Sunday, February 10, 2008

Small Fish, Large Fish

Rav Papa said to Abaye (Nedarim 51b): How do we know that when he says, “Fish (dag) that I will not taste,” dag implies large ones only? It is because it is written [Yonah 2:1]: Now Hashem had prepared a large fish (dag) to swallow up Yonah? But isn’t it also written: Then Yonah prayed to Hashem, his God from the inside of the fish (dagah)?

The Gemora answers: This is no difficulty: Perhaps the large fish spit him out and he was swallowed again by a smaller one.

But, the Gemora asks: What of the verse regarding the plague of blood, where it is written [Shmos 7:21]: And the fish (dagah) that was in the river died? Did only the small fish die, not the large?

The Gemora concludes: Dagah written in the Torah implies both large and small, but regarding vows, the language used by the public is followed.

It would seem that according to Abaye, the word dagah in the Torah refers only to small fish. Accordingly, we would be compelled to say that only the small fish dies in the plague of blood. Why would this be?

The Rogatchover Gaon explains: The river was dug by the hands of the Egyptians. The Yerushalmi rules regarding fish that swim into one’s private water; he acquires only the small ones and not the large ones. Accordingly, it can be explained that only the fish belonging to the Egyptians died, but the large fish, which they did not own, there was no reason for them to die.

The Rama in Shulchan Aruch (C”M 331:1) rules that a worker may return to his home on Friday afternoon, early enough that he will have the time to fill a jug of water and roast a small fish.

The Shach asks as to what is the source for the Rama’s ruling that it is sufficient if he has ample time to cook a small fish? Perhaps, he should leave his work with enough time to cook a large fish?

The Nitzotzei Ohr answers that the language of the Yerushalmi, which is the source for this halacha, is dagah, and the Rama understands that to be referring to a small fish.