Who was Shimshon’s mother?
In the Haftara for Parshat Naso, we read the beginning of the story of Shimshon (Shoftim 13:2-25).
The story begins with the words: “There was a certain man of Tzorah, of the family of the Danite, and his name was Manoach; his wife was barren and had not given birth.”
What stands out here is that the man’s name is mentioned but his wife’s name is not.
In the Talmud, Bava Batra 91a, Rav Chanan bar Rava said in the name of Rav: “Shimshon’s mother was Tzlelponit (Hatzlelponi)”, a woman who is mentioned in Divrei Hayamim I 4:3.
The Gemara asks why it is necessary to list the names of women whose names are not specified and then answers that these facts are stated as a response to the heretics who may ask why their names were not listed. Rashbam explains that we can tell the heretics that these names were transmitted to us through the oral tradition.
What is the meaning of the name Hatzlelponi?
According to Bamidbar Raba 10:5, she is called Hatzlelponi since she saw the angel (who looks like a shadow- tzel) and the word tzlel means angel as it is a vision, just like a shadow. Since she was righteous the angel appeared to her.
If an angel is like a shadow (tzel), then why is the word tzlel used, why isn’t she named Hatzelponi instead of Hatzlelponi?
The answer in Bamidbar Raba is that since the angel appeared to her twice, once in the city and once in the field, the word angel is used in her name in the plural form. The first time the angel told her that she is barren however she will give birth and that the child will be a Nazir. The second time the angel returned to her after Manoach’s prayer and then told Manoach: “Of everything that I spoke to the woman, she should beware… (Shoftim 13:13).” In other words, the angel came specifically to see Manoach’s wife and to deliver the message directly to her both times.
At the end of the Haftara we read (Softim 13:24) “The woman gave birth to a son and she called him Shimshon, the lad grew and God blessed him…”
We see from here that the words of the angel did come true.
Manoach’s wife is listed by Otzar HaMidrashim as one of the 23 most righteous Biblical women in Israel.
In Psikta D’Rav Kahana, seven barren women are listed: Sara, Rivka, Rachel, Leah, Manoach’s wife, Chana and the City of Jerusalem.
In the same way that our Biblical mothers were finally able to give birth, may we continue to see more children being born in Jerusalem. As these six women were no longer called barren, may the city of Jerusalem never again be without her children surrounding her.