legends retold in Louis Ginzberg's classic work Legends of the Bible
are a variation of the stories in the Scriptures as told and retold in the
ancient east since the days of Abraham
in synagogues and churches and then in homes of a hundred generations of
people. Among Ginzberg's[*]
legends, culled them from a vast literature scattered over many countries
and centuries, are those that describe fascinating creatures not mentioned
in the biblical
On the fifth
day of creation, on same day with the fishes, the birds were created, for these
two kinds of animals are closely related to each other. Fish are fashioned out
of water, and birds out of marshy ground saturated with water.
leviathan is the king of fishes, so the ziz is appointed to rule over the birds.
His name comes from the variety of tastes his flesh has; it tastes like this,
zeh, and like that, zeh. The ziz is as monstrous of size as leviathan
himself. His ankles rest on the earth, and his head reaches to the very sky.
It once happened
that travelers on a vessel noticed a bird. As he stood in the water, it merely
covered his feet, and his head knocked against the sky. The onlookers thought
the water could not have any depth at that point, and they prepared to rake
a bath there. A heavenly voice warned them: "Alight not here! Once a carpenter's
axe slipped from his hand at this spot, and it took it seven years to touch
bottom." The bird the travelers saw was none other than the ziz.
His wings are
so huge that unfurled they darken the sun. They protect the earth against the
storms of the south; without their aid the earth would nor be able to resist
the winds blowing thence. Once an egg of the ziz fell to the ground and broke.
The fluid from it flooded sixty cities, and the shock crushed three hundred
cedars. Fortunately such accidents do not occur frequently. As a rule the bird
lets her eggs slide gently into her nest. This one mishap was due to the fact
that the egg was rotten, and the bird cast it away carelessly.
The ziz has
another name, Renanim, because he is the celestial singer. On account
of his relation to the heavenly regions he is also called Sekwi, the
seer, and, besides, he is called "son of the nest," because his fledgling
birds break away from the shell without being hatched by the mother bird; they
spring directly from the nest, as it were. Like leviathan, so ziz is a delicacy
to be served to the pious at the end of time, to compensate them for the privations
which abstaining from the unclean fowls imposed upon them.
cities far across the sea there is a bird called kerum
and when sun shines on it, it changes into ever so many colors."
(TB Ber. 6b)
did you perhaps ever hear of the hol?
When Louis Ginzberg died in 1953, he was recognized as the world's upstanding
scholar in the field of Talmudic learning. His studies were carried on at
the universities of Berlin, Strassburg and Heidelberg, and from 1902 at
the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, where he served with distinction
as Professor of Talmud for more than half a century. The Legend of the Jews,
a massive seven-volume work with notes, written in German, and translated
into some forty languages, was originally published for scholars (the first
volume was published in 1909). This selection from a shorter and simpler
edition, published by Jewish Publication Society in 1975. [back]
From: Louis Ginzberg, Legends of the Bible © 1956; 1992 by the Jewish
(Philadelphia, PA), p. 15. By permission of the publisher.
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