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           This story is not about Samson and Delilah,

This story is not about Samson and Delilah, but more about Samson's mother, although my having recently had a rather drastic haircut may have helped make it happen.

When Eunice was in her 80's and 90's (and twenty years older than me), I had a very long beard and unruly hair; when she died in early 2016 I was “inherited” by Heidi, a daughter of a close friend of Eunice, 31 years younger than Eunice. Heidi promptly took me into Eunice’s hairdresser and instructed her to “take off 31 years.”   The change was conspicuous when I went to the places Eunice and I had long frequented.

Among those places were churches, synagogues, mosques, and Sunday Schools.  Eunice and I had enough religious differences to be interesting and were both outspoken in Sunday School classes we attended together – occasionally one of us would even convince the other to change our mind in public on an issue, to the delight of our friends.

About a year after Eunice died, I was in one of those classes at our synagogue. The haftarah (“second lesson”, for Christians) was Judges 13:2-25, just preceding the birth of Samson.  An angel appears to Samson’s mother, announcing that Israel needs a hero and that she will bear a son – it is  like other   birth narratives such as Sarah and Mary.  But in this case the lady’s husband, Manoach, is unhappy about it. He tell;s God off on the subject – roughly, why are You talking to my wife and not me? If You have something to say, tell me, not my wife.  The angel appears again to the wife, not Manoach, but allows that if the wife will lead Manoach to the spot, Manoah can participate in the conversation. So Manoach follows his wife there and joins the discussion.  It’s not the only place in the Bible where the husband has to “follow” the wife: Abraham’s expulsion of Hagar and Rebekah’s arranging for Isaac’s blessing to go to Jacob. But there is debate in the commentaries over whether Manoach literally walked behind his wife, or simply took her advice.

Our discussion leader pointed out that this was a great place to discuss the role of women in the Old Testament, relations between wife and husband and between women and God. She (our leader) then pointed out that the discussion would be hampered by the lack of a name for the lady; in the Bible she is just “the wife of Manoach.” 

She said, “The early Rabbis named the woman Tzlelfonis, which is not easy to wrap our tongues around.  So for this hour, for convenience, I suggest that we call her Eunice. "

The suggestion was greeted with laughter and great approval. I’m sure Eunice was watching and enjoying.

Edward Ordman

(C) Edward Ordman 2017