6-5771 Mitzvah N-95-96

Torat Emet
6-5771 Mitzvah N-95-96
11/22/10

Negative Mitzvah 95– This is a negative commandment: do not eat non-kosher fish.

Hafetz Hayim – As Scripture says: “And they shall be an abomination to you; of their flesh you shall not eat” (Leviticus 11:11). Whatever does not have fins and scales is non-kosher, and if anyone eats an olive’s amount from it, he should receive whiplashes.
This applies everywhere and always, for both men and women.

Negative Mitzvah 96– This is a negative commandment: do not eat winged swarming creatures.

Hafetz Hayim – As Scripture says: “And all winged swarming creatures are unclean for you; they shall not be eaten” (Deut. 14:19). These are non-kosher kinds of grasshoppers, flies, gnats, bees, wasps, and so forth. If someone eats an olive’s amount of them, he should be given whiplashes. If he ate a whole creature, even if it did not comprise an olive’s amount, he should receive whiplashes. Pure (kosher) kinds of grasshoppers however, are allowed to be eaten. They have three signs of purity: whatever has four legs, and four wings covering most of the length and most of the circumference of its body, and two jointed legs with which to jump.
This applies everywhere and always, for both men and women.

As far as fish is concerned, fins and scales are the universal signs of kosher fish. This leaves out most bottom dwellers that do not have fins (shrimp, lobster, crab) and most large sport fish that do not have scales (shark, marlin) as well as others that do not fit this description (catfish and certain other fish without scales). There are two fish that start out life with fins and scales but the scales fall off as the fish matures. These are sturgeon and swordfish. Since these species are in doubt, there are many who just refrain from eating them but the Conservative Law and Standards Committee has ruled that these fish are kosher and can be eaten. This rule applies only to these particular kinds of fish that shed their scales as they grow. The roe of kosher fish is also kosher. The roe of non-kosher fish is not kosher. Shellfish have neither fins nor scales and they are all forbidden (oysters, clams, scallops, mussels). Fish sold as Dolphin or Mahi Mahi is not the mammal (porpoise) and is a kosher fish. This is NOT a complete list of kosher and non-kosher fish. One should consult such a list if the species of fish is unfamiliar.

Current issues with fish involve cross breeding to create a larger stock of fish to bring to market. For example, Salmon is a very popular fish and is kosher, but there is a program taking place to find a fish that would be similar in color and taste to Salmon, but the fish being used does not have scales. For this reason, many kosher fish markets now sell fish with their scales so that one can easily see that the fish is kosher. Frozen fish is also a problem because often these fish are processed at sea, in huge blocks as they are netted in the open waters. Often non-kosher fish are also caught in the net and are not properly separated from the rest of the fish. Since there is no rabbinic authority to supervise this freezing process, there are many who do not eat frozen fish or fish sticks that are not supervised by a reliable authority.

In the case of insects, there is note in the Hafetz Hayim that the Shulchan Aruch requires a fourth sign of a kosher grasshopper. It must be called “Hagav”. I do not know of any authority who actually has identified by species which grasshoppers are kosher and which are not. As far as I know, we no longer eat insects of any kind at all. This will really only be a problem if one is traveling to China where roasted insects are popular. I am told by non-Jewish people, that scorpions and ants (fried or chocolate covered) are actually tasty, but they are treyf, so what can I do? I also believe that the worm in a Tequila bottle not only is treyf but makes the Tequila treyf as well. My best advice is to not eat any insects.
Eating a whole insect that may not be an olive’s amount on purpose is to be liable for punishment. If you are riding a motorcycle, or standing outdoors and you swallow an insect accidentally, there is no punishment other than your own gag reflex. I can’t say that I have seen everything, but I have never seen grasshoppers sold under Rabbinic supervision.

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