Friday, March 28, 2008

Teach your Children How to Tell if a Fish is Kosher!!!

Folks, it is parshas Shemini. Yes, I know its Friday, but it is not too late!!

Here's the thing. Teachers tell students the signs of a kosher fish are fins and scales, which as my avid readers know is not accurate at all). The Torach says a kosher fish has "snapir v'kaskeses", which Ramban Vayika 11:9 explains are scales which can be removed by hand or with a knife without ripping skin.

How hard would it be to add this little addendum when telling you children (as young a 5!!) how to know what a kosher fish is?

For your younger yungins, I have a little song to use to help them rememeber (sung to the tune of "Twinkle twinkle little star":

Kaskeses is the way to know

If in my tummy this fish can go

If a scale comes out, and doesn't rip skin,

Look out tummy, its coming in!

But if a scale you cannot find

Your fish might be, a treife kind

Is this too hard for a small kid to learn? It is a Torah commandment to learn how to differentiate between kosher and non-kosher species, an integral part of our MESORAH, and best of all, it might even prevent you kid from buying a treif fish some day...

If you really need to, go here and learn more about the biology of the fish, or ask me to come over and help!

Does Illness Affect Kosher Status of Fish?

Sea lice from young wild salmon. Photo by Alexandra Morton

Question: Does illness affect kosher status of fish?

Answer: In short - absolutely not!

Illness does not affect kosher status of any fish, which is determined exclusively by the presence (or absense) of "kosher scales", namely scales which can be removed from the fish without ripping the skin.

The question came up because of a recent NY Times story here about Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) . While in animals and birds there IS a concern about disease, there is no such limitation found in salmon.

Fear not!

Now, for the long(er) version:

"The practice of aquaculture is not without negative impacts. The harmful consequences and risks associated with aquaculture can be broken down into the three subcategories below. They are: risks to the farmed fish themselves; risks to the surrounding environment and organisms; and risks to the human population. "

This quote is from: Duke University's Biology dept, whose cite can be found here. They know more about the effect on people than me, so read up!

To the best of my (little) knowledge, the diseased fish are not usually sold, and any fish whose disease would impact humans are not (spuuopsed to be) sold.

I do not see a practical issue for my subscribers.

Same thing for salmon lice (which some kosher agencies are crazy about). As I remember from a conversation I had with Avi Attias (co-owner of Banner Smoked Fish in Brooklyn, NY) any lice on the fish fall off after they are frozen, and are so huge and ugly that they would never wind up in the food supply.

In long: fear not!