It’s Biblical! This week: Hannah

It’s Biblical! This week: Hannah

Everything you ever wanted to know 
about your favourite Torah characters, 
and the ones you’ve never heard of…

Samuel Dedicated by Hannah at the Temple by Frank W.W. Topham
Samuel Dedicated by Hannah at the Temple by Frank W.W. Topham

Hannah, one of the seven Biblical prophetesses, was subjected to extreme verbal abuse by her co-wife Penina, due to her infertility.

Embittered and in pain, she considers taking drastic action to ameliorate her situation to no avail. Eventually she accompanies her husband and his entourage to the Tabernacle in Shiloh.

It is at this point that she expresses herself through prayer. This spontaneous, silent outpouring of her tortured soul appeared so out of place that Eli the High Priest mistakenly suspected her of being drunk.

However it was this forceful prayer that changed her destiny forever.

The Talmud says that she conceived on Rosh Hashanah, the day when God allocates resources for the coming year and this is why we read her prayer in the Haftorah on the first day of Rosh Hashana.

All too often, and especially during the High Holydays, we think of prayer as something fixed and formal.

While such prayer most certainly does have its place within Jewish daily living, Hannah teaches us that ‘God desires our heart’ and that He is close to all who call out to Him in sincerity (Psalms 145:18).

Indeed the great Torah commentator Nachmanides (d.1270) posits that spontaneous prayer in times of need is mandated by the Torah, whereas the daily morning, afternoon and evening services are of Rabbinic origin.

Such prayers can be recited in any language, at any time and in any place, as long as they are directed to God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.

Hannah takes her pain and channels it into sincere supplication. This prayer has a transformational effect on her very essence and destiny.

She becomes the mother of the prophet Samuel who appointed King David. Her legacy continues until today, with her prayer serving as the prototype for Jewish worship forever more, both inside the synagogue and outside of it.

read more: