Why do Jewish males have names of beheimos temeios, of non-kosher wild animals? I’m thinking in particular about the name Dov, the bear, and Aryeh, the lion.
Why do Jews have names of animals, like the bear and the lion? The answer is that these names are really prayers. Every name is a tefilah. It’s a prayer that this Jew should have a quality of gevurah. He should be a hero.
Now, when you see a bear walking down the street at night, you’re not going to walk up and shake hands with him. If you see him even five blocks away, you’ll stop a taxi and you’ll take it in the other direction. If there’s no taxi, you’ll climb the telegraph pole.
A Jew has to be a bear. A bear means he has to be a hero. He has to be strong and he has to be willing to go into combat for the honor of Hashem. A Jew has to be a lion. He has to be strong-willed and fearless like a lion. A Jew has to be all the good things.
Binyamin ze’ev yitrof (Vayechi 49:27). Not only we give names but Hakodosh Boruch Hu, by means of His prophets, gave names like that. Binyamin ze’ev yitrof. He’s a wolf. A wolf is hungry, always hungry, and Binyamin is hungry for mitzvos. He’s hungry to serve Hashem. He doesn’t serve Hashem like somebody who has to do it; he can’t help himself so he forces himself. No; for avodas Hashem he has an appetite like a wolf. When a wolf eats up a sheep, he doesn’t do it leshem mitzvah, like somebody who ate a lot on erev Shabbos and now on Friday night he’s not able to eat any more but what can he do; he has to sit down at the seudah and eat some more. No! He’s hungry for mitzvos. That’s why you call him a wolf. And therefore all these names represent certain desirable characteristics of service of Hashem.
TAPE # 441 (January 1983)