ARTICLES

BAD WOLF

RABBI RICHARD JACOBS

May 2, 2017

A lesson for life from the wolf.


The Grey wolf Canis lupis is an opportunistic species, scavenging as often as hunting. Their communication is varied (body language, scent and sound - including the famous wolf howl) and their jaws exceedingly powerful - they can exert 1,500 pounds of pressure per square inch.
 
In fairytales and folklore, legend and literature reference to wolves (and their threat to man) abound. Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?
 
Jewish sources also mention the wolf metaphorically (in Jacob's blessing to his son Benjamin). In fact the Torah gives us direct insight into the nature of the wolf - its essence is one of an animal that mauls, that tears.
 
Recently I was at the Scottish Deer Centre when it was wolf feeding-time. It was interesting explaining to my children that yes, dinner was fresh bunny rabbit and that the noise which sounded like (crunchy) pretzels snapping in your mouth was in fact the wolf chewing straight through the rabbit’s bones (and swallowing it in seconds), really wolfing your food down.
 
Interestingly, a lone wolf is usually afraid of people and doesn't attack them, but a pack of wolves might. Therefore in Jewish law, if a solitary wolf kills a sheep, the shepherd is considered responsible (because he could have scared the wolf away), but if there were two or more wolves, the shepherd is not held responsible.
 
After the flood Noah was informed that all the beasts of the earth and birds of the heavens would be afraid of mankind. So how is it possible for wolves (or any other predator) to attack man? The Hebrew word for animal (behema) translates into 2 parts (ba ma) as 'in it, is what it is' i.e. it is, what it looks like. The uniqueness of man is that he is made in the image of G-d. However, when someone does not live up to this, the Divine likeness falls from him. The Torah is teaching us that a wild animal does not have dominion over a person unless the person appears (to the wild animal) to be (k'behema) like an animal.

TAGS for this article: Nature | Zoology | Biology | Wolf