The Haftarah for the first day of Rosh Hashanah is the story of a woman named Chanah who yearned for a child and, together with her husband Elkanah, would annually make a pilgrimage to pray in the Tabernacle of Shiloh. Eventually she was blessed with a child, whom she named Shmuel because, “I borrowed him from Hashem.” The most well-known reason for designating this story as the Haftarah on Rosh Hashanah is that it was on Rosh Hashanah that Hashem remembered Chanah and made it possible for her to conceive (see Rosh Hashanah 11a).

One may, however, wonder, is this the only thing recorded in Scriptures which took place on Rosh Hashanah? For instance, it was on Rosh Hashanah that the prophet Elisha came to Shunam and blessed the woman with a child (see II Kings 4:8, and Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 597:1, Taz). It was also on Rosh Hashanah that the people gathered around Ezra to hear the Torah being read and resolved to follow its teachings. When the listeners wept because they realized that they had been neglecting the teachings of the Torah, Ezra and Nechemia told them not to “mourn or weep” since it was Rosh Hashanah. “Go eat rich foods,” they said, “and drink sweet drinks...for today is sacred to Hashem” (see Nehemia, chap. 8).

Perhaps we can add another reason for specifically selecting the story of Chanah to be read on Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah is a day when many come to shul with a tremor in their heart, not knowing what the New Year entails for them. They make resolutions and even vows of loyalty to Hashem and pledge donations to charity, etc., hoping that in this merit their wishes will be granted and they will be blessed with a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year. Unfortunately, when the inspiration of the crisis disappears and when the danger is over, many pledges remain unredeemed and many vows are violated or forgotten.

I am reminded of the story of the old woman who was about to walk across an old, rickety bridge. She said, “O G‑d, if I get through safely, I will give one hundred dollars to charity.” When she was a quarter of the way across and all seemed well, she said, “O G‑d, I do not have so much. You won’t mind, I know; fifty dollars are also enough.” As she walked a little further, the bridge suddenly began to shake underneath her feet. “Oh,” she said, “I only made a joke and G‑d took me seriously.”

Chanah was a woman who was lacking fulfillment. She wanted very much to have a child of her own, and for years she came to the Tabernacle, poured out her heart, and beseeched Hashem to grant her a son. Together with this she vowed, “If You will look upon the anguish of Your maidservant and give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to G‑d all the days of his life.” Finally her wish was granted, and when the boy was still very young, she brought him to the house of Hashem in Shiloh.

Though she could have procrastinated and waited till he became much older, claiming, “A young little boy needs the tender loving care of his mother,” she did not look for excuses or loopholes, but made every effort to fulfill her pledge promptly.

This may be a reason for reading specifically about this event among all those which took place on Rosh Hashanah. It is a reminder to all of us that when in the midst of our inspiration and fervent prayers we make resolutions, vows, and oaths to improve our relationship with Hashem and man, we should remember to act tomorrow in accordance with the resolutions we have made today. Chanah was blessed with an abundance of nachas for keeping her word and we, too, will be richly rewarded when we fulfill our promises.