Revivim, rabbi Eliezer Melamed
Revivim, rabbi Eliezer Melamed

Passing On the Tradition of Kosher Species

Despite the disagreements and ideological tensions, the religious moshavim in the north of the country had a considerable environmental impact on their secular neighbors * The ‘Tradition Meal’ initiated by Prof. Zohar Amar together with the grandson of Rabbi Kapach and the Binyamin Religious Council, brings blessing by passing on the tradition of the pure species and preserving the style of eating that was customary at the time of the Temple * When a certain ethnic community has a strong and credible tradition, members of other communities may also rely on it

The Mitzvah of Hashavat Aveida

The wording of the mitzvah of hashavat aveida (returning lost items) is specially formulated in the words “you must not ignore them,” as the Torah says:

“If you see your brother’s ox or sheep going astray, you must not ignore them. You must return them to your brother…You must do the same to a donkey, an article of clothing, or anything else that your brother loses and you find. You must not ignore it (Deuteronomy 22:1-3).

This comes to teach us that this mitzvah, like the rest of the mitzvot bein adam la’chaveiro (the ethical laws), need to be ingrained in one’s soul, to the point where a person feels that he must fulfill the mitzvah. He cannot see his brother lose something, ignore it, and not try to help him.

Sometimes when a person faces the question of judging others, with a good or bad eye, and consequently, whether to engage in a dispute, it is difficult to find a “compass” that points to the truth. When love and care for others becomes a natural response, there is a good chance one will judge properly – “Judge your neighbor fairly.”

Sde Yaakov and Kfar Yehoshua

Recently, a book by my student, Rabbi Dr. Aminadav Yitzhaki, “Ma’amin ve’Zoreah” was published. It is the core of his research on religious settlement. In his academic efforts, he continues the work of his father, Prof. Moshe Yitzhaki, who also helped him edit the book.

I enjoy this subject, both because of its value, and also because my grandparents of the Volk family immigrated from Germany to the religious moshav  Sde Yaakov in the Jezreel Valley, where my mother was born and raised, and her childhood stories are similar to the stories told in the book. The moshav was named Sde Yaakov after Rabbi Reines ztz”l, and it was the first moshav of the Hapoel Mizrahi movement.

Along with the religious and ideological tensions between the religious moshav and the secular moshavim, there was also a mutual influence. For example, the people of Kfar Yehoshua came to participate in the introduction of a Torah scroll in Sde Yaakov. There were also members of Kfar Yehoshua who came occasionally on Shabbat to pray in the minyan in Sde Yaakov. Towards Yom Kippur, some people from Kfar Yehoshua organized a minyan for themselves, and several times, they asked Reb Shlomo Levin, who was endowed with a pleasant voice, to serve as cantor, and he agreed. He could be seen making his way between the moshavim, wearing a tallit and a white kittel (during particularly rainy years, people in kfar Yehoshua used to joke that “Reb Shlomo probably prayed for rain this year with great intensity”). His offspring continue in his path, and we are lucky to have more than ten of them living on Har Bracha.

Shabbat in Both Moshavim

In a booklet published by the members of Kfar Yehoshua, one of the members of the village wrote a personal testimony: “All day I worked at the usual pace for this season; I attempted to finish plowing the entire plot that day. In the middle of work, in the late afternoon, I suddenly heard the ringing of an alarm bell. I immediately turned my head towards the village – I did not see smoke… and then, I realized that the alarm bell was coming from Sde Yaakov. I remembered that it was Friday, and that in Sde Yaakov, they always ring an alarm on Friday an hour before sunset. A signal to workers in the field to stop work – Shabbat is approaching. I was ashamed of myself. I had a few more rows left; I would finish soon. All around me, everybody was plowing. I whisked the mules – hurry up! … A thought sawed through my mind: by all standards, I had already worked a full day. Even when I was a construction worker in the city, they used to work on Fridays for only seven hours…. untie the mules; return home, Shabbat is approaching… three more rows, two more. Everyone around me is plowing, and from my plot, I see Sde Yaakov like it is on the palm of my hand. At this time, a man in Sde Yaakov is waiting for Shabbat, as if waiting for a wonderful guest. With the ring of the alarm, he stopped work. His mood is uplifting. He hurries home. He finishes the last arrangements in his courtyard, shakes off all the workload – he is free!  A Hebrew farmer in the Land of Israel! In the meantime, I finish all the plowing and return home after sunset, and in my heart, an inexpressible feeling of distress. I travel home with my friend. We are helping one another, but my spirit is down. My friend turns to me: ‘Did you hear the alarm ringing? I’m jealous of the people of Sde Yaakov!’ He continues, ‘Right now, they are already free and enjoying rest and Shabbat, and I still have to unload sacks from the cart, harvest the vegetables, milk the cows, and bring the milk to the dairy. When will I finish?’ I did not answer my friend. We travelled home. It was already getting dark. Distress and sorrow in my heart” (ibid., P. 265).

Instilling Shabbat Observance Near Kfar Haroeh

Near Kfar Haroeh, the members of the secular moshavim and kibbutzim used to work in their fields on Shabbat, like every other day. One of the veterans of Kfar Haroeh spoke about his friend Reuven Gelber z”l whose fields bordered those of Kfar Hogla, and once a neighbor asked him: “I don’t understand. Making a living is so difficult. All week, we work extremely hard, including Shabbatot. How is it that your crop is the same as ours? After all, you rest on Shabbat, and don’t work. How is that possible?” Gelber answered:” Try, and see how it goes!” On Sunday of the following week, that same Jew met Gelber once again, and said to him:” Thank you very much! My wife also blesses you – she saw me at home for an entire day!” Over time, the example given by the members of the religious moshavim and kibbutzim has worked, and for many of their neighbors, Shabbat has become a day of rest.

The ‘Tradition Meal’

On the 28th of Tammuz I participated in the ‘Tradition Meal”, described as “a Torah conference for the preservation of the tradition of kosher animals and the laws of the Temple.” It was organized by Prof. Zohar Amar a resident of Neve Tzuf, together with the Torah Culture Department of Benjamin Council, led by R. Ofer Kapah, grandson of Rabbi Yosef Kapach ztz”l.

The first goal is to preserve the tradition of the kosher (pure) species. According to halakha, the species of kosher birds depends on masoret (tradition), as there are no clear signs from the Torah of the kosher species, rather, the Torah numbered twenty-four unclean species, and the Chachamim instructed that anyone who is familiar with all twenty-four unclean species is permitted to eat all others (Chulin 63b). Over time, however, proficiency in the twenty-four unclean species was lost, and we relied on three signs, which are: 1) An extra finger, 2) a crop (a thin-walled expanded portion of the alimentary tract used for the storage of food prior to digestion), and 3) a gizzard that can be peeled; this, in addition to the main sign that the bird is not predatory (Chulin 59a). However, since there were cases of birds thought to be kosher based on the signs, but in the end, were found to be predators, the halakha was codified that signs should not be relied on, but only a species that has a masoret of being kosher is permitted to be eaten, and birds that do not have a masoret – are forbidden (S.A., R’ma, Y.D., 82: 2-3).

The meal is organized so that the masoret of the kosher species is not forgotten; everything is documented and filmed –  the moderators state ‘this is a kosher species, these are its signs, this is how it looks’, etc., and by eating the species, they fulfill the halakha practically, and pass on the masoret to future generations.

In practice, the conference also dealt with other issues, so that the entire meal, with its eighteen portions, reflected the tradition of eating practiced while the Temple was in existence. The baked foods were like the meal offerings, and the desserts, as was customary at the time, were smoky. Without spices and vegetables not found in the Land of Israel at that time. The meal was intermingled with lectures by twelve rabbis and academic scholars.

Is it Permissible to Rely on the Tradition of Another Ethnic Group

The topic I talked about at the meal, was the authority of one ethnic community tradition for others; or, are members of an ethnic community not customary to eat a certain species, permitted to eat it, based on a tradition of another ethnic community? The well-known example is the grasshopper. Specifically, are Jews who come from Ashkenazi, Eastern, and most North African countries, who did not eat grasshoppers, permitted to eat them based on the tradition of Yemeni and Moroccan immigrants?

In practice, when there is a clear masoret for one ethnic community on a particular bird or grasshopper that it is kosher, the other ethnic groups can rely on their masoret –  on condition that the masoret of that community is known to be credible, and the reason that only they ate it, is because this species existed continually throughout the years only in their location.

However, if the members of the ethnic community who did not eat the same species had reason to prohibit it, such as its signs are questionable, or thought that members of that same ethnic community who ate it were not meticulous enough in transmitting traditions, or because that same species is too similar to a non-kosher species, and if eaten, there is concern others may err and eat the non-kosher species as well, they should continue their custom of not eating it (Shach 82:11, according to Rosh and Rashba). However, members of the same ethnic community who are customary to eat it, as long as they did so with the consent of their rabbis, are permitted to continue their custom (Peninei Halakha: Kashrut 17:6).

And, although it seems from the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah, 82:5) that there is controversy in this – according to Rashba, it is forbidden for members of one ethnic group to rely on the masoret of members of another ethnic group, and according to Rosh, it is permitted. Nevertheless, the dispute in the opinion of the Shulchan Aruch is only when the species was present in both places, and the people of one place had a masoret and ate it, while the people of the other place did not have a masoret, and therefore, were not customary to eat it. However, when the same species was not found in their location at all, they have no masoret of not eating it, and according to all opinions, they may rely on the members of the ethnic community in which that same species existed, and have a tradition of eating it (see, Shach 82:11).

Thus, members of all ethnic groups are permitted to eat a species of kosher grasshopper based on the tradition of Yemeni and Moroccan immigrants. In order to fulfill the halakha, I intended to eat the grasshopper, which is a species of a sheretz tahor (ritually pure insect). However, to our shame, the Rabbinate did not permit them to bring it to the meal, and only after the meal, was it allowed to be served. Then, when it was served, I recoiled, because according to our eating habits, the grasshopper creates a feeling of disgust, and therefore, I was not sure if a bracha should be recited over it. Consequently, I made the brachashe’hakol” on water, and strengthened myself together with my friend Rabbi Aharon Badihi to eat it, in order to honor the rabbis of Yemen and Morocco, who testified that it was kosher. In practice, it tasted all right.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew.

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