There are two things that typically result from reading recent news from Israel. The first is the response that yes this headline is upsetting, and yes the situation needs to improve … not just for 3, 24, or 72 hours, but that the threat—both the immediate and long-term threat—needs to be taken care of. The second are the personal stories that come from these headlines—the micro of the aforementioned macro—the individual lives that have been saved and lost. The faces behind the conflict
What can be said? What should be said? If you don’t know what happened … how this holy boy was taken from us, you can read this. But now is the time to reflect and learn. To learn some Torah in the merit of Daniel, not to attempt to explain the unexplainable.
In Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh’s book Body, Mind, and Soul, he explains that there are three primal fears: The Fear of the Snake (insanity), The Fear of the Lion (murder), and The Fear of the Wolf (rape). There are many things learnt about these three fears, but today we are speaking about Daniel, so let’s see how this relates.
When blessing his sons before his death, Jacob blessed the tribe of Judah with kingship, noting: “Judah is a lion cub.” He blessed the tribe of Dan with judgeship, noting, “Dan shall be a snake on the way, a serpent on the path.” Jacob stated as well, in his blessing to Dan, that he would
resemble the tribe of Judah: “Dan will judge his people like the one [i.e., the king] of the tribes of Israel.”
The two tribes are further linked in the blessings that Moses gave before his death, when Moses blessed the tribe of Dan to be “a lion cub.” So we see that Dan connects the lion to the snake, to the kingdom of David (who came from the tribe of Judah), and also to the son of David, Mashiach ben David, known as “the holy snake.” Indeed, the Zohar states that from the tribe of Dan will come the commander-in-chief of the army of Mashiach.
The one man in the Torah who personifies the union of Judah and Dan is Daniel. The name Daniel means “judge of God,” but Daniel came, in fact, from the tribe of Judah and from the royal lineage of King David. Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den and emerged unscathed for he symbolizes the holy lion, the power to overcome the evil lion. The sages say that of all Biblical figures, Daniel is the closest to personifying Mashiach. Thus Daniel unites, in holiness, the lion with the snake.
The Code of Jewish Law begins with the injunction that one should be as “courageous as a lion.” Like a lion, poised to pounce on its prey, one ought to pounce out of bed in the morning with renewed vitality and confidence to conquer all the enemies of the day ahead. With the courage of a lion in one’s service of God one overcomes the fear of the lion.
In the Book of Proverbs, it is stated that the fear of the lion, the fear of murder, is what keeps one at home, in bed:
The lazy man says,
“There is a lion outside!
I will be murdered in the street!
One must combat this evil psychological fear of the lion by means of the holy psychological lion—the power to get up, go out, and get things done (pp. 111-112).
Back to our Daniel
What does all this mean for us? That the battle we are now waging is foremost a psychological one; a battle both against insanity and murder— the fears of the lion and the snake.* And once the psychological war has been won, then physical victory will result as a natural consequence. As we mustn’t fear the snakes in Gaza that dig many holes and tunnels, so too we mustn’t let the rockets that come from them above the ground keep us from courageously serving God.
Now who is the Torah personality that most personifies the holy battle fought both above and below ground? The Torah personality that also most closely personifies Mashiach? This is Daniel. And just as Daniel the Prophet emerged unscathed from the lion’s den, so too we will emerge from this most difficult period in our history.
In the tear-filled words of Daniel’s mother, Gila, said at her son’s funeral last Sunday:
We always said that you’d be the youngest world leader, who would bring peace. So, if not in life then, we hope, in death.
* The Fear of the Wolf (rape) in our present situation primarily relates to the fear of being abducted, of being snatched away by the enemy.