Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
JUDGES CHAPTERS 15-16
It must be understood that Shimshon's life came at the very end of the period of the Judges on the very threshold of the institution of the kingship under the prophet Samuel, the cycle of whose stories is told in Samuel I. After today's text a sizeable portion of the book of Judges still lies ahead of us before we reach the Book of Samuel, but the two episodes related in the last five chapters of Judges - Michah's idol (ch's 17-18) and the Concubine in Giv'ah (ch's 19-21) - in fact occurred early in the period of the Judges, as noted by the commentators. They are placed at the end of the book in order to characterize the deep national malady that prevailed throughout the period of the Judges in order to explain the need for the kingship.
The narrative in our present text, with all its many riddles and deep allegories, reflects the situation prevailing immediately before the institution of the kingship. The Israelites had practically turned into a subject nation living in constant fear of their Philistine rulers. As the men of Judah complained to Shimshon, whom they saw as a dangerous provocateur: "Don't you know that the Philistines rule over us?" (ch 15 v 11).
RaDaK in his lengthy introduction to the story of Shimshon (ch 13 v 4) notes that the Israelites were not fighting the Philistines at this time: Shimshon alone was engaged in a single-handed campaign against them. RaDaK states that it is unthinkable that Shimshon simply married idolatrous Philistine women without converting them, for if he had, he would have been criticized for violating the prohibition against intermarriage with other peoples (Deut. 7:3f). Likewise Rambam (Maimonides) in the Laws of Forbidden Relationships (Issurey Bi'ah 13:14) states categorically that one should not imagine that Shimshon married unconverted women. As in the case of King Solomon, who also took foreign wives, Rambam and RaDaK state that Shimshon converted them first. If Shimshon could be criticized, it is because he "went after his eyes" - he strayed from his original holy intentions because of some kind of "material desire" (on his exalted level). This showed that he did not convert them entirely LISHMOH (in the name of true conversion). Nevertheless, "it was from God" (ch 14 v 4) that he took Philistine wives. This was because "He sought a PRETEXT against the Philistines" (ibid.) in order to take revenge against them, and this is why God was with Shimshon and give him such success.
RaDaK states that the Israelites in that period were not sufficiently God-fearing to be worthy of God's sending them complete salvation from the Philistines. Shimshon kept the Philistines in check through using the various "pretexts" that God arranged (the honey in the lion's carcass, the giving of Shimshon's wife from Timnah to another man, etc.) in order to terrorize and wreak havoc among them.
Shimshon's heroism in single-handedly struggling against those seeking to deny the people of Israel their right to live at peace in their ancestral land is reminiscent of the courageous few who are today willing to defy the contemporary "political correctness" of latter-day Israel's so-called "peace camp", endorsed by its mainstream media and high court etc., which is essentially a policy of appeasement and capitulation to Arab terror. Just as the men of Judah tied up Shimshon and handed him over to the Philistines, so too Israel's latter-day appeasers have had no scruples about doing everything in their power to gag, strap, tie up and inhibit those who would defend the actual people of Israel from their worst enemies in the absence of any concerted government campaign against them.
The subtle weave of riddles and allegories in our text makes for a colorful story replete with word-play and other mysteries leading up to the heart-rending conclusion in which Shimshon reveals his secret and falls prey to his barbaric enemies. "If I am shaved, my power will depart from me and I will become weak (VE-CHOLISI - I will be CHOL, profane) and I will be LIKE EVERY MAN (KE-CHOL HA-ADAM)". It is here that the deep inner truth of the allegory stares us right in the face. "If I fail, I will be like ADAM". Shimshon was the GILGUL (incarnation) of ADAM. His mission was to rectify Adam's sin, but he was unable to do so in his lifetime and could only take vengeance on the Philistines with his death.
We see that Shimshon constantly called out to God and prayed for all that he needed. He was a CHATZOS JEW - he was awake and active from midnight (=CHATZOS), thus escaping the wiles of the Philistines who plotted to kill him in the morning (ch 17 v 3). Similarly every Jew can escape the wiles of the YETZER RA, the evil urge that lurks in wait to kill him each morning - by getting up long before the dawn in order to pray and study Torah thereby outwitting the YETZER, destroying its power.
There was no end to Shimshon's ambition: he wanted to take all the sparks of holiness from the Philistines and thereby destroy them. But their GEVUROT (mighty powers) proved too much for him, because Israel was not yet ready for salvation. The five "captains" of the Philistines who offered Delilah money to extract Shimshon's secret are called "SARNEY Philishtim". The gematria of SARNEY is 320, alluding to the SHaCH Dinim (320 severe judgments) that hide Godliness from the world. The rabbis taught that Delilah tormented Shimshon by pulling out from under him immediately before he could climax. Embodiment of the evil demon Lilith, she thereby succeeded in steadily wearing him down until he came closer and closer to revealing his secret and finally did: his power came from his uncut locks. As discussed in yesterday's commentary, Shimshon the Nazirite's hair alludes to the hairs of the head of the Partzuf of Arich Anpin, source of all the sweetening mercies in the world. Once these were cut, the Shechinah departed from Shimshon without his even knowing it.
The Talmud comments on the verse "and the lad grew and God blessed him" (ch 13:24) that He blessed him in his organ, because it was like that of a regular man but his seed was like a flowing river (Sotah 10a). All this creative power was captured by the forces of evil. "And he was grinding in the house of the prisoners" (Judges ch 16 v 21). "Said Rabbi Yochanan, 'grinding' is an expression having the connotation of sin. This teaches that each and every Philistine would bring his wife to the prison house to be impregnated by him" (Sotah 10a).
The Philistine celebration of the capture of their most feared enemy and their praise of their idols for the victory was a terrible CHILUL HASHEM, desecration of God's Name. We shed tears as we read Shimshon's last prayer to God (ch 16 v 28). "Let my soul die with the Philistines" (v. 30): Shimshon was the true archetype suicide martyr, who gave his life to bring about an eternal KIDDUSH HASHEM (Sanctification of God's Name). He sacrificed the merit of one of his gouged eyes in order to take vengeance on his enemies in this world. The merit of his second eye is stored up in the World to Come (Yerushalmi Sota). There the truth of the mystery of Shimshon is known and revealed.
BACK TO KNOW YOUR BIBLE HOMEPAGE
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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