As told in the parable of the Talmud quoted above, the attack of the lion on the man on his journey symbolizes the Babylonian exile of the Jewish people. Consequently, the personification of the evil lion in the Scriptures is Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylonia who destroyed the first Temple and killed and dispersed the Jewish people.
Of Nebuchadnezzar it is said:
The lion has ascended from his thicket to destroy nations….
Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Holy Temple in the month of Av, whose zodiacal sign is Leo, the lion. The Temple itself is referred to as "the lion" (Ariel; fire from heaven descended upon the Temple's altar in the form of a lion to consume the sacrifices). Even God Himself is referred to in the Scriptures as a lion–"The lion roars; who shall not fear? God has spoken, who shall not prophesy?" All of these images of the lion are brought together in the cryptic saying of the sages:
The lion ascended in the sign of the lion to destroy the lion; in order that the Lion ascend in the sign of the lion to rebuild the lion.
In addition to the figure of Nebuchadnezzar, the evil lion in the Scriptures refers to nation of Moab (in particular, to the mighty warriors of Moab):
Banayah ben Yehoyadah…smote the two Ariel[s] of Moab…
Above, we saw that the wolf-image relates to the nation of Midian; here we see that the lion-image relates to the nation of Moab. In Kabbalah, these two related nations both pertain to the sefirah of chochmah; they are both perversions of true wisdom. In Chassidut it is taught that the inner soul-quality of chochmah is bitul (self-nullification), the opposite of which is an exaggerated sense of self-consciousness that brings one to continually be in conflict and quarrel with all those around him. This is the property of Midian, whose name means "conflict" and "quarrel."
The intellectual experience of wisdom is that of a new flash of insight, a new intuitive vision of reality. If one's faculty of wisdom is rectified, one’s insights will be true. If not, one intuits erroneously. The innate tendency to err at the level of wisdom is depicted as the nation of Moab. These two properties, that of Midian and that of Moab, are dependent on one another: not possessing bitul leads one to false intuition. The wolf gives rise to the lion.
In the blessings of his sons before his death, Jacob blessed the royal tribe of Judah: "Judah is a lion cub…." In Moses' blessings of the tribes before his death, he blesses the tribe of Dan: "Dan is a lion cub." Jacob blessed Dan to be as a snake: "Dan shall be a snake on the way, a serpent on the path." Jacob alluded as well, in his blessing to Dan, that he resemble the tribe of Judah: "Dan will judge [the name Dan means 'judge'] his people as the one [i.e., the king, Judah] of the tribes of Israel." So we see that Dan connects the lion to the snake–the kingdom of David to the Son of David, Mashiach (the holy snake).
That soul who personifies in the Bible the union of Judah and Dan is Daniel. The name Daniel begins with the name Dan. Daniel hails 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. Our sages say that of all Biblical figures, Daniel is the closest to personifying Mashiach. Thus, Daniel unites, in holiness, the lion with the snake.
In our Divine service, the Code of Jewish Law begins with the injunction to be as "courageous as a lion," which is interpreted to refer to the lion-like poise to pounce out of bed in the morning (and thus overcome–with renewed vitality and confidence to conquer all the enemies of the day ahead–the fear of murder).
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 lion with the holy psychological lion, the power to get up, go out, and get things done.
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