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The Fox and the Fishes

The Fox and the Fishes


Once, the wicked government [of Rome] decreed that the Jewish people were forbidden to study Torah. Pappus ben Judah saw Rabbi Akiva convening gatherings in public and studying Torah [with them]. Said he to him: “Akiva, are you not afraid of the government?”

Said [Rabbi Akiva] to him: “I’ll give you a parable.

“A fox was walking along a river and saw fish rushing to and fro. Said he to them: ‘What are you fleeing?’

“Said they to him: ‘The nets that the humans spread for us.’

“Said he to them: ‘Why don’t you come out onto the dry land? We’ll live together, as my ancestors lived with your ancestors.’

“Said they to him: ‘Are you the one of whom it is said that you are the wisest of animals? You’re not wise, but foolish! If, in our environment of life we have cause for fear, how much more so in the environment of our death!’

“The same applies to us. If now, when we sit and study the Torah, of which it is said (Deuteronomy 30:20), ‘For it is your life and the lengthening of your days,’ such is our situation, how much more so if we neglect it . . .”

Talmud, Berachot 61b
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M.S.B. Israel March 16, 2016

Common Ancestral Envronment From the Mouth of R. Aqivah Phil from Thailand seems to have missed a subtle point in the fox's logic (wisdom known to our ancient Sages), which the fish does not deny: that the ancestors of foxes once lived together in the same environment with the ancestors of fish. Today, common ancestry of land creatures with fish (the mode by which Hashem created life) is a demonstrable truth revealed to us through modern science, and falsely decried by small minds as being contrary to Torah. And what discredit to evolution is he referring to? Discredit from pseudoscience?! Denial of solid science does not make you greater believer, and discredit by the ignorant is no discredit at all. Reply

Stan B. Garfield, New Jersey January 1, 2016

Story sounds familiar. Almost sounds comparable to the tale of the fox and the bird who held a cluster of grapes in her mouth. The fox wanted the grapes for food, but the bird refused; knowing the subtlety of the fox. But the fox manages to get the bird to sing, & the cluster of grapes falls from the bird & the fox gets the grapes Reply

Martin Alvarez Las Vegas Nevada January 25, 2015

Fox and the fishes. Thank you for printing my comment and I hope that you people heed my advice because what good can come out of it ??? Maybe I just dont know enough but thsy should at least have the opportunity to choose to get back in the water where they can live in there natural envirnment.Thank you so much.Martin Alvarez!!! Reply

Richard Kingman AZ January 24, 2015

I do not think the fox was overtly foolish. I think he was trying to get the fish out of water so as to eat them, just as the humans intended.....perhaps the fox was foolish to underestimate the intelligence of the fishes. Reply

Fro July 21, 2014

Profound! Reply

Phil Thailand July 18, 2014

Not only should we not trust foxes, but more so those who teach the discredited theory of evolution. G-d created the Earth and everything on it in 6 literal 24-hour days, about 6 000 regular years ago, so fish and mammals have no common ancestor, only an uncommon Creator. Reply

Marsha Michigan July 17, 2014

a wonderful parable and now I can use the fish symbol and tell this parable if asked by a Jew displays it. They will know the REAL story of the Fish. Reply

Angela Hoffberg Richland, MS July 17, 2014

The Fox and the Fishes I think the fox knew too little about the fishes. There is nothing new under the sun. We all have to experience life from the inside out, or either, the outside in. Reply

Kim Rogers South Africa July 15, 2014

The Fox and the Fishes As in school we are taught and then tested, so it is when we have been taught Torah. This is how our faith in God and His law is tested. We need to trust more in Him. Reply

Juan Maetin Alvarez Las Vagas Nevada March 14, 2014

Fox and Fishes I agree and I don't think its right that some poor people end up being forced to be living or working a lifestyle that make them be a a fish out of water. What good can come out of that. An honest job should be provided and where they are not worked beyond exhaustion.This practice should stop and its true if we are having it rough now (practicing our religion) it will only be much much worse. Let the people stay in the water where they can thieve. Especially the young girls! Reply

Born blessed December 7, 2013

Missing the point i think you have missed the point of the parable. Israel was different, they were not meant to walk as others did, but to immerse themselves in the Torah, as explained by Yehuda Shurpin for Reply

Stan Canada November 21, 2012

Thank More interesting...Shalom. Reply

Chayim portland, OR May 22, 2012

evolution Interesting that R. Akiva would evolution to teach a lesson on the importance Torah. Reply

Yehuda Shurpin for May 22, 2012

Re: Evolution Like all parables in the Talmud, especially the ones that state explicitly that they are a parable, every detail is exact and has meaning for the lesson that is being taught. This Parable is no different. The fish represent the Jewish nation, the water -the Torah, the fox, the nations of the world, the nets, the decrees and persecution meant ti destroy the Jewish nation. The fox tells the Jewish nation, why don't you abandon the Torah and be like us just as your forefathers did at the time of the destruction of the First Temple, as the Prophet states (Jermiah 9:12) "And the Lord said: (It is) because they have forsaken My Torah, which I set before them, and have not hearkened to My voice, nor walked by it." To that Rabbi Akiva replies "Torah is our life..." Reply

Chaim June 5, 2009

The Talmudic fox was aware of evolutionary theory many centuries before Darwin. Thank you for all of the excellent, meaningful content on! Reply

chayim sipple February 24, 2009

evolution interesting statement about the foxs' ancestors living with the fishes. does this mean that the fox was once some kind of fish? Reply

just a guy September 10, 2007

Attention It's OK What can we do if it's short? Rabbi Akiva was a wise man who got his point across, yet kept it brief! Reply

Harrisburg, PA November 14, 2005

It's ok. Well I like the story but it's so short. I wish it were longer. Reply

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