MeAm Lo'ez on Bereishit
The Fifth Day of Creation; Fish and Birds

1:20 G-d said, "Let the waters teem with teeming living creatures, and fowl that fly about over the earth across the expanse of the heavens.

On the fifth day, G-d created all sorts of flying creatures. There are two opinions among the Sages as to how they were made. Some say they were created from water, just like the fish. In fish the influence of water is stronger, and they live in water. (Chulin 28; Abarbanel) Birds, on the other hand, also contain the element of air, so they can fly.

Others say that birds were created from the fine mud that is found on the bottom of the sea. According to some, this "mud" is the foam that is on the surface of the sea. This "mud" consists of a mixture of earth, air and water. Since birds were created from this "mud," they are halfway intermediate between creatures from water, and those created from earth.

It is therefore permitted to eat a fowl after only one of its two "sign" (the gullet and the windpipe) has been severed in ritual slaughter; (Abarbanel; Toledot Yitzchak) This is because the element of earth is stronger.

Fish, which were created from water alone, do not need any ritual slaughter whatsoever. As soon as they are removed from the water, they may be eaten.

Every creature in the world has a purpose; nothing was created in vain. This is true even of creatures that seem useless, such as flies, lice and gnats. (Shabbat 8; Bereishit Rabbah 10) Some harmful creatures were created to punish sinners. Lice and ticks were made to wake man from his sleep. He can then cure his soul through the study of Torah according to his ability, and not waste the entire night in sleep. Author's own)

1:21 And G-d created the great sea-giants and every living being that creeps, with which the waters teemed after their kinds; and all winged fowl of every kind. And G-d saw that it was good.

The Torah tells us that on this day, G-d created all kinds of fish, male and female, having all sorts of forms. The Greeks had legends of fish thousands of miles long. ((Ramban; Bachya)

Regarding certian great creatures the Torah says, "G-d created the great dragons." This is an expression that is not found with regard to anything created earlier, indicating that these creatures were unique. The Torah informs us that even these were created through G-d's word.

In the Talmud, Rabba Bar Bar Chanah tells mystical tales about these great fish. He describes such a creature that was killed by a parasite that had entered its nostril. Since nothing dead is retained by the sea, it was cast up on the shore; as a result, sixty cities were destroyed. many people were able to eat the flesh of this fish, while the rest was salted and preserved. From a single eyeball, they distilled much oil. When the Sage returned a year later, he found that the bones of this fish had been used to reuild the sixty cities that the body of the fish had destroyed. (bava Batra 5; Bachya; Abarbanel)

Once Rabba bar bar Chanah was traveling by sea, and he saw what appeared to be an island. The "island" even had grass growing on it. Thinking it to be solid ground, the passengers disembarked from the ship, stolled on the "island," and made a fire with which to cook. When the "ground" became heated, the "island" began to move, tossing everyone into sea. If the ship had not been on hand, all would have drowned. This "island" was nothing other than a large fish, disguised by the sand on its back.

Saliors likewise report seeing monstrous creatures. (Zohar 1:46)

There is also an opinion that the "dragons" in this verse are the seventy guardian angels of the world. (Bachya) They are in heaven, overseeing the seventy nations.

Others say that these "dragons" are the angels which were created on the fifth day. Some of them are made of fire, and some of water. (Bava Batra, loc. cit.; Zohar; Targum Yonatan)

Our Sages also speak of a great fish called the Leviatan, of which a male and female were created on this day. (Ibid. Cf. Zohar 2:34b) The abode of the Leviatan is the deepest parts of the ocean, where it supports the world on its back. It always keeps its mouth open, swallowing fish and eating them. Each day another large fish approaches the mouth of the Leviatan, happy to be its meal. Every seventy years, the Leviatan lifts its fins and moves, causing earthquakes. (Shevet Mussar 30)

The Leviatan could not be allowed to remain with its mate, since if they had thousands of descendants, they would swamp the world. G-d therefore arranged that they should not mate. He killed the female, salted it, and set it aside for the great feast of the righteous in the Olam Habah. In the Torah, the word Taninim is written without a yud [making the plural defective]. This alludes to the fact that the female had been killed.

After the feast of the Leviatan, people will cease to eat and drink, since these are mere physical pleasures. (Bachya) In the Future World, they will then only keep the Torah and delight in the radiance of the Divine Presence, which is the food of the soul.

This feast is not intended to fill the belly. (Toledot Yitzchak, quoting Rashba) It would not be fitting, since the delights of the Future World do not include eating and drinking, but only ecstasy in having the power to experience the radiance of the Divine Presence. For this feast, flesh which had been created by G-d Himself during the six days of creation was set aside. This is a highly spiritual form of nourishment, very much like the manna, which was completely absorbed by the body. Fine foods bring serenity to those who eat them; this will be true of the feast of the Leviatan.

If a person does not eat nonkosher food, does not defile his mouth with lies and gossip, and refrains from unnecessary oaths, then he will be worthy of partaking in the feast of the leviatan in the Olam Habah.

G-d killed the female rather than the male because a female fish tastes better when salted than a male. (Bava Batra, loc. cit)

Reading this chapter, we find that each ofG-d's sayings is followed by the phrase, "and it was so." The only exception is on this fifth day, where the expression "and it was so" does not occur.

This is because it was on this day that the concept of war between nations was established.

The world was created to last for six thousand years. Each day of creation therefore represents a thousand years. Of these, two thousand years were "chaos and void." Then the world had to exist for another two thousand years after Yisrael accepted the Torah. The final two thousand years pertain to the Messianic age. If we are worthy, the redemption can take place during this last period.

This explains why the expression, "and it was so," does not occur here. On this day, the concept of war between nations came into being. The ultimate war will be Gog and Magog's battle, which will take place before the Messianic era. (This is described in Yechezkel 38:39) This should occur on the "fifth day" of the world, that is, at the beginning of the fifth millenium. Because of our many sins many years have passed, and this has not yet taken place. Since the time is not exactly determined, the expression "and it was so" is not used. (Bava Batra, loc. cit.)

It is in our hands. We need only walk in G-d's ways. But if we do not have any commitment to Judaism and do not keep the Torah, we will remain as we are [in exile]. G-d does not wish to take responsibility for something that is in our hands. We must arouse our hearts to repent, and G-d will then accept it and give us strength to serve Him.

The second reason for this omission is that whenever it says, "it was so," it means that G-d established something that would never change. This is not true of the birds, which were created from water, but unlike the fish, did not remain there. (Abarbanel p. 18)

1:22 G-d blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas; but the fowl shall increase on the earth." 23 and there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

Birds live on land and raise their young there. This was G-d's will.

This is the first day where we find that G-d blessed what He had created. This is because only two of each creature were created, a male and a female, and no more. They required a blessing to increase, so that the world would be filled with birds, fish and other creatures. Since grass and trees can produce many offspring, they did not require a blessing. (Ramban)

The animals created on the sixth day did not receive a special blessing, even though they were also made male and female. They were included in the blessing given to lving creatures on the fifth day. (Bereyshit Rabbah; Rashi)

Some say that this blessing pertained expecially to fish, since they are caught and eaten, and not given a chance to replenish. They required a special blessing so that no species would become extinct.

Another states that the reason for this blessing was that the entire world was created only so man would have abundant food and nourishment with which to serve G-d. Fish and fowl were blessed so they would be healthful food and not be harmful in any way. Even though other animals are also edible, they were not blessed, and can therefore be harmful. (Alshikh)

Some say that the reason for the blessing is that birds and fish do not carry their young in the womb, but lay eggs in which the embryo must be formed. it is a great wonder that a living thing can come into being in an egg that is no longer part of the parent. G-d blessed them to teach us that everything is directed according to His word. (Abarbanel)

One should not say that things are "natural." (Tshuvot Chacham Tzvi 18; Yafeh Toar) It is a foundation of our faith to realize that the rain, the dew, the winds, and everything that grows from the earth are all directed by G-d, who wishes to benefit his creatures. It may seem obvious that these things are natural, but even the very laws of nature could be annulled if something went against G-d's will.

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