Sep 8, 2011

Notes from Class 9/7/11 - Deeper look at Nefesh and "After she/they ate"

Nefesh – Beth related Hannah's bitter nefesh to Creation –
The actual language in Gen 1:7 is that God breathes into the nostrils of the adam the breath of life: nishmat chayyim. This life force that comes from God is not so different from nefesh perhaps, so the idea that Beth expressed, that Hannah’s bitter nefesh comes from feeling she is without God’s lifegiving force is still an informative connection.

1 Samuel 1:9: 
וַתָּקָם חַנָּה, אַחֲרֵי אָכְלָה בְשִׁלֹה וְאַחֲרֵי שָׁתֹה

This verse is translated in several ways:
Robert Alter The David Story
And Hannah arose after the eating in Shiloh and after the drinking.
Alter says (The Art of Biblical Narrative, note on page 83): “I vocalize ‘eating’ differently than does the Masoretic text, which seems to make Hannah the subject, something contraindicated by the indication that she is breaking a fast in verse 18.”
Everett Fox Give us a King (no annotation)

Sep 7, 2011

The Rabbis on Hannah as an example of prayer

Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Berakoth 

(31a) R. Hamnuna said: How many most important laws can be learnt from these verses relating to Hannah! [I Sam. I, 10ff]   Now Hannah, she spoke in her heart:(עַל-לִבָּהּ) from this we learn that one who prays must direct his heart. Only her lips moved: from this we learn that he who prays must frame the words distinctly with his lips. But her voice could not be heard: from this, it is forbidden to raise one's voice in the Tefillah. Therefore Eli thought she had been drunken: from this, that a drunken person is forbidden to say the Tefillah.

Hannah - Marat Nefesh (bitter soul) and Ani (affliction)

I Samuel 1:10-11 says of Hannah (my translation and emphasis)
10 With a bitter soul she prayed to [against, upon] the Lord and wept copiously.
11She vowed a vow, saying: Lord of Hosts, if seeing, You will see the affliction of Your handmaid, and remember my request and not forget Your handmaid, and You will grant to your handmaid male seed, I will give him to YHVH all the days of this life, and a razor will not go on his head.

Bitter soul in the Hebrew is marat nafeshMarat  is a form of the word mar, meaning bitter, and nafesh  is translated sometimes as soul, spirit, or life-source.

The word translated as affliction is ani

In “Reading Ruth” Aviva Zornberg discusses the uses of the word mar (bitterness) and ana ( a form of ani - affliction) in relationship to Naomi.  Zornberg’s interpretations can help us to understand Hannah. 
We start by listening to Naomi say Hashem ana vi, which may be translated as “God afflicted me.”  Zornberg discusses what this means. 
What exactly does “afflict” mean?  Rashi says, “He testified against me, that I had been guilty in his presence.”  I had been guilty of something.  He testified against me, that I am incriminated of some unknown crime.  Then Rashi quotes another reading.  Ana vi: midat hadin, God’s faculty of judgment has afflicted me.  God in his role as judge, as punisher, has come out and afflicted me.  So ana vi can mean to afflict, to impose pain on me, or it can mean to testify against me. (pg 68).
Naomi’s bitterness comes both from suffering the losses of her husband and the sons she has borne and raised, and from feeling humiliated that God is afflicting her.  Zornberg goes on to say
Naomi assumes that all who witness her suffering know she must be guilty.  In interpreting Hashem ana vi- God has born witness against me – Ibn Ezra supports this translation by reference to a verse in Job.  [He] refers us to Job 10:17: techadesh edekha negdi – you are constantly sending new witnesses against me.  The chapter of bitter complaint in which Job says this begins by his saying, adabra bemar nafshi, let me speak in the bitterness (mar) of my spirit. 
[JPS translation of Job 10:1 is I am disgusted with my life;  I will give rein to my complain, t Speak in the bitterness of my soul]
The word mar, of course, echoes one of the words Naomi uses regarding herself several times.  What does Job say in the bitterness of his spirit?  “I say to my God, don’t condemn me.  Let me know why you quarrel with me” (Job 10:2).  Let me know why You have it in for me.  I feel there is a mystery in the destiny You have imposed upon me.  I must be guilty – I assume I must be guilty – but I am not clear why.  At least tell me exactly what it is that justifies this terrible suffering.  “If I am wicked, woe to me.  But if I am righteous, yet I still can’t lift up my head: (Job 10:15).  In the next phrase, listen carefully to the Hebrew: Seva kalon u-reeh onyi – because I am filled with shame, and look upon my affliction.  Onyi – from the same root as ana in Naomi’s ana vi.  I’m filled with shame as I look on my affliction knowing that the affliction must mean guilt.  (pg 69-70)
How does this help us to understand Hanna’s bitter sprit and her affliction?