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Be Like Hannah

Nov 5, 2023

A woman prays at the Western Wall (

וְהִ֖יא מָ֣רַת נָ֑פֶשׁ וַתִּתְפַּלֵּ֥ל עַל־יְהֹוָ֖ה וּבָכֹ֥ה תִבְכֶּֽה׃

In her wretchedness, she prayed to Hashem, weeping all the while.

v'-HEE ma-RAT NA-fesh va-tit-pa-LAYL al a-do-NAI u-va-KHOH tiv-KEH

1 Samuel 1:10

A few weeks ago, I helped organize a joint Jewish-Christian rally for Israel. The rally was incredible, and about 1,500 Jews and Christians attended. But at the very same time, a few miles away in the heart of downtown Dallas, over 5,000 people rallied in support of Hamas – a barbaric terror group that burned 40 Jewish babies, raped Jewish teenagers, murdered over 1,400 people and took over 200 civilians hostage.

Most Americans, thank God, are good people. Polls show that the significant majority of Americans support Israel’s righteous war against the evil terrorist group Hamas. Nevertheless, the sickening people marching in support of Hamas significantly outnumber the activists who are standing up in support of Israel.

Why is this happening? Why aren’t Americans marching and protesting in support of Israel by the hundreds of thousands or even millions?

When we first meet Hannah, mother of Samuel, in I Samuel, she is barren and brokenhearted:

“And he [Elkanah] had two wives: the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah; and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children… And Elkanah her husband said to her: ‘Hannah, why are you weeping? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart grieved? Am not I better to you than ten sons?’” (I Samuel 1:2,8).

Hannah desperately wanted children, but she was childless. Her good husband, Elkanah, sought to comfort her. “Hanna, I know you’ve always wanted children. Sadly, God has decided that you won’t be a mother. It’s time to accept your fate and focus on the blessings you do have. I love you, and I will always be here for you!”

Elkanah’s words of comfort seem very wise. Life isn’t easy, and each of us must grapple with and accept our fate. But Hannah ignored her husband: “Hannah rose up…  and she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto Hashem, and wept sore” (I Samuel 1:9-10).

Hannah refused to accept her fate. Instead, she arose, took her fate into her own hands, and cried out to God in prayer: “She vowed a vow, and said: 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. (I Samuel 1:11).

If today it seems normal for a woman to cry out to God in prayer, we have Hannah to thank for that. In Hannah’s generation, Elkanah’s stoic acceptance to accepting one’s fate was the norm. At the end of the Book of Judges, during the generation just before Hannah’s time, we find an eerily similar story of a barren woman: the wife of Manoah.

“And there was a certain man… whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bore not. And the angel of Hashem appeared unto the woman, and said unto her: ‘Behold now, you are barren, and have not borne; but you shall conceive, and bear a son” (Judges 13:2-3).

Superficially, the story of Hannah and Manoah’s wife are very similar. They were both initially barren and then blessed by God with extraordinary sons. Hannah gave birth to Samuel, while Manoah’s wife gave birth to Samson. But a closer look at the stories reveals an essential difference.

Unlike Hannah, Manoah’s wife was entirely passive. The Bible does not tell us that she prayed or cried out to God. We are simply told, “his wife was barren, and bore not.” It appears she accepted her inability to bear children and made peace with it. She would not have children, and that was that. Then, out of nowhere, an angel of God appeared to her and promised her a child!

But Hannah’s story is radically different. She experienced no visions nor any prophecy – but she refused to accept her fate. She rejected Elkanah’s plea to accept her fate and pierced the heavens with her cries! Hannah was an activist.

Though God blessed Manoah’s wife with a child, it was Hannah’s child who ultimately brought redemption to the people of Israel. Samuel was the result of Hannah’s spiritual activism, and his life was a testament to Hannah’s greatness.

Hannah taught us all that while God may place us in difficult situations, He does not want us to passively accept our fate. Passivity is not the true path of a believer. Yes, we must trust in God – but we must also do everything in our power to bring good to the world. We must pray, with all our heart and soul. And we must act, with vigor and strength. This is Hannah’s legacy.

Why are Americans not taking to the streets to strongly stand with Israel?

Most Americans support Israel – but they do so passively. Show up at a rally to demand the release of Israeli hostages? Attend prayer gatherings for Israel? Too many people think, “Why bother? What difference will it make, anyway?” Whether they realize it or not, most Jews and Christians have become like the wife of Manoah, who passively accepted her fate and did nothing to change it.

It’s time for American Jews and Christians to wake up and learn from Hannah. We, the people of Israel, are in a war for our very existence; a war of good versus evil. Now is not the time to sit at home and watch Netflix! Now is the time to stand with God’s people, to become activists like Hannah, and to scream out to God in prayer. As Hannah taught us, our actions make a difference, and our prayers can change the world.

Now is the time to stand up and act. The people of Israel need you.

Rabbi Elie Mischel is the Director of Education at Israel365.

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Related Bible basics: Hannah

Relate Bible Verses: I - Chapter 1

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