According to the Mishna (Niddah 6:9), any fish that has scales also has a fin, but not all fish that have fins also have scales (כל שיש לו קשקשת יש לו סנפיר ויש שיש לו סנפיר ואין לו קשקשת). If that is so, why does the Torah need to tell us that fish require both scales and a fin (Leviticus 11:9-12)? Why not just tell us that they only require scales?


1 Answer 1


The Talmud Bavli there asks this question (Niddah 51b (English)):

כל שיש לו קשקשת דג טהור יש שיש לו סנפיר ואין לו קשקשת דג טמא מכדי אנן אקשקשת סמכינן סנפיר דכתב רחמנא למה לי אי לא כתב רחמנא סנפיר הוה אמינא מאי קשקשת דכתיב סנפיר ואפילו דג טמא כתב רחמנא סנפיר וקשקשת והשתא דכתב רחמנא סנפיר וקשקשת מנלן דקשקשת לבושא הוא דכתיב ושריון קשקשים הוא לבוש ולכתוב רחמנא קשקשת ולא בעי סנפיר א"ר אבהו וכן תנא דבי רבי ישמעאל יגדיל תורה ויאדיר:‏
WHATSOEVER HAS SCALES [etc.] [viz.] a clean fish; THERE ARE SOME THAT HAVE FINS AND NO SCALES, refers to an unclean fish. Now consider: Since we rely on the scales, what need then was there for the All Merciful to mention fins? — If the All Merciful had not written fins it might have been presumed that the written word kaskeseth meant fins and that even an unclean fish [is, therefore, permitted]. Hence has the All Merciful written 'fins' and 'scales'. But now that the All Merciful has written both 'fins' and 'scales', whence is it deduced that kaskeseth means the covering? Because it is written, And he was clad with a coat of mail. Then why did not the All Merciful write kaskeseth and there would be no need for the mention of fins? — R. Abbahu replied and so it was also taught at the school of R. Ishmael: To make the teaching great and glorious.

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    Yes, this is one of the "classic" proof of the veracity of Torah because who beyond the Creator of the world would know that there is no fish with scales and no fins. I seem to remember some saying that science had indeed found no such counterexample, others saying this was not true. Any idea what is correct?
    – mbloch
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 15:56
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    @mbloch There's no correct. Some define fish as squirmy things in the sea, and they find counterexamples. Some define fish as "things that look like a tuna" and they don't find counterexamples. The latter claim is about as boring as having "discovered" that no reptile is missing a backbone, IMO. If you limit yourselves to specific taxonomic groups, you'll obviously only find species with similar major body features.
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 16:30
  • @mbloch you could see my answer here for an interesting alternative take on that gemara (which totally changes the whole "proof" of the wisdom of the Torah) Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 23:22
  • @Yez saw it now, interesting, indeed reverts the whole problem on its head, thanks for sharing
    – mbloch
    Commented Apr 26, 2016 at 4:37

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