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The Incredible Talking Fish

I first heard of the account from a report by Edward Helmore in the UK-based The Observer[1]. Reportedly, it was on 4:00 P.M., January 28, 2003, when two men named Zalmen Rosen and Luis Nivelo allegedly saw a live twenty-pound carp speak in Hebrew. They were working at a fish store in the New Square Fish Market in New York City, New York. Their account supposedly made quite a sensation and was, again supposedly, considered a miracle of modern times. And it was just as well that the Skver Hasidic sect of the New Square area affirmed that the God of the Bible (or for this matter the Torah) communicated via a fish on that January day.

Luis Nivelo, a Christian, was the first to witness the carp talk in Hebrew. Shocked by this, and thinking that it was the Devil in disguise, he shouted out to his coworker Zalmen Rosen, a Hasidic Jew and the storekeeper. According to Rosen, who spoke to the New York Times about the event, the fish had said, “Tsaruch shemirah” and “Hasof bah.” These Hebrew phrases, Rosen said, meant that every living person on the Earth were to give account for their sins and prepare for “the end,” presumably the end of the world. Rosen further stated that the carp exhorted him to devote himself to prayer and Torah study. Rosen made an attempt to butcher the fish but failed and cut himself instead. Nivel, however, managed to kill the carp. It was then sold.

There are three simple questions concerning the claim that I feel are reasonable enough to ask. These questions involve: the reaction towards the talking carp, the butchering of the fish for sale, and what exactly Rosen meant by “the end.”

The first question is about the reaction: where was it? Where were the religious leaders, the theologians, commentators, and the laymen who would undoubtedly have something to say? Where was the media coverage? Was this not a miracle? In the report published by The Observer, word of the account had spread far and wide. If there was indeed a talking carp, one could expect an immense and virtually instantaneous response as well as a long-term interest held by the public towards the account.

Secondly, concerning the killing of the fish, why did Luis Nivelo and Zalmen Rosen slaughter it? Was it for the sake of profit or did God tell them to do so? Would not the fish have been considered a relic by the Skver sect and doomsday enthusiasts? It also makes the claim all the more dubious since the fish can no longer be examined (Not that it would actually prove anything) since it was already sold. The account is already an incredible tale in itself.

Finally, what did Rosen mean by “the end”? I had stated earlier, “presumably the end of the world.” This would appear to be the likeliest implication. But what of the Messiah that the Jews are waiting for? Or is Jesus Christ indeed the Savior? Unless Rosen also happens to be a Messianic Jew who was “honored” enough to see God use a fish as a mouthpiece, there is a clear theological inconsistency. Does not the coming of the Messiah precede the end of the world?

It is said that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Those who wish to make a serious, thorough, and objective investigation of the account will find no hard evidence (not even a video or audio recording, or a photo) of there being a talking fish, but only the testimony of two men who sincerely believe that they had witnessed a supernatural occurrence. Even more suspicious is the dearth of a worldwide reaction, why the men decided to sell the carp, and exactly what was meant by “the end.” The credibility of their claim is highly questionable, if not entirely invalid.


[1] Helmore, Edward. “Word is made flesh as God reveals himself … as a fish.” The Observer, March 16, 2003.