The Hebrew Union College allows each of its students to create a page for an ordination booklet to be handed out at the ceremony. As part of it, we are asked to choose a favorite quote from Tanakh, it seemed like an obvious choice to me…and then write a small drash on the quote. As you can see, I’ve had to stretch a little to make the quote universal, and not simply about the hyrax.
שְׁפַנִּים, עַם לֹא-עָצוּם; וַיָּשִׂימוּ בַסֶּלַע בֵּיתָם.
Hyraxes are not mighty, but they make their homes in cliffs.
This quote is one of the hidden gems of the Tanakh. Similar to Aesops Fables, the Book of Proverbs suggests we can learn a great deal about human society from the animal kingdom. In this case, the Hyrax (sometimes called a Rock-Badger) exhibits keen understanding of the world around it. As a relatively small yet agile animal, it lives its life leaping from rock to rock, playing to its natural strengths. It, like humans, lives in a group and does poorly in isolation. Despite its hamster like appearance, it is closely related to the elephant, and has many other unexpected qualities.
Often overlooked on a trip to the zoo, the Hyrax is definitely worth a visit. The Hyrax teaches us that each person, no matter how seemingly innocuous, is full of surprises and has their own unique characteristics. Each person, in their proper environment, among their own cliffs, can flourish.