If any of our readers who bear the name "Ze'ev Wolf" or Velvel (Little Wolf) he should be offended by our topic. He should also not feel ashamed of bearing the name of a wild animal.

Suffice it to mention that when our father Jacob blessed the twelve tribes, he compared many of them to wild animals and other creatures; in fact, he compared his beloved Benjamin to a wolf. we will come back to this point later.

First of all let us become acquainted with the wolf. It is much more comfortable to acquaint oneself with a wolf in our "talk" than in the forest.

Just to mention "Wolf" is enough to make one's "hair stand on end;" the reason being that the wolf is often depicted in stories as being a terrible animal that swallows little children - naughty children, of course; children who do not obey their parents. And so the wolf became known as a man-eating animal, a reputation which the wolf really does not deserve.

However, a story without any truth in it whatsoever, will never be believed. It so happens that there is some truth in the reputation that the wolf has acquired. Many stories have been told of hungry wolves attacking people in forests. This is especially true of Russia and Poland, where up to this very day, there are large numbers of wolves in the forests. In America, where there are also wolves, not a single case has been confirmed of a wolf attacking human beings. It seems that one cannot compare American wolves to Russian wolves; not because American wolves are more "civilized" and have more respect for people; on the contrary, they are even wilder than the Russian wolves, and because of this, they are more afraid of human beings.

It is assumed that the Russian wolves have dogs' blood in them, and dogs, as is well-known, are not bashful, and are not afraid of humans. It is also possible that when the wolves attacked a peasant in a horse-drawn sleigh, they really were after the horse, not the rider, but being, as they were, very very hungry, who knows?

At any rate, humans have always regarded the wolf as one of their bitterest enemies, and as a big nuisance. The wolf grabs sheep and other domestic animals and devours them and it is a "good deed" to kill any wolf at sight.

When a wolf attacked a flock of sheep and carried one away, it caused a commotion in the Russian village. The cry "Wolf!" was sounded, and peasants left their work, grabbed their rifles, and the "posse" hurried into the forest.

They followed the wolf's trail, and did not rest until they found him and shot him dead. The peasants and their neighbors then celebrated to mark the occasion. As often as not, the peasants could not trace the wolf with its prey, and they returned home sorrowfully.

In certain countries there are no wolves at all. In England, for example, there used to be many wolves. They did tremendous damage to domestic animals, and one month a year was dedicated as a national month of wolf-hunting. This took place about one thousand years ago. Five hundred years later not a wolf was to be found in England.

In America, wolves were common throughout the whole continent, from Central Mexico to the Arctic area in the far north; only in the dry desert areas were there no wolves. Little by little, as human civilization extended into the wild country of America, the wolves were driven out of most of the continent. Only in certain wild areas of Mexico, certain Western States of America and in the Canadian Wilds, are there wolves in abundance.

In animal fables the fox is mentioned as the smartest of all the animals of the forest, and the wolf does not have too brilliant a reputation.

But, in fact, the wolf is not a fool, and can easily compare in cleverness with an elephant, a horse, or even a gorilla.

The so-called "grey wolf" is big and strong. Canadian wolves reach a weight of 175 pounds, and once (in Alaska) a wolf weighing 197 pounds was shot. A fully grown "grey wolf" is three feet tall, and four feet long, with a tail of about twenty inches.

The "grey" wolf is not always grey. In the North he is light grey or even white, more suitable for the snowy surroundings; in the South, he has a darker skin. He has much shorter ears than a dog, and good for him; for long ears would freeze in the long, cold winter nights. His hairy tail comes in handy; when he sleeps out of doors, he wraps himself around with his tail, just as with a scarf.

The wolf leads a decent family life. He is a devoted husband and father. He does not leave his wife throughout his life. He helps her to dig their subterranean home; it starts with a long tunnel that leads to their den. The tunnel some times reaches thirty feet in length.

The wolf cubs are born at the beginning of the summer season. Usually, six cubs are born at one time, and it can even happen that fourteen cubs are born together. They are born blind, and they open their eyes after five to nine days. The mother wolf (wolverine) feeds them her milk, but after a few weeks, she weans them, and little by little, they change over from a milk diet to a meat diet. The father, and at the beginning also the mother, brings them their meat meal. When he is not "on the job" looking for food, the father stays near the den to protect his home and family. When the cubs are three weeks old, the parents take them out of the den, and let them accompany the grownups on their hunting trips. The cubs learn the "tricks of the trade" very quickly, and are soon to catch their own food.

At one and a half years of age, a wolf is independent; and at three years of age it is fully grown and starts looking for a mate. A female wolf matures a year earlier than a male. At the age of ten or twelve years, a wolf starts to grow old, and if he lives to a ripe old age, he may reach twenty.

Wolves live among their own kind, in a peaceful manner. They go hunting in groups of between twelve and twenty; very often the whole pack happens to be one large family. They hunt deer, mountain sheep, and also the large caribou and moose, in the Canadian Wilds, which sometimes weigh 1600 pounds.

The caribou can protect itself against a pack of wolves for quite some time, but the wolves do not give up; they tire out their victim till they manage to kill it. But, as a rule, the wolves pick out the old and sickly moose, or the very young ones, which they find a much easier job.

In one far-flung area of the Canadian Wilds, live an estimated 35,000 wolves, and they devour about 400,000 caribou yearly. Nearer to populated areas, the wolves attack sheep, goats, horses, etc. They also catch rabbits and other small animals. They also eat berries, watermelons, etc.

A wolf has an enormous appetite, and can devour 35 pounds of food at one "sitting;" but after such a meal it can roam around for a whole week without food.

The wolf is famous for his "call" - a deep, long, tremulous cry, that puts fear into anyone who hears it. Anyone who has heard the "wolf call" on a dark night, can never forget it. That is the call of the wolf to the other wolves, summoning them to their evening "assembly."

The wolf has other types of calls, every one with a different meaning; a call to hunt; a call to his mate; or just to while away the time when he has nothing better to do. In this respect, the wolf is a "ventriloquist," and it is almost impossible to know from which direction the cry is coming, or how many wolves are involved.

Now that we have come on know little bit about the wolf, let us return to where we started; how is it that Jewish children are given the name of a wild animal?

Ze'ev-Wolf is not the only name after an animal. Aryeh-Leib (lion), Zvi-Hirsch (deer), Dov-Ber (Bear), are other well-known Jewish names.

Also other live creatures serve as Jewish names; for example, Jonah (a dove), Rachel (a sheep), Zipporah (a bird), Devorah (a bee). The prophetess Huldah, who is mentioned in Tenach, carried the name of a weasel. King Josiah had a secretary called Shafan (a hare, rabbit). The last two names are not in use nowadays.

A Jewish custom is sacred because it is based on the Torah, and so is the case with the above-mentioned names.

Generally speaking, one cannot speak of animals as being "bad." They are what they are because the Almighty created them in such a manner.

He gave them a certain nature which they cannot change; they have to live according to their instincts; just as a machine has no willpower, but functions according to the way it was made, mechanically. An animal always performs the will of its Creator!

Angels are, therefore, referred to as "Holy Beasts" (Chayos Hakodesh), be cause angels also do not have their own willpower, and cannot change their nature.

A human being is greater than an angel, because a human being can change his/her nature by means of that wonderful divine gift that the Almighty gave to man alone, among all of G‑d's creatures, namely a "free will" and "free choice."

A human being has the choice of living according to the laws of the Almighty - in which case he is good and performs good deeds; on the other hand, he may choose to do just the opposite of the Almighty's will - in which case he is wicked. Therefore, the Almighty gave the Torah to human beings and not to angels; and by means of Torah and Mitzvos a person is able to reach a high plane of understanding G‑dliness, and drawing near to it.

On the other hand, if he acts contrary to the will of the Almighty, he is lower than the lowliest creature, which does nothing contrary to G‑d's will.

For the benefit of the "Chosen One" of G‑d's creations - man - the Almighty created the animal kingdom, and instilled in them a fear of human beings.

Our Sages declared that a wild animal will never attack a human being (unless the person is sinful and had lost his true image, thus reducing himself to the Ä status of an animal in human form).

Animals can serve Almighty as a lesson to human beings in many ways.

Our Shulchan Aruch (Code of Laws) - the practical guide in our daily life begins with the Mishnah - Yehuda ben Temah says: Be courageous as a leopard, light as an eagle, fleetfooted like a deer, and strong as a lion, to perform the will of your Father in heaven."

The Baal HaTanya comments thereon: "courageous as a leopard" - not to be ashamed of the scoffers; "strong as a lion" - with the true strength of heart to conquer the evil inclination, etc.

When our father Jacob blessed his children, the holy Tribes, he compared a number of them to certain animals: Judah, the ancestor of King David, was compared to a lion, king of the forest; Issachar, from whom descended great Torah scholars, was compared to a donkey, which is known for carrying great burdens unflinchingly - a hint at carrying the yoke of Torah; Naftoli, whose land in Eretz Yisroel produced fruits much quicker than any other part, was compared to a deer; and Benjamin to a wolf.

The Divine prophecy that rested on Jacob caused him to bless the Tribes according to their different traits.

The holy Zohar explains that Benjamin was compared to a wolf because in his portion of Eretz Yisroel the Altar was built; the place where sacrifices were offered in the morning, and in the evening. The Altar "devoured" meat and fat, which was offered up to G‑d, reminding the human being to devote his best energies and abilities to the service of the Almighty.

Actually, this is the lesson taught us by the laws of the "sacrifices," in the Book of Vayikro (Leviticus).

The Hebrew word for "sacrifice," Korbon, means also "drawing near." The Service of the "sacrifices" in the Bais Hamikdosh was in order to draw the Jews nearer to G‑d. Today, in the absence of the Bais Hamikdosh, prayer takes the place of "sacrifices" and brings the person closer to G‑d.

It is no coincidence that the Hebrew word Zev has the numerical value of 10. It is explained in certain holy books (also in the Tanya) that the Divine soul in man has ten properties, or powers. Three of them are in the mind; they are Chochmoh (wisdom), Binoh (understanding) and Daas (knowledge), the initial letters of which make the word ChaBaD, which is the name of the school of thought and way of life of the "Chabad Chassidim."

The other seven powers are in the heart; they are Chesed (kindness), Gevuroh (strength), and so forth. These ten powers in man correspond to the ten Divine powers by means of which G‑d has created and rules the world.

In addition to the Divine soul, a human being possesses also an "animal" soul, with ten similar powers. But while the Divine soul constantly strives for G‑dliness, finding pleasure only in spiritual and holy matters, the "animal" soul is interested only in "earthly" pleasures.

This creates a conflict. However, when the ten Divine powers in man "devour" (conquer and master) the ten animalistic powers, the "animal" or "beast" in man is not only "tamed," but it, too, becomes good and holy. Then there is no longer any conflict, and the person attains inner harmony and peace of mind, for the whole man becomes G‑dly.

The duty of a Jew in his daily life is, therefore, to see to it that his spiritual powers should master his material and physical powers and thus put all his powers in the service of G‑d.

Flesh, blood and fat are the physical makeup of the human being. They are the "fuel" that give man energy to keep him going as a living human being, who thinks, speaks and acts. We must use these energies in accordance with the Will of our Maker, by exercising our thoughts, words and deeds in accordance with the Torah and Mitzvos which G‑d commanded us. In this way, the "wolf" in us becomes a spiritual "wolf," in the sense that our father Jacob blessed his beloved son Benjamin as a "devouring wolf," as explained in the Zohar.