In the Jewish tradition, as in the Christian, fish are symbolic of fertility and abundance. They thus appear on a wide variety of Judaica objects and manuscripts. The prevalence of the fish symbol on illustrated ketubbot (wedding manuscripts) and on amulets for barren women is quite obvious.

Many spice boxes, used in the Havdalah ceremony which bids goodbye to the Sabbath on Saturday evening, are shaped like fish. The Havdalah ceremony closes with the words, "May He who separates between the sacred and the everyday, forgive our sins and cause our children and our money to multiply like the sand"; the use of the fish as a symbol of abundance is thus understandable in this context.


There is a strong association between fishes and the festival of Purim. The fish sign is found also on Adar tablets called Misheniknas, from the initial word of the expression: Misheniknas Adar marbim b'simcha — When the month of Adar begins, we make plenty of merry.[*]. These paper wall tablets, used chiefly in Galicia, are decorated with picures of drinking men, wine bottles, and two symbols of fertility — fishes and the stork.

Plates for sending food gifts (mishloah manot) on Purim and even the forms themselves for baking Purim cakes, often used the shape of a fish. In addition to its association with plenty (because of the corresponding verse "in Adar we make plenty of merry"), the fish symbolizes the month itself, whose zodiac sign is Pisces.



[*] Babylonian Talmud, Ta'anit 9a [back]

FISH Table of Contents




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