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No Whaling

Since 1986 there has been an international agreement in place forbidding the hunting of whales for commercial purposes. Nevertheless, sailors from Iceland, Norway and especially Japan continue to trap whales in large numbers. It is estimated that since the treaty was signed, an additional 35,000 whales were slaughtered.

Why is there so much international concern for the fate of the whales, more so than for any other mammal? There are many endangered species in existence, but none seem to have the wide-ranging sympathy and support that whales do.

One reason that humans identify with whales may be because of their many cognitive and social similarities to humans. Scientists have proved that whales are intelligent beings with culture and well-developed family and social structures. They have their own language that allows them to communicate with one another over long distances. When different groups of whales come into contact, they teach each other their customs and unique whale songs. Their patterns of communication and information exchange mirror that of humans. These similarities have convinced many people that capturing whales for commercial purposes is an ethical crime, no less than exterminating people.

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“Whatever is on dry land is in the sea,” say our sages. The sea is an analogy to the upper world, “the concealed world” as it is referred to in Kabbalah, which like the sea is covered over and hidden from our view. The supernal creatures, like the sea dwellers, are completely embedded in their source of life and cannot be separated from it, just as sea creatures cannot survive outside the water. They cannot deny their utter dependence on the G-dly life force, unlike the sense of independence that pervades earth dwellers.

Of all creatures of the sea, there is one large fish that has a special place. Traditional Jewish teachings speak of the Leviathan, a giant sea creature, a unique species, only one pair of which was ever created. G-d set aside the female and salted it, to prevent the Leviathan from procreating and taking over the entire universe. The meat of the Leviathan lies in wait for a future time, when G-d will serve it as a feast for tzadikim in the era of Moshiach.

The word Leviathan comes from the Hebrew word leviah, accompaniment, and represents a close relationship with G-d, such as that achieved by the greatest tzadikim, who accompany G-d constantly and are not separated from him for an instant. Eating the Leviathan represents our elevation to this level of closeness with the Divine. Although it will be a physical meal, it has profound spiritual implications; we eagerly await this meal as part of the fulfillment of the prophecy of Redemption.

 

 


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