The origins of disease can be traced to the three foci of fear or core traumas in the human psyche, which according to the Talmud are symbolized by the wolf, the lion, and the snake. For the collective consciousness of the Jewish people the focus of fear is the fear of exile, the communal state of disease, as explained at length above. The Talmud likens the three major exiles of the Jewish people–Egyptian, Babylonian, and present (the exile of Edom)–to a man being attacked by a wolf, a lion, and a snake, respectively:
A man was on a journey and a wolf attacked him, but he escaped unharmed. Continuing his journey, he told the story of the wolf until a lion attacked him and he escaped unharmed. Continuing his journey, he told the story of the lion until a snake attacked him and he escaped unharmed. He then forgot about the first two assaults and told only the story of the snake.
So it is with Israel: their more recent troubles make them forget their earlier troubles.
While all of these fears are ultimately the fear of death, in particular each one fears death from another "angle." The first, the fear of the wolf, is associated in particular with the fear of rape or any form of sexual molestation. In the desert, the Jewish people succumbed to the sexual temptation of the Moabite women and were punished by a plague that claimed 24,000 lives. Here, the evil inclination of lust for sex reached it apex. In the Torah, we are taught that Divine punishment reflects the nature of the sin. Our sages liken the punishment of this sin to a wolf entering and devouring a flock of sheep, explicitly relating the wolf-image to "prostitution."
From this, we may understand that sexual lust as well as the fear of sexual abuse relates to the image of the wolf (threatening the sheep).
The fear of rape refers in an extended way to any compulsory invasion of oneself by something other than oneself. This fear of the other forcing himself upon oneself exists on all levels, both physically and psychologically. While primarily a feminine manifestation of fear, the fear of the wolf and all of its implications can also manifest itself in the male–a man can also possess to a certain degree the fear of rape. The labeling of this fear as feminine only refers to the fact that is more predominant and pronounced in women. Finally, the association of the wolf to the rapist is not restricted to the Talmud, but can be found in modern media as well where the rapist is often symbolized as a wolf.
The lion is linked to the primal fear of murder. A person who is faced with the attack of a lion will feel intense panic in his heart, fearing that he will be consumed by the lion who will devour his flesh.
The snake represents the fear of insanity, in which the venom of the snake goes directly to the brain. We find that (temporary) insanity is the cause of all sin–losing one's mind or a loss of attention to one's deeds opens up the possibility of sin, for if a person were truly to know what he was doing, would he be aware of the implications and consequences of his act, he would never sin. In the words of our sages, "no one commits a sin unless he has been overtaken by temporary insanity [literally, 'a spirit of folly']."
This is alluded to in the Talmudic passage quoted above, in which the man on the journey forgets his previous traumas only when attacked by the snake (it is not stated that he forgets the story of the wolf when attacked by the lion); only the trauma of the snake directly affects the mind to the extent that all previous impressions are blotted out.
fear of insanity
fear of murder
fear of rape