First Shabbat elevators and now … lox?
A controversial edict that salmon is unkosher is the latest in a recent series of haredi strictures that reverse decades of accepted practice.
In October, a group of prominent Asheknazi rabbis in Israel came out against Sabbath use of automatic elevators, although they are commonly found in hotels and hospitals in Orthodox areas.
Last month, Jerusalem’s Rabbi Yosef Sholom Elyashiv, a highly regarded 99-year-old halachic decisor who also signed onto the elevator ruling, declared that wearing braces interfered with a woman’s ability to become ritually clean in the mikveh because the requirement is to be free of all unnatural material during immersion.
Now, a group called Chevra Mehadrin in Monsey has declared that anisakis parasites render some fish, including salmon, non-kosher.
Samuel Heilman, author of the recent book “Sliding To The Right,” about growing strictness among the fervently Orthodox, sees these developments as part of continuing efforts to separate Orthodoxy from general, modern life.
“It’s all about not being like, or close to people outside the Orthodox community,” said Heilman, a Queens College sociologist. “The assumption is that if you are in touch with that world it’s a slippery slope toward assimilation and the decline, erosion and end of Orthodoxy. Expect more.”
A New York Post article on the salmon ban on Monday caused the phones to ring off the hook at the office of Rabbi Moshe Elefant, the kashrut administrator at the Orthodox Union, after he told the Post “This issue has been resolved in Jewish law for hundreds of years already.”
Rabbi Elefant told The Jewish Week that the OU had attended a conference with a rabbi from Israel who presented his view of the salmon problem, which did not persuade the organization to change its position.
“The Talmud already says that parasites found in fish do not make the fish unkosher,” said Rabbi Elefant.
But Rabbi Yosef Wikler, editor of the independent Kashrus Magazine, said the issue should not be taken lightly. He noted that the Talmudic view of such worms is that they grow naturally within the fish, which would make them, in essence, part of the fish.
Recent scientific study, however, suggests that the parasites, which are visible to the naked eye, are ingested by the host.
“There is a conflict between science and tradition,” said the rabbi, who says he has seen such worms found in salmon unravel to up to two inches long. “They are not microscopic,” he said, noting that the parasites are only found in wild salmon, not those from fish farms. At least one major kosher processor, he said, is in the process of switching to farmed salmon.
Rabbi Wikler predicted that in the near future “more people will come around” to the view that wild salmon is non-kosher.