Haile Selassie and Frank Sinatra
The Rastafarian religion that started in Kingston, Jamaica has roots that hail back to Haile Selassie, the emperor of Ethiopia. Selassie was born July 17, 1891. His birth name was Ras Tafari (hence Rastafarian). Tafari was the family name, Ras means something like duke. Selassie was part of the Ethiopian Orthodox line of kings, a dynasty that goes back to the marriage of King Solomon and Sheba. Haile Salassie comes from Solomon and Sheba’s son, Menelik I, or so the story goes.
Haile Selassie liked coming from a Jewish lineage and he made the most of it. One of the epithets Selassie used on his banners and any manner of regalia included the Lion of Judah.
Jews and lion symbology go straight back to Biblical times when lions were still relatively common in northern Africa and Israel. Lions are referred to over 150 times in the Hebrew Bible. At least eight Hebrew names mean lion (aryeh, ari, lavi, kefir, layish, shahal, shahatz, and gur). Jews still use first and last names that mean lion. Ari is a popular first name and Gur is an uncommon last name. Leo comes from lavi. Hence, Leonard, Lenny, Leonore. In Yiddish, leib means lion. Hence, Liebman, Lipman.
In Berakhot 3a God’s voice is compared to a lion’s roar. Hence, Israel’s previous prime minister’s first name, Ariel. Ari means lion, El means God.
In Numbers, when Israel triumphs she is compared to the lion (Numbers 23:24). In Genesis, Abraham’s grandson, Judah, is compared to a lion in Genesis 49:9. The tribes of Gad and Dan are also compared to the lion (Deuteronomy 33:20, 32).
Samson and David both killed lions (Judges 14:5-6, 1; Samuel 17:34-35). There’s also the story of Daniel in the lions’ den. There are all kinds of midrashim about lions. Lions appear in Jewish poetry, legends, metaphors, they’re in the Talmud, you name it; it’s obvious lions were very much a part of life in the Land of Israel back in the times of yore.
I mention this for our Rastafarian friends. I hope it gives you something to talk about next time you light up a doobie and start singing one of my Old Blue Eyes’ favorites, “Doobie Doobie Doo…”