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In the centuries after Joshua's conquest of Canaan, "there was no king in Israel," as the Book of Judges emphasizes. A historical pattern recurs: the Israelites sin by worshipping the idols of local nations they failed to drive from the Land; God punishes them by having enemies attack; God appoints an ad-hoc savior (a “judge”) to fight off Israel’s enemy; peace is obtained; Israel sins, and the cycle starts over.

The Haftarah opens after a period of Israelite sin. God sent the Philistines from the Mediterranean to settle along Canaan’s southern coast, where they dominated for forty years (13:1). The Haftarah recounts the miraculous experiences surrounding the birth of Samson, who will “begin to save Israel from the Philistines.” It takes place near Philistine territory, in the town of Tzorah belonging to the tribe of Dan, north of ancient and modern Beit Shemesh. Samson’s birth is heralded by two angelic visits to his parents, particularly his barren mother. The angel instructs her to raise him as a Nazarite from the womb, and to adopt certain Nazarite and other practices while pregnant. (Unlike the Parashah’s Nazirite laws, she and the boy are not instructed to avoid contact with corpses and are told not to eat impure food.) Notably, Manoah and his wife mistake the angel for a man of God until, at the conclusion of their second encounter, it ascends heavenward in the flame of their sacrifice to God. Manoah fears their encounter with an angel portends their death, but his wife argues that the extraordinary events they experienced indicate God’s favor. Regardless, God favors Samson as his extraordinary career as he grows into an Israelite savior.

Haftarah Breakdown

Verses 13:2-5: An angel appears to Manoah’s barren wife to report that she is pregnant with a son who will begin to save Israel from the Philistines. Since he will be Nazarite from the womb, she must observe Nazarite practices while pregnant.

Judges 13:3

שופטים י״ג:ג

The Lord’s angel appeared to the woman and said to her, "Behold now, you are barren, and have not borne. You shall conceive and bear a son.”

וַיֵּרָ֥א מַלְאַךְ ה' אֶל־הָאִשָּׁ֑ה וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֵלֶ֗יהָ הִנֵּה־נָ֤א אַתְּ־עֲקָרָה֙ וְלֹ֣א יָלַ֔דְתְּ וְהָרִ֖ית וְיָלַ֥דְתְּ בֵּֽן׃

Verses 13:6-7: She tells Manoah that a man of God appeared to her, informing her that she is pregnant with a son. Since his appearance was as fearsome as an angel, she didn’t ask the man’s name or origin. She recounts his commands, adding that the son will be a Nazarite until his death but omitting their son’s destiny as Israel’s savior.

Judges 13:7

שופטים י״ג:ז

He [the”man”] said to me, “Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. Now do not drink wine or strong drink and do not eat anything defiled, for the child shall be a Nazir of God from the womb to the day of his death.”

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר לִ֔י הִנָּ֥ךְ הָרָ֖ה וְיֹלַ֣דְתְּ בֵּ֑ן וְעַתָּ֞ה אַל־תִּשְׁתִּ֣י ׀ יַ֣יִן וְשֵׁכָ֗ר וְאַל־תֹּֽאכְלִי֙ כׇּל־טֻמְאָ֔ה כִּֽי־נְזִ֤יר אֱלֹקים֙ יִֽהְיֶ֣ה הַנַּ֔עַר מִן־הַבֶּ֖טֶן עַד־י֥וֹם מוֹתֽוֹ׃ {פ}

Verses 13:8-11: God grants Manoah’s request for the man of God to appear again so that they may know how to raise the child. The man appears to his wife only, who summons Manoah. The man confirms to Manoah that he previously spoke with Manoah’s wife.

Judges 13:11

שופטים י״ג:י״א

Manoah arose and went after his wife. He came to the man and said to him, "Are you the man that spoke to the woman?" He said, "I am."

וַיָּ֛קָם וַיֵּ֥לֶךְ מָנ֖וֹחַ אַחֲרֵ֣י אִשְׁתּ֑וֹ וַיָּבֹא֙ אֶל־הָאִ֔ישׁ וַיֹּ֣אמֶר ל֗וֹ הַאַתָּ֥ה הָאִ֛ישׁ אֲשֶׁר־דִּבַּ֥רְתָּ אֶל־הָאִשָּׁ֖ה וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אָֽנִי׃

Verses 13:12-14: Manoah asks the man rules for raising the boy. He repeats that Manoah’s wife must fulfill the Nazarite commands he gave her, which he repeats.

Judges 13:13

שופטים י״ג:י״ג

The Lord’s angel said to Manoah, “All that I said to the woman, she must keep.”

וַיֹּ֛אמֶר מַלְאַ֥ךְ ה' אֶל־מָנ֑וֹחַ מִכֹּ֛ל אֲשֶׁר־אָמַ֥רְתִּי אֶל־הָאִשָּׁ֖ה תִּשָּׁמֵֽר׃

Verses 13:15-19: Unaware that the “man” is an angel, Manoah offers him food. He declines, instead suggesting a burnt offering to God. Manoch asks the man’s name to honor him when his words come true but the man refuses. As Manoah makes a burnt offering to God, he and his wife see the man act miraculously. 

Judges 13:16

שופטים י״ג:ט”ז

The Lord’s angel said to Manoaĥ, “Though you detain me, I will not eat of your bread. If you will make a burnt offering, offer it to the Lord.” For Manoaĥ did not know that he was an angel of the Lord.

וַיֹּ֩אמֶר֩ מַלְאַ֨ךְ ה' אֶל־מָנ֗וֹחַ אִם־תַּעְצְרֵ֙נִי֙ לֹא־אֹכַ֣ל בְּלַחְמֶ֔ךָ וְאִם־תַּעֲשֶׂ֣ה עֹלָ֔ה לַה' תַּעֲלֶ֑נָּה כִּ֚י לֹא־יָדַ֣ע מָנ֔וֹחַ כִּֽי־מַלְאַ֥ךְ ה' הֽוּא׃

Verses 13:20-23: Seeing the man ascend to heaven amidst their offering’s fire, Manoah and his wife fall on their faces. Realizing they have seen an angel, Manoah fears that they will die. His wife disagrees, arguing that God’s acceptance of their offering is a sign of divine favor, as are the angel’s tidings to them.

Judges 13:23

שופטים י״ג:כ״ג

His wife said to him, “If the Lord desired to kill us, He would not have taken a burnt offering and a meal offering from our hands, nor would He have shown us all these things, nor would He now have told us such things.”

וַתֹּ֧אמֶר ל֣וֹ אִשְׁתּ֗וֹ לוּ֩ חָפֵ֨ץ ה' לַהֲמִיתֵ֙נוּ֙ לֹֽא־לָקַ֤ח מִיָּדֵ֙נוּ֙ עֹלָ֣ה וּמִנְחָ֔ה וְלֹ֥א הֶרְאָ֖נוּ אֶת־כׇּל־אֵ֑לֶּה וְכָעֵ֕ת לֹ֥א הִשְׁמִיעָ֖נוּ כָּזֹֽאת׃

Verses 24-25: Manoah’s wife delivers and names her son Samson. As Samson grows, God blesses and inspires him.

Judges 13:24

שופטים י״ג:כ״ד

The woman bore a son and called his name, Samson. The lad grew, and the Lord blessed him.

וַתֵּ֤לֶד הָֽאִשָּׁה֙ בֵּ֔ן וַתִּקְרָ֥א אֶת־שְׁמ֖וֹ שִׁמְשׁ֑וֹן וַיִּגְדַּ֣ל הַנַּ֔עַר וַֽיְבָרְכֵ֖הוּ ה'׃


The blessing recited after relieving oneself, “אשר יצר/Who created”, concludes with the phrase “וּמַפְלִא לַעֲשׂוֹת/Who acts wondrously” which many commentators trace to the description of the man/angel’s actions in the Haftarah (13:19). Similarly, R. Moses Isserles (“Rema”) interprets this phrase as describing the miraculous fusion of body and soul.

Darchei Moshe, Orach Chaim 6:2

דרכי משה, אורח חיים, ו׳:ב׳

…“Who acts wondrously” refers to the soul which God placed into a person. It is a tremendous wonder that something spiritual, from the highest realms, can exist in the physical matter of the human body in this world. which is from the lowest realms. It is impossible for the soul to perform its work, to contemplate intellectual matters, so long as a person is sick in one of his organs, because the body's pain impedes the soul's work. Therefore, the blessing’s conclusion states that God is “Healer of all flesh”, by which “He acts wondrously”, causing the soul to be bound with the body.

…מפליא לעשות קאי על הנשמה שנתן באדם וזו היא פליאה גדולה שיתקיים דבר רוחני והוא מן העליונים בדבר גשמי בגוף האדם שהיא מן התחתונים ואי אפשר לנשמה לעשות פעולתו להשכיל במושכלות בעוד שאדם חולה בר מינן באחד מאיבריו כי כאב גופו מטרידו מלעשות פעולתו וע"כ אמר רופא חולי כל בשר ועל ידי זה מפליא לעשות שהנשמה נקשרת בגוף

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the Jewish creators of the famed DC Comics character, Superman, drew on Samson as one of their inspirations for the character. Superman premiered in Action Comics #1.

With emendations, all translations are from

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