There is one basic point with which I disagree with him, though, and that is in his interpretation of Rashi. The gemara (Chullin 67b) has:
אמר רב שישא בריה דרב אידי קוקיאני שרו מאי טעמא מיניה גבלי אמר רב אשי פשיטא דאי מעלמא קא אתו לישתכחו דרך בית הריעי והלכתא קוקיאני אסירי מ"ט מינם ניים ועיילי ליה באוסייה תולעים דרני דבשרא אסירי דכוורי שריין
and Rashi writes:
מינה גבלי - לשון גדלי מן הבהמה עצמה הן גדלין ולאו שרץ הארץ נינהו:
He writes in the teshuva:
וכוונת חז"ל באומרם מיניה קגבלי הוא כמו שפירש רש"י שמיניה גדלי, שנתגדל בתוך הדג
or from the English article:
Some claim that since the Gemara describes the worms that are in the flesh as “minei gavli, ” a worm is not permitted unless it can be ascertained that it was generated spontaneously by the flesh of the fish. This is because they define the word “gavli” as “being created.” However, since we became aware that all worms without exception come from outside sources, and there is no such thing as spontaneous generation in any shape or form, then, by extension, it is proven with complete certainty that the words “minei gavli” mean something else. Rashi, who says “lashon gadli,” defines the word gavli to mean “to grow.” This means that the worms in question entered the host in miniscule form and grew off their host. He gives no reference to the idea of spontaneous generation, a concept alien to Chazal and most certainly not required by halacha.I'll take this apart piece by piece. First,
Some claim that since the Gemara describes the worms that are in the flesh as “minei gavli, ” a worm is not permitted unless it can be ascertained that it was generated spontaneously by the flesh of the fish.Yes, some say that. Though one can still maintain the gemara was speaking of spontaneous generation without necessarily requiring us to ascertain that it was indeed spontaneously generated. But yes.
This is because they define the word “gavli” as “being created.”Indeed. And that is almost certainly the correct definition.
However, since we became aware that all worms without exception come from outside sources, and there is no such thing as spontaneous generation in any shape or form, then, by extension, it is proven with complete certainty that the words “minei gavli” mean something else.Just because we became aware of something -- that there is no such thing as spontaneous generation -- that proves, with complete certainty, that the words in the gemara mean something else?! What about the possibility that they mean precisely spontaneous generation, but that Chazal were wrong?! This is obviously a deeper question, of whether Chazal can be wrong in a matter of science. Rav Belsky is of the position that they cannot. Therefore, we must reinterpret Chazal is a way that they are correct. With all due respect to Rav Belsky, he is incorrect on this count. Chazal can indeed be wrong about science, and they have been. For example, believing that a bat lays eggs, or rather, that an owl nurses. Given that this heter is founded on such a false presumption, I don't know that Modern Orthodox people who know he is wrong can rely on such a heter.
Rav Belsky's reinterpretation of the gemara is based on an incorrect interpretation of Rashi. Thus:
Rashi, who says “lashon gadli,” defines the word gavli to mean “to grow.” This means that the worms in question entered the host in miniscule form and grew off their host. He gives no reference to the idea of spontaneous generation, a concept alien to Chazal and most certainly not required by halacha.However, saying that something "grows" from something else does not necessarily mean that it grew off of the host, after entering in minuscule form. (I've seen a different presentation that takes gadlei even more literally, that it must mean "became bigger", from gadol.) Consider the word "grow" in English. Someone can grow something new, out of their own body.
Indeed, see how Jastrow translates it:
He renders it "to grow" and yet still considers it to mean that it originated in the body, rather than outside the fish, because they grow out of it.
This is indeed almost certainly what Rashi meant -- spontaneous generation. If you want to argue that גדלי, gadlei, as Rashi translates it, only means to become bigger, to grow larger, based on it, then I will point you first to Tosefta Chullin:
ג,ט אלו סימני חגבים כל שיש לו ד' רגלים וד' סנפירים וקרסוליו וכנפיו חופין את רובו ר' יוסי אומר ושמו חגב ולא כנצרין שיש בהן סימנין הללו סומכוס אומר אף המורד ר"א בר"י אומר אין לו עכשיו ועתיד לגדל לאחר זמן כגון החולחזה כשר אלו הן סימני דגים כל שיש לו סנפיר וקשקשת יש לו קשקשת אי אתה צריך לשאול על סנפיר יש לו סנפיר ואין לו קשקשת טמא אלו הן קשקשין שמלובש בהן וסנפירין ששט בהן וכמה קשקשין יהיה בו אפילו אחת תחת לחיו ואחת תחת זנבו ואחת תחת סנפיר שלו ר' יהודה אומר שני קשקשת אין לו עכשיו אבל עתיד לגדל לאחר זמן כגון הסולתנית ונפיא כשר יש לו עכשיו אבל עתיד להשירם כשעולה מן הים כגון הקוליוס והפילמיס הספיתאים ואנתינוס. ר"י בן דורמסקא אומר לויתן דג טהור הוא שנאמר (איוב מא) גאוה אפיקי מגינים סגור חותם צר אחד באחד יגשו וגו' תחתיו חדודי חרס וגו' גאוה אפיקי מגינים אלו קשקשין שלו תחתיו חדודי חרס אלו סנפירין שלו.Here we have instances of animals which do not have simanim now, but will grow them after a time. This does not mean that the simanim will come from outside their bodies and become bigger. It means they will generate these simanim. So too in Chullin daf 65a:
ת"ר אין לו עכשיו ועתיד לגדל לאחר זמן כגון הזחל מותר ר"א בר' יוסי אומר (ויקרא יא, כא) אשר לא כרעים אף על פי שאין לו עכשיו ועתיד לגדל לאחר זמן מאי זחל אמר אביי אסקרין.Since this is encompassed in the meaning of the word גדל, which is what Rashi offers, spontaneous generation, of growing out of (=originating from) the flesh of the fish, is certainly a plausible explanation, and is not at all ruled out by Rashi's translation.
Further, Rashi's words מן הבהמה עצמה הן גדלין, from the animal itself they grow strongly suggests to me the intent is spontaneous generation from the animal itself.
Add to that that Rashi did believe in spontaneous generation, and the semantic sense that it makes in context in the gemara (as opposed to the far-fetched reinterpretation one is forced into once one rejects it), it is extremely likely that Rashi indeed meant spontaneous generation.
Finally, to focus on the last sentence:
He gives no reference to the idea of spontaneous generation, a concept alien to Chazal and most certainly not required by halacha.I think that spontaneous generation is indeed the most straightforward explanation of Rashi's words. And I believe that it is not correct to assert that the concept was alien to Chazal. I know that Rav Belsky firmly believes it to be so; but if someone did not truly believe it, and was only reinterpreting Chazal in this manner in order to spare their honor, then he would be engaging in ziyuf haTorah.
In fact, I will prove that Chazal believed in spontaneous generation. Mechilta is from Chazal. And they reinterpret a pasuk, claiming that it must be out of order, because it is at odds with spontaneous generation. As we read in Beshalach,
|20. But [some] men did not obey Moses and left over [some] of it until morning, and it bred worms and became putrid, and Moses became angry with them.||כ. וְלֹא שָׁמְעוּ אֶל מֹשֶׁה וַיּוֹתִרוּ אֲנָשִׁים מִמֶּנּוּ עַד בֹּקֶר וַיָּרֻם תּוֹלָעִים וַיִּבְאַשׁ וַיִּקְצֹף עֲלֵהֶם מֹשֶׁה:|
That is, first it bred worms and then it rotted. This is at odds with the science (of the day) of spontaneous generation, in which worms are spontaneously generated from the material of the rotting food. If so, from a scientific perspective, it must first rot and only then breed worms.
From the Mechilta:
וירם תולעים ויבאש - הרי מקרא זה מסורס. וכי מרחיש ואח"כ מבאיש, אלא מבאיש ואח"כ מרחיש, כענין שנאמר: ולא הבאיש וגו'.
What do you think motivated the question וכי מרחיש ואח"כ מבאיש? Obviously, that is does not make sense that it would happen in that order. And so they reverse the pasuk.
As I discuss in this post on Beshalach, Rashi, the same Rashi who commented on the gemara in Chullin, endorses this reversal of events, as found in Mechilta. And Ramban agrees that this order -- for spontaneous generation of worms -- is indeed the derech hateva, but that here, it did not happen in this order because it was miraculous.
If Rabbi Belsky's entire heter is predicated on a false assumption that Chazal cannot be wrong in science, and a further mistaken interpretation of Rashi, can we really rely on this heter in order to eat fish? (I still will eat fish, though I will not discuss the reasons in this post.)