I am one of the only Rhodesian-born Chabad rabbis in the world today. Growing up in Africa, I developed and maintain an intense love of lions. I used to, and do still, enjoy travelling to Kruger National Park where I can observe these majestic animals in their natural habitat. So I was horrified, along with the rest of the world, to discover that our beloved Zimbabwean lion Cecil was killed by American dentist Walter Palmer.
The killing, and his role in it, unleashed a torrent of anger online.
The Yelp page for his dental practice in Bloomington, Minnesota, was inundated with reviews posted by people irate over his lion hunting."Shame on you, killing a majestic creature," wrote a user named Charmie P.The website for Palmer's business, River Bluff Dental, appears to have been taken down.
Outrage continued to flow on social media with celebrities lambasting the dentist. Sharon Osbourne tweeted, "I hope that #WalterPalmer loses his home, his practice & his money. "He has already lost his soul."
Cecil wasn’t just killed. Palmer and his guides attached the carcass of a dead animal to the back of their truck and used it as bait, to lure Cecil out of Hwange National Park. When Cecil arrived on the scene, Palmer shot him with a crossbow. Palmer paid $55,000 to be able to hunt Cecil! Cecil was mortally wounded and walked off, in pain, for 40 hours, until Palmer came and shot him. He decapitated Cecil, skinned him and then left his carcass in the wild. And it doesn’t end there. Cecil’s cubs will probably be killed by the next male lion who will take over the pride.
This week, Jews worldwide fasted for 25 hours in mourning for the destruction of our two Holy Temples. It is the saddest day of the year.
The Torah describes the destruction as follows:
“עלה אריה במזל אריה והחריב את אריאל” – A lion [Nevuchadnezzer] arose in the month of Av (who’s sign is a lion) and destroyed “the lion of G-d” —i.e., the Temple.
Walter Palmer travelled thousands of miles from his home country for a trophy kill. Nevuchadnezzer set off from his home country of Bavel in order to destroy the lion of G-d, our Temple. And, in fact, the trophy, i.e., many parts of our Holy Temple, are kept to this very day in the Vatican, in Rome (the Romans destroyed the 2nd temple).
Cecil was no ordinary lion. He was a known and beloved Zimbabwean icon and tourist attraction. His tall, majestic features earned him scores of adoring fans. He was king of the animals.
Likewise, Nevuchadnezzer did not destroy any ordinary city. He targeted Jerusalem, our home, our holiest city, king of all cities.
Cecil has been mourned throughout the entire world this week. The outcry and shock is real and palpable. We ought to learn from this outcry, to also shout out in pain, to truly feel and show our distress over the destruction of our G-dly lion, our Temple.
The Talmud explains that “A generation that has not witnessed the building of the Temple, it is considered as if the Temple was destroyed in its lifetime” Our precious lion has been destroyed. It is in shambles, and we pray and yearn for its rebuilding every single day.
I believe with perfect faith in the coming of Moshiach, and even though he my tarry, nevertheless I await his coming every day