Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fish before the time of Jonah

Fish at Jerusalem's Machane Yehudah Markt

Photo: Miriam Woelke


Many of you won't even guess it but the Talmud actually contains countless of mystical teachings and is not exclusively a history and Halacha collection.

The following Talmudic teaching is not necessarily a mystical topic but it shows an interesting aspect from the time of creation.

The Gemara (rabbinic discussions) of Talmud Tractate Bechorot 8 teaches that humans, fish and snakes reproduce from face to face. The Gemara explains why the fish have sex with their faces looking at each other. The reason is that G - d spoke to the fish which had swallowed Jonah and told him to return Jonah on dry land.

Therefore the Gemara is asking if all fish changed their sexual behaviour at this very moment when G - d spoke to one particular fish ?

The famous German Talmudist Rabbi Yaakov Emden from Hamburg – Altona (1697 – 1776) answered that the fish were created this way from the beginning. G - d created them the way facing each other while having sex, as He knew that one day, He (G - d) would speak to the fish. 

Somewhere else, the Talmud teaches that G - d created certain things and animals before the creation process and during Twilight on the very first Shabbat Eve. Example: Miriam's Well, the mouth of Bilam's mule or the staff of Moshe. However, the sex behaviour of the fish were not among those pre - creations but my intention is to show you that G - d created beforehand in order to enable different situations later on in history.

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