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Question: Recently we read the haftara of Parashat Naso. I am puzzled by the fact that the wife of Manoach was given to see things her husband did not see, yet only his name is mentioned. What was the name of Manoach’s wife?

Yossy Guttman
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Answer: The haftara in question is taken from Shoftim (Judges13: 2-25) and opens with the statement, “Va’yehi ish echad miTzor’ah” – “There was a certain man of Tzor’ah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoach, and his wife was barren and had not given birth.” Yet it is to her, the woman whose name is not mentioned, that the angel of G-d revealed himself, as the next pasuk informs us, “Va’yeira malach Hashem el ha’isha.”

The angel advised the woman that she was going to give birth to a son. The angel then instructed her not to drink wine or any other strong drink, nor eat any unclean food, for she will give birth to a son who will be a nezir Elokim, a Nazirite unto G-d from the womb, whose hair will never be touched by a razor, and he will begin to save Israel from the hands of the Philistines.

The woman returned to her husband and told him that “a man of G-d” – that is, a prophet or holy man – “whose countenance was like the countenance of an angel of G-d” had appeared to her; she was, however, totally unaware that he was indeed an angel of G-d. She proceeded to relate to her husband the instructions regarding the child they would have.

We are then told that when the angel appeared again in the field in response to Manoach’s entreaty; the woman hastened to call her husband, whereupon “Manoach arose and went after his wife, and came to the man and said to him: ‘Are you the man who spoke to the woman?’ And the angel answered, ‘I am.’”

The angel repeated the instructions he had given to Manoach’s wife, and Manoach expressed the desire to detain him so that they might prepare for him a young goat. The angel declined, but suggested that they make instead a burnt-offering to Hashem. It is only when the angel ascended to heaven in the flames that arose from the altar upon which Manoach had placed the kid goat and the meal offering that Manoach and his wife realized that the messenger was no mere mortal but an angel of G-d.

Manoach said to his wife, “We shall surely die because we have seen [an angel of] G-d.” But his wife wisely replied, “Had G-d wanted to kill us, He would not have accepted the burnt-offering and the meal-offering from us, nor would He have shown us all these [miracles] or let us hear all these [good tidings].”

The role of Shimshon’s parents concludes with the information that the woman gave birth to a boy and she gave him the name Shimshon.

As far as her own name is concerned, the Talmud (Bava Batra 91a) states that it was Tzlilponit, noting that her name, like that of the mothers of several other great Biblical figures, is a detail of no particular importance. It is arguable whether the fact that the angel of G-d appeared to her first and spoke to her first is a decisive indication that she was greater than her husband, who eventually also saw the angel and received the same instructions from him. Her greatness definitely lies in her reaction to the angel’s departure and her ability to grasp matters divine, leading her to calm her frightened spouse.

Indeed, as the whole episode shows, Tzlilponit was endowed with more vision than her husband. Yet he is the one referred to by name throughout, recorded for all time, while she remains anonymous.

The Talmud quotes R. Nachman’s opinion that Manoach was an am ha’aretz, an ignoramus, for it is stated, “he went after his wife.” R. Nachman b. Yitzhak disagrees, citing numerous sources to prove that Manoach was wise, and that “he went after his wife” indicates that he followed her [wise] counsel. Yet even that explanation places him in a secondary position to his wife in wisdom and insight. If that is the case, where is the recognition she deserves?

In fact, this is not the only case where the wise counsel of a woman had a great impact. When Hashem revealed to our Patriarch Abraham that a great nation will descend from him and that the land of Canaan will be given to his progeny for an everlasting inheritance, He also told him that his wife, Sarah, will give birth to a son who will be the progenitor of this great nation. Abraham’s first reaction was (Genesis 17:18), “Lu Yishmael yich’yeh lefanecha!” – Would that Yishmael might live before You!

Later on, we find that our Matriarch Sarah was perturbed about the behavior of Yishmael and very much concerned with his influence on Yitzhak. She demanded of Abraham (Genesis 21:10), “Garesh ha’amah hazot ve’et benah, ki lo yirash ben ha’amah hazot im beni, im Yitzhak” – Drive away this bondwoman with her son, for the son of that bondwoman will not inherit with my son, with Yitzhak. Abraham was distressed, both at the revelation that his [elder] son had gone astray, and that Sarah wanted him to cast him out (see Rashi). But Hashem tells him, “Kol asher tomar eilecha Sarah shema bekolah” – Whatever Sarah tells you, heed her voice.” Thus Abraham was asked to make a decision affecting the destiny of his progeny based upon his wife’s counsel.

(To be continued)

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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.