Friday, January 13, 2006


Aryeh King of Israel

Rabbi Gustavo Surazski

For the past week we have been praying for the recovery of the Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, and concerned for his well-being. The man who acquired questionable fame a few years ago based on his military achievements, has today become one of the most admired leaders that Israel has known since the inception of the State. And an explanation for the change in public opinion might be found in this week's portion.

"Like a lion's whelp, O Judah," is written in the Torah (Genesis 49, 9). "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet" his father blesses him. Two questions arise from this blessing given to Judah...

Firstly: Why did God choose Judah to rule? (The house of David and the Messiah descended from him.) Why not his first-born, Reuben? Or Joseph (who had at least gained some experience under the King of Egypt)?

Secondly: Why was Judah compared to a lion (Aryeh)?

As to Judah as a choice, we can see at the beginning of the portion "Vayigash" how he tried to free his brother Benjamin from captivity under Joseph. We have already stated last week that according to the Midrash he was ready for both conflict and reconciliation. He was prepared to be a pacifist and also a fighter. He was prepared to be a man of compromise and also a military leader.

As to the second question, here is a wonderful parable from the book "Doresh Tov Le-Amo":

...The animals sought a king and turned to the tiger, saying: "The tiger's strength is in his loins and he is cruel, and all the animals will fear him". The fox replied, "The tiger may be the most terrifying of all the animals, but sometimes the king also needs a measure of mercy and compassion...for if he always rules by cruelty, what will become of us?" The animals said: "If that is the case, we will appoint the lamb as king, for there is none more merciful and forgiving as he." The fox replied: "The lamb may excel in the measure of his compassion, but a king also needs courage and thus there is no better to choose as our king than the lion, who knows how to spare when he is not hungry and to show his strength in times of war...".

We expect exactly the same qualities in a political leader. To understand that there is "a time for war" and also "a time for peace", and most importantly of all, when necessary, to know how to show uncompromising courage as well as the compromise of heroes.