Commentary Magazine


Samson: A Pseudepigraphical Jest

The story of Samson, son of Manoah of the tribe of Dan, as handed down to us in our years and centuries of wandering in Edom, in Provence, Galicia, Lithuania, and Illinois, since the days when it was first related in the Book of Judges.

JUDGES XIII: 1

These were ordinary days, the days in which this story takes place, days that saw too little moral fiber and remembrance of what it is man’s destiny to do or at least try to do as it has been revealed to him by God and taught to him by our teacher Moses, days in which the people of Israel sinned: going after other gods and selling themselves and their fellows to enrich themselves and satisfy their lust or distinguish themselves and satisfy their vanity; they did many of the abominable things which men are capable of and which God hates; and indeed He was unhappy with them for He allowed the Philistines to overrun the beautiful country which He had given them, making it unclean, reintroducing their false gods upon its soil, and, worst of all, making a bad example for the children: for all of four long and painful decades.

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—:2-7

Manoah, a man from Zorah who belonged to the tribe of Dan, was unhappy with this state of affairs, for although he sometimes overlooked the dietary laws, he was a righteous man and knew corruption when he saw it, but being no prophet, he hoped only to pass on what he knew to a son; unfortunately, his wife could not give him one, nor even a daughter for that matter. God remembered him and sent one of His plenipotentiaries to his wife to tell her that in good enough time she would beara son. This is a serious responsibility, he said, so cut out all drinking and keep a strictly kosher kitchen. Never let the boy get a haircut, for he is to be a Nazirite: one dedicated to the service of the Lordand to the deliverance of his people. The woman, who after all did not have experiences of this sort every day, went to tell her husband about it, explaining that, perhaps because of the consternation, she had not caught his name or domicile. To make up for that, she went on at some length about how he had told her to be circumspect in her culinary activities, and that the boy was to be a Nazirite, God’s servant from birth to death.

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—:8-14

Apprehensive but obedient, Manoah asked God to send the messenger a second time, that he might better understand how to raise his son. God is always willing to teach patiently him who is willing to learn, so He sent His messenger out again, who met Manoah’s wife while she was alone in the field. She hurried to fetch Manoah, for she was a good woman and did not like to be alone with single men. Manoah asked the angel if he was the same one who had appeared previously and was told yes indeed. When we get a boy, said Manoah, how are we to educate him? Dixitque angelus Domini ad Manue: Ab omnibus, quae locutus sumuxori tuae, abstineat se. She must not, he told him as he had told her, drink wine or eat unclean food.

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—:15-20

Manoah asked the divine diplomat to allow them to put him up for dinner. But he said, rather shortly, that he would have none of their food, and if they wanted to roast some meat, they should do it as an offering to God. Still just a bit skeptical, Manoah asked his visitor his name, that he might praise him in the future. The other explained that it is not possible to know the name of one so wondrous as He who was about to work the miracle in which they themselves would partake; it is sufficient to try to understand His manifestations, or at least recognize them . . . Manoah offered the sacrifice. The angel went toward heaven with the flames, provoking in the parents-to-be a burst of piety.

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—:21-25

Upon much reflection, it came to Manoah that they had been face to face with God’s own angel. He thought they had seen God, and told his wife this could only mean they were bound to die. Her sense was better than his this time and she pointed out that if God had death in store for them He would not have done all this or accepted their sacrifice. And indeed she was right in her trust, for in due course she gave birth to a son, whom she called Samson; and the child received the Lord’s blessing. As he grew and began to explore the country around Mahanehdan, he began to feel himself called upon to serve God, and he also saw there was in these parts much bad news for the Jews.

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XIV:1-3

While on a trip to Timnah with the wrestling team of his yeshivah, of which he was the captain, Samson, who was also an excellent student and who would, everyone thought, make a fine rabbi, was attracted to a pretty Philistine girl, and while no one is saying there were no pretty girls among the Philistines, one may ask why they had to parade vulgarly on the beaches of Gaza, if not to bring good boys like Samson to ruin, who, to be sure, had every reason to return the compliment, for he was by now tall and handsome, with a proud demeanor crowned by his striking long hair. It must have been an unhappy day for the parents when he asked them squarely to get the girl for him, as he wanted to marry her, although he knew perfectly well she could not possibly make him a nice clean home like his mother’s. They did not fail to express their shock that he should choose a Gentileover one of his own kind and they asked him how he could want the daughter of uncircumcised Philistines—a question that had no effect on him, since he had, it must be admitted, a marked weakness for a certain vulgar type of femininity.

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—:4

Indeed; but what his parents failed to realized, and perhaps Samson did not realize it either at the time, was that there was a certain historical logic in this shocking preference, or perhaps one could simply say that God knows what He is doing: and in these days He was sad for the Philistines ruled over much of Eretz Israel.

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—:5-10

Accompanied by his parents, Samson went back to Timnah (which, to add insult to injury, was a wine-growing district), and on the way he was attacked by a young lion who should have turned any ordinary wrestling champion into a star sprinter. Instead, the danger provoked a heavy dose of the divine inspiration and, with his bare hands, Samson tore the regal beast apart, so coolly that he had no need to unburden himself by telling his parents about it. He continued and visited the girl, and he let her turn his head (no doubt she offered him a quick preview of their nuptial night right then and there). Paying her another call soon afterward, he took a look at his lion and noticed that the carcass had become a beehive and the bees in it were making honey. Samson took the honey and ate it as he walked, and when he saw his parents he gave some of it to them, without telling them where it came from.

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—:10-14

Manoah went to prepare the marriage contract while Samson prepared the nuptial feast—a very important custom among the Philistines, and expected of the groom—thinking that he would outdo anything they had ever seen. What he did not count on was that there would be thirty best men, since it was also the custom that the groom provide for them, and Samson realized that his gesture was being abused. Not wanting to appear a spoil-sport, Samson suggested that a riddle be posed by him should they crack it, he would provide their party attire; otherwise, they should give him as much as he would have given them: a defiant thing to say, for Samson was determined that his marriage should not be interpreted as philo-philistinism; so the young toughs said to Samson to produce the riddle. Samson’s riddle was this: “Out of the eater came something to eat. Out of the strong came something sweet”—but after three days of thinking they could not figure it out, which left them four days.

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—:15-20

Bullies think that force will do when reason fails, but being low cowards basically, they exerted their force—which was mostly in the form of very nasty threats—on the weak betrothed, telling her plainly that if she did not get the answer from Samson, they would burn her and her father’s house as well. She thought she knew what was good for her and went to Samson and implored him in a whiny voice to tell her the riddle, claiming that his not telling her the answer implied he did not love her, whereas, as he pointed out to her, he had not even told his parents. For the seven days of the feast she kept up this phony tune, and Samson, who like many men who like women but do not understand them thought her tears worth worrying about, gave in and told her: at which exact point she stopped talking about love and went to tell her countrymen the answer. Just in time to win the game they went to Samson with it: “What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?” Samson understood easily enough what had occurred, replying: “If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have found out my riddle.” A deep sense of shame came over Samson and he saw how much was to be gained by acting in good faith with these people; at the same time, a wonderful strength filled his body, and he rushed into Ashkelon, a neighboring city full of Philistines, there to kill thirty of them and bring their festive attire to those who had found the answer to his riddle; still steaming, he went home to his father’s. His wife, meanwhile, was given to the best man at the wedding.

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JUDGES XV:1-8

Not long afterward, at a time of the year when men feel generous and peaceful—the time of the wheat harvest—Samson went back to Timnah for a visit, bringing his wife a kid and expecting (for bygones will be bygones) that it was about time she made him one, so imagine his consternation when his father-in-law barred him from the kidding room. “Look,” he said, “after what happened at the wedding, I thought you would hate her for good, and I gave her to one of those dumb jocks; take her younger sister instead: is she not even prettier?” “All right,” replied Samson in cold fury, “this time when Ibreak the furniture no one will be able to say it was my fault.” He caught, for he was swift, three hundred foxes, and tied their tails like garlands with a torch bound in each knot. With the torches set afire, he let the beasts loose among the food stores of the Philistines, destroying the shocks of wheat and the grain as well as the olive orchards. Needing a scapegoat, the Philistine rabble persuaded itself that none of this would have happened if the girl had not gone with the other man, conveniently forgetting the circumstances in which she did so, and they murdered Samson’s Philistine family by fire. Samson was amazed, but said: “One last time I owe you some change, and after that I am through with you.” He destroyed a great many of them with his mighty blows, making mincemeat of their backbones and puree of their profiles; and with no further ado, in sorrow as much as in hatred, he went to a solitary, rocky place he knew at Etam.

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—:9-13

In their usual sneaky, treacherous, hit-the-weak-to-hurt-the-strong style, the Philistines sent a raiding party of goons to Lehi, a town in Judah not far from Beth-shemesh. “What have we done this time?” asked the men of Judah, and the Philistines told them that they had come for Samson, to do to him, they said, as he had done to them. Not wanting trouble, the men of Judah put together a delegation of 3,000 men to go fetch Samson at Etam, where he was still hanging out, and they said: “We’re disappointed in you, Samson; don’t you know who’s boss around here? Are you trying to ruin us?” “I hadn’t noticed this was a golden age,” replied Samson with lonely pride, “As they did to me I did to them.” They were not prepared for the inspirational gesture, and they said, “Sorry Samsele, but the law’s the law, and we must tie you up and turn you in to the authorities”; and while muttering, Whose law? under his breath, he replied: “Okay girls, I’ll come along if I have your word that you are not planning any tricks behind my back.” “Tricks?” said they. “Samson, no one wants to hurt you.” And they tied him with two new strong ropes and led him from the rock.

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—:14-17

The arrival of Samson, bound by his own people, in Lehi, provoked a great deal of mirth among the Philistine rabble, who began to jump up and down in anticipation of the pleasure of killing him by slow torture; but at that very moment, the Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson with a mighty rush and he snapped his ropes with one flexing of his muscles. It was time again to fight, and seeking a weapon (Spirit of the Lord or no, this was no picnic), Samson found the tough jawbone of what must have been a stubborn ass, and with his back to the wall to avoid encirclement, he fought all afternoon until 1,000 of the scoundrels lay dead around him. Surveying the grim field, Samson said, “In Lehi, with a lehi, of an ass have I made asses.” Then he threw away the lehi, and that is why the place was called Ramath-lehi.

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—:18-20

After all this, not surprisingly, the champion was parched, and he called to God: “I much appreciate the way you let me save my people in Lehi and then die of thirst so my carcass will fall into the hands of Edom.” In answer, God created a spring, and it was called En-hakkor. After this, the people caught on, and rather than call him a troublemaker or an idealist, they followed his example of resistance and liberation, and he judged Israel twenty years.

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JUDGES XVI:1-3

In Gaza, Samson fell for a prostitute of vulgar beauty and could not resist going to her, for though his judging was good, his personal behavior displayed at times some of the lack of measure and taste that had characterized him since adolescence. The Gazites (another variety of low Philistine rabble) were informed that Samson was in the brothel and they prepared to ambush him, figuring that if they surrounded the city, they could jump him in the morning when, after an active night, he would not be at his most alert. But all these years of guerrilla activity had not been wasted on him (though, necessarily, he had not found the time to become so accomplished a scholar as his father), and, smelling a rat, he cut his pleasure short at midnight (which took some effort since that meant missing the grand-concourse treatment) and disappeared, taking with him the doors of the gate of the city, carrying them on his shoulders as far as the hill before Hebron.

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—:4-5

And still there was something in Philistine women that Samson, after these many years, found irresistible, there was something about them—when they were his type—that still overpowered his senses, perhaps his memory of that first great love that he still wished had not been spoiled, perhaps some heartfelt need to believe that not all Philistines wanted to kill him, or perhaps it was their damned provocative way of dressing, and it was in the cards that when he saw her, dressed in the thinnest silk, head bare, talking with passion of a new international order of cooperation and brotherhood, he would fall for the beautiful Delilah of Sorek. And, in all fairness to her, who is to say she did not fall for him to the degree that she could? He was her kind of man, lusty and mighty with his dagger and his swagger, the handsomest and the strongest, the only one fit for her; however, there was one thing Delilah of Sorek loved better than loving men and that was money: and they offered her a lot of it, if she could find out the secret of his strength and the way to overcome it.

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—:6-14

Getting to work, Delilah, who was as straightforward in her speech as she was in her attire, told Samson she had never seen muscles like his and, my, my, would she like to know how he had got so strong and what it would take to subdue him (perish the thought). “Well,” said Samson as if he were revealing a deep secret, “if I were tightly bound with seven fresh, undried bowstrings, I would probably become impotent, like an average man.” Delilah obtained the material from the Philistines and, pretending it was some kind of game, tied him up with it. Several heavies were waiting and ready to jump him when she said, “Samson, the Philistines are going to get you!”—which had the effect of making him flex his muscles and break his bonds, forcing them to alter their plans for the day. Delilah puffed up her lips and placed her cheek on Samson’s chest and said, “You are fooling around with me; come on, tell me how to tie you so that you will stay tied.” “Well,” said Samson, frowning, “brand new unused ropes surely would do the trick: tied with them, I would become impotent, like an average man.” Continuing the little game, Delilah tied him with new ropes, got the men ready, and said, “Samson, the Philistines are going to get you!” and with a gesture of his arms, the ropes became like threads under a barber’s razor. So she made a big scene with the tears and the rest and insisted she had a right to know, until Samson suggested, so he could have some quiet and take a nap, that weaving his hair and tightening it would make him impotent, like an average man. So she tried that and, would you know it, it did not work.

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—:15-16

Now Delilah, who was up to her neck in this, threw in all she knew, crying and yelling and finally pulling the great female ace: “How can you treat me like this—it must be that you do not love me!” Alas, where women were concerned Samson was very very weak and many days of this kind of thing finally drove him up the wall.

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—:17

Finally Samson could bear Delilah’s nagging no longer and he erupted: “Don’t you see what the matter is, don’t you understand why my hair is so long unlike anyone else, uncut, don’t you understand what it means to have all this hair and be a Nazirite, to have been made a Nazirite before the question was even asked of me, and have no say in the matter, no choice to do anything I might ever have wanted but only to serve with no visible compensation a God I’ve never seen and be built like some beach freak for the greater glory of a power nobody’s ever spelled out to me, and don’t you understand that without this hair I would be, I would be—”

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—:18-20

This time Delilah knew she was not going to have to test Samson’s confession, and she told the Philistines that they had their man and that they could pay her for the service rendered, which they did. Delilah gave Samson a lot to drink that night and he fell asleep upon her knees, and while he was there her manservant cut off all his hair and a great horrid sense of victory overcame her, and she began again to taunt him. “Samson,” she said in the same voice she had said it before, “the Philistines are going to get you!”—and he did not know, as he jumped up and prepared to fight, until they had their hands upon him, that God was no longer with him, and that if he wanted to fight any more, he would have to do it alone.

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—:21-27

Having got him was not enough—the Philistines thought it was necessary to pull out his eyes, and, on the theory that prisoners ought to be a source of profit, they put him to work at the prison mill. His hair, meanwhile, began to grow again. For the Philistines, capturing Samson was such a big deal that they decided to have a big celebration, with a monstrous sacrifice to their idol, Dagon, for they thought they owed their victory to him. The sight of the pathetic judge, who had so powerfully made his existence felt during his years of guerrilla warfare, gave them a feeling of euphoria. They became happier and happier and, as the celebration progressed, they got the idea that nothing would be funnier than to put Samson on display in the middle of the whole show, so they pulled him out of prison and kicked him around. Samson put up with this meekly, and after some time he told the boy whose job it was to lead him by the hand to give him a break and let him rest for a while against the pillars which supported the amphitheater in which the festival was taking place. The theater was packed full, with all the notables in their box seats and there were about 3,000 more men and women on the roof straining to look at the captured hero as he ran about, stumbled, and tried to guard his face against the rocks and garbage that were thrown at him.

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—:28-30

Resting on the thick columns, his powerful back and arms and legs bleeding and blue, Samson addressed God: “Now I know O Lord and now let me prove to You that I know and at the same time let me get some revenge on the Philistines.” He grabbed the central pillars of the theater, one with the right hand and one with the left. “This is it!” he said to God, and he exerted himself as he never had before, more than the afternoon in Lehi, more than in all the twenty years of ambushes and escapades and outnumbered clashes, and the pillars crackedat the same moment as his aorta burst, and in the collapse of the great theater all the people who were there were killed—more, indeed, than in all the years of fighting.

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—:31

His people came and found his broken body, still identifiable, and they buried him in the tomb of his father between Zorah and Eshtaol.

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Roger Kaplan is a program officer with the Smith Richardson Foundation and the author of a novel.

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[XIII:1]

Ordinary days: Not that it is normal and proper that men should be weak and unfaithful, but that most men do not heed the commandments and therefore days ordinarily have more evil men than good waking up into them. They sought riches and vanities because these seem to be the good things of life, whereas they are but the ordinary thing to seek and the truly good things are found in the observance of the commandments, and to do this is reckoned extraordinary, for most men do not understand it, since clearly most days have more evil in them than good.

The abominable things: There are too many to list, therefore, He does not remind you of them all; but also: because He knows you know what they are, for the good man knows what is evil yet chooses not to do it, for he loves the reason which the Master of the Universe has given him.

False gods: The Philistines were people beyond the sea, yet since all false gods are evil, it is always a reintroduction of evil to worship one or more of them, for it is always to forget the Lord who brought Israel out of Egypt.

Four decades: For this was after the death of Abdon and his mighty sons and grandsons, when there was no one to stop them. Also: for Noah stayed forty days imperiled by the flood, yet he was being saved for better times.

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[—:2-7]

God remembered him: Thus the Lord smiles on the man who strives to walk in His ways, even though he may be in part delinquent.

One of His Plenipotentiaries: Messenger is the same word as angel, and this was done for Abraham before Sarah begat Isaac, but she only saw one messenger because her husband was not as great as Abraham.

To cut out all drinking and eat clean foods: This is to teach us that food is primarily a divine gift that must be partaken of in holiness; and also, for one who will fight ardent battles, kosher food builds stronger bodies.

Went to tell her husband: She told her husband because what else does a wife do? Also, because to have such a boy is cause for both pride and sorrow, for although he would bring deliverance to his people as a hand of the Almighty, yet such an unusual son might cause his parents unforeseeable grief on account of the strange things his mission might require him to do.

Culinary activities: It was not the season for it but she got to work fast putting her kitchen in order.

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[—8-14]

Apprehensive: For he was not sure he could trust the woman’s reason, as barrenness is known to derange a woman.

A second time: Only the Master of the Universe can do the same thing twice.

She was alone in the field: For her husband was occupying himself with study.

Dixitque: He spoke in Church Latin, for God has agents who express themselves in every language on earth, even though He revealed Himself in Hebrew, for all His children are loved equally by Him. This also teaches us that Manoah was no fool, but having mastered Tanakh, Midrash, Mishna, and Gemara, he was now busily learning the language of Aquinas in order to refute his propositions on Maimonides blessed be his memory (viz., Summa, 1.A.13.2, etc.); interested in his progress, the Almighty sent this fellow to quiz him. But he did not answer his question because education comes all in its own good time and first things first: learn to be a parent.

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[—:15-20]

For dinner: He was being hospitable, but the angel reminded him that it was to the Nameless One that he owed all thanks and praises, yet He looks kindly upon those who welcome His messengers, therefore you should always invite a stranger to your table on the Sabbath, for it is good to do so, and also you may learn something that way.

To understand His Manifestations: Why indeed seek the Name when His works are enough to make new each day of the man who will keep his eyes and ears open?

A burst of piety: Despite the distinguished views of some of the Religionswissenschaft boys, this hardly signifies the reappearance of archaic beliefs.

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[—:21-25]

They had seen God: He mistook the sent for the Sender. Another interpretation: he thought he had dreamed himself as important as Abraham, and thought he must die for such presumption.

Her sense: Because now that she was with child, she became calmer. As the Holy One said, so He remembered the boy who was from the womb dedicated to Him. It was because the Creator blessed him that Samson felt this, and it was the Creator who opened his eyes, as he walked about, to what had befallen the country. But you cannot want to serve the Lord and not be concerned about what is happening to His people.

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[XIV: 1-3]

A trip: Although the Philistines and the children of Jacob were not friends, even with your enemies it is better to play sports than to make war.

A Philistine girl: Surely one of those who came to watch the youths compete, hoping to catch them in immodest positions and seduce them by looking at them in a certain way. This is to teach us that haskala or no, there is a limit to the profit to be obtained from studying the ways of Edom.

An unhappy day: Manoah must indeed have grieved, but he would not disown his son or say Kaddish for him, since he knew he was in the hands of the Master of the Universe whose ways are inscrutable, neither therefore did he despair and turn from his righteous ways.

Squarely: Samson spoke arrogantly to his father because he was young and in love with a woman, which will make a man do anything; but also because he was not entirely happy about being who he was, as is shown by this choice.

Their shock: For had he not grown up in a clean home?

Weakness: Bright as he was, foremost in his mind always was his pleasure, and Samson preferred the short-range benefits of a vulgar woman to the long-range happiness that a woman of valor would bring him.

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[—:4]

A certain historical logic: Mysterious are the ways of the Creator, but to defeat your enemy it is better you know him well. Also: you can never do your duty except as you are serving yourself, even though your self-service is ultimately self-destructive (which prevents you from doing your duty).

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[—:5-10]

No need to unburden himself: He did not tell them about the lion because he had already ceased to be an obedient son. But how could they not see if they were with him? Because Manoah was saying the afternoon prayers, while his wife rested, but Samson had gone ahead. No: it is true Samson was not a stickler for filial obedience, but give him credit for not wanting to shock his parents with this barbaric story. Wrong: Samson had no thought for anyone’s feelings but his own.

Divine inspiration: Great strength, but do not mistake every instance of great strength for divine inspiration. What do you think we are, idiots?

So coolly: His own strength may have surprised him, but in the moment of combat he had no thoughts at all, least of all of running for it, for Samson’s personality and his strength were really two distinct things. Don’t get so smart with your psychology.

Quick preview: She sensed better than he his indecision, so she helped him decide by making him lustful.

Honey: He took the honey even though he knew it must be unclean, for he thought: if I am going to get a Philistine girl, why should I keep kosher? This is to teach us that the commandments are kept together. But he did not tell his parents for he did not want an argument with them. Yes? And maybe he did have some feelings for them after all? The commandments are like the bones of the body: without even one, you are as a cripple.

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[—:10-14]

Went to prepare: He was distraught, but he did what a father must do, for he believed in the message that had been sent to him, and he had studied to advantage the story of Abraham and Isaac.

The nuptial feast: For the Philistines preferred pleasure to study and their weddings were given over to drunken debauch instead of being occasions to marvel and rejoice in the works of the Creator.

Thirty: Very low class, they sought to show that any of thirty could just as easily have won the girl’s heart, but they were fools, for they only showed it would take more than thirty of them to handle one like him.

A riddle: What hangs on the wall, is green, and whistles? Another: what do you say when two elephants are seen walking down Michigan Avenue wearing identical T-shirts? For everything Samson did was a riddle unto himself: who loves the daughters and kills their brothers?

The eater: The lion. Another interpretation: the Philistines.

The strong: The lion. Or again: the bees.

They could not figure: For all bullies are softbrained.

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[—:15-20]

Bullies: Like the Macedonian, who killed many Persians before persuading them to become his subjects. They were certainly cowards, since they were prepared to bring arson to one of their own but would not go against Samson directly; and is this not the characteristic of the weak?

What was good for her: She thought it better to save her life than to save her husband, but if a woman does that, who will protect her?

He did not love her: Either she did not know what love is, or knew he didn’t.

Told his parents: He means, what has the answer to do with love, and whom could he love better than his mother and father?

Seven days: Yet it was on the fourth day that it started, but because his wife was a shrew and had changed her character as soon as he married her, she had been crying already for three days.

Men who like women: To love many women is to fail to know what love is, as Don Juan. To love only one woman is to understand, to the point of causing her necessary pain: thus Tristan. Please cut out these maskil references.

Plowed with my heifer: For when they came to ask the riddle of her, they lay with her, for they considered her a whore to go with an Israelite, and thought all the Israelites had they could take and use.

At the same time: So that we may learn that the Master of the Universe is present even when we are most obsessed with ourselves: he took the insult personally but he understood it to mean there was still war to the death between his people and the Philistines, and only then did the Spirit of the Lord come to him, allowing him to defeat thirty men in combat.

Home to his father’s: It was customary in those days to stay home until he and she had their own house. It was only when she was with him that they abused her, or her father would not have given her to the best man; thus there was some logic to her betraying him. But even if Samson betrayed his people, they would still hate him, indeed, they would even hate his children.

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[XV:1-8]

Bygones: Some say that to seek reconciliation is foolish and invites contempt. That may be so, yet we are enjoined to try. Then at least only do it from a position of strength.

Hate her for good: The Philistine father had no concept of man’s capacity to forgive. And we, do we not forgive too readily?

Take her younger sister: Still, was he not a man of peace, for giving his younger daughter to an Israelite to avoid a fight over the elder? That is like being offered Madagascar after being promised Eretz Israel.

My fault: When a man is insulted even as he is wronged, he may say that it is within his rights to seek revenge no less than restitution. But did not Samson prepare to do greater harm to the Philistines than had been done to him? In this was he not wrong? No, for the Philistines had wronged his people many times and stolen their grain and produce.

Swift: For how else could he outrun a fox? Why, by outfoxing him, and this teaches us that Samson was mighty of mind as well as of body. Unfortunately, it seems his id was mightiest of all.

Among the food stores: Samson had to be struck personally before he struck back, but he always thought of hurting the Philistines as they hurt his people and not only him.

Needing a scapegoat: It was unlike the Philistines to consider themselves to blame for their own troubles.

By fire: Like Cossacks.

Amazed: Would an Israelite ever commit such a crime?

A great many: As many as were there. But he meant thereby to put an end to it, for he felt debased fighting such low rascals.

A solitary place: After this he had need of psychic recuperation and analysis. No: he went where he could ask the Holy One to forgive him for what he had been forced to do but found no joy in doing, nor did he need to brag to anyone about his deed.

_____________

 

[-:9-13]

Their usual . . . style: They could attack Lehi because they knew the men there were not like Samson and would not fight back. But why not? Because the Spirit of the Lord was not with them. Perhaps they did not know that the Spirit of the Lord was with them. They thought it must be something they had done, not that there must be something wrong with the others.

Not wanting trouble: If you keep trying to hide from trouble it will only get worse. It had not occurred to them yet that with 3,000 men they could resist the enemy and they did not realize Samson was an example to them to rise up and defend the freedom of their own land. And note that with 3,000 men they could have burned all the Philistine cities from Tyre to Marjayoun. That they tried to cut a deal teaches us that the Creator gave us our reason to be reasonable. And so to cut a deal with unreasonable people, is that not stupid?

As they did to me”: Samson was no orator, but he knew that anyway their political consciousness was insufficiently developed for a harangue to have any consequence; still, he was ashamed of their pusillanimity.

Whose law?: He knew only two: God’s and love’s; the first saved him from the troubles the second brought him. But he could not respect as authorities an arsoning murdering lynch mob. He was deeply pained, for he knew they knew what they in their abject vassalage were doing.

_____________

 

[-:14-17]

In anticipation of the pleasure: A most unpleasant situation, to be in the hands of sadists with no sense of due process, and it happens to the best of them.

The Spirit: It came to him when he saw his people’s enemy, but also, obviously, when he saw danger to himself. More simply put: the Creator had no intention of abandoning him when his mission was but hardly begun.

Time again to fight: No easy matter, his advantage notwithstanding; there were so many more of them.

A weapon: He had the lead on them in technology, but remember they could learn to use jawbones too and obtain them from guess-where. His choice of weapon shows that you use a tool that fits the task, but also one that is appropriate for the place, as we learn from the following verse.

Asses: So to speak. Note that he means dead asses. Oh-ho, such insight, we have a gaon among us!

Threw away: For what should he keep it? He was not like those who love the sport more than the duty and could perform the sport for any master. Why the pun? An attempt to mask his anger. And his sorrow. And his confusion? Perhaps, too, his confusion.

_____________

 

[—:18-20]

Much appreciate: Perhaps it angered him to find that the Creator was with him when it took 1,000 deaths to do His will, and now where was He when what His servant needed was a lousy drink of water? It was that the Holy One, blessed be He, did not forget His servant’s thirst, but He also wanted him to remember that he must always call upon Him, even for small things.

The people caught on: In short, they saw that he was a realist.

_____________

 

[XVI:1-3]

Could not resist: Possibly the perfect judge would have been as good on private morality as on public safety, but who can say if such a man ever existed, and who is to blame Samson for having a good time when he could? Can we but imagine the strain he lived with? Still, it must be admitted that every time he went after these girls he got into trouble, so why couldn’t he learn? There are some things a man can’t learn or won’t, that’s being a man. You fight your way out of each piece of trouble you bring upon yourself until you find trouble too large for you and that’s your life: that’s life. Oy, goyishe romantics!

Smelling a rat: They were informed, not by the whore, but by her pimp. However, he became quite a linguist. The grand-concourse treatment is what they dreamed not what they did in the Bronx.

The doors: So that they would not see him as he vamoosed. Another interpretation: to terrify them by his strength, for Hebron is a long way from Gaza. A third: to make them afraid of demons, for how were they to know who moved the doors? Again: perhaps he took the doors to tell them they would never be safe behind them as long as he lived. Maybe he just didn’t like doors. Or maybe the people of Hebron needed some extra doors.

_____________

 

[—:4-5]

There was something about them: And who is to say that it was not something that is in all women but that he dared not seek in his own? Perhaps, perhaps, still it was a mistake, alas. That he remembered in that way must mean his childhood had been happy.

Silk: Too warm, it must have been cotton. It says silk, doesn’t it?

Brotherhood: Such ideas always circulate in times when things go well in Edom. So do they practice it?

Her kind of man: Of course she loved good men, for the good times they gave her, but she preferred money because it could give her pleasure without her having to give in return. Selfish love is not true. Samson too was selfish. No, for he gave himself completely when he let his head be turned.

Better than . . . men: Money was not as easy to find as powerful men, one of whom to her was as good as another.

The secret: It had at last occurred to the Philistines that perhaps Samson’s strength was due to a special gift, yet it was not the gift they believed it to be, for it was not magic.

_____________

 

[—:6-14]

Straightforward: That is, she spoke what she thought because she was accustomed to getting what she wanted because she gave men unabashedly what they thought they wanted.

My, my: That husky, slightly whiny voice some women use to make men think their candid and well-calculated questions are mere childish curiosity. Do not think for a moment that he did not know what was going on; and yet there must have been a part of his soul that did not want to know.

Impotent: For he flirted with her.

Game: Delilah was good at games and perhaps she thought all of life was not more than a game.

Heavies: Gorillas, kept on a diet of bananas, but nasty.

Going to get you”: She said this to gloat, but also to cover herself, just in case. Women always do, just in case. There was no mayhem, because the men ran as soon as he broke the strings.

Puffed up her lips: Delilah was not subtle, but neither was she stupid. She made an issue of the source of his strength and insisted upon it in such a way that the real issue—that it was none of her business and his duty was to preserve its secret so that he might perform his service to the Lord and to his people—was lost sight of. Since to Samson whether a woman had her way or not was irrelevant, eventually he always gave in. Unfortunately, giving in this time was of no small consequence.

A big scene: This is a condition of being male, and is no excuse for turning to the abomination of homosexuality. Tears on women are like Potemkin villages in Russia.

His hair: He had his hair on the brain; a bad sign. Not if it had been as frontlets before his eyes. To be sure, but that was Samson’s problem, that he could not see the matter this way.

_____________

 

[—:15-16]

Up to her neck: She was: but we must admit it was he who had originally let her catch his eye.

All she knew: Perhaps the Philistine courtesans came and instructed her, when their lords grew impatient.

Treat me like this”: Her saying this proves that it was in fact she who did not love him.

Very very weak: Why did he not leave if her taunts tormented him? Because Samson after all these years still did not know for sure and this was a torture that confirmed his own suspicions about himself. But what did he not know for sure? What he was to do and whether he could do it and whether life was worth living. But Delilah? Of course: if not, would he have wasted time with her?

_____________

 

[—17]

No longer: He lost his temper.

No say: But he did have a say: in the way he judged and lived. Yes, for everything is foreordained yet man is free.

Beach freak: Like a Californian.

I would be: He means he would be impotent, like an average man, as he says above. No, he means he would be free and know it. No, that is a mistaken interpretation: how could he be free without his great strength? He would, for he would no longer be a Nazirite, dedicated to the service of the Lord. No, for you are free only as you do what is expected of you. Understanding what is expected of you is understanding who you are. He could be free only by being himself better. What a paradoxical idea. It is time for the afternoon prayers.

_____________

 

[—:18-20]

Delilah knew: For she had committed an evil deed, and like a good deed, it is known when it is done and not merely attempted; therefore, it is wrong to maintain that it is as evil to intend something bad as to do it.

A lot to drink: She gave him to drink, and more, because she wanted him to forget all that he had said for it had exhausted him but also excited him, and she had to make him rest so that she could betray him.

A great horrid sense: She sensed victory, for she did not love men and preferred them weak.

God was no longer with him: The Lord had left him: or he had left the Lord. But he did not immediately fully realize that he had done what was wrong in the eyes of the Lord. For it was not merely wanting to be not what he was, for this he had lived with a long time; it was doing—by telling her—that was an act hateful to the Creator, and He left him “A man alone ain’t got a bloody chance,” said Hemingway. Who cares what Hemingway said?

_____________

 

[—:21-27]

His eyes: They put out his eyes to cause him pain. Perhaps, but also because they were afraid of him.

Began to grow again: Why did they let his hair grow? They forgot. No, but they thought his blindness and the chains they put on him would be enough. Why did they not kill him? They though this imprisonment was evidence of their victory over the Israelites. Also a bargaining chip in case of renewed hostilities. They deluded themselves in thinking that it was they or their false god who had given them a victory, when it was the Ineffable One who had accorded Samson a defeat.

Big celebration: Their sacrificial rituals included not only animals but also games to the death between men, impalings of slaves, and scandalous exhibitions of all sorts.

Meekly: Did Samson think he had done something to deserve this treatment? Perhaps, but that proves only that he was human. No, for he was awaiting his chance.

Packed: The full house shows the level of Philistine culture, for they loved nothing so much as to make an enemy suffer.

_____________

 

[—:28-30]

I know: He understood and accepted his mission for the Creator.

Some revenge: Only as he serves the Lord is some measure of personal revenge possible.

All the people: Was it just revenge that for him they should all be killed? This is war we are talking about.

Killed: This included Delilah.

_____________

 

[—:31]

Identifiable: They were able to find his body, for even in death his great strength had protected him.

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