Drunk or Righteous? A Letter Mixup!
It wasn’t always easy to figure out the answers of the Choshen Mishpat. A great, famous Rabbi, known as the Vilna Gaon (1720-1797), relates the following story, which demonstrates how once a Kohen Gadol misread the Choshen Mishpat:
In the book of Shmuel, a story is told of a great woman by the name of Chanah, who was childless. She entered the Mishkan and poured her heart out in prayer, begging HaShem to give her the blessing of a child, yet she did not make a sound.
Eli, the Kohen Gadol of the time, was so confused by Chanah’s unusual way of praying, that he asked the Choshen Mishpat to help clarify the issue. The Urim V’tumim did its job and lit up the following letters – ש,כ,ר,ה, which in Hebrew means “drunk.” “Oh my,” thought Eli. “This woman is a Shikorah – drunk!”
But Eli was mistaken. You see, the letters did not always light up in the correct order, and the job of the Kohen Gadol was to unscramble the letters. Here, Eli read it incorrectly. It wasn’t שכרה, drunk, it was כשרה, “Keshairah” — a Kosher woman, a woman worthy of a holy son!
You see, both שכרה and כשרה, have the same exact letters… just in a different order.
In the end, Chanah explained to Eli, “I wasn’t drunk with wine. I was “drunk” with prayer – praying for a baby from the bottom of my heart.”
Eli was convinced and blessed her that she should have a child. The blessing came true and Chanah merited to give birth to the great Shmuel, who became an important prophet and leader of the Jewish nation.