The sight of a blue whale off the coast of Eilat on Tuesday evoked powerful images from Jewish mysticism describing the unique role this impressive creature will play after in the end-of-days
The whale that visited Eilat was an impressive 65 feet long, which is actually a modest size for a blue whale. The largest animal known to have ever existed, a blue whale can reach almost 100 feet in length and a weight of 173 tons.
“This is the first piece of evidence of the existence of a new species in the Red Sea,” Dafna Feingold, who coordinates aquatic mammal data for the Israel Marine Mammal Research & Assistance Center, told YNet. “It’s the first time unequivocal photographic proof of a blue whale in the Gulf of Suez and the Red Sea came to light.”
“The reason they aren’t often seen in our region is that they don’t have enough food (here), and I imagine it will be making its way to the southern Red Sea before long,” Feingold explained.
Whale sightings are rare in general and blue whales even more so. Blue whales, like most marine mammals, were abundant until the beginning of the 20th century when they were hunted almost to extinction. Recent estimates put the global population between 10-25,000. The Red Sea and Eilat are well away from the normal cold-waters in which whales are found.
“This is a highly exciting sighting. Whales sometimes migrate great distances,” Dr. Assaf Zvuloni, head biologist of the national marine reserve in Eilat, said to YNet. “This is not normally their region bit they are migratory”.
“It may have been some change in the environment that drove them here,” Dr. Zvuloni told Breaking Israel News. “There is undoubtedly a change occurring in the global environment, a very concerning thing, but it is impossible to say that is what brought the whale here.”
Omri Omasi, a marine inspector for the Nature and Parks Authority’s fishery supervision division, encountered the whale when he set out on a routine inspection tour of the area.
“It caught me by surprise,” Omri told Breaking Israel News. “This isn’t the region you expect to find them at all. I don’t know what brought him here. It was riveting to see a whale of that size in the wild.”
Rabbi Berger was clear on what brought the blue whale to the unaccustomed waters of Eilat.
“If something unprecedented happened, something that doesn’t seem to make sense according to the laws of nature, then it is a hint that something new and unexpected is about to happen,” Rabbi Yosef Berger said to Breaking Israel News. “The whale is coming to take his part in the meal that follows the Messiah.”
The rabbi was referring to a section of the Talmud (the Oral Law) describing the post-Messianic role of the Leviathan. In the Tractate of Baba Batra 75a, it is written that God originally produced a male and a female leviathan. God became concerned that in multiplying, the species would destroy the world. God killed the female leviathan, preserving her flesh for the special banquet that will be given to the righteous on the arrival of the Messiah. The banquet will be held inside a huge tent made from the Leviathan’s skin.
This midrash (homiletic teaching) is the source of an unusual blessing recited during the holiday of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), in which we recite upon leaving the sukkah (tabernacle): “May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our forefathers, that just as I have fulfilled and dwelt in this sukkah, so may I merit in the coming year to dwell in the sukkah of the skin of Leviathan. Next year in Jerusalem.”
“This appearance of the whale is clearly a reminder of the fabled meal that will be served after the arrival of the Messiah,” Rabbi Berger said. “But the hints that are now appearing in abundance are to remind us that we need to do our part.”
In a strange coincidence, the unprecedented appearance of a blue whale in Eilat mirrors a similar phenomenon on the other side of the globe. Sightings of blue whales off the coast of California have gone up more than four times since this time last year with more than 35 of the huge mammals seen off the coast of San Francisco this season.