Rashi on Genesis 47:31 says:

וישתחו ישראל: תעלא בעידניה סגיד ליה:

and Israel prostrated himself: [Although the lion is king] when it is the time of the fox, bow down to him. — [from Meg. 16b]

What exactly does Rashi mean here?

I looked up the Gemara [Megilla 16b] , but there I only found that comparing Yosef to a fox is ok in comparison to Yaakov (as apposed to calling him a fox in comparison to his brothers)

This seems to imply that the fox is sometimes the greatest of animals (not sure where the lion part comes from as it doesn't appear in the Hebrew) and that is why (in the nimshal) even Yaakov bowed to Yosef.

My question is: Is this a known fact that the fox is sometimes greatest animal. If so - when?

4 Answers 4


Mizrachi explains that even though a fox is considered the lowest of the animals, when you need it bow down to it, the same here, Yaakov bowed down to Yosef not because he was the King, only because he needed him and therefore bowed down to him.

Sifsei Chachomim says that there is a month when the fox is King.

  • +1 thanks is there a pasuk or other source which describes the cleverness of a fox?
    – Danield
    Dec 24, 2012 at 21:51

From the Prince by Machiavelli (I never thought I would reference Machiavelli on this site!)

A prince, therefore, being compelled knowingly to adopt the beast, ought to choose the fox and the lion; because the lion cannot defend himself against snares and the fox cannot defend himself against wolves. Therefore, it is necessary to be a fox to discover the snares and a lion to terrify the wolves. Those who rely simply on the lion do not understand what they are about.

From this it seems that there are times when the fox has his day.


The cunning nature of the fox is already referred to by Perek Shiroh.

Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s shlit”o commentary on Perek Shiroh (link above) refers to the Mechilta in Beshalach on pages 67 and 68. The Mechilta says that the kingdoms were compared to animals. Egypt was a very low kingdom and took prominence only for the honour of Israel. It was compared to foxes.

So we see that the Kingdom of Egypt, compared to foxes, had its day because of Israel.


This Rashi is covered in the 'What's Bothering Rashi' book by Avigdor Bonchek.

He says (me paraphrasing) the fox is one of the smaller and weaker animals and still also has it's time in the sun in supremacy.

Joseph should show his father respect in general but at this time Joseph is viceroy in Egypt and only he can fulfill Jacob's wish to be buried in Israel. That is why he bows to Joseph.

Here Rashi is putting the unusual act of Jacob bowing to Joseph in context.

For bonus points he then asks why didn't Rashi make this same comment in 42:6 when Joseph's older brothers bowed down to him. He tells us there are several answers, says the most obvious one is that the brother's didn't know it was Joseph who was the viceroy of Egypt and leaves it to us to think of some other answers.

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