This week I visited a lion park in South African with my family. Having grown up in Africa, I’ve always loved wildlife and been fascinated by animals, especially the king—the lion.
This time, the park was offering a new feature—“walking with the lions.” Essentially, guests are offered the opportunity to enter the lion park and walk alongside the lions in their natural habitat for an hour or so. And these are not baby cubs, they’re fully grown beasts!
It seemed pretty dangerous, but we decided to give it a go.
We walked with the lions, watching them live their life in their own environment. We watched them eat their dinner and climb on trees. For over an hour we watched them, and we were even able to pat them.
Honestly, I was terrified. Despite my guide’s assurance that he had pepper spray and a stick in case something went wrong, I highly doubted a bit of pepper spray would be enough to save us from the rage of this powerful king of all animals if anything went wrong!
Thank G-d we emerged safe and sound and it was a beautiful and thrilling experience.
Animals and humans both have three main organs: brain, heart and liver. מוח; לב וכבד. Spelled out with the heart first it is למך and spelled with the brain first it is מלך. King.
An animal walks on all fours so its brain and heart are on the same level. A lion is ruled by its instincts.
Our guide explained that there was no danger because these lions grew up in captivity. They are tame. They have never attacked. They are used to human beings. But the truth is that a lion can never be fully tamed because it naturally follows its instincts. Even if a lion would live its whole life amongst humans, you can never fully trust it not to kill because that is its natural instinct. That’s just what lions do.
That is the key difference between a human being and a lion. Even though we all, at times, follow our hearts and sin, we have the ability to use our brain to rule over our hearts. We have the ability to truly tame our inner animal.
We currently find ourselves in the month of Elul, the month before the high holidays. During this month, we reflect on our actions over the past year. It is a time to do teshuva—repentance. A time to reflect on our relationship with G-d, and return to Him if we have become distanced. This is the time to make sure our minds rule our hearts, so we can be melech, a king.