Ariel Sharon. His name means “Lion of God” (in) the “Plains of Sharon.” (the northern half of the coastal plain of Israel)
Could there be a more appropriate name for this man who devoted his life to his country with courage, passion, and zeal?
All week long, we have been reading what historians, analysts, biographers, friends and foes have to say about this larger-than-life man. Whether one loved him, hated him or wavered back-and-forth, Ariel Sharon was one of the few people who had the most significant impact – positive and negative – on Israel over the course of modern history.
I will leave the political analysis and discussion to those who are more expert than I. Sharon’s death, after eight years in a coma following a stroke, will provoke a great deal of reflection and commentary.
For me, it brings to mind the words of our patriarch Jacob at the end of the book of Breishit, Genesis. As Jacob prepares to die, he blesses all his children. But he bestows upon his fourth son, Judah, a blessing that results in the tribe of Judah leading all the others. And according to tradition, King David and the royal line descend from the Tribe of Judah.
“You O Judah, your brothers shall praise; your hand shall be on the nape of your foes; your father’s sons shall bow low to you. Judah is a lion’s whelp. (gur ar-yeh Y’hudah); On prey, my son, have you grown. He crouches, lies down like a lion, like the king of beast who dare rouse him? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet; So that tribute shall come to him..and the homage of peoples be his.” (Genesis 49: 8-10)
The symbol of the Tribe of Judah, is the lion. We often see the Lions of Judah depicted artistically holding up the tablets of the covenant.
We want the strength of the lion to guard our pact with God. We want the fearlessness of the lion to keep away our enemies. We want that Ari-El, that Lion of God to keep us safe from all harm. If the lion can do the fighting for us, then we can be free to live our lives as we desire: in peace, freedom and security.
Ariel Sharon is the fulfillment of Jacob’s blessing. He was that “Gur Ar-yeh Y’hudah” that “lion’s whelp” who had the courage, tenacity and fierce character to fight on behalf of his country. He was not afraid to do what had to be done. He truly was that Lion of God, the “Ari-El” for whom he was named. And just as lion’s are also ruthless and cunning, at times, so was Sharon. Leaving a brutal and bloody trail behind.
But just as Jacob blessed Judah with the words “the sceptre shall not depart from Judah”, Sharon was able to fight his way back from the battle field, from his defeats, to lead his people. The wreckage of the lion’s prey, was left behind as he sought to strengthen his people. The name “Sharon” can also depict a “rose” from the Valley of the Sharon. Ariel Sharon could be an ironic contrast of “lion” with the “rose of the Valley of the Sharon”: strong and beautiful, fighter and builder, courageous and impulsive.
Jacob’s blessing ends: “So that tribute shall come to him..and the homage of the peoples be his”, so too, do we see the praise and the homage coming to Sharon this week after his death.
Zichrono livracha – may his memory be for a blessing.
My friend, Mattan Klein, flutist extra-ordinaire, and Director of Seeds of Sun, plays flute in this moving musical tribute at Ariel Sharon’s funeral.
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