Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Thoughts on Rav Elyashiv on the Anisakis worms in Fish

According to recent news, Rav Elyashiv permitted herring, but still forbids wild salmon and other fish unless they are inspected. To cite:
According to both Rabbi Karp and others present, Rav Elyashiv stressed that the Anisakis is forbidden because of the clear evidence that it’s origin is clearly from outside of the flesh of the fish and are thus considered Sheretz HaMayim. Other worms that develop inside the flesh of the fish are permitted, however, and fall under the rubric of the Talmudic dispensation of “Minei Gavli” (See tractate Chullin 67b).
It is difficult to consider a non-written teshuva, so I don't have much to work with here. And so I am stumbling about in the dark here. (Corrections are, of course, welcome.) There are good reasons for forbidding fish with the anisakis worm (though I still maintain they are permitted and we should not change our practice; and there is an alternate theory of the relevant halachot provided by Rabbi Belsky). What are these good, straightforward reasons? Namely, Chazal were operating under a theory of spontaneous generation -- minei gavlei -- and that is the only reason they would be permitted, along with the fish. But just as worms in the belly are forbidden, for they might have come from outside, so too any instance when they might have, or especially if they certainly came from outside. The scientific investigations conducted showed that the worms in the flesh came from the worms in the belly, and we know that the worms in the belly come from the outside.

Given a general statement of Chazal against eyewitness reports of the actual metzius, we would of course believe the actual metzius. This, in contrast to what Rabbi Chaim Scher wrote:
While we should embrace spontaneous generation, we should do so boldly and without apology. We trust the words of Chazal over what we can observe with our own eyes[3]. This is a feat which only Hashem’s chosen nation, the Maaminim B’nei Maaminim, can accomplish. For, in the end, it is not scientists’ words which we disbelieve in favor of Chazal’s tradition, but rather evidence that our own eyes may confirm.
But where there is no such concrete evidence, we are entitled to follow this general rule. (Of course, Rabbi Scher was talking about the general case, but explains why it does not apply in this present case.) Does Rav Elyashiv indeed believe that spontaneous generation operates on all these other fish, or even in general? He very well might. On the other hand, from Rabbi Scher again, Rav Elyashiv is willing to permit not just based on spontaneous generation but upon hatching of the eggs internal to the fish:
In truth, however, according to many Poskim including Rav Elyashiv[4] and Rav Nissim Karelitz[5], a worm need not be spontaneously generated in order to be permitted. Any internal generation, even generation from an egg, would be permitted. Therefore, even worms that have been demonstrated to be generated from eggs may be permitted. It follows, therefore, that in order to prohibit these worms, it is not sufficient to prove that the worms generate from eggs; we must prove that they generate externally.
This would appear to be in line with Rav Belsky's discussion of shoretz on the water; or alternatively, understanding minei gavlei as any internal development. I don't know whether this is to the exclusion of the possibility of spontaneous generation, or not. And that we rely on Chazal's statement as a general rule, but when we can directly observe the opposite, then this is NOT covered by the blanket heter of Chazal.

(According to Rabbi Scher's presentation, they would only be forbidden if is was

Rav Elyashiv is certainly entitled to his position, just as Rav Belsky is. I will explain my slight disagreements in a moment. But one important point I could extrapolate may be this:

If not for certain troublemakers who were looking to establish yet another thing as assur, who demonstrated to rabbis in a lab this migration from the belly, perhaps "we" would not "know" that they generate from the outside of the fish, and we could have continued to rely on the blanket heter of Chazal.

Perhaps not. Perhaps existing scientific discussion of this was sufficient. But see for example Rav Wosner:
Rav Wozner Shlit”a clearly stated in my presence and in the presence of Rav Shaul Klein Shlit”a, his Av Bais Din, that while in the past he did not feel an obligation to be Mocheh [protest] since the evidence was based only on scientific reports, now that there is a Raglaim L’Dovor [strong circumstantial evidence] that it enters the flesh from the viscera, one is obligated to protest.
While I personally disagree with this distinction, based on an assumption that we cannot trust scientists, for they lie, it seems that this investigation by trouble-making busybodies was what sparked the recent issur.

Now here is my disagreement.

1) First and foremost, according to some reports, both Rav Vaye and Rav Belsky, who permit, were not allowed entry to speak to Rav Elyashiv about this. (There have also been denials on the point of Rav Vaye.) As such, he may not have been adequately presented with the reasons to be mattir, on the level of halacha or metzius. We have seen the tznius video where someone manipulated Rav Elyashiv to extract the answers he wanted. So while the halachic theory may be consistent and sound, I would not attach Rav Elyashiv's name and endorsement to it, despite firsthand reports that he does endorse it.

Call it instead the position of whatever Rabbis are propounding it.

2) This is based on a particular understanding of the relevant sources which I don't think is really true. Chazal and the Rishonim did rely on the idea of spontaneous generation. Substituting another theory and working with that in a way that we conclude that these in particular are forbidden does not convince me. Minei gavlei in almost all likelihood means spontaneous generation, and this was their basis. If you forbid these, first state categorically that spontaneous generation was the basis, and that Chazal were mistaken. And / or, then reevaluate ALL of halacha in ALL the places Chazal were incorrect in science. (This is true even here, where they are saying Chazal erred in science even as they claim they are not saying Chazal erred in science.) The osrim have no idea the major upheaval this would cause, and how many simanim in Shulchan Aruch would need to be rewritten. (That is, forbid, but accurately, and consistently! This, BTW, is the true reason I would say we should permit, though I should develop this in another post.) And if Chazal really meant internal generation of the eggs, or we could extend the reason to include internal generation from eggs, then regardless, Rav Belsky is correct that both Chazal and the Shulchan Aruch do not make distinctions but make a blanket heter. Yes, I know the difference, according to the present theory, is in how we may conduct ourselves, and whether we can rely on this assumption, where the metzius has changed -- the metzius that changed being our knowledge of the metzius. But the reason Chazal made this assumption was faulty science, and faulty observation. Why should we be able to rely on this blanket heter and assumption made by Chazal in error?

3) In terms of the science, it is not clear that these worms indeed generate externally. The eggs and larvae are swallowed by krill, the krill are swallowed by the salmon, and the anisakis then leaves the krill and enters the salmon. If swallowed when eggs, then perhaps this is enough "internally". If when larvae, perhaps not. (Why? Under a theory of shoretz upon the water.) On the other hand, as Rabbi Scher presents it, while earlier in the article he said:
It follows, therefore, that in order to prohibit these worms, it is not sufficient to prove that the worms generate from eggs; we must prove that they generate externally.
But I think later he modifies this to the idea that they could have generated externally, according to "many" poskim. Emphasis mine:
There is broad agreement among the Poskim that the Gemara refers only to a case where there is no contrary evidence. Furthermore, many take the position that to prohibit a specific worm in fish flesh, we need not even provide definitive proof that the species is externally generated. Even evidence of doubt would be sufficient to question the assumption that a certain worm has internally generated. Where there is a reason to question the assumption, we will assume that the case is an exception. However, in absence of such evidence, we will assume that a worm is covered under the “blanket heter” of Shulchan Aruch.
Who are these many poskim? Does it include Rav Elyashiv? If not, we have possible reason to permit.

4) There are other ways of permitting which I will discuss, even in light of all of this. And besides, Rav Belsky has a way of interpreting the sources to permit; because there are multiple ways of reading these sources and developing a theory of these halachot.

Note: Don't rely on this, or really anything on the Web, for halacha lemaaseh. Consult your local Orthodox rabbi instead.


E-Man said...

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.

However, all farmed fish are 100% ok and they are cheaper. At least in America. I know that the fish that is generally sold is farm salmon and you have to pay extra to get the wild type.

Nosson Gestetner said...

I find it ironic that now if a frum person wants to be machmir with regard to a hechsher at a wedding, he'll order the meat!

Devorah said...

B"H we don't have these worms in the fish here in Australia.
(we have other problems) :)

Yeshivish said...

My wife told me that the most upsetting thing about the worm controversy is that everyone is in agreement that the worms are there. The only question is weather these worms are considered kosher.

BTW, I really do not understand all the hype. It seems to me that the Gemmarah allows certain worms and forbids others simply because if somehow it can be ascertained that a certain worm is an invader then it would be forbidden. I except the concept that we follow Chazal even when there is an error on science, but in this case I do not think you can say this. Hypothetically, if the Gemmarah said specifically that the anisakis worm is kosher then I would eat it. However since the Gemmarah mentions two worms, one kosher and the other not, no conclusion can be drawn.

joshwaxman said...

"It seems to me that the Gemmarah allows certain worms and forbids others simply because if somehow it can be ascertained that a certain worm is an invader then it would be forbidden."

true, but the "invader" worm is specifically the worms found in the stomach, but the worm found (also) in the flesh is not what they called kokyana. and there is no reason to think that they would not find anisakis worms in the flesh even back then.

similarly, the reason fish found in the stomach are assur is misafek that they are invaders. but in the flesh, they assumed that it was be-vadai not an invader. chazal were operating under a mistaken scientific assumption.

also, Rashi understands that kokyana worms are in animals, rather than fish.

really, indeed, we need to go back to the gemara and analyze it deeply.


Yeshivish said...

Chazal never spoke about this worm. If they did I would agree. Why should I compare this to the kosher worm when I can just as easily compare it to the non-kosher worm? In other words, shouldn't I just consider this a safeik deoraiisa lechumra?

Yeshivish said...

BTW, I am not in any way condoning changing the halacha when science contradicts it. All I am saying is that this is not one of those cases.

joshwaxman said...

"Chazal never spoke about this worm."
they did. because these worms were prevalent in the time of Chazal, and they made a blanket permission of such worms found in fish flesh, and a blanket prohibition of such worms found in fish bellies.

they NEVER assur-ed worms found in fish flesh.

btw, i might well condone changing halacha when science contradicts it. see (iirc) magen avraham about fish with meat.


joshwaxman said...

to try to make it clearer, how are you understanding the gemara? if like Rashi, then it is talking about invaders from the outside of a beheima, found in the liver and lungs, and the assumption is that they invaded, but not that they crawl through flesh, but that there is internal tubing to get to these organs.

if like Rabbenu Tam, then it is fish. but he presumably reads it like Rav Yosef Caro understands him in Beis Yosef, that this is specifically within the *belly* of the fish. in which case we already knew they could invade and reach the belly.

but no one is suggesting an invader from the outside that pierces through flesh. (of course, you can suggest your own novel reading.) and indeed it is difficult to read all the other gemaras as such if they really thought that worms would pierce through flesh.

kol tuv,

Devorah said...

(quote) btw, i might well condone changing halacha when science contradicts it. see (iirc) magen avraham about fish with meat. (unquote)

What does it say about fish with meat?

Anonymous said...

meir says
is it really necessary to write a whole page with endless repetitions to explain the psak of the rabbonim. What about teaching in a short way. Are you just trying to make a simple thing sound a lot more complicated than it really is

joshwaxman said...

the gemara in Pesachim says that consuming fish roasted with meat will induce leprosy. (and people extrapolate to any fish and meat consumption, and fish and chicken consumption, even cold with cold.) Magen Avraham, in Orach Chaim 173, says that we can see nowadays that populations who consume fish and meat together do not suffer greater occurrence of leprosy than those who do not. and similarly, all the things the gemara states are dangerous because of ruach ra. since this is sakana, and since the metzius is such that it is not, we are not going to believe Chazal over our own eyes. rather, we say that the climates are different from that of Chazal (something roughly parallel to nishtaneh hateva) and therefore it should be permitted.

I am sorry that you dislike my writing style. It could be that I am just a crummy writer. But what I wrote in detail I believed necessary, because I am trying for both precision and nuance. Also, I am trying to understand them with the various gemaras, acharonim, and Rabbi Belsky's teshuva in mind. And I am trying to deduce the hashkafic implications. I think much of that would be missing with a two line summary of "Chazal made a 'vadai' statement akin to Chazaka, but we can only rely on that when we don't certainly know otherwise by direct observation rather than testimony of scientists; and such a situation is 'not' what Chazal were talking about." Probably you would say that this above statement was repetitive and unnecessarily complex...

kol tuv,

Devorah said...

Thanks for that, I've always wondered about the fish/meat thing. The furthest we take it is to not serve the two together, (and esp not on the same plate).

I have heard it said by someone that Jews shouldn't eat any two different proteins together: such as fish and cheese, although strangely enough the bagel with smoked salmon/cream cheese is a very Jewish dish.

Do you have any more info on this fish/cheese issue ? I've always wondered about that too.

Thanks in advance.....

joshwaxman said...

there is a great lecture written up about all of this here:

it discusses fish and meat, as well as fish and milk.

the short of it is that it is a specifically Sefardic custom, based on a Beis Yosef that a lot of people claim was a typographical error of "milk" for "meat".

indeed, in Chullin 111b the simplest reading of the gemara is that Amoraim in general did eat fish together with kutach, which was a milk-based food.

all the best,

Anonymous said...

meir says
Thanks for your reply. As far as i understand it, in short it is like this. Since in herring the worms cannot be separated in the state they are in, and the only way is when the herring is no more and the fact that it is a 'miut' the din of bitul applies.
What suprises me most, is that such a simple halacha, which i imagine is known to all has only been thought of by one great rov.
The real question which you and others fail to address is this. Is the Torah of an evolving nature. In other words do we say that the previous rabbonim knew everything regarding science or even if they didnt know can modern science overturn accepted halachos. Or do we say that what previous rabbonim said is sacrosant and cannot be changed,
I am of the opinion that the halacho can change if science can disprove that it was based on wrong assumptions. I have many proofs for this but they are not suitable for a comment like this.
Each one would need a separate thread. In other words I am suggesting that many halachos should be changed in the light of modern methods. I would not go as far as saying lkula but certainly lchumra.

QWER said...

"Why should I compare this to the kosher worm when I can just as easily compare it to the non-kosher worm? In other words, shouldn't I just consider this a safeik deoraiisa lechumra?"

The worm is less than 1/60 of the fish. It would be batel except for the special rule that a briah cannot be batel, but that rule is only derabanan, so the situation is safek derabanan, not deoraita.

Note: a salad with bugs may be deoraita, because the bugs are on the surface of the vegetables and it's not clear that they are considered part of a single mixture. But when a worm is fully within the flesh of a fish, it is certainly a situation of bitul.

"fish and meat"

The best explanation I've heard for this is that you might mistake a piece of fish for a piece of meat and choke on the fish bones. Not sure if this really fits the gemara though...

joshwaxman said...

"Thanks for your reply."
no prob.

"Since in herring the worms cannot be separated in the state they are in, and the only way is when the herring is no more and the fact that it is a 'miut' the din of bitul applies."
This *might* address herring. But from the article, the way I understand it, it is the combination of two factors. First, in each herring, it is a miut she'aino matzuy in the first place. Second, that marination makes it hard to identify, even using lights and so it, so either it is aino nikkar or it is degraded sufficiently such that it is not considered berya, which even in 1000 would not be nullified.

But that it only one aspect of the heter for specific species! What I was trying to understand here is how Rav Elyashiv *assurs*, and how he responds to the general heter in the gemara and Shulchan Aruch, cited by Rabbi Belsky, without (purportedly) being apikorsim! Rabbi Belsky, after all, told Rabbi Karp that he was "moicheh bechol koichi" against this, because it was apikorsus gamur. To say that the gemara was wrong when it said worms in the flesh are assur is difficult, especially he held that it was apikorsus for Rabbi Slifkin to say that Chazal erred in science (even though this is the opinion of all the Rishonim). Therefore, they walk the fine line discussed in this post.

In other words, I don't care how he understands the heter by herring. I want to know how he establishes the issur in the general case.

"The real question which you and others fail to address is this."
I'm holding this for a later point. But do you imagine me among the osrim or among the matirim? but i did hint to this bigger issue in my discussion of my disagreement.

"Is the Torah of an evolving nature."

"I am of the opinion that the halacho can change if science can disprove that it was based on wrong assumptions. I have many proofs for this but they are not suitable for a comment like this."
there are at least three modern opinions on this -- that of Rav Dessler, Rav Herzog, and Rav Lamproni, as they discuss it in terms of lice on Shabbos, which seem to have been assumed to have been spontaneously generated.

be'ezrat Hashem, I will eventually get around to discussing it.

kol tuv,

joshwaxman said...

thanks, regarding berya. and you beat me to my next post on the subject!

"fish and meat"
an interesting explanation. as you note, though, it doesn't really fit the gemara which discusses specifically fish which has been roasted next to meat, and gives a reason of leprosy, and doesn't account for various extra chumros like not using the same fork for cold and cold without washing it.

kol tuv,

Anonymous said...

Very interesting to note that as of this date there is not one decent Kashrus Authority in the world that forbids fish with anisakis!! The whole thing was started by Shneur Zalman Revach who is making REVACH by frightening people. He has been proven to be a liar! Rav Falk of Gateshead in England wrote a long tshuva over 20 years ago See it and you will be surprised. By the way the worms in the stomach are sofek ossur, because there are a mixture of kosher and non kosher worms. see Pri Megodim. So if there could be non kosher worms in the flesh then all the worms in the flesh are ossur the same as in the stomach, so how could the Gemora and the poskin right to the Shilchon Oruch say the the ones in the flesh are permitted? That is proof that whatever is in the flesh is kosher!

Anonymous said...

could you please sum up all the arguments for and agaist anisakiasis as the ? has been revitalised rsecently


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