FISH AND FISHING

FISH AND FISHING
-In the Bible and Talmud The Bible says that humans are to exercise dominion over the fish as well as over all other subhuman life (Gen. 1:28). Fish are divided into clean and unclean by biblical dietary laws: "These you may eat, of all that are in the waters. Everything in the waters that has fins and scales … you may eat. But anything in the seas or the rivers that has not fins and scales … is an abomination to you" (Lev. 11:9–11). Water creatures lacking fins and scales are an abomination because they move like land animals, transgressing the boundaries of creation (Douglas in Bibliography). Similarly, certain fish were avoided because they looked like snakes (Firmage in Bibliography). When the Hebrews complain to Moses about their diet of manna, they recall the fish of Egypt, which they refer to as "meat" (Num. 11:4–5). Egypt was known for its abundance of fish, and as such they are mentioned as victims of the first plague (Ex. 7:18, 21). The likeness of any fish is included in the general prohibition of graven images in Deuteronomy 4:15–18. In the ancient period fishing served as a significant means of support and as an important economic factor both in Egypt and Babylonia, but probably less so in Israel. For most of the biblical period the southern Mediterranean coast was controlled by the Philistines and the north by Phoenicians. Natives of Israel would have fished in the Jordan and the Sea of Galilee (Firmage in Bibliography). Whereas hammurapi 's laws 26–32 are devoted to fishermen in royal service (COS II, 338–39), no regulation of fishermen is found in biblical law. While Ashurnasirpal's banquet served 10,000 fishes (Wiseman in Bibliography), fish are absent from the delicacies of Solomon's table (I Kings 5:2–3). The Bible mentions "the Fish Gate" in Jerusalem (Zeph. 1:10; Neh. 3:3; II Chron. 33:14), which was named after the fish market nearby. Tyrian fish merchants selling their wares on the Sabbath in Jerusalem are mentioned in Nehemiah 13:16. The abundance of halakhot and aggadot about fishing and fishermen in both the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmuds and in various Midrashim indicates a considerable fishing industry in the periods of the Second Temple and the Talmud. This is also evident from the Gospels, as the first disciples of Jesus were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. Josephus frequently refers to Jews engaged in that livelihood, as well as to a fleet of fishing vessels on the   Sea of Galilee. A Greek inscription from the second century C.E. about a family or band of Jewish fishermen has been found in Jaffa. Although the Bible does not provide the name of any specific fish, it does mention many fishing implements: rod (Isa. 19:8), net (ibid., and Hab. 1:15), trap (Eccles. 9:12), fishing net (Ezek. 26:5), spear (Job 40:31), and small fishing boats (Amos 4:2, according to the Targum). The word reshet ("net"), frequent in the Bible in other contexts, appears only once as a device to catch fish (Ezek. 32:3). The Bible's most famous fish is the large one that swallowed Jonah and kept him in his belly for three days and nights (Jonah 2:1), and who, according to the New Testament, foreshadowed the underworld in which Jesus would spend three days and nights. The Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds both mention the fishing rod and a variety of traps and nets (akon, from the Greek o(n)gkīnos, "hook," Kel. 23:5; kefifa, Tosef., Makhsh. 3:12; pitos, from the Greek pithos, TJ, Shab. 13:5, 14a; lehi, kokarei ve-oharei in Shab. 18a, Git. 60b–61a, MK 11a; ḥarmei, the net-fishers of Tiberias, TJ Pes. 4:1, 30d). From the different fishing devices (such as snares in Kel. 23:5), it is possible to learn about other methods of fishing at that time (see Kid. 72a and BM 12b). The Midrash makes a reference to fishermen repairing their nets (Tanḥ., Va-Yelekh 2). According to the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, Zebulun "who shall dwell at the shore of the sea" (Gen. 49:13) was the first fisherman, and a detailed description of fishing is put into his mouth (Test. Patr., Zeb. 5:5–6, 8). -Fishing in the Halakhah According to the Talmud the granting of fishing rights to all of the tribes around the Sea of Galilee was included in the "Ten takkanot of Joshua, the son of Nun," enacted by Joshua on the conquest of the land, even though that body of water was completely within the boundary of the tribe of Naphtali. "It is permitted to fish with an angle in the Sea of Galilee provided that no sail is spread, as this would detain boats" (BK 81a–b). Fish in the sea are considered ownerless property and whoever catches them has the right to keep them. It is stated that according to biblical law, this applies even to those fish already netted as long as the net has not been drawn from the water. "In the interests of peace," however, the rabbis ruled that the fish belong to the owner of the net (Git. 5:8). Details are given with regard to the prohibition of fishing on Sabbaths and festivals including the spreading of nets and the regulations concerning fishing on the intermediate days of festivals (Bezah 3:1–2; TJ, Pes. 4:1, 30d; Shab. 17b; Yoma 84b; MK 11a). -Fish in the Halakhah In Jewish tradition only fish that have scales and fins are permitted for consumption (see dietary laws ). They need not be slaughtered ritually (shehitah ) and their blood is not prohibited. According to a belief held in talmudic times, the eating of fish together with meat was considered harmful and predisposed the body to leprosy. In accordance with the rule that considerations of health are as important as ritual prohibitions, the rabbis consequently forbade the cooking or eating of fish together with meat (Pes. 76b). No interval before eating meat, however, is necessary (Sh. Ar., YD 116:2–3); it is enough to rinse the mouth or to chew something after eating fish. Fish are parve (considered to be neither meat nor milk). It may be consumed or cooked with milk. Fish, as a favorite dish for Shabbat, is mentioned in the Talmud (Shab. 118b) and by the Roman poet Persius Flaccus (Satires, 5, 180ff.). The abundance of fish in the Babylonian rivers and canals, making it a food available to the poor, may be one possible reason. A more homiletical reason is found in the words "and God blessed them" which occur in the biblical account of the creation of fish on the fifth day (Gen. 1:22), as well as in the subsequent account of the sixth day (Gen. 1:28) and the Sabbath (Gen. 2:3). Fish, man, and the Sabbath are thus connected in a threefold blessing. Moreover, the Sabbath is said to be an anticipation of the messianic era which will be inaugurated by the eating of the legendary fish leviathan . Fishing from a river or pond is forbidden on Sabbath and on holidays; however, fish kept in a storage pond may be taken out (Bezah 3:1–2). Fish were thought to bring good luck because they are the zodiac signs of Adar, the month of Purim. Representations of fish are widespread in the Orient as amulets, and in Eastern Europe some boys were called Fishl as a good omen against the evil eye (see Ber. 20a; cf. Jacob's blessing of his grandchildren, Gen. 48:16). Fish was a favorite Sabbath food for Eastern European Jews living in poor economic conditions. This was presumably due to the abundance and cheapness of fish and to the special tax on kosher meat Jews had to pay to the government in the 18th century. Cooked, smoked, or salted fish was served as the main dish at the Third Meal (Se'udah Shelishit ) on Saturday afternoon, at the farewell meal (melavveh malkah ) on Saturday night at the end of the Sabbath and at communal dinners (see Se'udah and siyyum ). (See also food .) -BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Shuvah, in: Sefer ha-Yovel …S. Krauss (1937), 80–86; J. Newman, Agricultural Life of the Jews in Babylonia (1932), 136–40; Dalman, Arbeit, 6 (1939), 343–70; ET, 7 (1956), 202–26; Eisenstein, Dinim, 81f.; Goodenough, Symbols, 5 (1956), 3–61. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: D. Wiseman, in: Iraq, 14 (1952), 24–44; M. Douglas, in: C. Meyers (ed.), Identity and Ideology … (1996), 131–32; D. Sahrhage, Fischfang und Fischkult in Aegypten (1992); idem, Fischfang und Fischkult im alten Mesopotamien (1999); D. Sahrhage and J. Lundbeck, A History of Fishing (1992); E. Firmage, in: ABD, 6:1146–47.

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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