A Fish’s Tale

April 20, 2017 at 2:19 AM , , ,
“…The owl, the shalach, and the little owl…” – Vayikra 11:17


וְאֶת הַכּוֹס וְאֶת הַשָּׁלָךְ וְאֶת הַיַּנְשׁוּף – ויקרא יא, יז


Rashi comments regarding the identity of the shalach bird, “Our rabbis explained that it draws up fish from the sea.” This reflects the name shalach, similar to the Hebrew word for drawing out, sholeh, indicating that the manner in which this bird “draws out” is exceptional — it extracts its prey from deep within the water.

Rashi’s words also hint to something else that the shalach extracts from the sea, in addition to its actual prey.

The Talmud (Chullin 63a) relates that upon seeing a shalach R’ Yochanan would proclaim, “Your judgments are (like) the vast deep!” (Tehilim 36:7). The commentaries explain that G-d sends the shalach to carry out His judgment on the fish of the sea, to kill those whose time has come to die. This Talmudic passage supports the teaching of the Baal Shem Tov that not only does G-d dictate the precise happenings of human life; His providence extends to all the wildlife, plant life and even inanimate creations as well. As R’ Yochanan’s statement implies, G-d orchestrates even the goings-on in the life of a fish.

A Fish’s Tale

This extraordinary concept is hinted in Rashi’s words regarding the shalach. The Divine Providence that controls every detail of creation hides beneath the veil of nature, like the vast and complex world that hides beneath the surface of the sea. But what “our rabbis explained,” namely, that the shalach sets upon its prey as an emissary to carry out G-d’s judgment, “draws up fish from beneath the sea,” extracting the Divine Providence from beneath its veil. For R’ Yochanan’s statement teaches us that the workings of nature are neither random nor spontaneous; even the lives and behavior patterns of a fish and a bird are precisely coordinated by Divine plan.

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 7, pp. 60-64

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