Throughout the Written and Oral Torot there are many literal and metaphorical references to wild animals as well as living animals both kosher and non kosher. This series of classes is based on a new book titled the Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom – Samson Edition – Volume 1 – Chayot = Wild Animals.
The author is Rabbi Natan Slifkin known as the zoo rabbi. This book was published in conjunction with the opening of a Museum of Natural History in Beit Shemesh - Israel in the year 2015 – 5775.
Perhaps the most famous appearance of predators in the Torah is the fourth plague that was inflicted upon Egypt. It may come as a surprise, then, to learn that it is far from unequivocal that the plague actually consisted of wild animals. The word used in the Torah, “arov”, simply means "mixture" or "swarming." The sages disputed whether this was a swarm of wild beasts, or of birds and flying insects, or of both:
"I will let loose hordes against you" Exodus 8:17. From where did they come? Some say from above - birds and insects, some say from below - wild animals, and Rabbi Akiba says from above and below. Midrash Shemot Rabba 11:2
Another view is that it was a mixture of specific types of insects alone:
Rabbi Nechemniah says, they were types of wasps and mosquitoes. Midrash Shemot Rabba 11:2
The Midrash proceeds to argue against this view, on the grounds that the only reason why the hordes are described as eventually disappearing, as opposed to dying like the frogs, must have been to avoid a benefit to the Egyptians-namely, that dead wild animals are a benefit for their meat and hides.
Nevertheless there is support for Rabbi Nechemniah's view. The Septuagint for example, renders “arov” as referring to a type of dog fly. Others point out that the 10 plagues fall into a pattern of five pairs: blood and frogs related to the Nile, pestilence and Boils were diseases, hail and locusts come from the sky and destroyed crops, and darkness and the death of the firstborn are both forms of darkness - literal darkness, and the darkness of death, at midnight; accordingly, “arov”, which is paired with lice, should be insects.
Still it became popularly accepted that this plague involved wild animals. While one view is that it was only wolves, others are of the view that it was a mixture of different animals:
Rabbi Brandwein of the Kabbalah Learning Center – the teacher of Rabbi Berg teaches that when in doubt look to the common people. What they follow as tradition or even just do or believe actions has some basis in the truth. In this case the common people perceive “arov” as being “wild animals”. At the end of this discussion “What will you believe?” Know also that the operative words are “when in doubt”. With the teachings above and below this commentary you are no longer in doubt only confused as to the meaning. Sages have given you information to allow you to make a decision – thus you are no longer in doubt only confused.
Rabbi Shimon Ben Lakish said: the holy one said, you massed yourselves against my children, I shall also mass the birds of the sky and the beasts of the land against you, as it says, "I will let loose hordes - literally “a mixture" against you" - beasts and birds mixed together. Shemot Rabba 11:2
Which types of animals would it have been? Many people envision lions and tigers and bears. In fact, no sources mentioned tigers, since these are native only to Asia. Lions and bears, on the other hand, are indeed mentioned, as being involved due to poetic justice:
Why was there the plague of hordes? Because the Egyptians would say to Israel, "go and bring us bears and lions," so that they could hunt them. Therefore the Holy One brought a mixture - “arov” - of wild animals, as it says," Exodus 8:20 - these are the words of Rabbi Yehuda. Shemot Rabba 11:2
Other sources mention additional creatures such as leopards, wolves, and even Eagles:
They schemed to have the Israelites encumbered as tutors, so he sent the hordes against them, of lions, wolves, leopards, bears, and Eagles. If an Egyptian had five sons, and he gave them to an Israelite to take them to the market, a lion would come and seize one, a wolf another, a bear another, a leopard another, and an eagle another. Midrash Tachuna, Bo 4
And another source added snakes, also due to poetic justice:
The Holy One said, let lions and bears and snakes, exact retribution from Egypt which sought to destroy a nation that is compared to wild animals:
"Judah is a lion cub," "Dan is a lion," "Dan is a snake along the way," "Benjamin is a predatory wolf," etc. Midrash Yalchut Shimoni Shemot 182
Other, later Midrash even add the Octopus.
The Predators of Scripture and Enemy Nations
In Scripture, there are various context in which the five most dangerous predators - the lion, bear, leopard, wolf, and sometimes the snake - are grouped together. One is with regard to the messianic era:
The Wolf shall live with the lamb the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a small child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones will / shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. Isaiah 11:6-7
The wolf and the lamb shall graze as one, and the lion shall eat straw like cattle and the snake shall eat dirt. They shall not cause harm or destruction in all my holy mountain says HaShem Isaiah 65:25
A late Midrash of indeterminate origin relates this prophecy to statues of animals that were incorporated into King Solomon's throne:
There was a lion facing an ox. . . . Rabbi Yochanan said King Solomon set them on his throne, one on the right and one on the left: a sheep on the right and a wolf on the left, a gazelle on the right and a bear on the left. . . And the holy one engraved them on Solomon's throne to show an example for Israel for the future era, in which these will dwell is one, as it says, "and the Wolf shall dwell with the lamb" Isaiah 11:6. Midrash Kisei VeIpudrumin shel Shlomo HaMelech
There is a dispute in rabbinic tradition regarding the interpretation of these prophecies. Some explain them literally, to mean that predatory animals will actually change their nature and become herbivores. Maimonides and others however interpret them metaphorically. Instead of referring animals they refer to wicked people and nations that are symbolized by animals. Such people will no longer pose a threat and will live in peace with each other and us.
The predators also symbolize wicked nations in a prophetic vision experienced by Daniel:
In the first year of Belshazzar King of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and vision in his mind in bed; and related an account of it. "In the night, I saw the four winds of heaven stirring up the Great Sea.... The first was like a lion..., and behold another beast, similar to a bear.... Afterwards I Beheld, and there was another, similar to a leopard.... After that as I looked on in the night vision, there was a fourth beast – fearsome, dreadful, and very powerful, with great iron teeth – that devoured and crushed and stamped the remains with its feet." Daniel 7:1-7
In classical Jewish thought, the four beasts in Daniel's vision – the lion, bear, leopard, and a fictitious monster with similarities to the wild boar - represent four kingdoms to which the Jewish people have been subject Babylon, Persia - Medea, Greece, and Rome.- These metaphors shall be explored in detail in the relevant chapters - these metaphors are also seen in a rebuke by Amos as those who sought God's destruction of the Babylonian Empire, little appreciating that, before the messianic era, any redemption would only be temporary:
Does this teach that human effort is worthless?
Ah, you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you want the day of the Lord? It is darkness not light! It is like a man who fled from a lion, and a bear encountered him; or if he came into a house, and leaned his hand on the wall and a snake bit him. Amos 5:18-19
This teaches that it is not worthless just not an eternal process.
Escaping from a lion is little reason to celebrate if one is then attacked by a bear. By the same token, escaping the tyranny of Babylon is little reason to celebrate if one is then under the subjugation of Persia-Medea. The sages present a similar metaphor in describing how the tribulations of Gog and Magog eclipse all previous events:
Gog and Magog are nations referred to as causing the Armageddon War. The Sages explain that this war is a war of consciousness. Some modern Kabbalists refer to this as the modern Television set as causing a war between spirituality and the illusions of modern entertainment. All of these teachings come from the root of Gimmel Gimmel which is the root of both words – Gog and Magog. This root Gimmel Gimmel translates as either roof or rooftop. Essentially the roof is the top of the house just as the consciousness is the top of the body; and the body is the house of the soul. This connection teaches that this war is ongoing since the middle part of the 20th century or even earlier.
"Do not remember the first things" Isaiah 43:18 - this refers to subjection to other nations; "and do not contemplate the previous events" Isaiah 43:18 - this is the Exodus from Egypt. "I am about to do something new, it is now sprouting" Isaiah 43:19 .-Rabbi Yosef taught: this is the war of Gog and Magog. It is comparable to a person who was walking along the road and encountered a wolf and was saved from it, and would tell everyone about the incident with the Wolf. Then he encountered a lion and was saved from it, and would tell everyone about the incident with the lion. Then he encountered a snake and was saved from it, and forgot about both earlier incidents, and would tell everyone about the incident with the snake. So, too, with Israel; the later sorrows cause the earlier ones to be forgotten. Berachot 13 a
Normally, it is always the lion that is mentioned first. But here, the first animal in the story is the Wolf. This is because the scriptural reference is understood as referring to the subjugation to a nation proceeding that of the four empires, namely Egypt. The lion, which always represents Babylon, thus appears second.
These animals, representing the nations that have oppressed Israel, are mentioned in one of the “Slichot”, the prayers that are recited before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. To the list of predators is added the wild boar, which is a dangerous and a destructive animal that represents Rome:
There are four primary damages: the Median Wolf the Babylonian lion, the Persian bear, and their young, the Greek leopard poised over their cities, and the Roman wild boar with them. Give them according to their deeds, and the evil of their endeavors! Slichot 80
It should be noted, however that the symbolism of predators is not wholly evil. Indeed, some of the Jewish tribes themselves are likened to Lions and wolves. - See Above
Predators appear in a number of contexts in Jewish Law. If a person takes on the role of guardian for someone else's livestock, there is discussion of his liability in a case where there are attacks by predators. The ruling is that the liability depends upon which type of predator is involved in the attack:
There are maulings for which a Guardian is obligated to pay, and there are mauling by animals for which he does not pay. Which is the mauling for which he must pay? For example, mauling by a cat, fox, or mongoose . . . . And which is the mauling for which he is exempt from payment? For example, mauling by a Wolf, a lion, a bear, a leopard, a cheetah, or a snake. . . For in any case where it is impossible for him to rescue it, he is exempt from paying. Mickilta De Rabbi Ishmael, Mishpatim 16
Cats, foxes, and mongooses are not considered to be dangerous to man, and it is easy to fend them off. It is only the predators which are potentially dangerous to man - the lion, bear, leopard, Wolf, cheetah, and snake - which can present situations of unavoidable harm:
An attack by one Wolf is not unavoidable, but an attack by two wolves is avoidable. The lion, bear, leopard, cheetah, and snake, are causes of unavoidable damage. This is only where they came of their own accord, but if he took the flock to a place that is infested with wild beasts and bandits, it is not a case of unavoidable damage. Mishna baba Metsia 7:9
Elsewhere, the Mishna discusses a situation where these predators are privately owned. The Mishna classifies these animals as dangerous, such that the owner is considered warned about them and is thus fully liable for any damage that they do:
The Wolf, the lion, the bear, leopard, the cheetah, and the snake, are all rated as animals about which one is warned. Rabbi Elazar says: when they are tamed, they are not in the category of warned. Mishna bava Kama, 1:4
Rabbi Elazar is of the view that it is possible to obtain these animals, to the extent that they are no longer considered necessarily dangerous. As such, if they launch an attack, one is not fully liable.
Elsewhere, the Mishna discusses the circumstances under which such animals can be put to death:
The Wolf, the lion, the bear, the leopard, the cheetah, and the snake - their death is via a court of 23. Rabbi Elazar says whoever goes ahead and kills them - for example even without a court ruling, is considered meritorious. Mishna Sanhedrin 1:4
Why are these animals being put to death? The Talmud records a discussion as to whether the Mishna is discussing the situation where the predator killed someone, or even a case where the animal did not yet kill anyone:
Resh Lakchish said: "it is only if they actually killed- that there is a dispute as to whether these animals must be tried in court or anyone can kill them, but if they did not kill, it is not - permitted for them to be put to death." We see that he is of the view that these can be tamed and they can legally have owners.
Rabbi Yochanan said: "Rabbi Eliezer is of the view that these animals may be killed, and by anyone, even if they did not actually kill." We see that he is of the view that they cannot be tamed, and therefore they cannot legally have owners. Sanhedrin 15 B
We see that there are diverse views regarding whether an allegedly tame predatory animal can be truly considered harmless. Indeed, while there are certain facilities today that house allegedly tame predators such as lions, bears, and leopards, accidents have been known to happen. Of course, accidents happen with dogs and cows also; the question is whether the incidence of the attacks with predators is high enough to mean that they are never truly considered tame. This is precisely the point of dispute in the Talmud.
There are other legal issues involved in owning dangerous predators. There is a limitation placed upon the sale of such animals:
One may not sell to heathens bears, lions, or anything that can cause damage to the public. Mishna Avodah Zara 1:7
The concern here is not about selling animals to a zoo rather, it refers to an era in which lions and bears were commonly placed in the arena to attack people. If one owns a dangerous animal, one may not sell it to someone who may put it to such a use.
Further legal aspects of predators relate to domestic animals that survived being attacked by various predators. An animal is only kosher for consumption if it is in good physical health at the time of slaughter. The Mishna lists various Trayfah - fatal defects, which render an animal prohibited for use as food. One of these fatal defects is a mauling by a predator:
These are the trayfah related to domesticated animals. . . If it fell from a roof; if most of its ribs were broken, during a mauling by a Wolf; Rabbi Yehuda says, a mauling by a Wolf is considered a fatal defect with a small domestic animal; in a mauling by a lion it is considered a fatal defect with a large animal Mishna Chullin 3:1
Unfortunately, these laws give rise to several difficult contradictions with our knowledge of zoology. One difficulty is that the Talmud states that the result of such maulings is that venom is injected into the prey animal. Needless to say, this is not consistent with modern zoological knowledge.
One solution presented for such difficulties is that the Talmud is not referring to a chemical venom generated by the animal, but rather to infections caused by bacteria that accumulate under the claws. A variation on this would be to say that bacterial infections led to the belief that venom is injected. Such infections can prove fatal.
With regard to such maulings, there is also extensive discussion in the Talmud and later rabbinic authorities regarding which predators are rated as able to inflict the this also hinges upon which type of animal is being attacked; thus while a wound inflicted upon a cow by a lion is considered fatal, a Martin can only inflict fatal injury on a bird.
Whatever the nature of attacks by predators, the results are that the animal being mauled is extremely unlikely to survive for this reason. The Talmud notes that in such cases, the owners are assumed to have forfeited their ownership:
Rabbi Shimon Ben Elazar says, someone who saves an animal from a lion or from a bear or from a leopard or from a cheetah. . . It is his, as the owners have given up hope on them. Baba Metzia 24 a; Avodah Zara 43 a; Y. Shekalin 20: 9B
Other legal aspects of predators relate to specific species are discussed in the relevant chapters
A lion in the land of Israel
In Hebrew there are many words for lion according to this Sefer. We also know that there are no synonyms in Hebrew. This means that each of these different words that translate as lion are describing different aspect of the species.
Here are the words that translate as lion:
ארי – אריה – ליש – לביא – כפיר – שחל -שחץ
Ari – Aryeh – Layish – Lavi – Kafir – Shachal - Shachatz
Here are some of these words used in verses from the Tanach:
Shir HaShirim chapter 4 Verse 8
Hebrew: אִתִּי מִלְּבָנוֹן כַּלָּה, אִתִּי מִלְּבָנוֹן תָּבוֹאִי; תָּשׁוּרִי מֵרֹאשׁ אֲמָנָה, מֵרֹאשׁ שְׂנִיר וְחֶרְמוֹן, מִמְּעֹנוֹת אֲרָיוֹת, מֵהַרְרֵי נְמֵרִים.
English: Come with me from Lebanon, my bride, with me from Lebanon; look from the top of Amana, from the top of Senir and Hermon, from the lions' dens, from the mountains of the leopards.
The Hebrew word that is being translated as lion is שחל - Shachal
16 words – 85 Letters
85 spells the word mouth. 16 is the value of the two male letters in the Name of HaShem – Yood and Vav
Shachal has a gematria of 338. Other Hebrew words with this same gematria translates as “send” or “reach out” - garment as in conceal.
Also this word is used only as a metaphorical meaning of the word lion.
Job Chapter 10 Verse 16
Hebrew: וְיִגְאֶה, כַּשַּׁחַל תְּצוּדֵנִי; תָשֹׁב, תִּתְפַּלָּא-בִי.
English: And if it exalt itself, Thou huntest me as a lion; and again Thou showest Thyself marvellous upon me.
This is also using the word for Lion – Shachal
6 words – 25 Letters
6 relates to the Vav which is a male letter and also relates to the idea of “connection”. 25 represents 5 times 5 which is a lower essence of “completion”.
The lion is by far the most prominent of all wild animals mentioned in Scripture, Midrash, and Talmud. It is mentioned on over 150 occasions in Scripture under a variety of different names, and in nearly 200 different contexts in the Talmud and Midrash. Most of these invoke the lion as a metaphor - which itself indicates its prominence - while others describe actual lions as part of the narrative.
Lions used to be widespread in the land of Israel. They are described in Scripture as living in the Jordan Valley, in the central territory of Samaria – West Bank of the Jordan River, and in the Negev desert in the South. The reference to the tribe of Dan as being a lion, "leaping from Bashan," indicates that Lions also lived in the portion of Dan; ancient synagogues in the Land of Israel often contain depictions of lions. There is also an indication that Lions were prevalent in the hills of the northern region:
Come with me from Lebanon, my bride, come with me from Lebanon; look for the peak of Amana, from the peak of Senir and Hermon, from the lions den's, from the mountains of the leopards. Song of songs 4:8
Why did Lions disappear from Israel? One reason is that they were captured for use in the Roman amphitheater. Some indication of how many lions suffered this fate can be seen in the following account:
Rabbi Yehuda Ben Beitera said: there was an incident where they were spearing wild asses for lions in the Royal arena, and those who came up for the festivals were walking - waiting up to their knees and blood. Menachot 103B; Y. Sheckalim 30 1B
Lions were also hunted for sport by Kings. There may be an allusion to this amid Job's cries of despair, depending on the interpretation of the verse:
If my head is lifted up proudly, you hunt me like a lion; and again work wonders against me. Job 10:16
Job may be describing God's oppression of him as being like a lion hunting. But another interpretation is that Job is saying that God hunts him in the way that a lion is hunted. A lion may lift up its head proudly, but precisely for that reason, it was a favored target for Kings to hunt.
Through a combination of trapping, hunting, and habitat destruction, the biblical lions were doomed. The last evidence for lions being found in the land of Israel dates to the 12th century, though it appears that they survived in neighboring countries for much longer. It is unclear when they finally became extinct from the region.
The lions of biblical Israel were not, however, the African lion that is familiar to us today. The African lion lives today in central and southern Africa. Instead it was a different sub species: either the Asiatic lion or the Barbary lion, also known as the Atlas lion. It is not known which of the sub species was in the land of Israel; this may have been the South-Western most part of the range of the Asiatic lion, or the north-eastern most part of the range of the Barbary lion. It is also possible that the ranges of both types of lions overlapped in the land of Israel. If this is the case both types of lions would have been in the Land of Israel.
The Asiatic lion is slightly smaller than the African lion, with a sparser Mane, and a distinct fold of skin along its belly. Unlike African lions, it lives in wooded areas. Scripture speaks about lions living in forests and thickets. It should be remembered that in biblical times, the land of Israel was much more heavily forested than it is today. The Asiatic lion survived in Syria and Iran until the 19th century, but today lives only in a single forest in India. A number of Asiatic lions are also maintained in captivity, including at the Jerusalem biblical zoo. The lion that was familiar to the sages of the Babylonian Talmud would have been the Asiatic lion.
The Barbary lion is often described as being larger than African lions, although this is disputed by some. It was distinctive for its huge Maine, very dark in coloration, which extended behind its shoulders down it's back and under its belly. The Barbary lion used to be found across North Africa and survived in Morocco until the 20th century. It is now entirely extinct, although many captive lions are at least partially descended from Barbary lines. There is a project underway to identify which lions have Barbary lion DNA and, using selective breeding, to re-create the Barbary lion.
The names of the lion
There are several different names for the lion in Scripture, which attest to the prominence of the lion. While some of these names refer to different stages of the Lyons life, with others it is unclear as to whether they referred to particular types of lions of particular ages or appearances, or are simply synonyms used for literary purposes. In just two consecutive verses in the book of Job, there are no less than five different appellations for lions:
As I have seen those who plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same. By the blast of HaShem they perish, and by the blast of his anger are they consumed. The roaring of the Aryeh, and the voice of the Shachal and the teeth the Kefirim - they are broken. The Layesh perishes for lack of prey, and the young of the Lavi are scattered. Job 4:10-11
Job Chapter 4 Verses 10 and 11
Hebrew:לַיִשׁ, אֹבֵד מִבְּלִי-טָרֶף; וּבְנֵי לָבִיא, יִתְפָּרָדוּ. שַׁאֲגַת אַרְיֵה, וְקוֹל שָׁחַל; וְשִׁנֵּי כְפִירִים נִתָּעוּ.
English: The lion roareth, and the fierce lion howleth--yet the teeth of the young lions are broken. The old lion perisheth for lack of prey, and the whelps of the lioness are scattered abroad.
Not yet completed
The Talmud adds another name to the end of this list – Shachatz:Rabbi Yochanan said: the lion has six names Ari, Kefir, Levi, Layish, Shachal, Shachatz. Sanhedrin 95 a
Elsewhere the rabbis distinguish between the names Ari and Aryeh and also propose explanations for each of the seven different names:
The lion has seven names and they are as follows: Aryeh, Ari, Kefir, Levi Layish, Shachal, Shachatz. Aryeh - when it is young. Ari - when it is old. Kefir - that it rejects - ”Kofer” in Hebrew, its father and mother. Levi - that it seizes the hearts - “lev” in Hebrew, of people when it roars. Layish - that everything is like dough - which is kneaded – lash in Hebrew - in its mouth. Shachal - that all tremble - “sheckalim” in Hebrew. Shachatz – that it is proud or alternatively that it is “tears” - “Meshachetz”- with its mouth. Avot De Rabbi Natan Version B, Shecter Edition, Chapter 43
A later Midrash compilation subsumes the Aryeh into the Ari, but adds a seventh name Gur, which means "cub":Rabbi Levi said: the lion has seven names, and they are as follows Ari, Shachal, Kefir, Lavi, Layish, Shachatz, and Gur. Ari - in accordance with its plain meaning, that all are in awe of it - “Yirah”. Kefir that all who see it are in denial - : Kofer” of their life. Lavi - that it seizes the hearts “lev” of people. Layish - that the flesh of man is needed - “lash” in its teeth. Shachal - that all tremble - “Shachalim” - before it. Shachatz - that it is proud; alternatively that it tears – Meshachatz - with its teeth. Midrash Yalchut Shimoni, Mishlei 20:959
1. Ari / Aryeh
Ari and Aryeh appear to be two versions of the same word; the reason for the variant spelling is unclear. These appear in Scripture more often than any other name for the lion. Ari and Aryeh is a generic term for a lion, though it seems to often specifically refer to an adult male lion - just as the English term "lion" is used both in reference to the species as a whole, yet often is intended to refer to an adult male lion. Some suggest that the name Aryeh comes from the root aura, fire, due to the lion's fiery nature and/or appearance.
In my opinion the terms are different from each other. They come from different shoreshim. It is true that the Ari can be a diminutive of Aryeh, yet the shoresh for Ari is light while the shoresh of Aryeh is “light of Yah”.
Kefir, a term that appears on 31 occasions in Scripture, refers to a young lion. It does not refer to a cub - the Kefir can hunt on its own, and is an adult in size and strength, or close to that. However, it is only just transitioning to adulthood. All this is clear from the following verses:
What a lioness was your mother! She laid down among lions, she nourished her cubs among young lion's. And she brought up one of her cubs; he became a young lion – kefir, and he learned to catch the prey; he devoured men. Ezekiel 19:2-3
Hebrew:ותעל אחד מגריה כפיר היה וילמד לטרף-טרף אדם אכל רבתה גוריה ותעל אחד מגריה כפיר היה וילמד לטרף-טרף אדם אכל
English: see above
22 words – 84 letters. Commentary is not yet completed.
In line with this, the Midrash says that the young lion is called Kefir because it rejects -Kofir its parents. The boldness and independence of the young adult lion also appears to lie behind its name being involved as a metaphor:
Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all its Kefirim, shall say to you; have you come to take booty? Have you gathered your company to plunder? To carry away silver and gold? to take away cattle and goods? to take a great booty? Ezekiel 38:13
Hebrew: שבא ודדן וסחרי תרשיש וכל-כפריה יאמרו לך הלשלל שלל אתה בא הלבז בז הקהלת קהלך לשאת כסף וזהב לקחת מקנה וקנין לשלל שלל גדול
English: See above
25 words – 95 letters. Commentary is not completed
The commentary is explaining that sharp and aggressive traders are metaphorically referred to as young lions, which boldly go out to fulfill their desires.
Lavi is a name for lions that occurs on 14 occasions in Scripture. This is translated by some as "lioness," but this is an error. It is true that lionesses are specifically referred to with this name on two occasions but this is with the feminine gender of the form Leviya. Lavi is the masculine form, and as such refers to a male lion. Some are of the view that it refers to a lion of greater size than the Ari, while others posit that it refers to a smaller lion in Scripture, sometimes the lavi appears before the Ari, and sometimes after, making it difficult to definitively state that it refers to either a greater or lesser lion:
Behold, the people shall rise up as a Lavi, and lift himself up as an Ari; but he shall not lie down until he eats of the prey, and drinks the blood of the slain. -Numbers 23:24
Hebrew: הן-עם כלביא יקום וכארי יתנשא לא ישכב עד-יאכל טרף ודם-חללים ישתה
English: See above
14 words and 50 Letters. Commentary is not yet completed.
For a nation has come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of an Ari, and he has the fangs of a Lavi. -Joel 1:6
Hebrew: כי-גוי עלה על-ארצי עצום ואין מספר שניו שני אריה ומתלעות לביא לו
English: See above
14 words – 47 Letters Commentary not yet complete.
It would appear impossible to determine the true understanding of the nuance of the term Lavi. One speculative suggestion is that it refers to the word Lavah, meaning "to blow ablaze," and thus refers to a flame colored lion, or perhaps the fiery appearance of a lion due to it's mane. In the absence of anything more concrete, we will translate Lavi as “fiery lion”.
The term Layish occurs on three occasions in Scripture. One of these, perhaps, indicates that it refers to a particularly powerful lion:
The layish is the mightiest of animals and turns away before no one. Proverbs 30:30
In the absence of any stronger evidence for the meaning of the term, we will translate Layish – as "mighty lion."
Shachal is a term that occurs on seven occasions in Scripture. Its precise nuances are difficult to determine with any certainty, and as with the Lavi, diametrically opposed views exist. Some have suggested that it refers to a large or old lion, while others argue that it refers to a medium-sized or young lion. At least, then there is something of a consensus that it refers to a lion at a particular stage of life! With no grounds to choose any particular translation, we shall use "mature lion."
There are two instances in the book of Job of the term Shachatz, which the sages interpreted as referring to a lion:
The sons of Shachatz have not tried nor has the Shachal lion passed by it. Job 28:8
Hebrew: לא-הדריכהו בני-שחץ לא-עדה עליו שחל
English: See above.
8 words – 27 letters. Commentary is not yet complete.
Leviathan sees all that is haughty; He is king over all the sons of Shachatz. Job 41:26
Hebrew: את-כל-גבה יראה הוא מלך על-כל-בני-שחץ
English: see above
10 words – 24 letters. Commentary not yet complete.As noted earlier, the Talmud and midrash understand Shachatz to refer to the lion. This fits with the first verse specified above in Job, which parallels the Shachatz with the Shachal - lion, and can also fit with the second verse, in which leviathan is mightier even than the proud king of beasts. While the aforementioned Midrash relates the etymology of Shachatz to the lions tearing of its prey, another Mdrash interprets it as referring to pride, which also fits well with the second verse above:
"With me you will be exiled from Lebanon. . . From the dens of lions" Shir HaShirim 4:8 . This refers to a Sichon and Og. Just as a lion is proud - Shachutz, so to were Sichon and Og proud and mighty; for there was only the distance of a day's travel between them, and yet they did not come to each other's assistance. Shir HaShirim Rabah 4:19
In light of the verse and midrash, perhaps it is best to render Shachatz as "proud lion."
Gur simply refers to a cub. It is also used in Scripture in reference to the Cubs of the jackal as such, it is not a distinct name for lions, notwithstanding its famous mentioning by Jacob in his reference to Judah as a lion cub.
The most distinctive aspect of lions is their sheer power as predators. Wild oxen and bears possess more brute strength, and leopards possess greater speed and cunning. But when one factors in everything together, including size - lions weigh up to 500 pounds, - strength, claws, teeth, and hunting ability, the lion emerges as the leader, standing right at the top of the food chain, as stated in a verse cited earlier:
The lion is the mightiest of animals, and turns away before no one. Proverbs 30:30
The strength of a lion defies belief. A single blow from its powerful paw is often enough to kill livestock or people. It can kill and carry away animals much larger than itself. King Heskiah, reminiscing upon the terrible pains of his illness, likens the illness to being mauled by a lion:
That it was as though a lion were breaking all my bones; I cried out until morning: from the daybreak to nightfall you shall finish me. Isaiah 38:13
Hebrew:שויתי עד-בקר כארי כן ישבר כל-עצמותי מיום עד-לילה תשלימני
English: See above
12 words – 44 letters. Commentary not yet complete.
There are even halachic ramifications of the power of a lion:
One who traps a lion on Shabbat is not liable until he brings it into its cage. Shabbat 106B
Due to the lion's great strength, or merely having caught it in a trap does not mean that one has successfully captured it. It can only be truly considered secured when it is locked up in a cage.
One verse simultaneously demonstrates that powerful warriors weren't compared to Lions, and that the greatest act of human power was to kill a lion:Bennaiah the son of Yehodaiah, was a brave man who performed great deeds; he slew two lion like men of Moab; and once, on a snowy day, he went down and slew a lion in a pit. First Chronicles 11:22
Hebrew: בניה בן-יהוידע בן-איש-חיל רב-פעלים מן-קבצאל הוא הכה את שני אריאל מואב והוא ירד והכה את-הארי בתוך הבור ביום השלג
English: Beniah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man of Kabzeel, who had done mighty deeds, he smote the two altar-hearths of Moab; he went down also and slew a lion in the midst of a pit in time of snow.
25 words – 87 Letters – Commentary not yet complete.Beniyah's bravery and great deeds are demonstrated by slaying to powerful warriors who are likened to Lions, and by slaying an actual lion. But the most famous example of a person whose strength is demonstrated by killing a lion is Samson:
Then Samson and his father and his mother went down to Timnot when he came to the vineyards of Timnot, behold, a young lion came roaring to meet him. And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he tore it apart with his bare hands as he would have torn a kid. Judges 14: 5-6
Hebrew: וירד שמשון ואביו ואמו תמנתה ויבאו עד-כרמי ותצלח עליו רוח יהוה וישסעהו כשסע הגדי ומאומה אין בידו ולא הגיד לאביו ולאמו את אשר עשה תמנתה והנה כפיר אריות שאג לקראתו
English: See Above
Not yet completed
Once Samson later discovered that bees had made a nest and honey in the lion's carcass, this inspired him to present the people of Timnat with a riddle: "out of the eater came something to eat, out of the strong came something sweet." After Delilah had gotten the answer out of him and told it to the people of Timnot, they went to Samson and presented it as follows:
And the men of the town said to him, "what is sweeter than honey, and what is stronger than a lion" Judges 14:18
Hebrew: ויאמרו לו אנשי העיר ביום השביעי בטרם יבא החרסה מה-מתוק מדבש ומה עז מארי ויאמר להם לולא חרשתם בעגלתי לא מצאתם חידתי
English: See above
23 words – 92 Letters – Commentary not complete
The lion was not merely strong; it epitomizes strength, even though a bear or oxen might be technically more muscular. Some point out that the gematria - numerical value of the Hebrew letters of Aryeh, and "lion," equals that of Gevurah - "power." The Midrash relates a story teaching that it is a sin to describe the lion as being anything other than mighty:
There was an incident with Rabbi Chanina Ben Dosa that he saw lion and said to it, "Weak King! Did I not make you swear that you shall not be seen in the land of Israel?" Immediately it ran away. Rabbi Chanina ran after it and said to it: "I have sinned to you, that I called you a weak king, and the one who created you called you powerful, as it says, "the lion is the mightiest of animals" Proverbs 30:30. Midrash Tachuma, Vayigash 3
The lion is therefore a symbol of power, used whenever Scriptures seeks to describe a person in such a way:
Saul and Jonathan were loved indeed in their lives, and in their death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles, and they were stronger than lions. Second Samuel. 1:23
Hebrew: שאול ויהונתן הנאהבים והנעימם בחייהם ובמותם לא נפרדו מנשרים קלו מאריות גברו
English: See above
12 words – 63 letters. Commentary not completed.
The Talmud also presents this metaphor when describing the reaction of David and Avishai to the prospect of killing a fearsome Philistine called Yishbi:
They said, shall two lion cubs kill a lion?! Sanhedrin 95 a
And the mighty lion is also used to represent powerful wicked nations, as in the following prophecy regarding the destruction of the enemy city of Nineveh:
What has become of that lion's den, that pasture of young lions, where lion and fiery lion walked, and the lion cub has no fear? What of the lion that tore prey for his cubs, and strangled for his lionesses, and filled his lavers with prey and his dens with mangled flesh? I am going to be against you, declares the Lord of hosts; I will burn down your chariots in smoke, and the sword shall devour your young lions; I will stamp out your killings from the earth and the sound of your messengers shall be heard no more. Nahum 2:12-14
Hebrew: Not yet completed
English: See above
Not yet completed.
In the Midrash, this leonine power is described as being present in someone who drinks too much wine:
The Rabbi said: When Noah came to plant a vineyard, so the time came and .. . . Brought a lamb and slaughtered it under the vine, and after this he brought a lion and killed it. . . . he alluded to him that before a man drinks lion, he is innocent as a lamb, that knows nothing, and who silent before being shared; if he drinks in appropriate quantities, he becomes as powerful as a lion and says there is no one like him in the world. Midrash TamHouma, Noah 13
The Talmud also describes the evil inclination of idolatry as being represented by a lion when the sages prayed for it to depart:
They fasted for three days and three nights, and it was given over to them. Out of the sanctuary came a lion of fire and the prophet said to Israel: "This is the evil inclination for idolatry." Yoma 60 9B
A lion with its golden flowing mane, visually looks similar to fire; and its powerful predatory nature is like a burning lust for evil. Thus, when the Jewish people cried out to God that he should cause the evil inclination to surrender its power, it appeared as a fiery lion.
The power of the lion presents a terrible danger to people. But this does not mean that it is necessarily seen as a negative phenomenon. The Mishnah instructs man to emulate this power of the lion for noble purposes:
Yehuda Ben Teima said: be. . . As mighty as a lion to fulfill the will of your father in heaven. Mishnah Avot 5:20; Pesachim 112 A
Simply speaking this is referring to the lion's physical Strength, which man is encouraged to emulate in a non literal sense. But perhaps we can homiletically explain it to refer to a unique aspect of lions.
Big cats are aggressive carnivores by nature, which makes it hard for them to get along with each other all the other big cats - tigers, leopards, jaguars, cheetahs, cougars - therefore lead set solitary lives. But lions, unique among cats, live in large groups. These are called prides and typically consist of 1 to 4 males, five or six females, and their cubs. These large family groups successfully cooperate in hunting their prey - the family that preys together, stays together. Such sociability is remarkable; in the words of one zoologist: "hitherto we have known little more than the savage side of big cats for we have relied on the stories of big-game hunters. But in recent years zoologists have been investigating a multitude of astonishing details in the tender family life of lions. . . the lion is undoubtedly a creature with a highly aggressive disposition. But within his clan he controls his blood-thirstiness so effectively that he can be called a friendly, even a tenderhearted beast. What is it that inhibits his aggressiveness when in the presence of fellows he knows well?"
The Talmud has been a tremendous boon to Judaism over the centuries. At least this is what we are told by the Rabbis and Sages from those centuries. Today is a different world. Yet man is the same. Today the Talmud is not taught from a Kabbalistic perspective except in very limited one on one settings. This author has not been taught these methods nor have I in this lifetime. Yet I know that there are deeper levels that are not being related here. If we had the original Hebrew and the time we could explain these things. It is important to keep this in mind whenever you see a quote from the Mishna or Gemara spoken of as the Talmud.
Perhaps the real might of the lion is not in its great power as a predator, but in it to ability to overcome this in the presence of other lions. This would be in accordance with the definition of power given elsewhere in the Mishnah:
Who is mighty? He who conquers his evil inclination. Mishnah Avot 4:1
This power to subdue and override the animalistic drives that try to destroy us, is the leonine trait that man is encouraged to emulate. The Talmud relates that King David - who, as we shall later see, is deeply connected to the lion - exercises leonine strength in overcoming the fatigue of night:
David said: midnight never pass me by in my sleep. Rabbi Zeira said: until midnight, David slept like a horse, and from then on, he strengthened himself like a lion. Brachot 3B
To understand this statement by Rabbi Zeira we would need to read the section on horses. Perhaps someone would remind me to discuss this when we do cover domesticated animals. One level of information I have heard is that a horse does not sleep more than 30 minutes at a time. I have heard this same thing expressed about King David. Can we accept this literal statement and draw analogies from it? You decide. Please start to think like a student of Kabbalah.
And Rabbi Yosef Karo uses this analogy at the very start of his monumental halachic code, the Shulchan Aruch – the set table:
A person should strengthen himself like a lion to arise in the morning for the service of his creator. Shulchan Aruch; Mishna Beura 1:1
Due to the lion's great power, it is unafraid of any creature. A person here is therefore described as having the heart of a lion:
Even if he is a brave man, with the heart of a lion. Second Samuel 17:10
Hebrew: והוא גם-בן-חיל אשר לבו כלב האריה המס ימס כי-ידע כל-ישראל כי- גבור אביך ובני-חיל אשר אתו
English: Then even he that is valiant, whose heart is as the heart of a lion, will utterly melt; for all Israel knoweth that thy father is a mighty man, and they that are with him are valiant men.
21 words – 66 Letters. Commentary not yet complete.
But your lack of fear can lead to the negative trait of haughtiness:
"With me - you will be exiled-from Lebanon. . . From the dens of lions" Shir HaShirim 4:8 - this refers to Sichon and Og. Just as a lion is proud, so also were Sichon and Og proud and mighty; for there was only the distance of a day's travel between them, and yet they did not come to each other's assistance. Shir HaShirim Rabbah 4:19
However, Scripture presents such lion like fearlessness as characteristic of a righteous person who trusts in God's help:
The wicked flee, though no man is chasing them; but the righteous are as confident as a young lion. Proverbs 28:1
If one exercises the power of the lion correctly, then one can be as confident as a lion to gain the help of HaShem.
What is being said above is connect to your certainty. That is the what actually gives the lion the ability to go against its nature as a cat to welcome “family” or “pride members”. Certainty is what generates power.
The lion is universally regarded as the king of beasts. For the most part, this is due to it being the most powerful of predators, and its resultant position at the very top of the food chain. The lion may also earn this title due to its regal appearance. From head to tail, the lion exudes majesty. Its head is adorned by a luxurious mane, like a royal crown upon a king. Lions are also unique in having types of hair on their elbows and a tuft of hair on the tip of the tail; these tassels contribute to their ornate, regal appearance. The Talmud explicitly describes the lion as the King of beasts:
The concept of a food chain is from modern science. It is not accurate at all. The environment is created like all creations by HaShem. Each niche in the environment is equal to every other niche since the entity – animal – insect – fish – bird – or creature serves its purpose both in the environmental niche and in other aspects of Creation that man may perceive and may not. An example for this is a description in the Zohar that describes humanoid men who live under domes in the sea. This has not been revealed in this physical world but it is also true that there are other dimensions that may and probably do have these “people”.
Resh Lakish said: what does it mean by, "I shall sing to HaShem because he is most exalted" Exodus 15:1? A song for the one who is exalted over the exalted, as it was said, the king of beasts is the lion, the king of domestic animals is the ox, the king of birds is the Eagle, and man is exalted over all of them, and the holy one is exalted over them all and over the entire world. Chagiga 13 B
The Hebrew word Nesher נשר is almost always translated as Eagle. According to this author it is actually the Griffin Vulture. Yet who wants to think of the vulture as the King of Birds? Yet this misunderstanding in translation and identification is helpful to reinforce what has been said in earlier classes and above in this class: There is no entity more important to the Creator than any other entity. It is only mankind's ego that thinks they are the most important entity created by the Creator.
The midrash's relates a story presenting even animals as being aware of the Lions status as King:
"Save me from the mouth of the lion as you have answered me from the horns of Reimim" Psalm 22:22 when David was grazing the sheep, he went and found an Auroch sleeping in the wilderness. Thinking it was a mountain, he climbed upon it to watch the sheep. The aurochs shook itself and awoke, and David was writhing upon it, and reached the heavens. ... What did the holy one do? He summoned a lion; when the Auroch saw the lion, he was afraid, and crouched down before it, because it is the king; and David descended to the ground. Then when David saw the lion, he was in fear of it, and thus it states, "save me from the mouth of the lion as you have answered me from the horns of the Auroch." Midrash Tanhuma 102
Scripture does not explicitly describe the lion as the King of beasts. However, it is implicit in the Lions symbolism for the tribe of Judah as we shall see. It is also implicit in the prophet Ezekiel's visions of the divine:
I looked and behold, a stormy wind came sweeping out of the north. ... In the center of it were also the figures of four creatures. ... As for the likeness of their faces, the four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion on the right side; each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side; the four also had the face of an eagle. Ezekiel 1:4-5, 10
I won't be disclosing or discussing these particular verses in Ezekiel. These have been studied by the Kabbalists for generations and are used to “ride the chariot” and other meditative techniques as taught in Kabbalah.
And each one had four faces; the first face was the face of a cherub, and the second was the face of a man, and the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle. Ezekiel 10:14
The Midrash explains that the lion appeared in this vision due to its preeminent role vis-à-vis all the other wild animals:
The greatest of wild animals is the lion, and it became a figurehead – literally the Hebrew says, “the face" - for the wild animals, as it says, "and the face of a lion" Ezekiel 1:10. Midrash TanHuma, Emore 16
But why is it necessary for the king of animals to appear on the divine chariot? The midrash explains that it is not only to teach man about who is the King of Kings, but even to teach the king of beasts himself:
Rabbi Avin said: there were four types of proud ones created in the world. The proudest of creatures is man, the proudest of birds is the Eagle, the proudest of domestic animals is the ox, the proudest of wild beast is the lion, and they all took rein, and greatness was given to them, and they are affixed under the holy ones chariot, as it says, "and the image of the faces was the face of a man, the face of a lion, the face of an ox, and the face of an eagle," Ezekiel 1:10. Why was all this done? So that they would not Lord it over the world and to realize that there is a reign over them. Shemot Raba 23:13
The lion is the King of Beasts but there is also a King of Kings.
When Jacob blessed his sons, He described Judah as being similar to a lion, and also is destined to be king:
Judah is a lion cub; you have risen from the prey, my son. He kneels down, he crouches like a lion, and as a fiery lion; who shall rouse him up? The scepter shall not depart from you, nor the rules staff from between his feet. Genesis 49:9-10
Hebrew: גור אריה יהודה מטרף בני עלית כרע רבץ כאריה וכלביא מי יקימנו לא-יסור שבט מיהודה ומחקק מבין רגליו עד כי-יבא שילה ולו יקהת עמים
English: Judah is a lion's whelp; from the prey, my son, thou art gone up. He stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as a lioness; who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, as long as men come to Shiloh; and unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be.
27 words – 99 letters. The word Shiloh has a gematria of 345 the same as Moshe. The commentary is not completed.
The first point to ponder in this blessing is that Judah is described not just as a lion, but as a cub – gur גור Gur is one of the 7 Names for a lion as discussed briefly above. The midrash sees this as praising Judah is having the qualities of both adult and young lions:
Do you know the qualities of a lion as well as the qualities of a lion cub? And their differences if any?
"Judah is a lion cub" Genesis 49:9 - this teaches that he was given the power of the lion and the chutzpah of its Cubs. Beraisheet Rabah 98:7
Others see it as describing Judah's current state and foretelling his destiny as King. Judah has not attained royalty; he was still only a cub. But he was a lion cub, already demonstrating leadership vis-à-vis his brothers. Later, he would become an adult lion; he would give rise to Kings - David, Solomon, and others. Crouching at rest, as a mature lion, nobody would dare "rouse him up," meaning challenge his reign.
Judah had demonstrated his lion like nature with his actions in Egypt. When the viceroy of Egypt, who unbeknownst to Judah was actually his brother Joseph, threatened to keep Benjamin as a slave, Judah was not afraid to challenge this immensely powerful man:
"And Judah drew near to him. . ." Genesis 44:18 - this is what Scripture refers to with, "the lion is the strongest of animals, and does not retreat from anyone" Proverbs 30:30 - Midrash Tanhama Vayegash 3.
Another midrash elaborates upon the lion like nature of Judah's approach:
Another explanation: "and Judah drew near to him. . . ". . . When Joseph sees Benjamin and told his brothers that "the man in whose possession is found the goblet shall become my slave". . . Judah grew angry and roared in a great voice. . . . Job said, "the roar of the lion. . ." Job 4:10 - the roar of the lion refers to Judah. . . . "the lion perishes for lack of prey" Joel 4:11 - this refers to Judah, who was ready to sacrifice himself for Benjamin - for example for failing to accomplish his mission, like a lion that has not managed to obtain its prey. He said May the holy one forgive me for the sin of deceiving my father, telling him that I will bring Benjamin back for him. At that moment he was filled with rage against Joseph. Beraisheet Rabah 93:7
Judah was the tribe of lions, and the lion was therefore the emblem depicted on the flag of the tribe of Judah in the wilderness. The city of Jerusalem originally established by King David of the house of Judah in the portion of Judah, today has the lion emblazoned on both its flag and its coat of arms.
The midrash points to a contrast between the leonine description given by Jacob, and that in the blessings reluctantly given by Balaam. The former describes the lion as kneeling and crouching, while the latter describes them as crouching and lying down:
He kneels down, he crouches like a lion, and as a fiery lion; who shall rouse him up? Genesis 49:9-10
He crouches, he lies down like a lion, and as a fiery lion; who shall rouse him up? Numbers 24:9
The midrash sees the difference between kneeling / crouching and crouching / lying down as reflecting two different periods of the line from Judah through Zedekiah's kingship. Where as kneeling and crouching are only a partial state of relaxation, lying down with the head upon the ground signifies absolute ease. the former symbolizes the state of matters between David and Zedekiah, whereby Judah's descendents had a certain level of superiority over their brothers, but it was not unequivocal. Only with the appointment of David as King was the kingship at rest, clear and unchallenged.
Yuhudah is a lion cub. . . . he kneels down, he crouches" Genesis 49:9 - from Paretz until David. "He crouches, he lies down" numbers 24:9 - from David until Zedekiah - Tzidkiyahu. Beraisheet Rabah 98:7
However, the midrash also presents an entirely different view. This sees crouching as a superior state, symbolizing the regal pose of the Kings being securely in charge. Lying down, on the other hand is a state of sleep which represents the lack of active kingship. Accordingly Jacobs blessings alludes to the period of active leadership, where as Balaam's statement referred to the period of dormancy in the kingship:
And some say: "he kneels down, he crouches"-from Paretz until Zedekiah. "He crouches, he lies down" numbers 24:9 - from Zedekiah until the king Messiah. Beraisheet Rabah 98:7
Jacob's blessing is explained by some as alluding to a microcosm of the story of Judah's descendent David. At first he was just a lion cub; he demonstrated leadership but had not yet been appointed King. Later, however he became an adult lion, appointed as king over Israel.
David also had another connection with the lion, which is described when offering to fight Goliath:
Saul said to David, you are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a youth, where is he is a man-of-war since he was young. And David said to Saul, your servant shepherded his father sheep, and there came a lion, and the bear, taking a lamb from the flock; and I went out after him, and struck him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he arose against me, I caught him by his mane, and struck him, and slew him. Your servant slew both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God. God who saved me from the paw of the lion, and from the mouth of the bear, he will save me from the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said to David, go, and God be with you first Samuel 17:33-37
The midrash states that on four such occasions David killed the lion. Being able to slay a lion indicates that one is as powerful as a lion. The Talmud notes that David also demonstrated his leonine strength in another way:
David said: midnight never passed me by in my sleep. Rabbi Zeira said: until midnight, David slept like a horse, and from then on he strengthened himself like a lion. Berachot 3B
While David epitomize the traits of the lion, the entire lineage of Davidic kingship earns this appellation:
The kingship of David is called "lion," as it says, "what a lioness was your mother. She laid down among lions "Ezekiel 19:2.
The midrash is referring to the following lamentation of Ezekiel:
And you raise a lamentation for the princes of Israel, and say, what a lioness was your mother! She lay down among lions, she raised her cubs among young lion's. And she brought up one of her cubs; he became a young lion, and he learned to catch the prey; he devoured men. The nations heard of him; he was trapped in the pit; And they brought him with hooks to the land of Egypt. And when she saw that although she had waited, her hope was lost, she then took another of her cubs, and made him a young lion. And he roamed among lions; he became a young lion, and he learned to catch prey, and devoured men. He smashed their castles and laid waste their cities; land and all and it became desolate at the sound of his roaring. Nations from the countries on every side set themselves against him. They spread their net over him, and he was caught in their snare. They put him in a cage with hooks, and they carried him off to the King of Babylon, and confined him in a fortress, so that his roar should never again be heard on the hills of Israel. Ezekiel 19:1-9
The first lion cub in this lamentation clearly alludes to King Jehoash - Yechoash. He ascended to the throne at the young age of 23, and reined for only three months before being captured and taken down to spend the rest of his life in Egypt. This second lion cub seems to refer to his successor, Jehoiakim, but it may refer instead, or in addition, Jehoiachin or to Zedekiah were known to have been captured by Babylon. All these kings are considered the young of the mother lioness who represents the royal lineage.
The above is being referenced as a metaphor or allegory. Can this apply to other people or relationships? Yes it probably can. Our sources of these people are too distant from our generation to truly know if this allegory is being applied correctly. Also remember each verse in the Torah applies to each person in each generation. How would you relate to the above Torah Verses in your life?Scripture describes how in the messianic era, predatory animals will live alongside their prey in peace – there is a long-standing dispute in rabbinic tradition regarding whether this is to be understood literally or metaphorically. It is popularly believed that Scripture speaks of the lion shall lie down the lamb. But in fact it is the Wolf that lies down with the lamb. The lion is paired with a different animal: the ox.
The Wolf shall live with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a small child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. Isaiah 11:6 - 7
They feed together, and the snake shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my mountain, says the Lord. Isaiah 65:25
In the African savanna, a zebra in the wilds of ancient Israel, lions would have eaten deer and aurochsen. When there is a shortage of such natural food, lions will readily switch to preying upon domestic cattle. As seen with Ezekiel's vision, the ox is the king of domestic animals; but it can be killed by the king of wild beasts. Where as wolves are able to prey upon sheep, and leopards are able to prey upon goats, lions are strong enough to prey upon cattle:
And God shall seek the pursued Ecclesiastes 3:15. . . . Rabbi Eliezer son of Rabbi Josie ben Zemra said: it is even the case with offerings; the holy one said, "the ox is pursued by the lion, the goat is pursued by Leopard, and the sheep by the Wolf: do not bring offerings before me from the pursuers, but only from the pursued." Vayikra Rabba 27:5
There are ramifications an animal may not be slaughtered for food if it is already fatally wounded. The Mishnah discusses which types of predator are rated as capable of inflicting life-threatening wounds on various animals:
The following are considered fatal wounds. . . . The mauling of the Wolf. Rabbi Yehuda says: the mauling of the Wolf is only considered a fatal wound with small livestock for example sheep and goats, the mauling of the lion is considered a fatal wound with large livestock for example cattle. Mishnah Chullin 3:1
The Talmud relates that Rabbi Aba who was encouraged by his son not to slaughter his three-year-old calf - promptly was eaten by a lion. Elsewhere the Talmud notes that the presence of a lion nearby will prevent an ox from feeding.
i think that this scenario indicates that just as a human being does not die without a spiritual court ruling that it is time for him to leave the world and how that will be accomplished the same is true for animals.
Conversely an ox is powerful enough to inflict severe damage upon a lion, with its horns's or its hooves. The Talmud notes that under circumstances where a lion is roaring and an ox is mooing indicating that both animals are in the presence of the other there is no concern that one of them might have been mauled:
If the lion and the oxen are in the same area, then they are both frightened of each other and the lion has not injured the oxen. Chullin 53 A
The lion is the mortal enemy of the ox which is why the notion of living alongside an ox is inconceivable in this world – it is a motif of the messianic era, and of the heavens:
In this world, the ox cannot tolerate the lion, but above, the oxen the lion are both on the divine chariot. Midrash Shir HaShirim Zuta 1:1
The motif of the lion as the nemesis of the ox also finds expression in a metaphorical sense. The tribe of Judah is symbolized by the lion, and the midrash draws upon the imagery of an ox who fears a lion to illustrate unit's relationship with another tribe – the Tribe of Shimon:
Moses blessed 11 tribes, but did not bless the tribe of Shimon, because he was disheartened at them regarding their actions at Shittim - where they were seduced by Moab. Rabbi Yehoshua of Shifring said in the name of Rabbi Levi: even so, they were taken care of with Judah, as it says, "the inheritance of the sons of Shimon was in the portion of the sons of Judah". Joshua 19:19. To what is Shimon comparable? To an ox that misbehaved. What did they do? They tied a lion to its trough, and when the ox saw the lion, it's vigor was weakened. So, too, Judah is compared to a lion, as it states, "Judah is a lion," and there fore they took care of Shimon. Midrash Tanhuma 90
However in most cases where the motif appears of Judah as the lion being the enemy of the ox, it is with regard to Joseph. This is because in Moses lesson to the tribes, Joseph is represented by an ox.
Joseph is an ox as it says, "the firstling of his ox, grandeur is his" Deuteronomy 33:17 and Judah is a lion, as it says, "Judah is a lion cub" Genesis 49:9. Who stands opposite the ox? The lion. As it states, "and Judah drew near to him" referring to Judah approaching Joseph in Egypt in order to challenge him. Midrash Tanhuma – Buber 3
The enmity between lion hemlocks reflects that between Judah and Joseph. The midrash notes that Jacob was aware of Judah's enmity with Joseph, to the extent that he even suspected him of killing him”:
Our forefather Jacob thought that Judah had killed Joseph, when they brought him the coat – the coat of Joseph dipped in blood,- as it says, "and he recognized it and he said, this is the coat of my son - an evil beast has consumed him. Genesis 37:33 - and the "evil beast" is none other than the lion. Beresheet Rabba 95:2
Another midrash explains that, despite Joseph successes, Judah would always come out on top:
In whatever Joseph triumphs, Judah comes and conquers him. . . It is comparable to an ox that goes out and causes all the animals to flee from before it, picking and goring them all. But the lion King and the ox could not stand up to it. Midrash Tanhuma - Buber, Vayegash
The midrash explains that when Jacob sent Judah at the head of the procession to meet Joseph, this symbolizes the reconciliation of the lion with the ox: it is written, "the lion shall eat straw like the ox" Isaiah 65:25. . . . the lion is Judah as it says, "Judah is a lion cub" Genesis 49:9, and the ox is Joseph, as it says, "the firstling of his ox, grandeur is his" Deuteronomy 33:17. They are found to be eating together as it says, "they were seated by his direction. . . Portions were served" Genesis 43:33-34, fulfilling, "the lion shall eat straw like the ox"; therefore, "he sent Judah before him" Genesis 46:20. Beresheet Rabba:
However, it appears that this reconciliation is only temporary. The midrash states enmity between the tribes occurs throughout history, and is only solved when the Messiah arrives. When Judah and Joseph are quarreling with each other, the ministering angels say to each other, come let us descend and watch the oxen and lion goring each other. The normal way of the world is that the ox is afraid of the lion, but this oxen and lion stand attacking each other, and the jealousy between them endures until the coming of the Messiah. Midrash Tanhuma
Judah is not the only tribe to be symbolized by a lion. In the blessings by Moshe to the children of Israel before his death he likened two other tribes to the lion. One was the tribe of Dan:
And of Dan he said, Dan is a lion cub; he shall leap from Bashan. Deuteronomy 33:22
Bashan translates as “with a tooth” in Hebrew.
The midrash explains this is alluding to their ferocity in battle:
He shall Bashan - the lion leaps upon his animal, so too the son of Dan leaps upon his adversaries in war. Midrash Lechach Tov Vezot HaBracha .
Another reference to Dan as a lion is found in the midrash describing Judah approaching Joseph in Egypt, not knowing that he was his brother. The midrash states that he was joined by Chusim the son of Dan, and they roared like lions.
The second tribe that Moses likens to a lion is the tribe of Gad:
And of Gad he said, blessed be he who enlarges Gad; he dwells as a fiery lion, and tears the arm with the crown of the head. Deuteronomy 33:20
Much later, Scripture described Gad like lions:
And from the Gadites It's men of valor went over to David at the fortress in the wilderness; men-of-war, fit for battle, who could wield shield and spear, whose faces were like the faces of lions and who were as fast as a gazelle on the hills. First Chronicles 12:9
The midrash indicates the tribes of Dan and Gad were on the border, and were compared to Lions since they provided border defense.
The midrash sees Jacob's blessing to Judah, which compares him to a lion, as providing the symbolism not just for Judah himself, or even just for his tribe, but for all Israel:
Israel is called "lion," as it says, " Judah is a young lion" Genesis 49:9. Shemot Rabah 29:9
Earlier, we cited part of Balaam's blessing to the Jewish people, which the midrash expounded as alluding to an aspect of the Davidic kingship. But Balaam draws out the parallel to the lion at length, and it goes beyond the Davidic kingship to referring to the entire Jewish nation:
Behold, the people shall rise up as a fiery lion, and lift up themself as a lion; he shall not lie down until he eats of the prey, and drinks the blood of the slain. . . He crouches, he lies down like a lion, and as a fiery lion. Who shall stir him up? Blessed is he who blesses you, and curse it is he who curses you. Numbers 23:24, 24:9
"Rising up like a lion" is explained by some to prophetically allude to Israel's future conquest of the Canaanite nations. Others explain it more simply to be an inversion of Balaam's goals; he had wanted to curse the Jewish people, but was forced instead to praise them in the highest terms. The midrash interprets it as alluding to the lion - like strength that Israel exerts in its service of God:
"Behold, the people shall rise up as a lion" numbers 23:24 - there is no nation in the world like them. When they are sleeping, uninvolved in Torah and mitzvot, they then arise from their sleep like lions and hasten to recite Shema, and appoint the holy one as King, and they become like lions, and then they depart from their worldly business affairs. Bamidbar Rabbah 20:20
Elsewhere we also find the Jewish people being compared to a lion:
The remnant of Jacob shall be among the nations in the midst of many peoples, like a lion among the beasts of the forest, like a young lion among the flocks of sheep; which tramples its way to wherever it goes, and tears apart with no one to save. Micah 5:7
The midrash refers to this blessing as heaven materialized during the episode of the book of Esther:
"The Jews congregated in their cities. . . And no man stood before them, for the fear of them had fallen upon all the nations" Esther 9:2. Israel was strengthened like a lion that falls upon a flock of sheep, continually striking, with no one saving them from it. That is what is meant by, "the remnant of Jacob shall be among the nations, in the midst of many peoples, like a lion among the beasts of the forest, like a young lion among the flocks of sheep" Mikra 5:7. Esther Rabbah 10:11
The question is posed as to why fear would render the enemies of the Jewish people incapable of fighting back. It is answered that it is similar to a lion attacking sheep with which the fear of the lion is so great that the sheep simply freeze in shock. The shock mechanism prevents the sheep from feeling excessive pain.
Due to the lion's position as king of beasts, it is a creature that symbolizes Royal honor. For this reason, the lion was depicted in places that were associated with such honor. Solomon's throne was fine for the statues of lions:
The throne had six steps, and the top of the throne was round behind; and there were armrests on either side of the the place of the seat and a lion stood beside the armrests. And 12 lion stood there on one side and on the other upon the six steps; and the like of it was never made in any kingdom. First Kings 10:19-20; similarly in second Chronicles 9:18-19
The above translated verse appears exactly the same in both locations. This is unusual since the Book of Chronicles is usually describing items that fill in the descriptions in the Books of the Prophets. The six steps are describing the connectiron to Zeir Anpin and each of the lower Sefirot while the Throne represents Malchut
And the holy Temple was decorated with images of lions:
And on the borders that were between the ledges were lions, oxen, and Cherubin; and upon the ledges there was a base about; and beneath the lions and oxen were replicas of hanging work. . . . four on the plates, on its days, and on its borders, he engraved Cherubim, lions, and palm trees, according to the space between each one, . . . First Kings 7:29, 36
Similar lion inspired the core is to appear in the third Temple:
And all over the wall, both in the inner one and in the outer, ran a pattern it consisted of cherubs and palm trees with a palm tree between every two cherubs. Each cherub had two faces: a human face turned toward the palm tree on one side and a lion's face turned toward the palm tree on the other side. Ezekiel 41:17-19
In Scripture there is a curious word, Ariel, which can be translated as "lion of God":
"Oh, Ariel, Ariel, city where David camped." Isaiah 29:1.
The midrash sees this word is referring to the Temple:
The Temple is called "lion," as it says, "oh, Ariel: Isaiah 29:1. Shimon Rabba 29:9
The Talmud describes the very shape of the Temple itself as being similar to the shape of a lion:
The sanctuary was narrow at the rear, and wide at the front, similar to a lion, as it says, "oh, Ariel Ariel, the city where David camped." Just as the lion is narrow at the rear and wide at the front so to the sanctuary was narrow at the rear and wide at the front. Mishnah Mishna Midot 4:7
Some, on the other hand, sees the word Ariel in this verse is referring to the altar. This follows the Talmud's description of the altar:
Five things were reported about the pile of the pot, simply speaking this refers to the flames, which burned with majesty, but Rashi explains that it refers to a cloud that fell from heaven in the days of Solomon and was shaped like a crouching lion.
Today we have neither throne nor Temple; but the Royal imagery of the lion appears in similar places. Synagogues have reliefs and carvings of a lion on the Ark. However, this has not been without controversy; a number of medieval writings strongly oppose it. If a creature is ever depicted on the covers of Torah scrolls themselves, which is the holiest item in our possession, this image needs to be a lion. This powerfully demonstrates the significance of lions for Royal symbolism.
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