Friday, April 13, 2007

A Fish with Scales and No Fins

This week's parshah, Shemini, discussed the laws of Kashrus. This blogger discusses the effects of children who eat non-Kosher, yet some irreligious bloggers are proposing changing the standards of Kashrus within the Orthodox community.

This blogger discusses the famous question as to whether the Leviathan is a Kosher fish or not.
Speaking of Kosher fish:


OPINIONS: The Mishnah says that in order for a fish to be Kosher, it must have both fins and scales (as the Torah teaches in Vayikra 11:9). The Gemara quotes a Mishnah in Nidah (51b) that states that any fish that has scales also has fins, but some fish have fins and do not have scales.

According to the Mishnah there, any fish that has scales is presumed to be Kosher, because if it has scales then it also must have fins. Is this an absolute rule, or are there exceptions?

(a) The KEREISI U'PLEISI (YD 83:3) asserts that the Mishnah is saying that a *Rov*, a majority*, of fish that have scales also have fins, but not that *all* fish that have scales also have sins. Accordingly, he writes that if a fish is found that has scales and not fins, it does not contradict the statement of the Mishnah that most fish that have scales also have fins.

(b) The TAZ (YD 83:3) writes that it is impossible that there could be any fish in the world that can have scales and not have fins. The PRI MEGADIM in MISHBETZOS ZAHAV proves this from our Gemara. The Gemara asks that if we need to know only that a fish has scales in order to determine that it is Kosher, then the Torah should require only that a fish have scales in order to be Kosher. The Gemara's question does not make sense if the rule that all fish that have scales also have fins is not an absolute rule. If there exist certain fish that indeed have scales but no fins and therefore are not Kosher, then it certainly was necessarily for the Torah to require us to find both scales and fins on the fish in order to permit the fish! The Gemara's question clearly indicates that this is an absolute rule. This is also the opinion of the MACHZIK BERACHAH (YD 83:8). (For a possible refutation of this argument, see HA'KESAV VEHA'KABALAH to Vayikra 11:9.)

The Pri Megadim continues to prove that this is also the view of the PERISHAH (YD 83:7). The Perishah writes that if we find a fish that has scales and not fins we assume that its fins fell off in the water. The Pri Megadim says that if it is possible that there exist fish that have only scales and not fins, then how can we assume that the fins fell into the water? It certainly is unusual for fins -- which are usually strongly attached -- to fall into the water. It is more likely that the fish is a member of the species that have scales but not fins. If, however, the rule of the Mishnah is absolute and there is no fish that has scales and not fins, then the only possibility is that the fish that was found had fins but its fins fell off while it was in the water, as the Perishah says.

The MA'ADANEI YOM TOV (3:67:5) also maintains that the Mishnah is teaching that there is no fish that has scales but not fins. He relates that RABEINU AHARON ROFEI ("the doctor") brought him a poisonous fish called the "Stincus marinus," which was used for medical purposes after its poison was extracted. It has a spine and a wide head (which some write is another sign of a Kosher fish; see REMA YD 83:4), scales, and no fins, but four small legs like those of an animal. The Madanei Yom Tov initially thought that this fish developed only through crossbreeding after the tradition was established that all fish that have scales also have fins.

However, he concludes that there is a different reason for why the Stincus does not contradict the Mishnah's principle. The Torah states, "Any [fish] that has fins and scales... you shall eat them" (Vayikra 11:9), and in the next verse it states, "And any [fish] that does not have fins and scales... of all that crawl in the water, and of all living creatures that are in the water, they are disgusting to you" (Vayikra 11:10). Why does the Torah mention in the second verse things that crawl in the water and things that are living creatures in the water? The Ma'adanei Yom Tov concludes that the Torah is distinguishing between *fish* that live in the water from *other* creatures and animals that live in the water. When the Gemara here asks that once the Torah requires us to find scales on a fish in order to permit it, it does not need to require us to find fins, it is referring to the *first* verse (11:9), since all fish that have scales also have fins. In contrast, the second verse is discussing other creatures and animals that live in the water. It is necessary for the Torah to explicitly prohibit such creatures, because it is possible to find one that has scales and not fins (such as the Stincus).

The DARCHEI TESHUVAH (83:27) quotes a similar approach proposed by the YA'AVETZ. (See Pri Megadim there for further discussion regarding the Kashrus status of the Stincus.) See also the CHIDUSHEI CHASAM SOFER here who writes that the Stincus poses no problem whatsoever, because it is not a fish, but a terrestrial lizard of the skink family.

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