Lifting up the Heads
Parshat Naso deals with a lot of mundane "stuff": from the census to the "sota", the trial by ordeal forced upon a suspected adulteress ( but not, we note, for the adulterer). She is forced to drink waters which will make her violently ill or kill her. As my former Rabbi, Jonathan Cohen, used to say,
"What is it about the patriarchy that you don't get?"
The Haftarah, similarly, refers to another obtuse person, Manoah, whom I deem "thick as a brick" for his failure to recognize the truth of what his wife has seen and reported to him, but insists on seeing for himself. Even then, when the wife (unnamed: we'll get to that bit later) recognizes that this is not just a prophet, but an angel, Manoah cannot see what is before him, and asks for the person's name, and what should be done to raise the child which the messenger (of God) has foretold will come, the angel basically says,
"Don't ask, it's obvious! Also, I told your wife what to do!"
After they offer a sacrifice to The Holy One, the angel further astounds by ascending upon the flames, whereupon Manoah finally "gets it" and is scared out of his mind! His wife has to reassure him that they will not die after having seen an angel, since the being would not have foretold a child for them and would not have given her instruction as to rearing said son, who will become the famous Samson.
Now, about the wife. She is clearly smarter, less superstitious, and sees clearly what needs to be done. While with our Biblical Mothers, Sarah, (and Hagar, who heard a Heavenly Voice) Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, the relationship between the husband and wives was of parallel stature for the times, Mrs. Manoah is relegated by (human) custom to the passenger seat, so to speak. As you might imagine, this upending of precedent was a cause for Rabbinic speculation.
In an article by Tamar Kadari in JWA (Jewish Women's Association)*, the wife of Manoah and mother of Samson is called "Zlelponi" or "Zlelponith". Kadari points out that these names could have many different interpretations, and they explain some of the reasons why the Divine Messenger spoke with her, rather than her husband. One reason is that she saw the Divine Shadow; another is that she "hitzlilah" expounded Torah, still another is that she was given two lameds in her name (the "l"sound), because she saw and recognized the Being as an angel not once, but twice.
I have another idea. Admittedly, I will have to see what the vowels are in the original Hebrew or Aramaic to confirm my opinion, but "zleel" or "tzleel" means "sound" and "poni" or "pani" can mean "my face", in this context, God's face. So what could "the sound of My face" mean? Perhaps, as above, she interpreted God's words, or maybe she followed the customs of the time, in which some women were professional mourners; they wailed and chanted before God during times of mourning? This got me thinking about what she might have worn when performing these rites. Might her headdress have musical symbols or perhaps cymbals? Might it have wings, representing the cherubim in the Temple? I am currently dreaming up a design for Zlelponi's headress: if interested in being notified when it is completed, please join my RWK Fan Club at: www.renaissancewomankippot.org
*The JWA article can be found at:https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/wife-of-manoach-samsons-mother-midrash-and-aggadah