Good Shabbos everyone!
In the 6th Aliyah, we are taught laws of Kashrut. Pasuk 9 introduces us to the mitzvos of kashrus concerning fish, and goes as follows:
“Et-zeh tochlu mikol asher bamayim kol asher-lo s’nafir v’kas’keset bamayim bayamim u’van’chalim otam tochailu – This may you eat from everything that is in the water: everything that has fins and scales in the water, in the seas, and in the streams, those may you eat.”
Rabbi Gordon mentioned that all fish that have scales, have fins! (But not all fish that have fins have scales, therefore disqualifying them as a kosher animal.)
If this is the case, and we are capable of distinguishing a kosher fish by one sign, the scales, why must the Torah list a second sign for us to determine a fish’s status by?
The answer: This is a part of Torah, for which the sole purpose of the extra wording, is “l’hagdil Torah u’lhadira”– to increase and beautify the (text of the) Torah!
This already seems like a good reason… But we can still counter this answer, by saying that the Torah doesn’t waste words!
Rabbi Gordon stated that aside from the details about the fins increasing the text, the symbolism is also increased!
And that is what we’re going to dive into now!
The fish uses its fins constantly to swim, to propel itself, and cut through the water. We, too, must ‘keep on swimming’ through life. We must take initiative and action in all we do. We must assert ourselves. The fish’s fins allude to our drive and action. These energies help us develop into successful people. But as we’ll soon see, that’s not all it takes…
The scales of a fish, to some people, are reminiscent of a coat of armor. The fish is always carrying, always wearing, these gleaming garments. The scales of a fish correspond to our mitzvos. In their merit, we are protected from harm. They are the gleaming treasures we can always proudly bear.
A person who truly has ‘scales’– mitzvos and Torah– will immediately be motivated. Our Torah and mitzvos give us core strength, spiritually and emotionally, to be assertive, to fight for what we know is right.
However, one who only has ‘fins’– drive and action, but unmotivated by Torah and lacking mitzvos, isn’t necessarily ‘kosher’– he isn’t complete, and he doesn’t have what it takes to reach his true full potential.
We are currently counting the days of the Sefiras haOmer period, from the second night of Pesach to Shavuos.
One of the many events we commemorate during this period, is our rise in spirituality day by day, from the slavery and Yetzias Mitzrayim (the Exodus from Egypt), to Har Sinai as a free People, and our preparation for this momentous milestone in our nation’s history.
Every day, we are charged with a new aspect of spiritual growth. We work daily on a new sefirah (or sefirah combination), an emotion or character trait in which we may need improvement. This is a time of year to climb a special ladder, to access the greatest heights of soul and potential we can reach.