Weekly Parsha Review Laced with Humor and Sarcasm from The Oisvorfer Ruv

Bereishis 2023: Mrs. Liviyoson (Leviathan), OBM and Tales From the Sea

Raboyseyee and Ladies:

Though the heylige Ois is home -having cancelled a three- and one-half week trip abroad- there is no new parsha review this week. He has been unable to concentrate since the news broke this past Shabbis. He is unsettled and has butterflies in his stomach. He is consumed with the fate of the many hostages and what they are enduring. May the RBSO please have mercy on them and on all the broken families.

This is what I wrote in 2019.


Mrs. Liviyoson (Leviathan), OBM and Tales From the Sea:

We begin this week’s Bereishis review with the announcement of a death, one that took place 5780 years ago? Who died and how? Stay tuned.

Sukkis is finally over and discussions –mostly rational- over eating or not, in the Sukkah on Shmini Atzeres will be revived next year. This year the Ois and eishes chayil hosted lunch company on that day and it so happened that one of the guests whose family minhag is not to eat in the Sukkah, changed his practice some twelve years back and is now convinced that we are required to do so. What to do when the others don’t? Thankfully all went well as the one guest –after washing his hands pri-motzi- quietly snuck off into the sukkah where he broke challah and then returned to the table. He snuck out once again for benching and all worked out fantastically. He shall remain unnamed but is making a wedding this coming Sunday, mazel tov! Ober one thing all Yiddin do agree on is this: there is a custom on this day to recite a short goodbye tifilah (prayer) to the sukkah. Its words are relevant to the title of this week’s review.

“May it be your will, Lord our G-d and G-d of our forefathers, that just as I have fulfilled and dwelled in this sukkah, so may I merit in the coming year to dwell in the sukkah of the skin of Liviyoson. Next year in Yirusholayim.”

Who is the Liviyoson? Why are we praying to dwell in his or her sukkah? Where is its sukkah? And why would we want to dwell in its skin? Stay tuned.

Given the thousands of pages written on dragons, other sea creatures and even dinosaurs, it’s a shtikel perplexing that it took until 1851 before we met Moby Dick, and 1997, before J.K. Rowling introduced the world to Harry Potter. Ober long before movies about dragons and sea monsters were being made, and thousands of years before Moby Dick, the great white and terrifying whale was introduced by Herman Melville, the heylige Toirah –in this week’s parsha mamish- will introduce us to dragons and other ginormous sea creatures. It does? Let’s learn the one posik that has spurred more discussion and imagination than most others we read and wonder about. To chap what went down, we need to go back and read the events of day five. Says the heylige Toirah (Bereishis 1:21), azoy:

“The RBSO created the great dragons, along with every living thing that crawl, with which the waters teem, of its kind, and every winged creature of its kind. The RBSO saw that it was good.”

And the bottom line: all this dragon talk throughout history which includes, movies, books, comics and more, come from the same source that all else comes from: the heylige Toirah! And it all unfolds this coming Shabbis as the world gets ready to begin a new cycle of Toirah readings with the parsha of Bereishis.

It’s taka emes that many are shuled-out (had more than enough shul over Sukkis to last at least a few weeks), and having gained a few pounds or more around the middle since Rosh Hashono, many feel like beached whales, ober, this coming shabbis we’re back to ground and day zero. We shall read how the RBSO –out of nothing and nothingness- created the entire world in six days and rested on day seven, hence the heylige shabbis. We will also read about the creation of man – efsher a mistake as the RBSO will conclude at the very end of the parsha. Said the RBSO (Bereishis 6: 5-7), azoy:

5. And the Lord saw that the evil of man was great in the earth, and every imagination of his heart was only evil all the time.


  הוַיַּ֣רְא יְהֹוָ֔ה כִּ֥י רַבָּ֛ה רָעַ֥ת הָֽאָדָ֖ם בָּאָ֑רֶץ וְכָל־יֵ֨צֶר֙ מַחְשְׁבֹ֣ת לִבּ֔וֹ רַ֥ק רַ֖ע כָּל־הַיּֽוֹם:
6. And the Lord regretted that He had made man upon the earth, and He became grieved in His heart.   ווַיִּנָּ֣חֶם יְהֹוָ֔ה כִּֽי־עָשָׂ֥ה אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֖ם בָּאָ֑רֶץ וַיִּתְעַצֵּ֖ב אֶל־לִבּֽוֹ:

7. And the Lord said, “I will blot out man, whom I created, from upon the face of the earth, from man to cattle to creeping thing, to the fowl of the heavens, for I regret that I made them.”
  זוַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהֹוָ֗ה אֶמְחֶ֨ה אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֤ם אֲשֶׁר־בָּרָ֨אתִי֙ מֵעַל֨ פְּנֵ֣י הָֽאֲדָמָ֔ה מֵֽאָדָם֙ עַד־בְּהֵמָ֔ה עַד־רֶ֖מֶשׂ וְעַד־ע֣וֹף הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם כִּ֥י נִחַ֖מְתִּי כִּ֥י עֲשִׂיתִֽם:

We have previously covered many topics in this parsha, ober thankfully, not all.  Avada everyone knows how Kayin and Hevel (Cain and Abel) despite having enough world for each to share, enjoy, and live comfortably, did not. Instead, jealousy –a trait that has never gone away- got in the way and shoin; by mid-parsha, Kayin killed Hevel, and just like that, the first ever capital offense was committed. Next to the original sin perpetrated by the then upright –in more than one way, if you chap, snake- and which also ensnared Chava and her husband, and next to the first case of fratricide, not to be confused with sororicide, (the act of killing one’s own sister), the parsha contains yet another fascinating murder/mystery. It does? In what posik? Where can this murder be found? Did it mamish take place? Who dunit? And where is this written? Let’s find out. Before we do, let’s also shout out Avsholom, he the not so well-behaved son of Dovid Hamelech, who was efsher the first copycat killer. He also killed his own brother, Amnon. Why did he kill him? The heylige Novee (Shmuel 2-13) tells us that Avsholom killed Amnon after Dovid Hamelech, (King David), failed to punish Amnon for raping Tamar, their own sister. Oy vey! Ober those stories for another day. Of course, we chap that Dovid was not in a great position to admonish or react when it came to sexual misdeeds, if you chap. It’s avada good to be the king.  Shoin!

Sea Dragons are good? The RBSO, on day five, having created them saw that it was good? What’s pshat? What are they? Where are they? What good have they performed? How about sea monsters? Other than in a Disney movie or a mention in a Harry Potter book, have any of you –in your own lifetimes- seen a dragon or a sea monster recently? If the RBSO saw they were good, where are they today? He did –so says the heylige Toirah- create them.

Says the medrish: that on this day –day five of creation- and before man was created, the RBSO created all kinds of fish, male and female, having all sorts of forms. Says Rabaynu Bichaya: “some Greek scientists, quoted by Nachmanadies, claimed that they had personally observed sea monsters having bodies 500 miles long.”  Shoin: you don’t have to be Greek to exaggerate when it comes to length and size, if you chap. Disclaimer: not every chumish translates the words “taninim hagidoilim” as great dragons. Some say the reference is to sea monsters. Ober, a good number of the English translations the  heylige Ois consulted over the last 24 hours (and isn’t that enough for due diligence), do in fact translate the words as meaning “great dragons.” There was once such a thing? Is that what we were taught in yeshiva? Veyter.

Whether the word “taninim” means or ever meant great dragons, or sea monsters, ver veyst, ober, what is zicher is that the heylige Gemora tells givaldige mystical –perhaps even true, ver veyst- tales about these great dragons/fish-monsters, or whatever they were. Ober, before we cover one, or more of them, let’s read one more English translation of pisukim 20 and 21 of the chapter, and then let’s see what caught Rashi’s attention. Says the heylige Toirah (Bereishis 1:20-21), azoy:

G-d said: “let the water teem with creeping living creatures, and fowl that fly about over the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” And G-d created the great sea-giants, and every living being that creeps, with which the waters teemed after their kinds; and all winged fowl of every kind. And G-d saw that it was good.”

Says Rashi: that the “great taninim” were large fish which are in the sea. He then quotes the aggadah (medrish, or at times, tales imagined by the sages who authored them) who suggest that these large fish were not dragons. What and who were they? They are identified as the great taninim, great giant sea monsters of sort, the Liviyoson and its mate. The who? In other words: unlike regular fish, Mr. and Mrs. Liviyoson (Leviathan) were created with the RBSO’s utterance. What happened next: He killed the female, Mrs. Liviyoson, and salted her away for the righteous for the future. Who killed her? The RBSO! Why would the RBSO do that? Didn’t the heylige Toirah just tell us that the RBSO saw that their creation was good? What went wrong and so fast? Says the aggada: “the RBSO killed the female great fish for good reason:  for if they – Mr and Mrs. – were to reproduce and multiply, the world would not last in face of them.” In other words: were these two giant sea creatures to mate, the entire world would have been destroyed on day one!? What’s pshat?

Great big, yet unidentified, and seemingly dangerous and unnamed fish? The world could not exist? Well that’s already a little scary and one can easily see why book writer and Hollywood were and remain all over this fish tale. Rashi avada took note and therefore provided us with an expanded meaning with a passage in order to give us an interesting back-story. As we understand it –if we do at all- right from the start, the Leviyoson fish was a terror, threatening to destroy us. Perhaps the female was the more  dangerous of the two. Shoin! Not because it wanted to, but seemingly because it was simply so colossal that it could leave no room for our existence. Where the Liviyoson lives, we cannot survive. Its very being is danger. Ober not to worry: the RBSO came to the rescue. He chose our lives over the Leviathan’s and killed the beast for us. According to some, the RBSO also castrated the male, Mr. Leviathan. Perhaps death would have been preferred, ver veyst? Fartig and ouch! The bottom line: we can all rest comfortably; the RBSO protects us from monsters.

The heylige Gemora is replete with incredible stories -book and movie worthy tales- and details about this Liviyoson fish including this in Buba Basra 74B: Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yihoishua were traveling on board a ship. Rabbi Eliezer was sleeping and Rabbi Yihoishua was awake. Rabbi Yihoishua shuddered and Rabbi Eliezer awoke. “What’s the matter Yihoishua?” he asked “What has caused you to tremble?” “I have seen a great light in the sea,” he replied. Eliezer said unto him, “You have seen the eyes of the Leviyoson. For it is written (Iyov 41:10), azoy:  ‘His eyes are like the eyelids of the morning.’” From this account, it would appear that the Liviyoson is still very much alive. Should we be worried? Not!

Says the Medrish Rabbah: a match will one day -when the Moshiach arrives- take place between the Liviyoson and the “wild bull,” known as the shor habor. The bull will attack and kill the Liviyoson with its horns, while the Liviyoson will attack and kill the bull with its fins. What all that means, ver veyst, and many a medrish pontificate over the significance of this fight. So happens that although we find no mention of the Liviyson or its mate in the heylige Toirah -only a reference to great dragons or sea monsters, the Liviyoson is mentioned and shouted out in at least five different places in scriptures and in the heylige Gemora.  The Book of Iyov (Job) delves into great detail, check out chapters 40 and 41. Says the Novee Yeshaya (Isaiah 27:1): “In that day the LORD with His severe sword, great and strong, Will punish Liviyoson the fleeing serpent, Liviyoson that twisted serpent; And He will slay the reptile that is in the sea.” Is the Liviyoson still alive?

Ober, what happened to Mrs. Liviyoson following her murder? Says Rabaynu Art Scroll in his commentary (Sukkis Machzor) on the post Sukkis prayer (page 725) metioned above, azoy: “the Liviyoson was a monstrous fish created on the fifth day of Creation. Its story is related at length in the Talmud Baba Basra 74b, where it is told that the Leviathan will be slain and its flesh served as a feast to the righteous in the Time to Come, and its skin used to cover the tent where the banquet will take place.” Grada the Oisvorfer could have used better skin on his sukkah which decided to take flight during Yom Tov. Not to worry: a new sukkah took its place just in time for one guest to enjoy and for the rest to recite the farewell prayer.

Seemingly, the Liviyoson has, or had, lots of skin to spare. Says the heylige Toirah (Bereishis 3,21): “the RBSO made for Odom and for his wife garments of skin”. Recall that they -in our parsha- discovered their nakedness once they ate from the forbidden fruit  and recall that people are typically naked while partaking from forbidden fruit, if you chap. Asks and answers the Yalkut: from where was the skin? From the skin of the serpent whose skin was stripped off. Seemingly, he too was naked as the snake stripped down more than once, if you chap. And as expected, many commentaries were not happy to read this pshat. In order to clothe Odom the skin was stripped off the serpent? Surely this is unjust and makes little sense. Not to worry because the Yalkut Reuveni quotes another Medrish which tell us that the garments were fashioned from the skin of the Liviyoson fish whose skin was removed when it was preserved for the future.

In the Akdomus hymn we recite in sing song manner on Shovuis, we read azoy: “…The sport with the Leviathan and the ox…When they will interlock with one another and engage in combat, with his horns the Behemoth will gore with strength, the fish [Leviathan] will leap to meet him with his fins, with power. Their Creator will approach them with his mighty sword [and slay them both].” Thus, “from the beautiful skin of the Leviathan, G-d will construct canopies to shelter the righteous, who will eat the meat of the Behemoth [ox] and the Leviathan amid great joy and merriment, at a huge banquet that will be given for them.” Some rabbinical commentators say these accounts are but allegorical; no kidding! Others avada disagree; it’s all emes and isn’t every medrish emes? Don’t get me started.

Says the medrish (Pirke de-Rebbe Eliezer): it is stated that the fish which swallowed Yona (Jonah) narrowly avoided being eaten by the Leviyoson, which generally eats one whale each day. In a hymn by Kalir, the Liviyoson is a serpent that surrounds the earth and has its tail in its mouth, like the Greek Ouroboros and the Nordic Midgard Serpent, whatever those were, ver veyst. Legend has it that in the banquet after the end of conflict, the carcass of the Liviyoson will be served as a meal.

Says Reb Yoichonon, a master Livyoson story teller, azoy: “Once we went in a ship and saw a fish which put his head out of the water. He had horns upon which was written: ‘I am one of the meanest creatures that inhabit the sea. I am three hundred miles in length, and enter this day into the jaws of the Leviathan.’” When the Leviathan is hungry, reports Reb Dimi in the name of Reb Yoichonon, he sends forth from his mouth a heat so great as to make all the waters of the deep boil, and if he would put his head into paradise, no living creature could endure the odor of him. His abode is the Mediterranean Sea; and the waters of the Jordan fall into his mouth.

The body of the Liviyoson, especially his eyes, possesses great illuminating power. This was the opinion of Reb. Eliezer, who, in the course of a voyage in company with R. Yihoisha, explained to the latter, when frightened by the sudden appearance of a brilliant light, that it probably proceeded from the eyes of the Leviathan.  Says the heylige Gemora (Avoido Zoro 3b): Rav Yehudah says, there are twelve hours in a day. … during the fourth three-hour period, the RBSO plays with the Liviyoson as it is written: “the Liviyoson which you have created to play with. How we are to understand this, ver veyst?

The bottom line: tales of the liviyoson and his deceased wife are certainly entertaining and efsher even emes, ver veyst. Ober what the Liviyoson was and is, ver really veyst?

A gittin Shabbis-

The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv

Yitz Grossman

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