Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Parsha Shemini: There's Something Fishy Going On

Thinking up a blog entry for this week's Torah portion wasn't as easy as shooting fish in a barrel, but I was able to come up with this. I was reading this week's Torah portion and was looking at the part about kosher animals. I came across the section on fish (Leviticus 11:9-12), and I started pondering as to why fish required fins and scales to be kosher. Since every fish with scales has fins (Talmud, Niddah 51b), why say סנפיר וקשקשת ("fins and scales")? Isn't that a bit redundant? And what is about fins and scales that G-d wants us to notice or recognize?

The Gerre Rebbe points out that by mentioning both fins and scales, one can fulfill two divine directives while eating fish, which further honors the Torah. Although it makes for a nice d'var, let's think of fins and scales in terms of their functionality and how that can be interpreted.

So here's what I came up with:

Scales protect fish from harm. Much like a fish's durability, G-d wants us to develop a sense of resilience and adaptability to one's surroundings when life seems dark or decides to throw you a curve ball. Life is not meant to be all sunshine and good times. When life knocks us down, He wants us to get up. One of the reasons that the Jewish people still exists is because of resilience. As King Solomon once said, "for a righteous man falls seven times and gets up again (Proverbs 24:16)."

This is the moment where I point out that the fins are not a redundancy at all. Why? Because to analogize us to the fish, when we decide to get back up, the fins are there to propel us forward. Fins are the mechanism that allow fish to swim and actualize their potential.  Much like fish, G-d wants us to explore the depths of the ocean and actualize our potential. He wants us to marvel at the wonders around us and appreciate what we have. 

We are what we eat. G-d wants us to learn something from this precept, and that is to be able to live our lives to the fullest, even when the turbulence of the ocean knocks us around more than a few times.

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