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    Samson the anti-hero – Naso

    Samson & Delilah, by Gustav Dore

    The haftarah (Judges 13:2-25) seems to celebrate Samson. Really it does the opposite. It paints a picture of a man who is the exact contrast to the Jewish hero type.

    Samson is brawn, not brains; muscle, not mind; bodily strength, not moral courage; sensuality, not soul. His power is in his hair, not in his heart. He does not build temples, he pulls them down.

    Early in the Torah text we come across at least two examples of the tug-of-war between human types – Cain and Abel, Esau and Jacob. Cain, Esau and Samson – clones of one another. Abel, Jacob, and so many others – gentle personalities, the embodiment of heart, mind and soul.

    Have you ever heard of Jewish parents calling a child Cain or Esau? (I only ever met one Jewish boy with the name of Esau. I wonder what became of him…). Samson possibly disproves my contention, since great Jews included Samson Raphael Hirsch and others with the same first name. Why their parents called them Samson I don’t know. I do know that they carefully steered away from the image and limitations of their Biblical forerunner.

    The rabbis suggest that Samson did have some virtues, and at the end of his life he called upon God with a sincere heart. Maybe the greatness of latter-day Samsons is that they built upon and enhanced the good points of their ancestor and made sure to avoid his failings.

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