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What's the deal with swordfish? Is it Kosher? Which sources say yes, and which sources say no?

EDIT: I know that R' Dr. Moshe D. Tendler is well known for having consulted with scientists (in 1951) and deciding that they are not, based on the way their scales look, cling to the body and disappear later in life. However, according to this article the Chief Rabbinate in Israel rejects that theory. Also, the Conservative movement considers them to be Kosher, based on a Gemara that supposedly says they are. I am not Conservative, and I don't follow Conservative rulings (there's a funny, yet deeply philosophical backstory with regard to that and a family member who studied at JTS). However, I mention that because it seems that, according to the above linked article, Jews along the Mediterranean have eaten swordfish for some 350 years, and that the Gemara in question is translated as swordfish, but it may not be what we today call swordfish.

So, with all that background, are there any Gedolim today who hold that it is Kosher, and how do they support their position vis a vis R' Tendler and the problem with the scales?

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Morrocan Jews eat swordfish. –  Hahu Gavra May 4 '12 at 14:53
@HahuGavra What's the source for this Morrocan din? –  minhag May 18 '12 at 3:12
@Minhag, probably Mesorah like everything else. –  Seth J May 18 '12 at 11:55
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2 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Rabbi Hershel Schachter quotes Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (Divrei HaRav p. 192) as having been shown a swordfish and permitting it, claiming that there aren't any rules that mandate what the scales should look like.

He further notes some historical precedent for eating swordfish in Europe (my impression is there is some disagreement about what fish is specified in the records).

Finally, I have been told by students of Rabbi Schachter that he thinks swordfish is kosher and has even eaten it on occasion.

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I spoke with R' Schachter's son and another person who had a conversation with R' Schachter a couple of weeks ago about swordfish. What I got out of the two conversations is that he holds swordfish is Mutar. I cannot tell you anything about the rumor that he has eaten it. –  Seth J May 4 '12 at 16:41
@SethJ If he holds it is Mutar then it makes sense that he has eaten it. –  Double AA May 4 '12 at 16:45
No, if he holds it's Kosher then it is possible that he has eaten it. But given the back and forth discussion I just had with his son, I'm doubting the rumor. It's entirely possible that it is true, but until it's been substantiated, I'm treating it as coming from a game-of-telephone (maybe he said he would eat it, or maybe someone told him he would bring him some and R' Schachter promised he'd have the rebbetzin cook it up - but if the guy never came through, then they wouldn't have eaten it). –  Seth J May 4 '12 at 17:25
Also, think about the difficulty of obtaining Kosher swordfish. If there were certified Kosher restaurants and butchers that served/sold swordfish, I think this would not be a discussion here on this site. So in order to obtain Kosher swordfish, someone would either have to catch one and kill it and clean it with Kosher utensils, or buy it from someone with non-Kosher utensils and then then cut off a Kelipah, which seems like a lot of effort for something that would be done so casually as to be told as an apocryphal story. –  Seth J May 4 '12 at 17:31
@SethJ right, but if you request a hadacha, the fish no longer requires klipa. –  Hahu Gavra May 6 '12 at 5:01
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The Tzitz Eliezer 9:40 discusses swordfish and says they are forbidden. He says that it is quiet likely that the fish with a sword discussed in the Knesses HaGedola is really a sailfish which also has a small sword.

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GershonGold, you asked earlier which Gemara. It's supposedly Hulin 66b, although I didn't see it on a quick skim (can't really spend time on this right now). Is that where you found it? –  Seth J May 1 '12 at 15:19
The Tzitz Eliezer at the end of the Teshuva mentions the Chasam Sofer in Chulin 66 –  Gershon Gold May 1 '12 at 15:25
I wish I could select both your answer and Double AA's. Together you've basically brought the two main (opposing) opinions. –  Seth J May 16 '12 at 19:42
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