Where can I find the source of the following story about the Rebbe of Kotzk?

At a Shabbat dinner, a chassid once told the Rebbe of Kotzk, "I love fish." The Rebbe responded, "You don't love fish. If you loved the fish, you would not have killed it and cooked it on a fire."

How does this fit with Kohelet - Chapter 5

9. Whoever loves silver will not be sated with silver, and he who loves a multitude without increase-this too is vanity. - ?

  • 1
    Beyond the chassid and the Rebbe's crossed signals, why do you believe that the meaning of whatever word they were using (in Yiddish, I guess) needs to have an identical meaning to Hebrew word "אֹהֵב" as used in Kohelet?
    – Isaac Moses
    Oct 27, 2014 at 20:29
  • @IsaacMoses that is why i am asking for the source. i want to see the original,, this story is often used to explain that the word "love" is misused , from Kohelet it seems that it is not
    – hazoriz
    Oct 27, 2014 at 20:31
  • 1
    related: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Word_sense Oct 27, 2014 at 21:07
  • @CharlesKoppelman that is an answer to the second part of the question
    – hazoriz
    Oct 27, 2014 at 22:46
  • Related (dupe?): judaism.stackexchange.com/q/15911/5
    – Seth J
    Oct 29, 2014 at 16:29

2 Answers 2


I can't help with a source of the story, but the distinction in usage seems to be clear. A fish is an animate being, with things that are detrimental to its own interests and things that the fish itself does not like. Therefore, love in that context would mean to look want what is best for it. Killing and eating the fish is not in the fish's best interest. The silver, on the other hand, does not have feelings and does not have its own interests. Love of silver therefore contextually does not have anything to do with the best interests of the silver, and instead would mean that you enjoy the silver, which manifests in wanting to have it.

Alternatively, they could both be working with the definition of love that R' Hirsch gives in ch. 9 of Horeb, namely that to love something means you see your completion through it. So someone who loves silver sees his completion through silver. He will never have enough silver, because silver cannot bring him true fulfillment. Someone who loves fish sees his completion through the fish, and therefore wants to keep the fish around.

Alternatively, the Rebbe of Kotzk did not mean to re-define what "love" is, but to drive home a message to the Chassid in a memorable way.

  • +1 But i would've said slightly different. Love can be classified as carrying for properly, therefore the love of fish will lead a person to sustain it in a proper habitat. The love of money will lead a person to lock it in a vault.
    – user6591
    Oct 29, 2014 at 12:27

The line with the fish in the story is also printed in Lev Eliyahu from R' Elya Lopian tz"l in parshas Vayeitzei where he discusses the love Yaakov had for Rochel - a 'beautiful' peice if you can get you hands on it.

( Obviously, Reb Elya was using the line to describe true love, making @Shmuel's question valid)

I think the lesson from the kotzker / Reb Elya applies to what Shlomo Hamelech was saying in Koheles since loving silver means caring for it as one would care for another human being that they love (ex. the concept that men who love their cars, wash it and care for it). Of course the underlying idea here is like @YEZ mentioned that they really care about themselves and loving silver (they believe) will make them feel good.

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