The haftarah for Naso is from the book of Shoftim (Judges). It is the story of how Shimshon (Samson) was born.1

The connection to our parshah is that Naso tells us the laws of the nazir, one who took upon himself to abstain from drinking wine, cutting his hair or coming in contact with anything impure for a period of time, usually a month. Similarly, in the haftarah, Shimshon’s parents are instructed that he is to be a nazir all his life. There is also a connection to the holiday of Shavuot, as we will soon see.

Shimshon’s mother, who according to the Talmud,2 was called Tzlalponis, was the wife of Manoach of the tribe of Dan. She never had children. An angel appeared to her in the form of a man and told her that she would have a son. He instructed her that during her pregnancy, she shouldn’t drink wine or eat anything impure. (From here, we learn that what a woman consumes during pregnancy affects the growing baby in her womb. It is therefore customary for Jewish women to be extra careful to keep to high kosher standards while pregnant to ensure that her baby has a holy spiritual advantage.)

He instructed her with regards to the upbringing of the baby—that he be a nazir from the time he is in her belly.

When she told Manoach what happened, he prayed to G‑d that He send the angelic man again. G‑d granted his wish. When Tzlalponis was out in the field, the angel appeared to her again, and she ran to get her husband.

Manoach asked the man: “Now your words will come true, what rules should be followed with the lad?” The angel answered: “Be careful of everything I said to your wife.”3

The Rambam4 tells us that Shimshon was not a complete nazir.

There are three classes of nazir. The typical one takes an oath to be a nazir to G‑d for a set amount of time, usually a month. He is not permitted to consume anything that came from the grapevine, cut his hair, eat anything impure or become impure by coming in contact with a dead person. After the nazir’s time is up, he brings certain sacrifices and cuts his hair, and that ends his nazirite status.

Then there is a nazir for life—like our prophet Shmuel, who has to keep all the laws of the nazir except that he can cut his hair when it becomes too heavy, which is understood to mean after 12 months.5 To cut his hair, he brings the nazir sacrifices6 and cuts his hair. At this time, he can ask for his nazirite oath to be annulled,7 which would end his nazirite status; if he doesn’t, he continues as a nazir.

Then there is a nazir like Shimshon, a nazir from the womb. He was different in that he could never cut his hair, nor ask for annulment,8 but he is permitted to become impure by coming in contact with a dead person, which Shimshon did. This is what the Rambam means by an incomplete nazir—that he was allowed to become impure by coming in contact with a dead person.

From the similar wording in the verses pertaining to each of them, the last Mishnah of the tractate Nazir derives that the Shmuel was a nazir from Shimshon. Then the Talmud debates which is superior: to say a blessing or to respond amen, affirming one’s inclusion in the blessing of another. The tractate then concludes with a famous teaching, “Rabbi Elazar said in the name of Rabbi Chanina: ‘The students of the sages add peace in the world . . . ’ ”

What could possibly be the connection between Shimshon and Shmuel being nazirs, and the Talmudic debate and teaching that follow?

The Rambam says that Shimshon never took the nazirite oath.9 And because we learn that Shmuel was a nazir from Shimshon, presumably Shmuel didn’t either take the oath.

If they didn’t take the oath, then how did they become nazirs?

Shmuel’s mother, Chana, was the one who made an oath to G‑d, but the rule is that when a mother promises that her child will be a nazir, it is not legally binding. In the case of Shimshon, it was the angel that said that he will be a nazir, and that is certainly not binding. An angel has no say in the matters of a Jewish person’s life.

Although these oaths weren’t binding, they were enough to start them off being a nazir in practice. However, it was only when they reached the age of 13, the age of adulthood, and they continued the practice of being a nazir on their own that affirmed the statements of Chana and the angel, making them binding.

Now we can understand how the debate about the blessing fits in. What is greater: the one who says it, or the one who affirms? Were Chana’s and the angel’s statements greater, or were Shmuel’s and Shimshon’s affirmation greater? In this case, we see that the affirmation is greater.

The same is true for Rabbi Elazar’s teaching. Why does he refer to the students of the sages? Why not the sages themselves? Because by following in the ways of the sages, the students are affirming, which, as explained earlier, is greater.10

The haftarah continues with Manoach asking the man to stay and eat: “I will prepare a goat for you.”11 The angel refused, saying: “I will not eat your food.”12 Manoach didn’t know that it was an angel. He asked: “What is your name, so when your words come to be, we will honor you?”13 The angel responded: “It is a secret.”14 Manoach then offered the goat as a sacrifice to G‑d, and the angel wondrously produced a fire while Manoach and Tzlalponis looked on. As the flame rose upward to heaven, the angel went up in the flame before their eyes. They then fell on their faces, finally realizing that the man was actually an angel of G‑d.15

Seeing all this, Manoach said to his wife: “We are going to die because we saw G‑d.”16

Tzlalponis responded: “If G‑d wanted to kill us, He wouldn’t have accepted from our hand a burnt-offering, and He wouldn’t have shown us all these things, and at this time He would not let us hear [things] like these.”17

The first two things that Tzlalponis said to calm her husband’s fears make sense; however, the third raises questions.

First, she said, that “if G‑d wanted to kill us, He wouldn’t have accepted from our hand a burnt-offering.” Being that G‑d accepted their offering—and in a miraculous way, as the angel wondrously produced a fire—it clearly means that G‑d doesn’t want them to die.

Her second response came to answer Manoach’s fear that seeing G‑d would cause them to die. She said: “He wouldn’t have shown us all these things.” Meaning, it was G‑d Who chose to show Himself to us; we didn’t go and seek to gaze inappropriately. G‑d can do anything. He can choose that a physical body should see him and live.

What is difficult to understand is her third proof, “He wouldn’t have let us hear [things] like these.” Once she brought a proof from seeing G‑d, which is superior to hearing Him, what does hearing add? If after seeing G‑d they will live, then surely after hearing Him they will live. On top of that, Manoach was afraid only because he saw G‑d; he didn’t seem concerned about hearing Him. So how does her answer allay his fears?

We must conclude that a type of hearing is superior to seeing, and that is what she was referring to.

Because we live in a physical world, it is natural for us to see the physical, which appears most real to us. On the other hand, G‑dliness is only heard. We can understand it, but it is vague, it doesn’t have the same real impression as the physical world that we can see.

When we received the Torah at Mount Sinai, it says that we “saw the sounds.”18 The Midrash tells us that according to Rabbi Akiva, we saw what was heard and we heard what was seen.19 G‑dliness, which is usually heard and does not feel so real to us, was seen; it felt real. Because of this, our perception of the physical world changed now that they heard the G‑dliness in the physical. Seeing G‑dliness is amazing, but experiencing G‑dliness in the physical is by far greater.

Manoach and Tzlalponis had an experience similar to the giving of the Torah. Her third response should be understood like this: “At this time [after this amazing experience, if He wanted us to die], He would not let us hear [things] like these.” He wouldn’t continue to have us experience the G‑dliness in everything.20

The haftarah concludes with Shimshon being born and the spirit of G‑d coming to him, meaning that he would receive prophecy.21

We aren’t told much about Tzlalponis; her name isn’t even mentioned in the Tanach. But from the haftarah, we gather that she was a great woman. The angel appeared to her twice—the second time when she was in the field. Why are we told where she was? What difference does it make to know that she was in the field? In Tanach, being in the field is code for praying.22 It is telling us that she was a person who prayed and was close to G‑d. From her answers to Manoach, we understand that she was wise. And finally, she gave birth to the mighty Shimshon, who was a prophet, a tzaddik and a judge who would guide the Jewish people for 22 years.

The Talmud23 records her name together with the names of the mothers of Abraham and David, who were special women. Why are their names not recorded in the Tanach? Perhaps because the essence of who they were was total selflessness, providing for their babies—Abraham, David and Shimshon—who would become the first Jew, the quintessential king who is the father of Moshiach and the one who was given miraculous strength to singlehandedly save the Jewish people from the Philistines, respectively. It was not about them; to show that, their names aren’t mentioned.24

The name Tzlalponis could be divided into two words: tzlal,25 which means “clear,” and ponis, which means “facing towards.” Because I have gained much respect for her while preparing this article, I would venture to say that it means that she was clear of sin and that she faced G‑d—her focus in her life was G‑d.26

We know very little about Manoach. From the haftarah, we know that he was from the tribe of Dan, that G‑d answered his prayers, that he had the good trait of giving thanks (hakarat hatov), that he was extremely G‑d fearing and that he had a great wife.

Just as we read in this haftarah how G‑d provided the one who could save the Jewish people, may he once again send Moshiach, the one who could redeem us from this dark exile. The time has come.

Dedicated to my son Mendel, who celebrates his birthday this week.