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The Weekly Internet
P A R A S H A - P A G E
by Mordecai Kornfeld
of Har Nof, Jerusalem
Founder of the Dafyomi Advancement Forum

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Dedicated (on the Shabbat of the "aufruf") in honor of the marriage of Steven Burack and Dvora Pacht, who will be married on June 4 1998. Best Wishes to the couple from their parents, Seymour and Bella Burack & Josh and Marcia Pacht, and the entire family. May they have much "Naches" from each other.


Parashat Bechukotai 5758


And if you still do not listen to My word... I will make the land desolate... your land will be desolate and your cities destroyed. (Vayikra 26:27-33)
There is no truth, no kindness, nobody recognizes the way of Hashem in the land... therefore the land shall be destroyed and all that resides in it shall be cut off; the animals of the field, the birds of the heavens, even the fish of the sea shall be taken away. (Hoshea 4:1-3)
Rebbi Yosi explained: for 52 years a bird was not seen flying in the land of Israel, as the verse says, "The birds of the heavens, until "Behemah" (lit. "animals"; numerically "52") went away and left [the land]." ...Said Rebbi Chanina son of Rebbi Avahu: [There are] 700 species of kosher fish and 800 species of kosher locusts and an innumerably large amount of [kosher] birds, and all of them went with the Jews to Bavel (Babylon). When the Jews returned, all of the animals returned with them except for the fish known as "Shivuta." (Yerushalmi Ta'anit end of 4:5; Eicha Raba end of Introductory chapter)
Even when the Jews were sent into exile for their sins, Hashem had mercy on them. He sent with them an enormous amount of resources in order that they may find sustenance easily until their return to the land of Israel. (See also Pesachim 87b, "Why did Hashem exile the Jews to Bavel, out of all lands? In order that they may eat dates, which were plentiful and cheap there, and be free to study the Torah.) There were 52 years from the destruction of the Holy Temple until the first return to Zion (and 70 until the Temple was rebuilt). During those years, the animals too suffered exile from the land -- and the Jews had familiar company in Bavel.

Although all of the animals eventually returned from exile, one remained behind: the Shivuta fish. The Gemara in Shabbat (145b) refers to the Shivuta by its acquired name, "Kulyas ha'Ispenin" -- the Spanish Kulyas (Sefer ha'Aruch, entry on "Ispenin"). Apparently, the Shivuta did not make it back to Israel but ended up in Spanish seas. The Gemara explains why the Shivuta was not able to rejoin the Jews upon their return to Zion. All the fish swam back upstream in order to return, but the Shivuta's spine was not rigid enough to resist the current. (Although the Gemara tells us that all non-kosher fish have weak spines, Sukah 18a, apparently they were not exiled in the first place and therefore did not have to return upstream. Only kosher livestock was relocated, as the Yerushalmi quoted above implies, in order to provide meals for the Jews in exile.)

In an allegorical sense, there is an important message in this Gemara. When in the Diaspora, a Jew must be stubborn and unyielding in his commitment to Torah and Mitzvos in order to survive the scoffing of gentiles and avoid assimilation. One who is not able to "swim against the current" is apt to be "swept away" from the destiny of his brethren.

The Mishnah also notes that Kulyas ha'Ispenin is the easiest fish to cook. If one but pours hot water over it the Kulyas becomes cooked, and one is liable for transgressing the Torah prohibition of cooking on Shabbat. Perhaps this characteristic as well is related to its inability to return from exile. Burning heat represents the trials one is put to in this world (Avodah Zarah 3b). The Kulyas is not able to stand its own when the "heat is on" and to avoid getting "cooked" in the Diaspora. One must be prepared to face up to the spiritual trials and tribulations of exile in order to survive and participate in the Redemption of Israel.


We may perhaps infer wherein exactly lies the cause of the weakness of the Kulyas/Shivuta fish. We are taught (Chulin 109b) that the marrow of the "Shivuta" tastes exactly like pork. The pig is the only non-kosher animal that has split hooves -- normally a sure sign of a kosher animal. It is nevertheless not kosher, since it lacks the second sign of a kosher animal; it does not chew its cud (Vayikra 11:7). It rests with its feet out in front of it, as if to say, "Look, I'm kosher! My hooves are split!" But when it is examined internally, it becomes evident that it is not kosher at all.

The weakness of the Kulyas is that of the pig. It is an internal rot, which is not immediately visible externally. Its marrow (hidden inside its bones) has the taste of -- or the quality of -- the pig.

If a Jew is lacking in his commitment to Torah, it may not be evident in times of plenty. He may practice Mitzvos like other Jews although he is not fully committed to what he does. But when he is in the Diaspora and subject to the psychological pressure of the secular world that surrounds him, like the Shivuta, he will not be able to resist the current. His deficiency will be brought to surface.

The very name "Kulyas ha'Ispenin" may be an allusion to this characteristic. "b'Kilus" can mean "handsomely garbed" (Bereishit Raba 84:16) -- that is, it hides behind a false exterior. "ISPeNin" may be related to the Hebrew root SaFaN, meaning "hidden" (Devarim 33:19,21). ('F' and 'P' are represented by the same Hebrew letter).


Ultimately, the Kulyas too will return to its home. Even those Jews who have completely given up their commitment to Torah and Mitzvot will be located and identified after the Redemption, and will return to the land and tradition of their fathers.

The Gemara (Shabbat 119a) tells us that weekly, Rava would salt a Shivuta fish to eat as a Shabbat delicacy. (A common Shabbat delicacy named "Kasa d'Harsena" (Shabbat 118b) was made from "small salted fish" mixed with flour (Beitzah 16b). These fish, which had some sort of marrow (Shabbat 37b), may possibly be the Shivuta fish of our discussion, which is also described (Rashi Shabbat 39a) as "small salted fish.") Shabbat offers us a "taste of the World to Come" (Berachot 57b). As my friend, Harav Gedalyah Press of Yerushalayim, suggested, on Shabbos we symbolically invite those who are like the Shivuta to return to the destiny of Israel.

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Mordecai Kornfeld |Email:| Tl/Fx(02)6522633
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