Shemini – Beast, Bird and Fish

Earth, Air and Water

In this week’s Parasha, the subject of “kosher” living things can be summarized into three[1] primary categories:

  1. Beasts of the earth;
  2. Fish of the water;
  3. Birds of the air.

God created beasts from the earth (Gen 1:24).

God created fish from the water (Gen 1:20).

God created birds from the mire, which is the intermediate state between water and earth, how do we know? In one place it is written that God created birds from the water (Gen 1:20), whereas in another place it is written that God created birds from the earth (Gen 2:19), it follows that God must have created birds from both earth and water, i.e. the mixture of earth and water which is mire.

Water and fire are the dichotomy which is reconciled by air; fire and earth, on the other hand, have natural affinity.

Abraham is water, Isaac is fire, Jacob is air, and Esau (Edom) is earth. Jacob reconciles Abraham and Isaac in beauty, but Isaac loved Esau for Edom אֱדוֹם is of the same root as earth Adamah אֲדָמָה.

Beasts are of the earth, but they are also of the fire. Beasts are called Chayot חַיּוֹת, and angles are also called Chayot חַיּוֹת in Ezekiel 1:5. Angles are made from both fire and spirit (Psalm 104:4), connecting fire with air. Moses was drawn from water, symbolizing Mashiach. Water is represented by letter Mem מ, which is the 13th letter, the gematria of Moses מֹשֶׁה is 345, when Moses was drawn from water: 345 + 13 = 358, exactly the gematria of Mashiach מָּשִׁיחַ.

It may be surmised that the beasts are made in the image of angels (as neither of them have free will), in the same sense that man is made in the image of God (both having free will).

It is now obvious that in the same way that water and fire are dichotomy, so is fish and beast. In the same way that birds are made from the mixture of water and earth, so are birds the intermediate between fish and beasts, as such birds are of the air, exactly as they’re called, birds of the air.

For this reason birds have scales like fish but they also walks on land like the beast, their uniqueness is their ability to sing and to fly.

Adam gave names to beasts and birds (Gen 2:20), but he didn’t do so for the fish.

To “name” something is to “define” something, which is the act of limiting. Beasts and birds are of a lower level, hence they can be defined. Fish is of a higher level, and they can’t be defined.

Beast, bird and fish represent three categories of believers: the physical, the intermediate, and the spiritual. The lower levels must be continuously offered on the altar as the sacrifices to subdue their animal drives, but there is no such commandment to offer fish on the altar, nor do they require ritual slaughtering, as it is totally unnecessary.

If beasts are of the world of formation (Yetzirah) which are the domain of angles, then birds are of the world of creation (Beriah) which are the domain of souls, it follows that fish are of the world of emanation (Atzilut) which are the domain of water. This is where Rabbi Akiva warned his three companions about not saying “water, water”, for the world of emanation looks exactly like water, or sea of glass (Rev 4:6).

Water is Neshamah, air is Ruach, fire is Nefesh, this is well established:

Water Fish Neshamah נְשָׁמָה
Air Bird Ruach רוּחַ
Earth/Fire Beast Nefesh נֶפֶשׁ




Torah, Tefilah, and Mitzvah

Torah is of the mind, the domain of Neshamah, the water, and the fish of the sea;

Tefilah (prayer) is of the speech, the domain of Ruach, the air, and the birds of the air;

Mitzvah (commandment) is of the action, the domain of Nefesh, the fire/earth, and the beast of the earth.



Nefesh – Beasts – Actions

The Nefesh of man is the beast within us which is the “drive” behind our outward actions, our job is to tame the beast and rectify our actions. The “kosher” beast must have two signs: chewing the cud is internal, not so obvious to the eyes, and cloven hooves are external, obvious to the eyes.

This corresponds to the two aspects of our action:

chewing the cud not obvious intention – kavanah כַּוָנָה 81
cloven hooves obvious action – maaseh מַעֲשֵׂה 415


496 is exactly the gematria of the spelling out of “to do”, i.e. taking actions:

To do עָשָׂה
496 עין שין הא


Our “kosher” action therefore must possess both good intention and good outward appearance, the perfect union of the two is the key to the building of the Kingdom, as 496 is also the gematria of kingdom, מַלְכוּת.

The act of chewing the cud is working continuously to grind the food, which in our analogy is working continuously to refine one’s internal motives.

The cloven hooves have two hooves, with number 2 symbolizing the balanced approach between right and left, the giving (chesed) and the restraining from giving (gevurah).

The camel chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, this is he who has good intentions but has not attempted to actualize them with good deeds. It is not kosher. This is he who fulfills the commandments in thought but never in action.

The pig is the opposite: it appears to have outward good deeds (cloven hooves), but its intention is not refined (not chewing the cud), hence it is impure (with ulterior motives). This is he who fulfills the commandments in actions for outward appearance, but never attempted to refine his thought.



Neshamah – Fish – Torah Study

Fish lives in water, and water is always the metaphor for Torah.

Fish that has scales also have fins, but fish that has fins does not necessarily have scales.

Scale is the “armor” that protects (restrains) the fish, and fin is the “wing” that propels the fish to swim with freedom.

Neshamah corresponds to the intellectual pursuit, its most elevated form is Torah study. The four levels of Torah interpretation can be summarized in two categories as follows:

Revealed Scales פְּשָׁט Peshat Literal, simple interpretation
רֶמֶז Remez Hints, gematria, allegorical, symbolic interpretation
דְּרַשׁ Derash Seeking, inquiring, reconciling peshat with remez
Concealed Fins סוֹד Sod Esoteric, mystical secrets


The first three levels, Peshat, Remez and Derash correspond to the “scales” of the fish, this is the basic, simple meaning of Torah which is meant to protect man from making mistakes, paralleling the left side of the Sefirot, the understanding (Binah) of simple, plain details.

These three levels are the foundation from which a man can attain a deeper insight at the “sod” level, which is the right side of the Sefirot, the wisdom (Chochmah), the flash of lightening in the darkness.

When a man attains the original insights at a deeper level, it is as if the fish is “soaring” with fins in deep water with complete freedom and clarity. This is what it means: “if you’re led by the Spirit, you’re not under the law” (Gal 5:18), i.e. you have achieved the level of “sod” which goes beyond the literal, simple understanding, as you have tapped into the source.

A man with solid foundations (scales) will have original insights (fins), but the opposite is not necessarily true, as a man can go wild with ideas (fins) without having the foundation or framework (scales).

For this reason, any novel interpretation of the Torah can’t contract the simple, plain meaning of the text, for a finned fish without the scales is not kosher.

Scales קַשְׂקֶשֶׂת 1200
Fins סְנַפִּיר 400


The gematria of “fins” is exactly ¼ of the total sum of fins and scales, meaning, the original insight is always part of the four levels of understanding (Pardes).

1600 is 40 squared, where 40 is the gematria of Mem, מ, meaning water (Torah), hence the kosher fish with scales and fins represents the complete understanding of Torah.

When the gematria of scales and fins (1600) is added to Torah תּוֹרָה (611):

1600 + 611 = 2211 = 67 x 33

Where 67 is the gematria of understanding, “Binah”, בִּינָה, corresponding to the “scales”, the foundation and framework of the simple understanding.

33 is the gematria of the first word of Psalm 119:18: Open (גָל) my eyes, that I may see the wonders of your Torah, corresponding to the “fins”, the secret, the “sod” level of Torah.

In the rabbinical world, the broadest meaning of Torah includes both the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud. While there are many similarities and differences between them, in the context of our study of “fins” and “scales”, and in simple term, Jerusalem Talmud is more concise, deeper, while Babylonian Talmud is more elaborated, and plain.

It may be surmised that the Jerusalem Talmud represents the “fins” at the “sod” level, while the Babylonian Talmud represents the “scales” at the simple level.

Their gematria of them is exactly 1600, that of fins and scales:

Scales Babylonian Talmud תַּלְמוּד בַּבְלִי 524
Fins Jerusalem Talmud תַּלְמוּד יְרוּשָׁלְמִי 1076


In her most limited sense the five books of Moses is called Torah, in her boarder sense, the entire Tenakh can also be called Torah.

Similarly, the New Testament is the New Covenant בְּרִית חֲדָשָֽׁה mentioned in Jeremiah 31:30. The essence of the New Covenant is the same Torah written in the heart by Mashiach. Additionally, the New Covenant came to deal with the problem of the “nations”, which is beyond the rabbinical scope.

The gematria:

Scales Torah תּוֹרָה 611
Fins New Covenant בְּרִית חֲדָשָֽׁה 929


1540 is the gematria of Israel יִשְׂרָאֵל when Alef is counted as 1000, alluding to the exalted state of Israel when the New Covenant is revealed, as it is written:

הִנֵּה יָמִים בָּאִים, נְאֻם-יְהוָה וְכָרַתִּי, אֶת-בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאֶת-בֵּית יְהוּדָה–בְּרִית חֲדָשָׁה Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah (Jeremiah 31:30)


If Torah represents the simple level, the “scales”; the New Torah, or New Covenant is the same Torah revealed at the “sod” level by Mashiach, corresponding to the “fins”.

While at the simple level the Torah said nothing about the redemption plan for the nations, which is a secret concealed under the simple text of Torah, only to be revealed by Mashiach in the New Covenant.

The gematria:

Torah תּוֹרָה 611
New Covenant בְּרִית חֲדָשָֽׁה 929
Nations גּוֹיִם 59


Since 1540 is the gematria of Israel יִשְׂרָאֵל when Alef is counted as 1000, when Alef is counted as both 1000 and 1, the gematria becomes 1540 + 1 = 1541, which when unified with 59, the gematria of Nations, the union is exactly 1600, the sum of “fins” and “scales”, this is when the New Covenant is revealed at the “sod” level of Torah, thus making peace, i.e. the Covenant of Peace.

The New Covenant therefore can also be called the Convent of Peace, the gematria is also 1599 when unified with Torah:

Scales Torah תּוֹרָה 611
Fins Covenant of Peace בְּרִית שָׁלוֹם 988


Adding 1 for the unification, the union becomes 1599 + 1 = 1600, exactly the gematria of “fins” and “scales”, the sign of the kosher fish.



Ruach – Bird – Prayer

Bird flies in the wind, the Hebrew word for “wind” is the same as “spirit”, which is Ruach, רוּחַ, corresponding to speech, with its most elevated form in prayer.

No definition for kosher bird is prescribed by Torah, except that the non-kosher ones are explicitly named.

No definition means there is no restriction as to how one should pray to God, except that one should be mindful of the listed birds.

Upon closer examination, it appears that the common denominator for the unkosher birds is their ability to fly very high. As an example, the vulture can fly up to 11,000 meters high and the raven is known for its aerial stunts.

In contrast, of those that swarm the earth (down to earth) and fly at much lower height, certain insects are singled out and named as kosher, such as locusts, grasshoppers, etc.

One may draw a conclusion that while there is no limit to one’s prayer to God, one should stay low rather than go high.

Going high means being haughty, and staying low means to pray with a contrite heart, as it is written in Ezekiel 17:24: I am YHVH, I will bring “low” the “high” trees (כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה הִשְׁפַּלְתִּי עֵץ גָּבֹהַּ); or as in Prov 16:19, better is a low spirit (טוֹב שְׁפַל-רוּחַ)…

Four entered the Garden only Rabbi Akiva came out unscathed, this attests to the danger of flying too high.

This week’s Parasha starts with the death of Nadav and Avihu. They had ventured into the Holy of Holies with burning incense (symbolic of prayer) which was not commanded, and they were consumed by fire. They obviously had gone over and above the “height” limit.

Prayer, especially deep meditation can tread into some dangerous spiritual realms, and a person can be easily tempted by some higher “spirit”, if one is not disciplined.

For this reason, only pigeon and turtle-dove from the bird family are specified as the sacrifices on the altar. They apparently don’t fly as high as vultures, or eagles.

The most common kosher meat from the bird family is chicken, and they are very much down to earth.

There are two Hebrew words for bird in Torah:

oaf – that which flies (with wings) עוֹף
tzipor – that which chirps (by making sound) צִפּוֹר


This comes to teach us that there are two aspects to the prayer: through making verbal sound (צִפּוֹר), and by ascending high (עוֹף).

The initial letters of these two words spell “etz”, עֵץ, meaning tree. The best place (height) for the birds to fly to and sing their songs of prayer is on the tree, and at a deeper level, this is none other than the tree of life.

[1] None of the creeping things (שֶׁרֶץ) are permitted for eating, hence they’re not part of the three categories. The permitted insects such as locust, etc. are called swarming bird (שֶׁרֶץ הָעוֹף) in Torah, as such they can be categorized as the bird.

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