The Two Lions
הרב זכריה טובי
Many synagogues have two lions embroidered on the curtains of their Aron Kodesh, and these two lions can also be found on the covers of Torah scrolls. Without entering the halachic debate over the issue, we would like to understand what these lions symbolize.
The two artisans who oversaw the construction of the Mishkan appear in our parsha. They are: "Betzalel son of Uri son of Chur, of the tribe of Yehuda" (Shemot 35:30) and "Oholiav, son of Achisamach, of the tribe of Dan." (Shemot 35:34) Why did these two specific tribes, Yehuda and Dan, deserve to construct the Mishkan?
This combination of Yehuda and Dan is also found in the construction of the Temple built by King Shlomo, which is mentioned both in Melachim and in Divrei Hayamim. Shlomo is the son of David, from the tribe of Yehuda, and with him is the architect Chiram. While in Melachim it says, "He was the son of a widowed woman from the tribe of Naftali" (Melachim I 7:14), in Divrei Hayamim it says: "He is the son of a woman of the daughters of Dan." (Divrei Hayamim II 2:13) We see that in the construction of both the Mishkan and the Temple the artisans were from the tribes of Yehuda and Dan. What is the signifance of this?
Rashi in Divrei Hayamim (s.v. "ben isha") writes:
What need is there to provide lineage from which tribe his father and mother were? This is what it says: "Danani Elokim - G-d has judged me" (Bereishit 30:6) and also: "Naftulei Elokim niftalti - Sacred schemes have I maneuvered." (Bereishit 30:8) Rachel said: ...
If Leah shall boast of Betzalel her descendant who will make the Mishkan - one of the descendants of Dan will have to participate in his work, as it says: "Oholiav, son of Achisamach, of the tribe of Dan." If Shlomo, the descendant of my sister, will build the Temple - the descendants of Dan and Naftali will have to participate with him.
Here we uncover the reason why Oholiav - from the tribe of Dan, joined Betzalel - from the tribe of Yehuda. It is because Rachel demanded it. She saw through prophecy that Leah's descendant would construct the Mishkan and demanded that also one of her (servant's) descendants be among the artisans the Mishkan. However, it is still difficult, why was it so important for Rachel that one of her descendants should be among the artisans of the Mishkan?
In Parshat Vayechi, when Yaakov Avinu blesses his sons he calls Yehuda: "A lion cub is Yehuda" (Bereishit 49:9), whereas Dan he compares to: "A serpent on the highway." (Bereishit 49:17) However, in Moshe's blessing to the tribes at the end of Devarim, Moshe compares Dan to a lion: "Dan is a lion cub." (Devarim 33:22) How did Dan transform from a serpent into a lion, in Moshe's blessing?
Perhaps we can explain that after the Mishkan was constructed, in which Dan participated along with Yehuda, he was transformed from a snake into a lion. This teaches us that whoever is involved with the construction of the Mishkan is rewarded by becoming a lion. This is also the reason why, in addition to the tribe of Yehuda, the tribe of Dan is also awarded to lead a banner in the travels in Sefer Bamidbar. After it participated in the construction of the Mishkan, it received the same power as the tribe of Yehuda and was allowed to head a banner. (See Ibn Ezra.)
Chazal also teach about the future encounter of the two tribes (Yalkut Shimoni 247:160):
"A lion cub is Yehuda," this is Mashiach ben David, who is descended from two tribes. His father is from Yehuda and his mother is from Dan, and they both are called a lion as it says: "A lion cub is Yehuda" and "Dan is a lion cub."
The father provides the spiritual force and the mother the material force. Dan symbolizes the material force and Yehuda the spiritual. When Yaakov foresaw Shimshon he thought he was the Mashiach, because he was descended from both Dan and Yehuda. However, when he saw him captured, Yaakov said: "For Your salvation do I long, O Hashem!" (Bereishit 49:18) This is because the order was reversed with Shimshon - his father was from Dan and his mother came from Yehuda, which made the material force dominant and prevented him from being the Mashiach. The Mashiach can only be someone whose spiritual side comes from the tribe of Yehuda and material side comes from the tribe of Dan, like Mashiach ben David.
Perhaps this is the meaning behind the lions that appear on the Aron Kodesh in synagogues. "A lion cub is Yehuda" and "Dan is a lion cub." This comes to teach that whoever is attached to holiness, and whoever builds the place of holiness, receives the power of the lion.
Bilam, as well, in his blessings refers to Am Yisrael: "He crouched and lay down like a lion, and like a lion cub - who can stand him up?" (Bamidbar 24:9) Rashi there writes: "They will settle in their land with courage and power." When Am Yisrael is connected to holiness and they have the power of the lion - then no nation will be able to uproot them from their land.
The two lions that are on the curtain are the two powers of courage. The spiritual power of Yehuda and the physical power of Dan are what constructed the Mishkan and the Temple, and in the future they will bring Mashiach Ben David. May he arrive swiftly in our time, Amen.
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