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Chanah: Compassion Within Compassion

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"Chanah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice could not be heard..." --I Samuel 1:13

וְחַנָּה הִיא מְדַבֶּרֶת עַל-לִבָּהּ רַק שְׂפָתֶיהָ נָּעוֹת, וְקוֹלָהּ לֹא יִשָּׁמֵעַ

Chanah, who lives in the time of the judges, has no children. Her husband Elimelekh loves her, but his other wife torments her because of her infertility. When Chanah goes with her family to the shrine at Shiloh as part of an annual pilgrimage, she prays for a son. She promises that if she becomes pregnant with a son she will dedicate him to the shrine so that he may serve God.

The priest Eli, observing her, thinks she is a drunkard and scolds her. Chanah protests that she is not drunk; she is a troubled woman who is speaking to God in her heart. Eli blesses her. Soon afterward, Chanah gives birth to a son, Samuel, whom she dedicates to the Tabernacle at Shiloh as soon as he is weaned. Every year from then on, Chanah makes a pilgrimage and brings Samuel a new coat that she has made.

Tiferet is the sefirah of the heart. Chanah speaks to God in her heart, telling God of her heart's desire to have a child. When confronted by someone who does not value her prayer because it is not public, she defends herself, knowing that God hears even the most private of prayers. Because of the words that Chanah speaks in her heart, God has compassion upon her. Chanah represents tiferet sh'b'tiferet, the essence of compassion. We embody Chanah when we express the true desires of our heart, believing that our prayers are worthy of being answered.

This is an excerpt from the "Omer Calendar of Biblical Women," available at West Side Judaica in NYC or online. For more on the Omer, join the conversation by visiting the Omer liveblog on HuffPost Religion, which features blogs, prayers, art and reflections for all 49 days of spiritual renewal between Passover and Shavuot.