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Jewish Journal

A Fishy Gefilte

by Gaby Wenig

March 27, 2003 | 7:00 pm

Talking and fish are two words that never seem to be seen together, until now. On Jan. 28 at a kosher fish store in New Square, N.Y. (an upstate Chasidic enclave), Ecuadorian worker Luis Nivelo was preparing carp to sell for Shabbat, when he heard a voice. Nivelo looked around to see where the sound was coming from, and when he saw that there was no one there, he realized that the piscatorial wonder he was about to chop up and make into gefilte fish -- was talking.

"I almost got a heart attack," Nivelo told The Journal from New York. "The face of the carp looked straight at me; I thought it was the devil."

Tremendously frightened, Nivelo called for Zalman Rosen, the shop's proprietor, to come see -- and listen to -- the fish.

What the fish had to say was in Hebrew: "tzaruch shemirah" and "hasof bah" -- everyone needs to account for themselves because the end is near -- Rosen told The New York Times. The fish also commanded Rosen to pray and study Torah, according to the London Observer.

"The voice came from inside the fish," Nivelo said. "The mouth of the fish opened and closed and it was a really funny voice."

The fish was eventually butchered and sold, but, since then, both Nivelo and Rosen have been plagued with media calls from around the world.

"I am sick from this," Nivelo said. "It changed my life, my family; 24 hours a day they are calling me; Argentina, Spain -- I don't know what to do."

Back in Los Angeles, at least one skeptic managed to capitalize on the story. This Purim, Project Next Step Director Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein dressed up as a fishmonger, attached a tiny speaker-microphone that had prerecorded message to a large papier-mache fish and squired the "talking" fish around town as a prop to collect money for Keren Y & Y, an Israeli charity that provides food vouchers for the needy.

"It was very effective," Adlerstein said. "I was able to raise upwards of $650 in under two hours, so that was some good that the fish did."

But what would the fish have to say about that?

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