Naso: Samson: A Fable

The LORD spoke to Moses: …If a man or woman takes the vow of a Nazirite, to set himself apart for the Lord, he shall abstain from strong drink, nor shall he eat even  grapes. …No razor shall touch his head; his hair and beard must be left untrimmed. …During his term as a Nazirite, he is consecrated to the Lord.

–Num. 6:1-8 (portions adapted; translation mine)

My name is Samson, certainly the most famous Nazirite who ever lived. Surely you have heard of me, of course! My name means either “Son of the Sun,” or “Little Sun.” That is because my manly beauty, and the tales of my derring-do, glow like the sun through the pages of Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible. As the Lord lives, did I not exterminate a temple-full of Philistines, Israel’s archenemy? True, I lost my own life in the process—that of “bringing down the house”—ha!—but that only adds to my fame. I was a hero-martyr; more’s the pity for my people—ah, now had I lived, longer, now—

Hah? What’s that? Well, yes: it’s true that I was, unfortunately, attracted to Philistine women; in particular, that minx, Delilah. What, is that so rare these days? How was I to know that she was a double agent for those scoundrels? When she pressed me for the secret of my strength, I eventually gave it up to her: I was growing weary of  my battles against the Philistines, and thought, in my foolishness, that she might act as a go-between for both Israel and Philistia. Why, she might have even been an agent of peace—

But I was wrong, and paid for it with the loss of both my eyes. Woe! Still, it was fitting that I lose them, for having glanced one time too many at Philistine wenches. My parents warned me, “Marry a nice Israelite girl,” but I did not listen. Perhaps I inherited some of the foolishness of Manoah, my hapless father….

Still and all, my people, why not focus on my mighty exploits? When my hair was long and my strength unparalleled, I saved my parents from a ravening lion—I tore him apart with the greatest of ease. Bees built a hive in his carcass, and you can believe it. I killed thirty Ashkelonites, and took their clothing, to pay off a bet I had made with Delilah’s other suitors. And, when the Philistines irritate me, I tied burning torches to the tails of foxest, and sent the beasties racing through the Philistines’ fields of grain. Why, the smoke reached to the top of Sinai!

And finally, I yanked up the gates of Gaza by main strength, and carried them forty miles, all the way to Hevron—ironic, that, knowing the difficulties my Israeli descendants would have with the inhabitants of both places.

As to the love of my soul—ah, Delilah, Delilah—believe it or not, I still have a soft spot in my warrior’s heart for you. I cannot believe how quickly and easily you turned me in to the Philistine Military Police, after all I had done for you. You were the last beautiful damsel I saw, before my eyes were put out. Women! Who can comprehend them?

Truth to tell, all of my troubles originated with women—that Philistine wife from Timna, the prostitute from Philistine Gaza, and Delilah—was she Philistine as well, or just allied with them? Inever will know. I realize now—it was my Naziriteship, but also my dalliances with those treacherous females, which inspired me to greater and greater deeds of strength, culminating (of course) in my destroying the Philistine Temple of Dagon. I brought myself, and those wretched Philistine oppressors, an ignominious death—

Still, it’s true, my Israelite brothers and sisters: back of every warrior is a woman.


Rabbi David Hartley Mark is from New York City’s Lower East Side. He attended Yeshiva University, the City University of NY Graduate Center for English Literature, and received semicha at the Academy for Jewish Religion. He currently teaches English at Everglades University in Boca Raton, FL, and has a Shabbat pulpit at Temple Sholom of Pompano Beach. His literary tastes run to Isaac Bashevis Singer, Stephen King, King David, Kohelet, Christopher Marlowe, and the Harlem Renaissance.

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