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What is a kosher fish?

by Rabbi Moshe Miller

  

Library » Mitzvot » Kosher » Kosher Creatures | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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The Torah does not permit Jews to eat all types of fish – only those that have fins and scales: “this you may eat from everything that is in the water – everything that has fins and scales... but anything that does not have fins and scales... shall be abhorrent to you” (Leviticus 11:9-12). Shellfish, dolphins, sharks, squid and so on are therefore prohibited.

Not all types of scales qualify for Kosher status. Of the four types of scales – ctenoid, cycloid, ganoid and placoid – only ctenoid and cycloid scales are kosher according to the Torah. Kosher scales can easily be removed without damaging the skin of the fish.

“this you may eat from everything that is in the water – everything that has fins and scales... but anything that does not have fins and scales... shall be abhorrent to you”
Ctenoid (comblike) scales have a toothed outer edge, and are usually found on fish with spiny fin rays, such as bass and crappie.

Cycloid (rounded) scales have a smooth outer edge, and are most common on fish with soft fin rays, such as salmon and carp.

Placoid (platelike) scales are found on sharks and other cartilagenous fish.

Ganoid (armorlike) scales are found on gars (or garpike) and reedfish.

The whole body of the fish does not have to be covered with scales. If the scales are only near the gills, fins or tail this is sufficient.

Swordfish have scales when young, but these are lost as the fish grows older. They are not accepted as kosher.

The Talmud (Bechorot 7b) points out that all kosher fish lay eggs, although not all fish that lay eggs are kosher (sturgeon, for example). Similarly, all kosher fish have spines, although not all fish with spines are kosher.

Even predatory fish that meet the above requirements are considered Kosher.

It is worth noting that Jewish authorities emphasize the importance of eating only kosher food to maintain a pure soul, mind and heart.

A list of kosher fish is available at http://www.chabad.org/library/article.asp?AID=82675

A list of non-kosher fish is available at http://www.chabad.org/library/article.asp?AID=82675#NKFL


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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Kosher
Literally means "fit." Commonly used to describe foods which are permitted by Jewish dietary laws, but is also used to describe religious articles (such as a Torah scroll or Sukkah) which meet the requirements of Jewish law.
Leviticus
The third of the Five Books of Moses. This book deals with the service (of the Levite Tribe) in the Tabernacle, and contains many of the 613 commandments.