Is Swordfish Kosher?

Question

Is swordfish kosher?

9 months

Answers

  1. In general, the definition of a kosher fish is a fish that has fins and scales. That being said, there has been extensive discussion in Jewish Law regarding swordfish.

    The Aruch HaShulchan 83:15-16 talks in general about fish that are Kosher even though they do not seem to have scales. He states that they are Kosher for everyone so long as there is a tradition that that particular fish is kosher. The Talmud (Avoda Zarah 39a) lists five fish that are all considered to be Kosher. Jastrow identifies them as belonging to the Tuna family.

    The Meam Loez (Vayikra, Shmini 11:12) discusses swordfish and states categorically that, not only is it Kosher, but that he ate it himself! He had a tradition from the Kenesset Gedolah, the Rabbi of the Meam Loez, that the swordfish became so angry and scared when it was caught, that it shed its scales. It is interesting to note that one of the sources I found mentioned that even at the time of the Kenesses Gedolah there was some confusion about what “dag hacherev” really was.

    Just as an aside, the nephew of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach’s, zt”l told me that there are species of Tuna that do exactly the same thing as  the swordfish. Rav Auerbach told me that he would try to find out if there are any companies that are produce swordfish with a Kashrut certification. In America and England/Europe swordfish is not sold as a Kosher fish, but perhaps in other countries it is.

    In the book Mazon Kasher Min HaChai by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Levinger, the whole swordfish controversy is documented. He write, about forty years ago, that in England and the USA the Rabbis said that it was “lo tahor” (i.e. not kosher). They arrived at this conclusion according to the Kaf HaChaim Yoreh Deah, 83, the Zivchei Tzedek ote 8, and the Pitchei Teshuva 26.

    What is extremely interesting is that, according to the same sefer, the Kashrut Division of the Chief Rabbinate in Israel under the auspices of Rav Unterman zt”l, the Chief Rabbi of Israel at the time and a very great Talmid Chacham, paskened that it was Kosher!

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team