Kabbalah and Healing: The Healing of Body and Soul – Part 33 – The Rectified Wolf

The good "wolf" of the Torah is personified by the tribe of Benjamin. In his blessings of his sons before his death, Jacob blessed his youngest son Benjamin: "Benjamin is a preying wolf…." Here, Jacob prophetically alluded to the episode recorded at the end of the book of Judges, "the concubine of Givah." At first, the tribe of Benjamin sinned sexually, but at the end, after most of the tribe had been wiped out by their brothers, in vengeance of the sin, the remainder were allowed to snatch, as a wolf, a wife from amongst the dancing maidens. The very evil inclination of the wolf was here elevated and rectified; the fear of rape was overcome and sweetened in its source. The tribe of Benjamin, from whom the first king of Israel, Saul–who "snatched the kingdom," as a wolf–was to stand, was thus reestablished.

Our sages teach us that the wolf of Benjamin symbolizes the altar in the Holy Temple (the altar was in the territory of Benjamin), upon which the animal sacrifices were offered. The altar "preyed" upon the sacrifices just as a wolf preys upon its prey. The word for "altar" in Hebrew is mizbeiach, whose root, zevach, is the same as the name of the king of Midian served by Ze'ev, the wolf, as mentioned above. In the altar, the wolf-image as well as the inclination "to slaughter" find their ultimate rectification.

The full blessing of Jacob to Benjamin reads:

Benjamin is a preying wolf:

In the morning he shall eat booty,

and in the evening he shall divide the spoils.

 

 

Rashi, quoting the sages, interprets "in the morning he shall eat booty" to refer to the "morning" or "rise" of the Jewish kingdom, the kingdom of Saul. "And in the evening he shall divide the spoils" is interpreted to refer to the story of Mordechai and Esther–from the tribe of Benjamin–who divided the spoils of Haman at the "evening" or "descent" of the Biblical epic of Jewish monarchy.

The blessing of Benjamin clearly links the image of the wolf with the turning points of the daily cycle–morning and evening. Above, we saw that the "companion" of the wolf, ze'ev, is the raven, orev. The Hebrew root of the name orev means "evening," as in the phrase, repeated as the conclusion of each of the six days of creation: "and there was evening, and there was morning…"–the original phrase in the Torah in which evening and morning are juxtaposed.

The raven is called orev for it is as black as the evening. In the Scriptures, we find the idiom "evening wolves," a clear allusion to the relationship of the wolf to the raven:

His horses are faster than leopards,

and more sharp-toothed than evening wolves….

 

 

In a second verse, we find the juxtaposition of the evening wolves to the morning:

…its judges [devour it] like evening wolves,

that do not leave any bones till the morning.

 

 

Furthermore, the word orev is cognate to the word for "plane" or "wasteland." Here, too, we find the idiomatic juxtaposition of the wolf with the orev:

Therefore the lion of the forest will strike them,

and the wolf of the plains will despoil them.

 

 

As portraying a rapist, the wolf strikes at eve (this is not just an English pun of Eve on eve, but the relationship of "knowing [a euphemism for sexual relations] Eve" and the time of evening or night is actually alluded to in Psalms: "and night unto night expresses [yechaveh, cognate to Chavah, 'Eve'] knowledge"!) or at dawn (when he can first identify his prey). The location of his assault is the "wasteland." In the words of the Torah:

For in the field he found her,

the betrothed maiden cried out,

but there was no one to rescue her.

 

 

In the preceding verse, the Torah likens rape to murder, implying that the fear of rape, the fear of the wolf, entails the fear of the lion as well:

For as a man rises up against his neighbor
and murders him,

So is this thing.

 

 

In contrast, the prophet envisions the peace on earth of the messianic age as a time when "the wolf will live with the lamb." (This is indeed the first image in a line of imagery which concludes with "…and the lion will eat straw like the cow. A suckling will play at the hole of the snake and a child will place his hand over the lair of the serpent"–following the order of wolf, lion, and snake.) The Jewish people is likened by our sages to a lamb surrounded by seventy wolves, the gentile nations of the earth, whose desire it is to rape and devour us. With the coming of Mashiach, true and lasting peace will be established between Israel and the nations. At a later stage in the messianic era, the natural order itself will metamorphose to a world where the physical wolf and lamb will lie down together and live in peace.

In the Jewish people itself, the "lamb," Benjamin–symbolized as the "preying wolf"–is thus the "wolf within the lamb." In Kabbalah, he represents the fertile feminine womb of the collective soul of Israel (in the terminology of Kabbalah, the yesod of malchut), the spiritual power of the Jewish people to achieve peace between wolf (in particular, "the lamb within the wolf," as personified by the righteous gentile) and lamb (in particular, "the wolf within the lamb," as personified by Benjamin, the "preying wolf").

From the messianic era we enter the world to come, "a day that is entirely Sabbath and the rest of eternal life." The ultimate rectified image of the world is the secret of the Sabbath. Our sages teach us that just as the wolf preys "in front of it and behind it," so does the Sabbath "prey" and elevate all the holy sparks of the week, subsequently drawing Divine blessing into all of creation–"in front of it and behind it."

In the Ten Commandments, the fourth commandment, to keep Shabbat, begins:

Remember the Sabbath day , to keep it holy.

 

 

In the parallel appearance of the Ten Commandments, it begins:

Guard the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

 

 

Our sages say that "Remember…" and "Guard…" (which were pronounced by God in the giving of the Ten Commandments simultaneously) refer to the Divine influence of Shabbat on all of reality—"in front of it and behind it." In Kabbalah, we are taught that "Remember…" refers to the male dimension of Shabbat while "Guard…" refers to the female dimension of Shabbat. The male dimension is the secret of "in front of it" while the female dimension is the secret of "behind it." Shabbat is the time of union of male and female, the consummately rectified state of the wolf, the wolf of the world to come.


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