה היה גם הוא מכוון ליראת שמים ועוסק  בתורה.

“(In discussing the law of Maaser Shaini, (the 2nd tithe) which must be taken to Jerusalem, Tosfot explains why this is necessary) In Jerusalem one would see the great holiness present and when the Kohanim were performing their holy service, those present would think of becoming more God fearing. This would cause the study Torah in greater depth, as is found in the Sifre on the pasuk “That you will learn to fear…”Great is Maaser Shaini because it would lead to a greater level of Torah study, being in Jerusalem and seeing everyone working for the sake of heaven. He would also dedicate his life to the sake of heaven and, as a result, study Torah…”

Tosfot follows in the tradition of the Chinuch in describing the profound spiritual inspiration gained by witnessing the events at Mishkan/Mikdash. This spiritual impact, deeply appreciated by Elkanah, especially worked to counteract the great indifference to spiritual matters as seen throughout the book of Judges. Shmuel I continues off of the conclusion of the book of Judges and the efforts to rejuivante the spiritual nature of the Jewish people by Elkanah surely is a great merit to his leadership and personality. While Chanah’s Tefillah teaches us much about the individual’s journey towards Divine supplication, Elkanah is concerned purely for the spiritual welfare of the nation.

Some final words in praise of Elkanah can be read in the Midrash Shmuel:

מדרש שמואל (בובר) פרשה א

 ועלה האיש ההוא מעירו: נתעלה האיש בביתו, נתעלה האיש בחצרו, נתעלה בעירו, נתעלה בכל ישראל,  וכל עלויו לא היה אלא מעצמו. מימים ימימה. זה אלקנה שהוא מדריך את ישראל ומעלה אותן לשילה, ולא בדרך שהיה  עולה בשנה זו היה עולה בשנה אחרת אלא וכו’. להשתחות ולזבוח לה’

“And that man ‘went up’ from his city. This man became elevated (alah) in his home, in his courtyard, in his city and in all of Israel. All of his spiritual elevations were due to his own efforts…”

It is significant to note that in the 7th chapter Shmuel leaves his home and travels around the coutnry to judge people, just as his father traveled around to bring Jews to the Mishkan for the Jewish holidays. The merits that bring Shmuel into the world are clearly rooted in the actions of his father. The example of being amongst the people is transmitted to Shmuel and ultimately assists in the transition from the establishment of Judges to Kings. Shmuel is critical to this transition. His exposure to the entre community, over the long term, serves to elevate the entire Jewish nation in preparation for the relocation of power to a king and the transfer of holiness to Jerusalem.

Comments on Parenthood:

The Malbim suggests on the opening verse of Shmuel I (1:1):

ויהי איש אחד: יש הבדל בין כשכתוב ויהי איש [כמו ויהי איש מהר אפרים (שופטים יז, א), ויהי איש לוי (שם יט, א)] ובין כשכתוב ויהי איש אחד, שמורה שהיה מיוחד לאיזה דבר גדול, וכמ”ש ברבה במדרש (במ”ר י, ה) כל מקום שנאמר ויהי איש אחד, גדול היה, ויהי איש אחד מצרעה (שופטים יג, ב), היה מיוחד להולדת שמשון, ופה היה מיוחד להולדת שמואל:

And there was a man: We must distinguish between the use of ויהי איש, which is commonly used towards the conclusion of the book of Shoftim, and ויהי איש אחד which is used to indicate someone dedicated for greatness. Just as indicted in Shoftim (13:2) about a man who was to have Shimshon as his child, and here this special man was to have Shmuel as his child.

It is empowering to take note of the special mission that Elkanah has been charged with. What makes Elkanah unique or great according to the Malbim? What does the Prophet point out his singular, specialness? Only to illustrate the great merit he is to have the child, Shmuel. We work all our lives to leave an impact, to build a family, to perhaps grow ourselves into being someone special. Perhaps Elkanah’s unique greatness is being worthy of having a very special child.

Questions for further study:

How does Elkanah interact with his family and how does that reflect his communal dedication?

Where does Elkanah come from? What is his familial heritage and how would that impact his communal work?

Why did Elkanah go to the Mishkan an extra day? What day would he chose to go besides the Yomim tovim (Jewish holidays)?

An Introduction to the book of Shmuel

Yechiel Shaffer

 Click here to learn more about Abarbarnel

Click here to learn more about Abarbarnel

There is an interesting tradition to refrain from studying the Abarbanel on Friday evening. The reason for this practice is that the Abarbanel usually begins his commentary by listing all his questions that he has on a particular topic and then proceeds to write a lengthy essay answering all the questions. We are concerned that if you  attempt to begin reading the questions of the Ababanel on Friday evening you may never get to the answers because you are taken over by sleep. With keeping that in mind, the Abarbanel plays a crucial role in explaining the nuances of the life of Shmuel and will have a critical place in our understanding of the Book of Shmuel. His thoughts are most engaging and unique and well worth staying awake for!

In his introduction to the books of Shmuel I & II, the Abarbanel questions the adoption of the name Shmuel for these books. The prophet Shmuel does not live past Chapter 25 in Shmuel I and surely the personalities within these critical books reach far beyond the scope of the life of the prophet, Shmuel. Why do these books take on the name Shmuel when his story concludes in Chapter 25?

The Abarbanel goes as far to quote a secular scribe, namely Gerónimo (possibly Jerónimo de Santa Fe who was known to his former Jewish brethren as “the blasphemer” because of his conversion to Catholicism, his work to proselytize Jews and his deep resentment of his Jewish heritage) who suggests, against the traditional approach, that these books should be named Melachim or ‘The Reign’. According to the secular scribe these books are part of the book of Kings because it contains the stories of Shaul and David. This suggestion does seem reasonable.

The Abarbanel posits that according to traditional Jewish sources we name these books by the prophet Shmuel because of his stellar personality and religious integrity as well as his critical role as the maker of Kings. Shmuel is the prophet who anoints both Shaul and David and plays a critical role in their reigns. He is instrumental in setting the tone for Jewish Kingship.

He takes this suggestion one step further and indicates that Shmuel is the singular personality who connects the prior book of Shoftim to this new book of Shmuel. There is a gap between the conclusion of the Judges of Israel and the establishment of the Davidic dynasty. The bridge between this gap is the man who himself was a judge of Israel but also played the role of King maker for Israel. To give Shmuel the due respect and recognition for his impact on Jewish History we name these books after him.

 Click above for an excellent summary of the book of Shoftim

Click above for an excellent summary of the book of Shoftim

The Connection between the conclusion of Shoftim and the beginning of Shmuel I

It is fascinating to note that we open the book of Shmuel with an introduction of a member of the tribe of Levi who is dedicated to bringing good into the world.

שמואל א פרק א                                                                                                                           (א) ויהי איש אחד מן־הרמתים צופים מהר אפרים ושמו אלקנה בן־ירחם בן־אליהוא בן־תחו בן־צוף אפרתי

“Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim, of the hill-country of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephramite”

Identified in Divrei HaYamim (Chapter 6) as the descendant of the tribe of Levi, and specifically of the infamous Korach, it is no coincidence of the prominent role a Levite plays at the start of the book of Shmuel.

The last two stories (Pesel Ha’Efod and Pilegesh B’Givah) of the book of Shoftim revolve around the descendants of Levi performing less then noble acts. It is also slightly shocking to note that the Levite who becomes the leader of the rebellion against God is the grandson of Moshe. For further study see the end of the book of Shoftim.

Perhaps as a tikkun (repair), we present a new Levite, Elkanah, who will achieve greatness and influence his fellow Jews positively. There is a sense of irony that the grandson of Moshe faults with the worship of idols and the descendant of Korach, Elkanah, is worthy to have a child who will be a prophet who will establish Kings in Israel. Beyond that the Maharshal in his book Chochmas Shlomo (Brachos 61) boldly suggests that there are many parallels between the Ish Levi in the Pilegesh B’Giva’ah story and Elkanah which may lead us to believe they are one and the same person. This certainly is an interesting suggestion, and while it may not be the simple understanding of the story it certainly adds greater context to the ideas the formed the personality of Elkanah.