Friday, August 19, 2005

"Pork of the Sea" comes to Israel

(Not to be confused with Tuna of the Dirt :)

From the Jerusalem Post, "Kosher 'pork of the sea' makes aliya from Iran"

A kosher fish mentioned in the Talmud that tastes like pork has been identified by Bar-Ilan University researchers and brought here surreptitiously from Iran.

Called shabut in Arabic, the fish lives in the rivers of Iraq and Syria as well as Iran.

The fish was brought over from Iran, preserved in formaldehyde, by Dr. Zohar Amar of BIU's department of Eretz Yisrael studies and archeology and Dr. Ari Zivotofsky of the Inter-Disciplinary Center for Brain Studies. They, along with experts from the Agriculture Ministry, are now studying the possibility of raising shabut (known scientifically as Barbus grybus).

In volume 11 of the Torah U-Madda Journal, Zohar Amar wrote an article about kosher locusts, and together with Doni and Ari Zivitofsky, reported on a halachically oriented dissection of a giraffe. (The preceding two links don't seem to work for me.)
The Babylonian Talmud, which contains numerous discussions about the fish, specifically notes that some of its organs taste like pork (although how the sages were able to make the comparison is not clear).
I would assume that they could have relied upon the reports of their gentile neighbors, just as they often relied upon Greek science. One need not assume that because the Talmud reports it, Chazal were the first to discover it. We see also that in certain cases one may rely on a non-Jewish expert chef (to detect if the forbidden taste is discernable in a mixture). Plus there are converts.

By the way, the relevant gemara is Chullin 109b. Towards the bottom, Yalta the wife of Rav Nachman told Rav Nachman: Now, all that the All-Merciful has forbidden us, he has permitted us the like. He forbad us blood, and permitted us the liver. The blood of a menstruant {He forbad}, the blood of purity {He permitted - in a law much undone by post-Talmudic custom and the convergence of several other halachot, for a time after birth, even when a woman menstruates, she is permitted to her husband}. The fats of a beheima {He forbad}, the fats of a chaya {kosher wild animal He permitted}. The pig {He forbad}, the brain of the Shivuta....
The great commentator Rashi wrote that it was the brain of the fish that tasted like pig meat, and that it served as a kosher option for people who yearned to eat the forbidden meat.
He is taking moah as being brain.
Most modern researchers believed that the shabut, which can grow to up to two meters and 60 kilograms, was one of several species of fish surviving in the Mediterranean Basin and in Europe. But the BIU researchers, who specialize in the study of animals mentioned in Jewish holy books, maintain that their fish is the shabut. Rabbi Yosef Haim, known as the Ben-Ish Hai, and other Iraqi sages of recent generations recognized it as kosher.
The article also mentions an interesting Yalkut Shimoni which casts this as a return from exile:
According to Midrash Shimoni, a compilation of rabbinic writings, "Seven hundred pure [permitted] fish were exiled with Israel to Babylonia, and all returned except for the shabut – and in the future it will return."
Read it all. I excerpted much of it, but there is more.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What is the source for the prohibition of an adult drinking human milk? Would a husband be prohibited from imbibing milk from his (lactating) wife during relations? Until what age is a child allowed to suckle?


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