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According to the answers to Would a mermaid be kosher?, the Gemara and poskim apparently believed that mermaids exist, and would not be kosher.

So, if these mermaids and sirens exist, where would they be found? (Please do not tell me ♪ under the sea ♪.)

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  • Perhaps the talmudic mermaid is a different type of fish and not what we see today in cartoons.
    – Ani Yodea
    Jan 29, 2015 at 20:49
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    How in the world is this on topic? Jan 30, 2015 at 2:33
  • Also, this reminds me that we really need a 'metzius-realia' tag Jan 30, 2015 at 2:33
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    לא מצאתי אינו ראיה
    – MTL
    Jan 30, 2015 at 3:29

4 Answers 4

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Dr. Leiman writes on the mouse that is 'half-mouse-half-earth" that, (p.452):

"... it comes as no surprise that the rabbis discussed the status of a creature they had never seen, and one that modern scholarship would label as imaginary. The greatest scientists and historians of their day took its existence for granted. If so, its halakhic status needed to be discussed and clarified."

In the same articles Dr. Leiman quotes Sherira Gaon, Maimonides, Abraham Maimonides, and R. Samson Raphael Hirsch, all of whom admit that, to some degree, the Sages worked with the science and mathematics of their times, and that things they state in those fields should be considered in that vein.

Mermaid legends in the Near East began as far back as 1000 b.c.e. The Sages heard of such a creature, and felt that they needed to discuss it during this veterinary gloss in Bechorot.

So to answer the question, just because the Sages discuss a creature doesn't mean it exists, and can be found. It is possible that mermaids don't exist, and can't be found anywhere, and that the Sages were working with bad intel.

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  • +1 That is a well-researched and well-thought-out article by Sid Z. Leiman that you linked to.
    – Mike
    Jan 30, 2015 at 5:06
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    They were discussing halacha. Not whether mermaids really exist. Halacha on hypothetical situations is often discussed, it is likely these events never occurred.
    – CashCow
    Jan 30, 2015 at 8:37
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    @CashCow what is the halachah that is being stated? they simply say that They reproduce like or with humans. There is not citation to Mishnah Torah or to Shulkhan Aruch, as is normally the case with Halachot: dafyomi.org/index.php?masechta=bechoros&daf=8a
    – Baby Seal
    Jan 30, 2015 at 11:24
  • Why should we trust this doctor? Does he know more than Hashem? Feb 24, 2021 at 18:52
  • @bluejayke don't trust him, trust those he cites.
    – Baby Seal
    Feb 24, 2021 at 21:05
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The Gemara has a lot of philosophical discussion on what the halacha would be in a hypothetical situation that in reality probably never happened but is discussed for the sake of Torah and Emes.

So they were discussing the halacha of whether a mermaid is a kosher fish because it has fins and scales or whether it is a non-kosher mammal because it lacks the kosher signs of the cud and hoof.

They were expert in halacha, not science. Their halachic ruling is impeccable even if it would never actually apply in reality.

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    Giving examples of this discussion of hypothetical halachah would improve this answer.
    – Baby Seal
    Jan 30, 2015 at 10:46
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    I am sure it would but I don't carry an encyclopedia around with me.
    – CashCow
    Jan 30, 2015 at 10:49
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    I don't see how this answers the question? This gives some apologetics in case it turns out that there are no mermaids even though chazal thought there were. But that wasn't the question...
    – Double AA
    Jan 30, 2015 at 18:31
  • Next you'll be asking where the Loch Ness Monster is. (In Loch Ness, of course, where else is he?). And does the Leviathan have fins and scales so is it kosher?
    – CashCow
    Feb 2, 2015 at 9:44
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Rabbi Slifkin addresses Mermaides, concluding that they are probably dolphins, in a post entitled "The Wisdom of ArtScroll" (for once, not sarcastically) which he features in his book Sacred Monsters.

As a summary he writes:

"In brief: The Gemara provides a perfectly accurate account of dolphins. Rashi, however, for reasons that I discuss in my book, (mis)understood the Gemara to be referring to mermaids. Which, in the view of most (but not all) people, do not exist."

He then quotes the Artscroll:

“There are marine animals,” writes Rashi, “half of whose bodies are of human form, and half in the form of a fish. They are called sereine in French.” Rashi clearly refers to mermen (the French sereine derives from Latin siren, meaning mermaid), whose existence was widely accepted in the ancient and medieval world and indeed until recent centuries. (According to Raavad in his commentary to Toras Kohanim 3:7, sirens are mentioned as well in Toras Kohanim ibid.) As understood by Rashi, then, the Baraisa teaches that humans and mermen can interbreed.

Others suggest that the dolphins of the Baraisa are none other than the familiar dolphins of the order Cetaceans. These endothermic (warm-blooded) air-breathing mammals “reproduce as do humans” (following the variant kbnei adam) in that they copulate ventrum to ventrum (the manner ascribed to humans later in the Baraisa), bear live young, suckle their calves, and rear them intensively for six or seven years, to near adulthood. Dolphins were known by very similar names in the milieu of the Baraisa: Latin delphinus, from Greek delphis. Delphis is related to delphys, meaning womb, so that the genitive delphinos probably denoted [a sea creature] possessed of a womb; the very name dolfinin thus suggests that the animals in question “reproduce as do humans.” Rav Yehudah may have called dolphins sons (or people) of the sea because of their affinity for humans (they commonly approach and accompany boats), and because they often evince humanlike intelligence in their behaviors and social interactions.

So to answer your question: mermaids are actually dolphins. Primarily found in the sea.

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  • If you take that a step further, anatomically both in terms of skeleton and internal organs, Cetaceans, which include porpoise, dolphin and whales including Orcas are exactly what is described, upper half human-like and bottom-half similar to fish. Brain size and brain to body mass ratios are also very similar. Here is an interesting link showing genetic similarities between humans and bottlenose dolphins: epitracker.com/dolphinhuman.html May 30, 2023 at 14:55
  • This link to Wikipedia on dolphins is also very relevant in the context of the sections discussing Senses, Intelligence, and Behavior. The bottlenose dolphins have two forms of sound communication, one like human vocal chords and the other related to sonar and echo location. The sonar type gives them a more advanced level of auditory experience than humans where they see via sound. This type of perception is described in relation to the giving of the Torah when we saw what is normally heard. This was associated with the prophetic experience. May 30, 2023 at 15:12
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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration themselves have said:

Scientists estimate that 91 percent of ocean species have yet to be classified, and that more than eighty percent of our ocean is unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored.. While these statistics may sound daunting, they have not stopped the global scientific community from striving to amass as much knowledge as possible about ocean life.

Since scientists say the vast majority of the ocean has yet to be explored, the answer may simply be that mermaids are out there among the unseen 80% of the ocean.

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