“When Delilah saw that Samson had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines…” Judges (16:18)
Jewish tradition has, on the whole, not given Delilah very good press. For obvious reasons, of course.
She is loved by Samson, the Nazarite of famous strength who serves as the final Judge of Israel. Cecil B DeMille’s 1949 film Samson and Delilah brought to life years of negative portrayals of the woman, that saw her fixed in many minds as the treacherous woman.
But just pause a minute. She was, according to tradition, a Philistine and widely accepted as the enemy of the Israelites. No man had been able to bring an end to Samson, such was his strength.
Audre Lorde states: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house… They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.”
So rather than read this story as we perhaps always have done, can we not see this as a story of a female warrior?
Delilah does not try to fight Samson as a man would, but her methods prove more effective than any sword.
She is the only woman in the Samson story whose name we know. There is some debate over the etymology of her name, but what is clear is that it is a word play on the Hebrew for ‘night’.
Perhaps this is a nod to the recognition that the darkness of the night is the only way to close down the mighty sun, with Samson/Shimshon sharing a root with shemesh, the Hebrew word for ‘sun’.
So, too, is Delilah the only one to be able to defeat the invincible Samson.
Rabbi Charley Baginksy is interim director of Liberal Judaism
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.