Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Anisakis worms are disgusting! From Ravina to Rav Moshe

A separate concern from any of those popularly raised regarding anisakis worms in fish may well be the issur of making oneself abominable by doing or eating abominable things. Thus, the pasuk in Vayikra 11 reads:

43. You shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping creature that creeps, and you shall not defile yourselves with them, that you should become unclean through them.מג. אַל תְּשַׁקְּצוּ אֶת נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם בְּכָל הַשֶּׁרֶץ הַשֹּׁרֵץ וְלֹא תִטַּמְּאוּ בָּהֶם וְנִטְמֵתֶם בָּם:

or in Vayikra 20:

25. And you shall distinguish between clean animals and unclean ones, and between unclean birds and clean ones; thus you shall not make yourselves disgusting through [unclean] animals and birds and any [creature] which crawls on the earth, that I have distinguished for you to render unclean.כה. וְהִבְדַּלְתֶּם בֵּין הַבְּהֵמָה הַטְּהֹרָה לַטְּמֵאָה וּבֵין הָעוֹף הַטָּמֵא לַטָּהֹר וְלֹא תְשַׁקְּצוּ אֶת נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם בַּבְּהֵמָה וּבָעוֹף וּבְכֹל אֲשֶׁר תִּרְמֹשׂ הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר הִבְדַּלְתִּי לָכֶם לְטַמֵּא:

And as we learned a few days ago in daf Yomi, in Makkot 16, this includes doing disgusting things. Thus:
אמר רב אחאי המשהה את נקביו עובר משום  (ויקרא כ, כה) לא תשקצו 
אמר רב ביבי בר אביי האי מאן דשתי בקרנא דאומנא קא עבר משום לא תשקצו

Or in English:

(Rav Achai): If one urgently needs to excrete and holds it in, he transgresses "v'Lo Seshaktzu (do not make yourselves detestable)";
(Rav Bivi bar Abaye): If one drinks from a bloodletter's vessel (which is disgusting), he transgresses "v'Lo Seshaktzu." 

As Rambam puts it at the end of hilchot maachalot assurot, perek 17:
כו  [כט] וְאָסְרוּ חֲכָמִים מַאֲכָלוֹת וּמַשְׁקִין שֶׁנֶּפֶשׁ רֹב בְּנֵי אָדָם קֵהָה מֵהֶן, כְּגוֹן מַאֲכָלוֹת וּמַשְׁקִין שֶׁנִּתְעָרַב בָּהֶן קִיא אוֹ צוֹאָה וְלֵחָה סְרוּחָה וְכַיּוֹצֶא בָּהֶן; וְכֵן אָסְרוּ לֶאֱכֹל וְלִשְׁתּוֹת בְּכֵלִים הַצּוֹאִים שֶׁנַּפְשׁוֹ שֶׁלָּאָדָם מִתְאוֹנֵנָה מֵהֶן, כְּגוֹן כְּלֵי בֵּית הַכִּסֵּא וּכְלֵי זְכוֹכִית שֶׁלְּסַפָּרִין שֶׁגּוֹרְעִין בָּהֶן אֶת הַדָּם וְכַיּוֹצֶא בָּהֶן; [ל] וְכֵן לֶאֱכֹל בְּיָדַיִם מְזֹהָמוֹת, וְעַל גַּבֵּי כֵּלִים מְלֻכְלָכִים:  שֶׁכָּל דְּבָרִים אֵלּוּ, בִּכְלַל "אַל-תְּשַׁקְּצוּ, אֶת-נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם" (ויקרא יא,מג).  וְהָאוֹכֵל מַאֲכָלוֹת אֵלּוּ, מַכִּין אוֹתוֹ מַכַּת מַרְדּוּת.

Thus (roughly), "The Sages prohibited foods and drinks which the spirit of most people recoils from, such as food and drink in which is mixed vomit, excrement, odious phlegm, and the like. And so too the prohibited to eat and drink from fouled vessels which the spirit of a person recoils from, such as a chamberpot or glass cups of barbers which which they let blood and the like, and so too to eat with fouled hands, or on dirty dishes, for all these things are included in 'Thou shalt not my thy souls abominable'. And one who eats these foods, they lash him lashes of mardus {rebellion}."

Even if the anisakis worms are entirely muttar, most people nowadays would find them disgusting to eat. Indeed, because they are mius, their exuded material is more easily nullified (and perhaps berya is cancelled according to some poskim). Even back in Talmudic times, I would guess that they would find them disgusting. And indeed, the peshat of the pesukim in question, from which this stands, discusses sheratzim. This may well be cultural, but that is the nature of the prohibition. So even the muttar worms, how can we eat them?

To illustrate this, take a look at this video of rabbis extracting anisakis worms from fish:

As E-man wrote in a comment on an earlier post:
Thanks for your insights. Honestly, I would never want to eat wild salmon or any other fish that might have these worms because I saw this video and almost threw up.
Disgust does not necessarily mean prohibition (and E-man wasn't trying to suggest so), but I wonder if it might, at least in our generation.

This disgust and inclination to throw up is not a new thing. In the gemara discussing how anisakis worms underneath the skin of the fish are entirely permitted, on Chullin 67a:

אמר לה רבינא לאימיה אבלע לי ואנא איכול
"Ravina asked his mother to mix fish worms with his fish, so he would eat them without seeing them."

Why should she mix them together? As Rashi explains:
אבלע לי - דכוורי בתוך הדגים תני אותם שלא אראה ואקוץ בם:

So that he shouldn't see them and feel sick.

The gemara might just be using this as a demonstration that such worms are entirely muttar and that this Amora indeed ate them. But I wonder if there was some halachic reasoning in the mix, that if they disgusted him, he would not only not eat them as personal preference but because of בל תשקצו... Regardless, even though eating whole worms is disgusting, he did not mind them mixed in, where he could not really see them.

It is not just Ravina. In more modern times, Rav Moshe Feinstein explicitly permitted anisakis worms, without going into contortions of why they should be muttar. Simply put, these are the worms which Chazal permitted. I saw the following comment in a fish-worm post at Matzav:
Rabbi Eidelman from MTJ said that he was once sitting next to R Moshe and they were eating fish and R Moshe pulled out a worm from the fish and told R Eidelman that that is the worm from the shulchan aruch and kept on eating. So R Moshe also holds that fish does not require checking.
Presumably Rav Moshe did not eat the worm that he had just extracted, even though it would be muttar. I wonder whether he was slightly disgusted by the idea of eating possibly wormy fish, but ate it anyway so that people should not take his not eating it as a maaseh rav.

The facts of the matter is that much of our food and environment is not pristine in this way. We inhale dust mites:

As we learn in Berachot:
תניא אבא בנימין אומר אלמלי נתנה רשות לעין לראות אין כל בריה יכולה לעמוד מפני המזיקין אמר אביי אינהו נפישי מינן וקיימי עלן כי כסלא לאוגיא אמר רב הונא כל חד וחד מינן אלפא משמאליה ורבבתא מימיניה

It has been taught:
Abba Benjamin says, If the eye had the power to see them, no creature could endure the Mazikin.
Abaye says: They are more numerous than we are and they surround us like the ridge round a field.
R. Huna says: Every one among us has a thousand on his left and ten thousand on his right. [Psalm 91:7]
Some estimates put the amount of bug matter consumed by a person in a year on average to be one and two pounds. And yet people don't think about it. And perhaps we can wrap our minds around it by thinking that we don't know for certain that it is there in this particular fish, and even if it (the anisakis worm or part of it) is there, it is kosher, and is "meat" just like any other meat that the Torah permits.

Note: This is meant as a mere exploration of the issues, not halacha lemaaseh. Consult your local Orthodox rabbi.


Christopher Darren Horn said...

That is very interesting.

E-Man said...

I found this idea very infomative. Also, I like how I contributed to it in some aspect. I am going to go research it. Thank you for bringing up this important idea.


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