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Animal Instincts

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In their natural habitats, every creature on earth helps create a balance that allows the environment to flourish. This biological fact is part of the mechanics of Planet Earth. But the animal world offers humankind another benefit, for animals can be powerful examples of behavior.

In Ethics of the Fathers (5:20), Judah the son of Taima says: “Be bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer and strong as a lion to do the will of your Father in Heaven.” Using animals as examples, Judah the son of Taima sought to encourage people to be strong in their devotion to the Torah even when it is difficult.

In the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (an abridged compendium of Jewish law, published in 1870) Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried defines these particular character traits:

1) Bold as a leopard refers to feeling proud about worshiping God. Too often we allow the opinions of friends and colleagues to get in our way when striving to do what we know is right.

2) Light as an eagle refers to what one sees. An eagle flies fast, taking in great expanses of land but only focuses on prey that will nourish its body. So too, a person must focus only on that which nourishes the soul.

3) Swift as a deer refers to hurrying to do good things. Don’t delay in performing a mitzvah; run to do it!

4) Strong as a lion refers to being strong of heart. It is easy to be diverted from the path of good deeds.

This Treat was originally posted on November 10, 2008

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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