the high holidays are full of tales of child sacrifice and loss. rosh hashonah starts with abraham sending his son ishmael to the desert with only bread and water. abraham is then tasked by god to sacrifice his son isaac. on yom kippur, there is the story of the high priest aaron who is grieved over the loss of two sons. chronologically, the last sacrifice story, takes place on rosh hashonah with the story of hannah and her son samuel.
why was the story of hannah included in the readings? the other stories are of pivotal characters, abraham and aaron. prior to her moment of prayer and interaction with eli the priest, she was a commoner. yet, she, like abraham and aaron have become names that will span generations.
prior to her moment of prayer, hannah was a barren second wife. while loved by her husband, she was tormented by his other spouse.
in this trying time in her life, she approached god in prayer. she indicated that “to lord of hosts, if you will look upon the affliction of your bondswoman, and you will remember me, and you will not forget your bondswoman and you will give your bondswoman a man-child, and i shall give him to the lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.” samuel 1: 11 unlike jacob, she was a person who wrestled with life but was at peace with god.
with the child, she noted that ” … i … have lent him to the lord; all the days which he will be alive, he is borrowed by the lord.” samuel 1:28. in contrast to the other tales, her sacrifice was intended as a positive.
hannah’s search for fulfillment in life was through prayer, commitment and sacrifice. these are all concepts that a relevant when one reflects upon a past year and the new one. she offers to those attending services, the ordinary person, who through her actions, transformed history. the son that she loaned out to god played a historical role in judaism. he was the king maker. not only did he anoint the first king of israel, saul, he anointed the israel’s greatest king, david.
with that, one must appreciate the greatness and depth of those who chose the selected readings. it offers hope to anyone’s prayer and sacrifice.
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