Wednesday, January 19th | 17 Shevat 5782

August 11, 2015 10:01 am

Cecil the Lion and the Jewish Problem

avatar by Eli Hecht

Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe. (Illustrative photo.) Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe. (Illustrative photo.) Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Cecil the lion, the beloved resident of a Zimbabwean animal refuge, was recently killed by a big game hunter, Walter Palmer. The outcry by people worldwide has caught my attention.

Palmer’s dental practice in Minnesota is now overflowing with angry comments from Facebook, Twitter, and general social media about his heinous deed. Some even suggested that he be shot, stuffed, and mounted. Yet the world has not learned to express outrage when innocent Jewish or Christian bystanders, children and adults, are killed by ruthless Hamas or ISIS attacks. It is inconceivable that the world has turned its attention away from the misery of the Middle East crisis and potential nuclear threat of Iran, and focuses it on a lion. Where is the justice and outcry from the general public?

As a child I always wondered about lions. I saw them etched on pages of the Chumash, Torah mantels, and synagogues’ Aron HaKodesh. Even the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) has the following quotation, “Yehudah, son of Taima, says: Be bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer, and strong as a lion to perform the will of your Father in Heaven,” (Ethics of our Fathers Ch. 5:20).  The Rabbis teach us that the example of being as strong as a lion refers to waking in the morning. Just as the lion is the king of the animals, the morning is the king of the day and therefore it is imperative for a person to be as strong as a lion upon awakening in the morning and recite the Modeh Ani prayer, acknowledging Hashem as the Creator.

The lesson of the lion is also found in the Torah when Jacob blesses his children in Genesis 49:9. He compares Judah to a young lion, meaning that he will be the forerunner of Moshiach, the King of the World. It says the rod will not depart from Yehuda, meaning King David. Even the great Kabbalah teacher is known as the AriZal, of blessed memory, meaning the lion.

It may be that the death of Cecil the lion is so much in the news in order to remind us of the Jewish lion – Moshiach.

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