Sunday, October 5, 2008

T'filat Chana, An Original Dvar Torah

Before writing this, I had to check my Hebrew spelling, because the ambiguous nature of Hebrew writing is the key...

ה שְׂבֵעִים בַּלֶּחֶם נִשְׂכָּרוּ, וּרְעֵבִים חָדֵלּוּ, עַד-עֲקָרָה יָלְדָה שִׁבְעָה, וְרַבַּת בָּנִים אֻמְלָלָה.
5 They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry have ceased; while the barren hath borne seven, she that had many children hath languished.
Samuel, Chapter 2

Chazal, our sages, say that Chana was barren for almost twenty years. They and the Biblical text also say that she only brought her beloved and much prayed for son Samuel to Eli, the High Priest, at Shiloh when he was weaned. He was probably five years old, since that's also the traditional gil chinuch, age to educate.

At my neighborhood, Women's Shabbat Shiur, Torah Class, we tried to figure out how old she was when she finally has Samuel and how she then managed seven children.

My mind started going in a very different direction. The word "seven" in Hebrew, שבע sheva. I didn't have the actual text in front of me, but now that I've copied it to the post, I realize that I didn't need to ask my neighbor for spelling information.

שבע sheva, un-voweled has a number of meanings, besides 7. It can be an oath, to swear, or if you use the ש shin, as sin, sove'a, it means to be satiated, satisfied. That same meaning for the root, שבע sheva, is actually used in the beginning of the line. You don't need to know Hebrew to recognize the letters.

We can now reinterpret the line to mean that "the barren mother is now satisfied." In other words, she has enough children, she no longer suffers, yearns for children. We now don't know how many siblings Samuel had via his mother. I'm not enough a Biblical expert to know if any maternal siblings are mentioned in other places in the Bible.

Gmar Chatimah Tovah


menu said...

It says in perek 2 pasuk 21 that Chana had 3 boys and 2 girls. the Psikta Rabati (among othes gives a few reasons for this disparity. One is that Shmuel is not counted in this number (she had 3 more boys...) and that he counts as 2. Another is based on the Midrash that whenever Chana had a son Pnina lost 2, so after 4 sons - including Shmuel she prayed to stop.
chag sameach

Batya said...

The pshat goes with my drash, that she was satisfied.