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Ta Shema: June 1, 2023

Building Trust

(Based on the weekly Haftarah Portion, June 3rd 2023, Judges 13:2-25)

How do we build trust?

How do we compromise in order to maintain trust?

How do we rebuild trust when it has been broken? 

Trust is what happens when the person you are in a relationship with becomes predictable to you.

The most basic trust is developed between a baby and its caregivers. Without even having the capacity to understand the interaction, a baby feels the predictable routine of its caregivers. 

I will be fed. 

I will be warm. 

I will be loved.

Trust is developed between friends when they realize that the other will reliably respond to the other's attempts at connection. 

When one reaches out to the other for support, that need will be mutually and reliably met.

Of course, trust is the foundation of the relationship between loving partners. Trust enables partners to commit to each other and become even more vulnerable in order to deepen relationships.

This week in services, we read the incredible story of the birth of Samson, one of the judges of Israel. 

The story of Samson is paired with Numbers 4:21-7:89 which talks about two very different types of people. 

The first in Hebrew is called Sotah, the wayward wife, a woman who is sent to trial, accused of breaking her oath of marriage to her husband, but there were no witnesses to the supposed violation of trust. 

The second is called Nazir, the nazarite, they set themselves apart from society, not imbibing in any alcohol or even grape products, not cutting their hair, and not defiling themselves in any way, going even to the extreme of not being present when their immediate family is buried.

The ancient rabbis teach that these two stories were placed next to each other to serve as a foil for one another. Perhaps wine could get you into a bad situation, so completely avoiding it will keep you on the straight and narrow. The artistry of placing the Samson story in communication with the section from Numbers is that it adds an element of compromise.

The compromise is: trust.

Samson’s mother, known only as the wife of Manoah, is a barren woman. She was barren until she was visited alone twice by an angel in a field, telling her that she would have a child. 

If the story were told by my Grandmother it might have looked like this: “You know that Mrs. Manoah, the one who’s barren? Guess what, she’s pregnant! But did you hear her story? She was out in the field, and an angel came to her. Poor Manoah. He’s so clueless.”

If Manoah didn’t believe his wife’s story, nobody would have held it against him. In fact, this case would have been a great example of the wayward wife, a woman accused of breaking her oath of marriage to her husband, but there were no witnesses.  But Manoah did not take his wife to trial and their relationship did not need to be repaired, because they had trust.

The rabbis, in their usual fashion, thought that this story was too neat. In rabbinic literature, they composed a back story to what is found in the book of Judges.

We know that the angel visited Mrs. Manoah because she was barren, but the book of Judges does not go into detail at all about what living with infertility was like for the Manoah family. According to the rabbinic imagination, it was very hard on the couple and caused a lot of marital strife with one blaming the other as the cause.

The painful struggle of the Manoah family that the rabbis expose us to is the place where the boundaries of trust and vulnerability are tested. The angel then acts as an agent of faith.

Mrs. Manoah is visited by the angel who gives her the good news. She tells her husband who so desperately wanted to believe her but didn’t yet trust. He pleads to God to have the angel visit him as well—he prays for the ability to be able to trust again. The angel does not visit him, however, instead the angel again visits his wife. This time, she runs to her husband, takes him by the hand, and says, take a leap of faith with me. Trust me. Be vulnerable with me.

He follows her to the field where the angel is, and this time he is able to be vulnerable. They rebuild their trust and deepen their relationship.The child wasn’t the solution but rather the angel. Instead of being alone they are able to walk into a new situation together, stronger than before.

Relationships depend on realizing that the act of extending the hand and the act of taking that hand are both radical and vulnerable acts. This can be experienced in unearthly experiences like the above story. This can also be experienced in the large and small interpersonal interactions we have on a daily basis. 

This is the first time (but not the last time) I will say this in 2023–as the calendar turns to June, we begin our march towards the High Holidays. In what ways are you going to be more vulnerable this year? How can I support you and offer you a hand in this new space of exploration? How can BIC be that intermediary to shake you out of the cycle of the known to step into the unknown? Let’s begin these conversations now and let it be the foundation of an exciting 5784.

May we all be blessed with both God’s outstretched arm–a hand that can extend outwardly to help another, as well as the bravery to extend a hand for others to take so that we can be supported. 

B'Shalom,

Rabbi Chaya Bender

 

Tue, June 18 2024 12 Sivan 5784