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If I recall correctly there's some fish whose kosher status is questionable; a medieval rabbi (Rishon) ruled it was okay, then had a dream that night where all his students were sitting around and eating stuff that was clearly non-kosher. He woke up and said, "oy! That's a Heavenly sign I was mistaken, the fish isn't kosher!"

I think they called it the "barbuto" fish, and it's translated as "sole"? Does this sound familiar?

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name is correct, not sure about the translation. Pretty sure this is in one of the commentaries "in the back?" of Gemorra chulin, but can't check now. –  Anon_2Kislev71 Mar 25 '11 at 15:34
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I always heard this was a refrence to Swordfish –  SimchasTorah Mar 25 '11 at 17:42
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ST, I think that is a different controversy (though I could be wrong), although they could stem from a similar issue. See my speculation re: burbot. mi.yodeya.com/questions/6569/… –  Seth J Mar 25 '11 at 17:47
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2 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

הגהות אשרי מסכת עבודה זרה פרק ב

רשב"ם כתב בשם רבינו שלמה דהיינו דג טהור שקורין בורביט"א ור' יהודה חסיד אמר כל מי שיאכל בורבוטא לא יזכה לאכול לויתן ופעם א' התירו רבינו אפרים ואמרו לו בחלום שהתיר שרצים וחזר בו ואסרו וכל הפוסק מלאכלו ינוחו ברכות על ראשו.

Quick translation:

"The Rashba"m writes in the name of R' Shlomo that there is a fish called "barbito", and R' Yehudah HaChasid said anyone who eats this fish will not merit to eat from the Leviathan (i.e. it's not kosher). One time Rabbeinu Ephraim permitted it [to be eaten], and he was told in a dream that he had permitted "sheratzim" (impure animals). He returned (retracted) and forbade it, and all who stopped eating it received brachos on their heads.

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Purely speculative: Could it be the burbot?

"The burbot (Lota lota) is the only gadiform (cod-like) fish inhabiting freshwaters. It is also known as mariah, the lawyer, and (misleadingly) eelpout. It is closely related to the marine common ling and the cusk. It is the only member of the genus Lota.

The genus and species name "lota" comes from the old French[1] "lotte", fish named also "barbot" in this language. The Inuktitut–Iñupiaq word for burbot was used to name the recently discovered extinct transitional species Tiktaalik."

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burbot

From the photos in the article and other locations I've found online, it looks like some sort of cross (appearance only, not scientific) between an eel and a catfish.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Burbot has very fine scales. http://dnr.wi.gov/fish/documents/catchsnakehead.pdf Again, purely speculative, but perhaps this is why it was unclear whether or not it was Kosher?

Are there any experienced frum fishermen reading this who can speculate as to the Kashruth of other fish of a similar nature? I know there was (is?) some controversy regarding swordfish for reasons relating to the existence/disappearance of its scales during its development. Maybe something similar happened here?

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Seth, I was wondering about that. I heard Rabbi Hershel Schachter say in passing that the story in question is believed to have been sole, if I recall correctly. English is a messy enough language that just because we call this fish burbot today doesn't mean it was "burbita" 800 years ago in Provence. –  Shalom Mar 25 '11 at 16:43
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True, but according to the article on Wikipedia, it's the only member of the genus Lota, which got its name from Old French, and the name "barbot" also is Old French. I've got no sources on that other than Wikipedia, but that's what caught my attention. It is also very clearly not a word of modern English invention. –  Seth J Mar 25 '11 at 17:16
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shouldn't this be a comment on Barry's answer? –  Shmuel Brin Sep 4 '13 at 17:12
    
If we're going down this road, consider that it could be a type of threadfin of the genus Polydactylus, such as the fish shown here and discussed here. It's called "barbure" in French, and "barbudo" or "barbita" in Spanish. –  Fred Mar 24 at 6:51
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