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The Lonely Man of Truth

Nov 2, 2023

A pro-Israel rally in New York City (Shutterstock.com)

וַיְהִי֩ אִ֨ישׁ אֶחָ֜ד מִן־הָרָמָתַ֛יִם צוֹפִ֖ים מֵהַ֣ר אֶפְרָ֑יִם וּשְׁמ֡וֹ אֶ֠לְקָנָ֠ה בֶּן־יְרֹחָ֧ם בֶּן־אֱלִיה֛וּא בֶּן־תֹּ֥חוּ בֶן־צ֖וּף אֶפְרָתִֽי׃

There was a man from Ramathaim of the Zuphites, in the hill country of Efraim, whose name was Elkana son of Jeroham son of Elihu son of Tohu son of Zuph, an Ephraimite.

vai-HEE, EESH e-KHAD min ha-ra-ma-TA-yim tzo-FEEM may-HAR ef-RA-yim, ush-MO el-ka-NAH ben y'-ro-KHAM ben e-lee-HU ben TO-khu ven TZUF ef-ra-TEE

1 Samuel 1:1

As I write this essay, the people of Israel are fighting two wars. The first war is against Hamas, and the significant majority of Palestinians who support their genocidal aims. The second war is against the cloud of falsehood and moral relativism that has overtaken so much of the world. Unbelievably, pro-Hamas propagandists across the world are successfully convincing millions of people to support a terror group that committed horrific war crimes against the people of Israel – only a few weeks after they committed some of the worst atrocities in human history!

António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, asserts that Hamas’ attacks did not happen vacuum – as if Israel is somehow responsible for Hamas’ brutal torture, rape and murder of over 1,400 men, women and children. Guterres continues to call for an immediate ceasefire to end “epic suffering” in the Gaza Strip – an appalling demand, given what Hamas perpetrated against the people of Israel. As Prime Minister Netanyahu responded, “just as the United States would not agree to a ceasefire after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, or after the terrorist attack of 9/11, Israel will not agree to a cessation of hostilities with Hamas.”

Israel is a beacon of Godliness, truth and morality – but we are a drop in the bucket, a tiny nation surrounded by an ocean of evil. There are so many millions of antisemites across the world screaming hatred and falsehood. And there are so few of us who will stand up for truth and God’s word.

How can we possibly hope to open the world’s eyes?

“Now there was one man of Ramathaim-zophim, of the hill-country of Ephraim, and his name was Elkana…” (I Samuel 1:1)

The Book of Samuel opens by introducing Elkana, the father of Samuel. From a simple reading of the text, Elkana comes across as a minor biblical personality, overshadowed by his extraordinary wife, Hanna, and by his son, Samuel.

The sages, however, have a different view: “There was one man: Whenever the Bible says “one,” it means that this is a great person, that there was no one in his generation like him” (Bamidbar Rabba). Others go even further, comparing Elkana to Abraham himself: “All of Elkana’s deeds were similar to Abraham… Both Abraham and Elkana acquired heaven and earth for God… Both Abraham and Elkana were called ‘one’” (Midrash Aggada, Bereishit).

What was so unique about Elkana? What made him the greatest man of his generation? And how did Elkana resemble Abraham?

“Look unto Abraham your father… for when he was but one I called him” (Isaiah 51:2).

Abraham lived in a generation of darkness, when the vast majority of mankind worshiped idols and knew nothing of God. Abraham is referred to in the Bible as Avraham HaIvri, “Abraham the Hebrew.” Ivri, “Hebrew,” literally means “the other side.” Abraham was called a “Hebrew” because when it came to his religious beliefs, morality and ethics, the whole world was on one side and Abraham was on the other. He was not afraid to be different and didn’t shy away from speaking out against evil. For him, living a life of truth mattered more than receiving the approval of others. This made Abraham worthy of bringing God’s message to the world.

Elkana, like Abraham, lived during a dark time. The holy Tabernacle in Shiloh was controlled by corrupt priests whose evil behavior turned the nation away from God. Instead of protesting this evil, most Israelites simply gave up on the Tabernacle and turned to idolatry instead. But there was one exception: Elkana and his family.

Despite the corruption of the priests, Elkana refused to give up on the Tabernacle. Even more significantly, he refused to give up on his people. “Elkana used to go up to Shiloh four times each year… His wives and sons, his brothers and sisters all came up with him. On the way, they would camp out in town squares… Wherever they went, people would notice them and ask, ‘Where are you going?’ ‘To the house of God in Shiloh. Why don’t you come with us and we shall go together?’ Thereupon the people would shed tears and say, ‘We shall go up with you.’ The following year five households would up, the next ten, and the year after, all would assemble and go up… Elkana did not go up to Shiloh by the same route twice. Finally, all of Israel would go up to Shiloh” (Midrash, Tanna Dvei Eliyahu Rabba 8).

Though the other leaders of his generation gave up on the people, Elkana refused to do so. Day in and day out, he inspired his people to return to God.

Yes, millions of people across the world, including far too many Americans, have bought into hate and falsehood. But though we are few, we must never weary of speaking the truth. Like Abraham and Elkana, we must fight for God and truth – for the few will overcome the many.

Related Names and Places:

Related Bible basics: Elkanah

Relate Bible Verses: I - Chapter 1

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