Muscular Judaism is the title of a podcast delivering the recordings of five lectures delving into the story of Samson and trying to interpret this unusual figure in Judaism. I was directed to this podcast by fellow blogger DIY Scholar.
Two elements make this from the start an refreshing enterprise. One is the parallels that are being made with the current situation of Israel and the Palestinians. However the positions are reversed; the Israelis rule and the Palestinians are the subdued. The other is that Samson is taken for the uneasy figure he is. He is an unusual kind of hero in Judaism with his physical prowess and his sexual escapades with enemy women. Deeper than that, he is a man with a troubled, torn psyche; uneasy with his holy task, confused about his identity and hopelessly failing in his relations.
Lecturer Eli Ungarn, reveals he is inspired by David Grossman's interpretation of Samson, but to my taste, he doesn't completely succeed in supporting, or even explaining Grossman's characterization of Samson as an artist. What struck me more than that, was how Samson seemingly rebels against his task. He tries to connect with, and become part of the Philistines, but even in his rebellion, he fumbles and achieves nothing but the opposite. The story emphasizes, how this was all part and parcel of God's plan from the start. And so, even more, Samson in spite of all his might (he also turns out to be quite smart) is a human disaster from the git go.