I prefer this be anonymous
Boaz a tremendous leader/gadol does not invite Manoach to any of the 120 pseudas for his 60 children. Your tremendous web site indicates the reason according to Maharsha namely He did not invite Mano'ach to even one of them. He reasoned 'since he is sterile, he will never have occasion to invite me to such a feast!' (Maharsha - the custom was to bring gifts to the feast, and the host returns such gifts when the guest makes a wedding feast. Bo'az did not want to receive a gift that he would be unable to return.) I have a friend who has devoted YEARS of his life asking Gedolim such as R;Dovid Feinstein, R' Reisman etc & each said that his question was excellent & they had no answer.
My friend asks:
Such a holy great man as Boaz loses all his children in his lifetime & why he is losing them he doesn't understand why? According to my friend Maharsha's explanation is difficult because Boaz added "Manooach is a sterile mule which my friend says (1) is not "nice" (2) is redundant since a mule is sterile, we know that (3) is sheker- since the Haftorah in Naso clearly states that it was Manoach's wife that was sterile & NOT Monoach. Also, why & how could such a tzaddik like Boaz say such a statement about Manoach?
These are some possible answers: My Rav, R'Zelig Friedman heard directly from R'Avigdor Miller z't'l that Boaz NEVER actually said that Manoach was a sterile mule, he only thought it in the recesses of his mind (subconscious) he thought mule only as an emphasis that Manoach was certainly sterile & not meant in a demeaning way. Thus the Maharsha's explanation is the reason Boaz didn't invite Manoach; he never meant to hurt Manoach's feelings.
My friend strongly disagrees with R Miller's answer. He says If this is so, why did Gedolim (R'Feinstein, R'Reisman) tell my friend that hs question was excellent & they had NO ANSWER. ( inferring that Boaz did say it, that Manoach was a sterile mule either directly to Manoach??? or to others who told Manoach???? (I asked how could Monoach listen, its loshon hora?) Anyway, My friend says Rabbi Neuman a tremendous chachum from Mir Yeshiva "suggested" to my friend that he was correct & this was the explanation. Boaz intentionally didn't invite Manoach to all the feasts & also let Manoach know about being a sterile mule(similar to Penninah/Channah) in order for Manoach to pray harder & so that as it says in Koheles that elokim seeks to help/assist the one being chased. SO Boaz intentionally cast himself into this relationship knowing that hashem would come to Manoach's defense??? R Neuman suggests that for whatever reason, Boaz probably knew for whatever reason that his children were destined to die even without Boaz disressing Manoach?? (hashem doesn't punish children for parent unless they sin like him & we can't assume all Boaz children would sin) Even if Boaz didnt know his children had to die anyway in his lifetime, the overriding principle/phsita of assisting Manoach took precedence over all else??? This new friend from only a short while ago, said this story/lesson is especially important/painful/meaningful to him since he unfortunately is not blessed with any family now & is to quoute "all alone in this world" He is appx 65-70 years old (no wife, no children & his parents also passed away & he hurts terribly & has told me it is so painful to be all alone...of course he has hashem which is everything but still it is so painful to him. He seems to have made this a mission in his life to find out the answer; and seems happy with R Neuman's explanation. (My new friend personally told me that he prefers not going to simchas, weddings etc, since it is all too painful for him, so what Boaz was thinking according to Marsha is somewhat like he is thinking)
That is why I would greatly appreciate your input in this to get the perspective of other leading panel of talmiday chachumim to try & answer this dilemma that has perplexed my new friend for years & he still seeks other explanations to consider.
(Due to technical problems with our ISP, a number of responses were not mailed out in a timely manner. Our sincere apologies.)
1) I am deeply saddened at the pain suffered by your friend, who feels he is alone in the world.
2) It is worthwhile to know that the Chafetz Chaim wrote a Sefer to help childless people cope with this loneliness. The name of the Sefer is "Shem Olam" and is based on the verse in Yeshayah 56:5, which is part of the Haftarah we say on every Ta'anis Tzibur. Yeshaya 56:4 tells us what Hash-m says to the childless people who keep Shabbos and "chose what I delight" (the latter can be explained as doing Chesed). Hash-m promises that these people will be given an everlasting name ("Shem Olam") in Hash-m's house. By keeping Shabbos and doing Chesed, a childless person can be Zocheh to something even greater than children.
3) In a practical way, one sees that if somebody helps other people, this means that the people he helps will feel a debt towards him and want to keep in contact with the person helping them. Especially if one helps young people, possibly those who need moral or material support in their Chinuch, then this will give him a Kesher with youth and makes the helper's life also more meaningful.
4) After those comments, I will now attempt to make some brief comments on the Gemara about Boaz and Manoach. I saw an explanation given by the Ben Yehoyada (the author of Ben Ish Chai) which sheds a lot of light on this story. The Ben Yehoyada writes that Boaz was trying to be careful not to embarass Manoach, who might feel ashamed that he was unable to repay Boaz.
5) The Ben Yehoyada seems to imply that it was actually Manoach who would describe himself as a sterile mule. In other words, Boaz was thinking ahead what Manoach's reaction would be to being invited: that Manoch would say to himself that he could not go to the weddings because of his self-image as someone who would never be able to repay the Chesed of Boaz.
6) However, the reason why Boaz was punished was that Manoach did not realize that Boaz's intentions were good, and consequently, on the contrary, the behavior of Boaz caused Manoach even further distress.
7) Let us delve into this a little deeper. First, it seems to me that there is no reason to say that Boaz had any intention at all to be offensive when he used the word "mule." Even if we do not go quite as far as Rav Avigdor Miller zt'l and explain that Boaz only said this in his subconscious, nevertheless it is not necessary to explain that Boaz made a public announcement about this. I like the way you interpreted this near the beginning of your question: that this is what Boaz reasoned. It is possible that Boaz said to close friends that this is the reason he is not inviting Manoach, but he did not embarass Manoach publicly.
8) This also answers your question of why this was not Lashon Ha'Ra. The Chafetz Chaim writes in a few places that there is no prohobition of Lashon ha'Ra when speaking about something which is already well-known (see Hilchos Lashon ha'Ra, chapter 3, Be'er Mayim Chaim #12), and, in addition, there is no intention to make the matter more known (see Rambam, Hilchos De'os 7:5). Since Boaz did not speak publicly about Manoach, no Lashon ha'Ra was involved.
9) It appears to me that even though the interpretations of the Maharsha and the Ben Yehoyada that I cited above are not identical, there is an important common factor that they both share. This is that, essentially, through his attitude, Boaz had decided in his mind that Manoach was not a standard member of society and did not possess social equality. Boaz was no doubt unaware even himself that he had made this decision but that unfortunately was the reality. The Maharsha writes that because Boaz did not wish to receive presents from Manoach, he left him off his invitation list, while the Ben Yehoyada writes that because Boaz thought that Manoach would not want to receive presents he left him off the list. However, the common factor in these explanations is that Boaz related to Manoach as someone who had to be treated as a special case.
10) In fact, the mistake of Boaz was that he was too Machmir. Generally speaking, it is praiseworthy not to receive presents from others (see Mishlei 15:27), but in this particular instance this Chumra was disastrously out of place, because it led to Manoach being cut off from society.
11) I found that your question that Manoach's wife was sterile, not Manoach himself, is asked by Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlit'a, in Si'ach ha'Sadeh, part 3, to Bava Basra 91. I would like to suggest the following answer to this question, based on what Rabeinu Gershom writes here that Manoach was "like a barren mule who has no children." He was only "like" a barren mule, not literally barren, but the point is that in pratice it did not make any difference whether the problem was because of Manoach's wife or because of himself; the reality was that it seems they would never have any children. So this comes back to our original Peshat that Boaz did not consider Manoach as an equal member of society.
12) Now to a further thought as for why it was not rude that Boaz called him a mule: This is because we are just receiving a description of the way Boaz thought about Manoach deep down (this is quite similar to what you cited Rav Avigdor Miller as saying). This was the truth behind the way Boaz thought, and indeed Boaz was making a big mistake to think in this way, but his problem was that he could not accept Manoach as an equal.
13) What we can learn from this Gemara is that people who have received the great Berachah from Hash-m of having children should try to understand those who have not received this Berachah. However, there is also something that childless people themselves can try to do. I will give the example of the Chazon Ish, who was childless but often invited children to his home and used to speak with them in Torah. It was quite surprising that someone of his tremendous Torah stature should test young children and listen to their questions, but it is very likely that one aspect of this was that since he did not have his own children, he sought the opportunity to help other children. Someone who has not been fortunate to have his own children can possibly learn from this example that if he tries, in his own small way, to help young people and do other acts of Chesed, this will have the effect of everyone accepting him fully among them in return.