Animals of all types are using the COVID-19 global lockdown to come out of hiding and whales are no exception. A maritime patrol filmed a rare pair of Fin Whales cavorting in the Mediterranean on Tuesday off the coast of Calanques national park, a protected nature reserve. That section of the Mediterranean of the coast of Marseille, France is usually a bustling port that whales avoid.
The Fin Whale is quite impressive, the second-largest species on Earth after the blue whale, growing to about 85 feet long and weighing as much as 70 tons. Like all other large whales, the fin whale was heavily hunted during the 20th century. As a result, it is an endangered species.
Didier Reault, the president of the Calanques national park, told the Associated Press that it is “very, very rare” for Fin whales to be spotted in the region.
“The absence of human activity means the whales are far more serene, calm and confident about rediscovering their playground that they abandon when there is maritime traffic,” Reault told The AP. “It is clear that the lockdown of humans is helping nature and biodiversity rediscover their natural spaces. With the lockdown, nothing is happening, it is dead quiet. And animals, be they fin whales or other marine species, are clearly rediscovering their confidence and peace, allowing them to come closer to shore.”
“We must not content ourselves with a 30-second video,” he said. Instead, “we should tell ourselves that if we want to keep seeing [nature], we must know how to respect it.”
A whale is referred to in Hebrew as ‘leviathan’ , is referred to in the Talmud (Tractate Baba Batra 75a).
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.”
The timing of the whales’ return to the Mediterranean coming just before Passover could not be more auspicious. The Baal Shem Tov (master of the good name) who founded the Hasidic movement of Judaism, instituted the tradition of holding a special festive meal to end Passover called the Messiah Meal. The celebration customarily extends past nightfall, ushering out Passover amid song, words of Torah and inspiration.
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe who passed away in 1950, explained that on the last day of Passover the radiance of the Messiah is already shining.