Shimshon - The Early Years - -

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Resource Type: Shiur in: English
Age: 13-18
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Estimated Time: 30 minutes

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Resource Goal

Goal: The chanichim will discuss how Shimshon is an extremely strange Shofet, and how this was all on purpose; that Am Israel needed an undercover Shofet who could work undercover, living amongst the Pelishtim, to fight them single handedly on behalf on Am Israel. The chanichim will discuss why Shimshon needed to be a Nazir to offset the dangers of this mission and will discuss the story of his birth and the characters of his mother and father- Manoach and Eshet Manoach.

Resource Contents

Written by- Sarah Gordon

Many of the ideas from these shiruim are adapted from the book "Shofet HaShoftim" by Yisroel Rozenson, published by Machon Herzog.

Machal Shiur #14: Perek 13-14 (Beginning)

Goal: The chanichim will discuss how Shimshon is an extremely strange Shofet, and how this was all on purpose; that Am Israel needed an undercover Shofet who could work undercover, living amongst the Pelishtim, to fight them single handedly on behalf on Am Israel. The chanichim will discuss why Shimshon needed to be a Nazir to offset the dangers of this mission and will discuss the story of his birth and the characters of his mother and father- Manoach and Eshet Manoach.

Option #1: Read the 1st pasuk of Perek 13 with the chanichim. Am Israel sins again and Hashem sends them into the hands of the Pelishtim for 40 years. Ask the chanichim: What do you think the morale of Am Israel is after 40 years of being oppressed? What is siginificant about 40 years? 40 years is a generation, thats how long there was quiet for after other Shoftim. Now Bnei Israel need to be saved (even though they have not done teshuva!), what kind of Shofet do they need? Would a Devorah work? Could you just muster up an army and go and fight after 40 years of being oppressed? Am Israel has no idea how to fight any more! Therefore these type of times call for a unique type of shofet: An undercover Shofet who can fight for himself.

Option #2: We will see that the weird nature of Shimshon being a shofet could also be due to the fact that Hashem has ended the Shoftim cycle. Bnei Israel need to be saved, but they no longer merit a full and open salvation from a superstar Shofet, instead Hashem will only save them in an indirect way (going along with how Sefer Shoftim is in a downhill spiral after Gidon). Also, we see here another example of leaders coming from the sidelines, unlikely leaders in a generation that lacks leadership.

Shimshon the Super Shofet??

Shimshon is a weird shofet for a number of reasons. Ask the chanichim for examples, but some they might not realize until they read the perek, so you can point it out to them as you go along.

a) There is no other place where the leader has super strength.

b) The way he became a Nazir is different, from before he was born, and his mother must hold to the laws of Nezirut while pregnant!

c) His role was very strange- he doesnt lead the Jews publicly, but works undercover, killing Pelishtim, while living amongst them. The Jews dont even know he is a Shofet!

On to the Story: Shimshon, Epidode 1:

Something else that is unique about Shimshon is that we have a story about him even before he is born! An angel will come and appear to his mom. This idea of someone being chosen even before he was born sounds very superhero-y. (It also sounds a little like Moshe who is already born- but we are told about how he was saved as a baby, and we get this story since Moshe, similar to Shimshon, is destined to lead the Jewish people).

2-5: Manoach from Shevet Dan, has a wife who is an akarah (barren). A Malach appears to her and says that she will have a son, but that he will be a Nazir from birth, and while she is pregnant, she also should not drink wine and should stay away from tameh things (she should keep partial nezirut).

** Its interesting that she is an Akarah Akarot always have special sons, who are born for a special purpose. (Ask the chanichim for examples: Shmuel and Chana, Yitzchak and Sarah, Rachel and Yosef). What does this say about Shimson?

***In this set up Eshet Manoach does not have a name. Ask the chanichim who is active and who is passive in the story: The active one in the story is clearly Eshet Manoach. (She is dominant, like other women without names in Tanakh; the Ishah Shunamit with Elisha).

8-13: The Malach appears to her, but her husband does not believe her and asks Hashem to send the Malach again. But the Malach comes back to her, not to Manoach! Finally when Manoach meets the Malach, he asks him what to do with the kid. This is a dumb question because his wife already told him. And the Malach responds: I already told your wife everything.

***Also, Manoach doesnt think that the Malach is a Malach bc he offers it food! From this story, who seems like the stronger character? Ask the chanichim: What do you think of Manoach in this story? What do you think of Eshet Manoach? It seems that his wife is leagues ahead of him! She is active and he is passive. Even Manoachs name = passivity. Manoach is always a few steps behind her. Once again we see the role reversal in shoftim, with the women being the leaders, not the men. Eshet Manoach is another strong woman leader portrayed in Shoftim along with Yael and Devorah.

Also, this also says something about the spiritual situation of the people if people dont even recognize a Malach! Ask the chanichim: Would they recognize a Malach if it spoke to them? Here we also see a parallel to when the Malach came to Gidon and he didnt recognize it either! And at the beginning of the story when a Malach comes to Bnei Israel at bochim. The Jews are on a very low spiritual level, they do not recognize melachim!

Wait- Im still confused!

Is Shimshon really a Shofet? We will see that the Jews wont even know that he is helping them (they turn him over to the Pelishti authorities as a troublemaker in Perek 15)! And Shimshon also comes off as pretty shady; always running after foreign women, always starting up with the Pelishtim, but about personal issues and getting revenge. Is this really a Shofet?! Also, we still havent explained why he needs to be a Nazir, from before birth! What is going on?

To understand this, we have to look at the first few pesukim in Perek 14:

1-4: Shimshon goes down to Timnah and sees a girl he likes: who is yashar benav and tells his parents to get her for him. His parents dont understand why cant you find a nice Jewish girl? But Shimshon is adamant.

Pasuk 4 gives us the REAL reason why Shimshon is doing this: His father and mother didnt realize that this was Hashems plan, Shimshon was seeking a pretext (a way to start up) with the Pelishtim since they were oppressing Am Israel at that time

Really, Shimshon is an undercover agent. He is on a lifetime mission to be a secret agent abroad (This is actually very similar to Eli Cohen, the Israeli spy who lived his life in Syria as a normal Syrian until he was caught). As we have said, Bnei Israel are in no state to raise an army and fight the Pelishtim. And if the Pelishtim catch on that Shimshon is fighting for the Jews, they will take revenge on Am Israel (Ex: WW2, a Jew assassinated a Nazi, and in response, Kristellnacht occurred). So Shimshon must work alone, coming up with pretexts or ways to start up with the Pelishtim, where he can attack them, but where they wont realize hes doing it for Am Israel, but think that its out of a personal grudge.

What are the pros and cons of this plan? Pros: He can attack the Pelishtim and help the Jewish people, without them suffering reprisals from the Pelishtim. Cons: Can you really live undercover, in a life of Tumah, living the Pelishti culture, marrying their women, being violent without really losing a little of who you really are? What do you think?

This is Shimshons challenge! Can he live an outward life of Tumah without being affected himself? We will see that sometimes yes, but sometimes he will get caught up and it will become questionable (next shiur) whether he is acting for the Jewish People or really because he wants this woman or wants personal revenge.

But G-d already built in a counter measure into the system. Since Shimshon is going to be immersed in an immoral culture for his whole life, he will need a more intense way of keeping himself kadosh.

Ralbag (3): Shimshon is going to have to marry Pelishti women and is going to have to end up in their culture for this plan to work. To counter the negative culture that he will be in, he will have to be a Nazir and stay away from certain pleasures; wine, haircutsetc, to balance himself out. He has to push himself to be more kadosh, because hes going to be surrounded by Tumah. He has to push himself more to one extreme, bc he knows his surroundings are going to push himself to the opposite extreme.

(You can bring up how people do this today. Why some people take time off to learn or immerse themselves in Torah before going out to the working world, or before going to college.)

This is the paradox of Shimshon. He seems to do the most tameh things, but inherently is kadosh (at least until he messes up at the end). So he needs the balance of nezirut (which is implies separation, kedusha, but for those who need it, not for everyone, since being a Nazir is optional and might even not be ideal as you bring a sin offering when you end your Nezirut, since you abstained from pleasures of the world) to help him out.


Why do people become Nazirs? See Gemara Sota 2a. In the Torah it comes right after the laws of Sotah. And someone would be so shocked by seeing a Sotah being executed and would be afraid that they would also sin like that, so THEY become a nazir and dont drink wine, so will never come to commit adultery while intoxicated. Meaning, Nezirut is a protective measure for people who are afraid they will be more susceptible to tumah. So too with Shimshon.

We see reference to Shimshons undercover mission in his name:

Sotah 10a: Shimshons name comes from G-ds name; just as Hashem protects the Jewish people like a sun, (Ki shemesh vemagen Hashem Elokim- Tehillim 84:12) Shimshon protected his generation like a sun.

Maharsha: Suns rays can be beneficial or detrimental, so too Shimshons activities helped Am Israel and hurt the Pelishtim.

Abarbanel: Comes from shamash helper. Shimshon was the servant and helper of G-d. Also he served the Jewish people, helping them while living undercover with the Pelishtim.

Also, a shemesh can give life or destroy. We see that Shimshon at the end gets corrupted by his mission, and gives into his taavot, and is defeated by a Pelishti woman.

This could also be in Shimshons hair being his secret strength. When you look at hair, the outside hair is really dead, what is alive is under your skin. So too with Shimshon what you see on the outside is not real, this is the act he is putting on (at least at the beginning before he gets corrupted), while what is real is hidden, on the inside.

*****If you still have time you can go on to finishing the story in Perek 14, or you can leave the next bit until tomorrows shiur, and skip to Bringing it down to the chanichim.

Finshing off the story: Perek 14

1: As we saw last time, Shimshon wants to marry a Pelishti girl because she is good in his eyes, yashara beini. What does this mean? This could be foreshadowing Shimshons downfall. Yes, he needs to live among Pelishtim and marry them, but he starts to be tempted by his eyes. Shimshons taavot for women will ultimately be his end. Also, what is good in his eyes? Is it also good in Hashems eyes? What is Shimshons criteria here?

3: Shimshon says bring me that one, shes the one I like kach li. What kind of lashon is this? Very rough. How does he see this woman? How is he talking to his parents. This sounds very taavah oriented. Or is he just playing the character so that everyone, even his parents, will think that he is this rough guy and not doing this for Am Israel? This is the mystery of Shimshon!

5: Shimshon and his parents go down to Pelishti land to meet the girl. Split up along the way (Malbim: There was a vineyard on the way and Shimshon couldnt walk through because he was a nazir).

5-9: Lion attacks Shimshon, he gets Ruach Hashem, he kills it with his bare hands, and doesnt tell parents (strength is secret-undercover). He comes back later and sees bees eating honey out of dead lions body. Shimshon eats some of the honey. Gives to parents, again, doesnt tell them where its from. This is weird!

Actually, it could have a lot of symbolism sending a message to Shimshon:

  • Something matok (sweet) came from something mar (bitter). Its mussar to Shimshon to use his strength for good.

  • Or it shows how lion defeated by bees. Shimshon will later be defeated by Delilah. Strong defeated by something small, sweet.

  • You can also see here irony of Shimshon. Supposed to be nazir, kadosh, yet drawn to tumaah (dead lion), later is drawn to the women.

10-20: Then Shimshon has his wedding party with the Pelishtim! Remember, this was the whole REAL reason for marrying this women to start up with the Pelishtim (but did he get taken away?). He asks Pelishtim the riddle of the lion with bees in (from the eater came food, from the strong came something sweet). If they cant get it have to give Shimshon clothes a big expense. He is toying with the Pelishtim! Its a set up, because this riddle is based on actual occurrence that only Shimshon knows about!! There is no way the Pelishtim can get this. They get frustrated (probably the idea all along!); they tell Shimshons wife to betray Shimshon and get the answer or they threaten to burn her house (sounds like Yiftach!). She keeps asking Shimshon, nagging him for the whole 7Brachot, Shimshon finally gives into her, (we see his weakness for women which will ultimately be his downfall!), and tells her and she tells them.

Shimshon gets angry, he wanted to trick the Pelishtim, but it blew up in his face, because you cant trust Pelishti women (a lesson Shimshon never really learns!). Has ruach Hashem, gets angry, kills 30 men and takes their clothes to give to the other 30 men who tricked him.

Ask the chanichim: Is he attacking here for Hashem and Bnei Israel or out of personal revenge?? Seems unclear! What do you think of him giving in to the Pelishti woman and telling her? He has so much physical strength but can be so easily convinced by a woman! It seems that though Shimshon has koach (physical strength) he lacks gevurah (spiritual strength against desires). What does this say about Shimshon as a leader?

Bringing it down to the chanichim: You can ask them about scenarios where they have felt they were in a negative environment that was not the best influence for them. It could even just be a different environment where they were the only Jew, or even a Jewish environment, but one where they felt that no one else had their values. How did they feel? How did they manage to keep their own ideals and not be influenced by their environment? Or, on a more global scale, how can we balance living in the outside world, with American culture and our own Torah values? When can we mesh them and when do we have to put up barriers? (People wearing kippot to work, eating Kosher, dating only Jews). This is similar to what Shimshon was being faced with. But with Shimshon, he was surrounded by the outside culture totally, while today, we still have Jewish communities within the outside world. How do we balance being involved without getting too influenced?

Recap: Shimshon must work undercover, living with the Pelishtim and fighting them within, in order to save Am Israel. He must be a nazir to help him offset the negative affects of living in an immoral society, but we will see that he will still be drawn to Tumah and Pelishti women, and this will end up negatively affecting him and getting him to forget his mission.

Resource Comments

Machal Shiur #14: Perek 13-14 (Beginning)

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