The Haphtorah of the Sidrah Korach that is read during this month, is taken from the Book of Samuel. The Haphtorah always has a connection with the Sidrah, and today's Haphtorah has a two-fold connection. Firstly, because Samuel was a descendant of Korach; and, secondly, because there is a similarity in the content of the Haphtorah with that of the Sidrah. The Sidrah tells us how Korach made a rebellion against Moses and how Moses modestly defended himself, arguing that he never used his authority for his own benefit; that he never even borrowed someone else's donkey. The Prophet Samuel uses almost the same words. To be sure, there was no actual rebellion against Samuel, but the very fact that the Jews demanded a king; seemed to be a protest against the great judge and prophet, who had served them so truly and faithfully. The connection between the Haphtorah and the Sidrah of the week is therefore quite clear.
Samuel, as we have mentioned, was a descendant of Korach, and this shows us the power of repentance. Korach himself did not repent, but his children repented in time to save themselves from the horrible death that befell their father and his followers. "And the sons of Korach did not die." They merited that the great Prophet Samuel should be one of their descendants. The children of Korach were also outstanding singers and poets among the Levites. They are the authors of a number of Psalms which have remained for ever with the Jewish people, along with those of Moses and King David, and the others who all together have given us the Book of Psalms.
Elkanah, Samuel's father, was one of the most respected and richest members of the Levite tribe. Samuel's mother, Hannah, was a modest and G-d-fearing woman; a prophetess, who gave us a wonderful prophecy in the form of a Song of Praise. Hannah was childless. Once, when she was praying to G-d in the Sanctuary at Shiloh, she made the following promise: "If G-d will accept my prayer and grant me a son, I will bring him up as a Nazarite, whose entire life would be dedicated to G-d."
Hannah's sincere prayer was accepted and she bore a son, whom she named "Samuel" ("G-d heard").
When Samuel was still a small child, Hannah, true to her promise, brought him to the Sanctuary at Shiloh, so that he should learn Torah there and grow up under the care of Eli, the High Priest. Although she loved her son more than life itself, and it was difficult for her to part from him, she joyfully left him in the House of G-d.
G-d revealed himself to young Samuel at a very early age, and he grew up realizing that G-d had placed upon him a great responsibility.
Samuel came to the people at a critical moment. He found the people divided into twelve separate tribes, but really divided. It was one nation in name only. Actually, there were twelve tribes, twelve territories. The unity that Moses had created in the people, and that Joshua had continued, disappeared during the rule of the Judges. The people were greatly influenced by their idolatrous neighbors and their standards were therefore low, morally, as well as politically. Even the teachers of the people, the Priests, did not carry out their duties. The children of Eli the High-Priest were spoiled, and their actions were not in accord with the Torah.
The Philistines, the enemies of the Jews, took advantage of the situation and attacked the Jews. The holy town of Shiloh, where the Sanctuary was situated, was destroyed. The people were in despair.
Samuel had a difficult task before him, but with great enthusiasm he started to fulfill his destiny.
He realized that the people were in need of earnest Torah-true teachers and leaders, and therefore he assembled a young group of prophets. In the town of Ramah, Samuel's birth-place and hometown, all the prophets gathered together and learned Torah from Samuel and prepared themselves for their destiny, namely, to cause the people to return to G-d, and prevent their being drawn towards the idolatry of the surrounding nations.
Samuel was soon recognized not only as a Prophet but also as a judge. He was the last of the judges; after him King Saul became head of the Jewish nation.
Year in year out Samuel visited the Jewish towns and villages. He did not wait for the people to come to him. He went to the people and with warm words, encouraged them. He explained to them that G-d demanded of them mainly to live a G-dly life, and observe His commandments. This was more important than mere sacrifices. Samuel could also be strict when necessary, and when a commandment was in question he accepted no compromise.
Samuel's influence on the people soon became noticeable. The people cast off the different kinds of idol-worship and began to observe the ways of the Torah. The widely separated and torn-apart tribes began to draw near to each other and once more the people became united. With combined efforts the people started to free themselves from the Philistine oppression. They started a battle with their bitter enemies and conquered them. The Jews took back from the Philistines all the towns that the Philistines had taken from them by force at the time of the destruction of Shiloh.
Samuel was loved and respected by the people. He was their judge, prophet and father.
In his declining years, though, Samuel was disappointed. The Jews were afraid to remain without a political leader. They desired a king, as the nations about them had their kings. Samuel was of the opinion that the Jews were not in need of a mortal king; G-d is their King, and as long as they would remain united around the Torah, He would protect them; if they would not remain true to G-d, a king would not help them.
Samuel continued his holy work as G-d's prophet. He accepted no payment for his work, living from the inheritance he received from his parents.
Samuel saw with distress that Saul failed in the hour of need, when he disobeyed G-d's command in connection with the war against Amalek. Samuel sternly rebuked the king and fearlessly informed him that G-d had taken from him the kingdom. The lot, fell on Samuel to anoint David, the son of Jesse, as Saul's successor.
David was Samuel's disciple and successor in the chain of Tradition beginning with Moses. David received from him everything that Samuel had learned from his predecessors. Samuel handed down to him all that had been passed on to him from generation to generation since the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.
Samuel could leave this world with a feeling of contentment, knowing that he had left such a great follower in his place.
He died in Ramah and was buried there. The whole nation deeply mourned the loss of their beloved leader Samuel, the Levite, their judge and Prophet.