Tuesday, April 12, 2022

The Turning of the Tide: The Kashrut Tale of the Swordfish


Based on the ruling of the renowned Sephardic posek, the Knesset haGedolah, Rabbi Chaim ben Yisrael Benvenisti (1603-73),1 who permitted “the fish with the sword,” halakhic decisors over three hundred of the last three hundred and fifty years, repeatedly and uniformly permitted some types of “swordfish.” The first time this was seriously challenged seems to have been by Rabbi Moshe David Tendler, Ph.D., in America in the 1950s. For reasons explored in this paper, his challenge was phenomenally successful. No one growing up Orthodox in the United States during the last forty years would have dreamed of considering the swordfish kosher. Indeed, currently, in every kosher fish list belonging to an Orthodox kashrut organization in America, the swordfish is categorized as non-kosher.2

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