By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER
The birth of the mighty Samson is foretold to his astonished parents through repeated angelic visitations (Judges, Chapter 13). A “most awe-inspiring” angel (13:6) informs the heretofore childless couple of the son to be born, of his life-long Nazirite vow, and of his destined, heroic, military leadership. The grateful pair offer a sacrifice, using a rock as a makeshift altar.
The Hebrew text continues, “Mafli La’asot” (13:19). The New Jewish Publication Society translation renders this phrase, “a marvelous thing happened” – sheepishly adding a footnote: “Meaning of Hebrew uncertain”! Gersonides explains that the angel caused fire miraculously to emerge from the rock, consuming the sacrifice.
The enigmatic verse might better be understood as a parenthetical exclamation: “Will wonders never cease!?”
The same phrase forms the basis of a much-neglected daily blessing (“Asher Yatzar”) thanking God for the healthy functioning and complexities (“the orifices and passageways”) of the human body… a blessing associated with the use of bathroom facilities. The prayer acknowledges that the malfunction of any of these bodily vessels can render continued life impossible… even for the strongest among us. We properly respond to everyday bodily health… just as we would a fiery, angelic revelation: with astonished gratitude!
Baruch Rofei Kol Basar u-Mafli La’asot! “Blessed is God, who heals all flesh…
…Will wonders never cease?!”
(Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey and the former National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.)