Moshe and Aaron said to all the Children of Israel, “In the evening you will know that HASHEM took you out of Egypt, and in the morning you will see the glory of HASHEM, that He has heard your complaints against HASHEM- for what are we that you should incite complaints against us?” (Shemos 16:6-7)
It was the night before the Bris of our 4th son Boruch HASHEM, and for some mystical reason we found ourselves without a name. Eventually we zeroed in on the name Shmuel. Now, besides having to be concerned if the caterer would be on time, my mind became occupied with having something meaningful and sensible to say.
This is a summary of what I was able to pull together 30 something years ago; The Talmud in Chulin engages in a great debate. Who was greater than whom? The measuring stick for greatness is much different than what we might imagine.
Greater is that which is said about Moshe and Aaron than what is said about Avraham. Regarding Avraham it is written, “I am dust and ashes….” However by Moshe and Aaron it is written, “What are we…? The world is only maintained because of Moshe and Aaron. It’s written here, “What are we…?” And it’s written there (Job 26:7), “The world is suspended on bli-mah – silence. (The world hangs in the merit of those who make themselves without-“what”-nothing) in the midst of a fight. (Chulin 89A)
Moshe and Aaron are crowned as being greater because they actually felt about themselves that they were MAH – nothing! It’s hard to beat that! However, there is a question here that is waiting to be asked. We recite during Kabbalah Shabbos every Friday Night a verse from Tehillim (99:6) and there is says, “Moshe and Aaron through his service and Shmuel with the calling of his name.” From these words the sages learn that Shmuel was equal to both Moshe and Aaron”. How did Shmuel get into this contest? What was his claim to greatness by the standards of ultimate humility?
When we take a closer look at the Book of Shmuel, in the very beginning, it describes Chana’s desperation for a child. She launched what I would like to call the irresistible prayer. She told HASHEM that she doesn’t want this child for herself, so she can bounce him on her knee and feel motherly but rather she wants a child for HASHEM’s sake.
When she had a child and named him Shmuel there are two different reasons given for this name. One is that Shmuel is a contraction of SHMO, for HIS sake, he is dedicated for E-L! Also Shmuel means, M’HASHEM Shoalti… from HASHEM I requested or borrowed him. In either case, Shmuel was designated and dedicated for serving HASHEM even prior to his conception.
It was his mother’s pledge to commit him to Divine service that brought him into existence. This was not just lip service. She meant business and the biggest proof is that when he was just two years old she made him a coat and shipped him off to the holiest man of the generation, Eli. She forfeited the cutest of years to make certain he would be completely subsumed by an environment of holiness.
Now we can go back and revisit the verse in Tehillim. How did Moshe and Aaron become great? How were they able to whittle their egos down to almost nonexistence? Through His service! By fulfilling the Commandments of HASHEM dutifully they nullified themselves to a higher calling.
How did it happen that Shmuel was equal to both Moshe and Aaron? With the calling of his name! He was nullified from before birth! He was dedicated for Divine service and preordained to devote himself prior to his existence on this earth.
Where Moshe and Aaron required work to shrink into the title of total humility, Shmuel was born into the world already a humble servant. The calling of his name set the template for his life of service and his noble essence.