Saturday, November 03, 2012

more thoughts on shmuel

I am now learning Perek Gimmel of Shmuel with my students. I noticed some interesting things.

1. Perek Gimmel opens with some gorgeous poetry.

; וּדְבַר-יְהוָה, הָיָה יָקָר בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם--אֵין חָזוֹן, נִפְרָץ
 וְעֵלִי שֹׁכֵב בִּמְקוֹמוֹ; וְעֵינָו הֵחֵלּוּ כֵהוֹת

Loosely translated, this means:
And the word of God was precious in those days/ There were no widespread visions
And Eli slept in his place/ And his eyes were dimmed

I realized that on the literal level, Eli is blind. But on the metaphorical level, the reason the word 'chazon' is used here rather than the word 'nevuah' is because of the poetry. "There were no widespread visions/ Eli's eyes were dimmed." The suggestion is that Eli used to have prophecy but now his eyes have dimmed; his prophecy is gone. This sets up the perek beautifully for Shmuel's induction as a prophet.

2. In Perek Bet, the sons of Eli are described in the following manner:

וּבְנֵי עֵלִי, בְּנֵי בְלִיָּעַל:  לֹא יָדְעוּ, אֶת-יְהוָה

Imagine my surprise when I saw Shmuel described in the following way in Perek Gimmel:

 וּשְׁמוּאֵל, טֶרֶם יָדַע אֶת-יְהוָה; וְטֶרֶם יִגָּלֶה אֵלָיו, דְּבַר-יְהוָה

There's the obvious distinction that the word 'terem' is used in context of Shmuel. Shmuel did not yet know the Lord, but he was soon to know him. Still, it seems odd language to echo. The sons of Eli did not know the Lord and Shmuel did not yet know the Lord.

Rashi must have seen this, because he immediately explains that this is referring to the fact that Shmuel had not yet experienced the phenomenon of prophecy, and this is what it refers to.

But I think this also speaks to a difference in attitude. The sons of Eli did not know the Lord in a sense that was utterly final. They had not encountered Him, despite their service, and they were not open to encountering Him. In contrast, Shmuel did not yet know the Lord. He too had not encountered God, but he was open to it. He would welcome God when he found Him, not push him away.

We too need to remember to be open to the hand of God in our lives. When we approach life with an attitude that things are not final, they are simply not yet, we are able to live with that sense of hope and wonder that characterized our greatest leaders.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really liked your use of the following sentence: "I am now learning Perek Gimmel of Shmuel with my students."

The fact that you see yourself as learning with the students is beautiful. May we all be so wise...