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The Greatness of Chana and the secret of vows


​Chana stands as one of the most praised women in Jewish History. Not only was her daring bet accepted by Hashem, but she also merited to have Shmuel the prophet descend from her. We also read the passage of Chana’s exchange with Eli the Kohen Gadol as the Haftarah of the second Rosh Hashana, because that was when she was answered.

However, one often overlooked aspect of her whole narrative is the vow she made to dedicate her future son (Shmuel) to the Tabernacle service. Vows are not something to be taken lightly as R’ Chaim Vital writes in Sha’arei Kedusha that a person should be extremely careful not to vow (or even hint of vowing!) even if he knows he can fulfil it.

Yet, Chana was not criticized, neither for making her vow or for making the daring threat to seclude herself with another man in order to undergo the Sotahprocedure and be blessed with a child. So, what can we learn from all of this from a Kabbalistic perspective?


The nature of vows

​The Holy Zohar teaches us that vows come from the Sephirah of Binah, the supernal “Mother” or “understanding” that transcends the laws of the physical realm. In Sha’ar HaKavanot (Gate of Mystical Intentions), the Arizal explains that during Yom Kippur, the entire world is being sustained by that Sephira as everything is elevated. We are not deprived of food, drink, leather shoes, anointing and marital relations because there’s some deficiency in the world, but rather because in our elevated spiritual state, these things don’t exist as we know them. The world is, instead, satiated by the exalted spiritual “vapors”(“Havalim” in Hebrew) that emanate from the Sephirah of Bina. So too, when we make a vow, we bring down these incredibly holy vapors from our mouths. This explains many halachot (laws) regarding vows, such as how they are pronounced and how they can be revoked.

We also bless people with our mouths and Rabbi Shmuel Vital, in his commentary to his father Rabbi Chaim Vital’s Sha’ar HaGilgulim (Gate of Reincarnation) explains that Eli the Kohen Gadol was able to have such power in blessing Chana because he was the reincarnation of Yael (the righteous woman who killed Sisera). We see this from the fact that Eli’s name (עלי) and Yael’s name (יעל) have exactly the same letters. When Dvorah the Prophetess blessed Yael in her song, she also blessed her reincarnations to have this incredible power.


The exaltedness of Rosh Hashanah

​As we prepare for Rosh Hashanah, it’s important we understand a little bit about it from a Kabbalistic perspective. We know from the writings of the Rasha’sh (Rabbi Shalom Sharabi) that the first day of Rosh Hashanah we plead for our spiritual (internal) needs, while the second day, we pray for our physical (external) needs. This is reflected from the Kavanot(mystical intentions) in his Siddur Nahar Shalom.

​Nevertheless, the primary intent of Rosh Hashanah is to crown Hashem King over not only the entire world, but over each and every one of our soul’s limbs.The sound of the Shofar also comes from the exalted vapors that we saw before from the Sephirah of Binah and possess incredible power to return us to Teshuva (also the Sephira of Binah).

Chana was answered on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, and she prayed for a song that would illuminate the Jewish people, even though that this is supposedly a day focused on physical needs. When one hears the Shofar blast, it is a tremendous time of grace (e’t ratzon) to ask for anything we need. We should make the most out of this opportunity.

Chana the righteous prophetess teaches us to be bold in asking for our needs. Though she went so far as to almost threaten Hashem, this should never be attempted. As we mentioned in our article about Shmuel, her son, she did it with incredibly deep wisdom and for very specific Kabbalisitic reasons. Her burial place is not known, and the one in Tzfat for “Chana and her seven sons” is another very important Tzadika, but not the same Chana, mother of Shmuel.​May her memory be for a blessing and inspiration!


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