I’m curious in Halacha how our sages derived the requirement that for a bird to be kosher it had to have a mesorah?

In Tanakh it doesn’t clearly say this so where does this requirement come from?

  • Do you have a better plan?
    – Double AA
    Jan 14 at 18:35
  • @DoubleAA Hazal seem to have thought that they had a good plan... Jan 14 at 18:43
  • @Deuteronomy yes but the OP hasn't suggested that
    – Double AA
    Jan 14 at 18:48
  • @Kirk the Torah lists specific species as not kosher, the presumption being that all others are kosher. For various reasons it became difficult to rely on the proper identification of said non-kosher birds and accordingly our Sages developed identifiers (simanim) by which we may differentiate kosher/non-kosher birds. These simanim themselves however are open to debate in their application and accordingly some medieval decisors (Rashi/Tosafoth) ruled that since we have difficulty utilizing simanim, we should only consume those birds with an active tradition permitting its consumption. Jan 14 at 19:07
  • This is a watered down summary and it is quite a bit more nuanced and complex, but this is the general gist. Jan 14 at 19:08

1 Answer 1


Conveniently R Nathan Slifkin has a full article titled Why do we need a Mesorah for Birds? which aims to answer your question. You'll have to read it in full to get the full depth of the answer, but in a nutshell he writes that

Chazal [... gave] four signs via which to distinguish kosher from non-kosher birds (possessing a hind toe, a crop, a peelable gizzard, and not being “predatory”[...]). [...] According to Rashi’s interpretation, the non-kosher birds in the Torah’s list possess the first three of these signs; but in order for a bird to be kosher, it must also be known to be non-predatory. And Rashi says that since it’s difficult to be really sure that a bird is never predatory, one needs a tradition that it is kosher.

Noting that a majority of Rishonim (including Rabbeinu Tam, R. Moshe b. Yosef, Ramban, Ran, Rashba, Ritva, Rif) disagree with Rashi, R Slifkin then goes on to show Shulchan Aruch and Rema (YD 82:2) requires a mesorah to confirm that a bird is kosher to cover Rashi's concern (see Darkei Moshe where he justifies the concern based on the stork). See the full post for details.

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