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The Torah (Vayikra 11:9) writes

אֶת־זֶה֙ תֹּֽאכְל֔וּ מִכֹּ֖ל אֲשֶׁ֣ר בַּמָּ֑יִם כֹּ֣ל אֲשֶׁר־לוֹ֩ סְנַפִּ֨יר וְקַשְׂקֶ֜שֶׂת בַּמַּ֗יִם בַּיַּמִּ֛ים וּבַנְּחָלִ֖ים אֹתָ֥ם תֹּאכֵֽלוּ - These you may eat of all that live in water: anything in water, whether in the seas or in the streams, that has fins and scales—these you may eat.

Why are fins and scales particularly the kosher signs for fish?

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According to Rambam, fins and scales have nothing inherently to do with fish being kosher or not. There’s just a perfect correlation between fins/scales and being kosher.

Guide for the Perplexed 3:48

The characteristics given in the Law (Lev. xi., and Deut. xiv.) of the permitted animals, viz., chewing the cud and divided hoofs for cattle, and fins and scales for fish, are in themselves neither the cause of the permission when they are present, nor of the prohibition when they are absent; but merely signs by which the recommended species of animals can be discerned from those that are forbidden.

(Friedlander translation)

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  • The probability of that happening by coincidence is ridiculously tiny though – Heshy Apr 12 at 21:45
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Maybe this idea about the symbolism of fins and scales from the Lubavitcher Rebbe can help:

As the armor that protects the body of the fish, scales represent the quality of integrity, which protects us from the many pitfalls that life presents. A man of integrity will not deceive his customers, in spite of the financial profits involved. He will not lie to a friend, despite the short-term gain from doing so. He will not cheat on his wife, in the face of tremendous temptation. Integrity means that one has absolute standards of right and wrong and is committed to a morality that transcends one’s moods and desires. Integrity preserves our souls from temptation.

Fins, the wing-like organs that propel fish forward, represent ambition. A healthy sense of ambition, knowing one’s strengths and wanting to utilize them in full, gives a person the impetus to traverse the turbulent sea of life and to maximize his or her G‑d-given potential. It propels us to fulfill our dreams and leave our unique imprint on the world.

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