I've heard that the reason we (most of us) don't eat the locusts enumerated as kosher in the Torah is that we cannot identify them. That is, we don't know what type of locust is referred to by the Hebrew word naming each kosher type.

Some Jews, however, can identify them: they (Yemenite Jews, I believe, or some Yemenite Jews) have a tradition that identifies the kosher locust types.

Why don't we trust those Jews? Normally we say ed echad neeman b'isurin, that a Jew's identification of something as kosher suffices to allow another Jew to eat it. This case should fall under that rule: we don't know which locusts are the named-kosher ones, the Yemenite community identifies them for us, we should be able to eat them.

(I'd understand our reluctance if we had a tradition the contrary of the Yemenite tradition: "such-and-such locust is not the named-kosher one". Then of course we would not trust the Yemenite license. But our tradition is simply lacking; why not trust the ed echad, the Yemenite community?)

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    You're question would be much stronger if you sourced your original claim. As it is now, the answer could be (and likely is) "in hachi nami but they're gross!" – Double AA Jun 8 '12 at 6:23
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    Also, I just have to quote Shalom: It's a lot like eating grasshoppers. Yes, the Bible allowed it, though never said it was a good thing. Nobody does it today except for a few Yemenites. – Double AA Jun 8 '12 at 6:25
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    Whether we can or not is apparently a point of disagreement between the authorities: "Regarding birds, it is clear from the Shach and Aruch Hashulchan that one can rely on the Mesora from another community. But does the same halacha apply to chagavim? There was no uniform answer on this. Many of the Ashkenazi participants asked their own poskim and received divergent answers. While many rabbis ruled against eating, some of the leading poskim in Yerushalaim gave the green light to rely on the Yemenite tradition and eat chagavim." – Isaac Moses Jun 8 '12 at 13:46
  • @DoubleAA, I couldn't source it beyond how I did ("I've heard"). – msh210 Jun 8 '12 at 14:25
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    @msh210, I'd be more comfortable posting an answer if I could dig one level deeper and get the "why" (which you asked for) for both sides. I suspect there's an article out there by R' Zivotofsky that'll do that. – Isaac Moses Jun 8 '12 at 14:51

Ari Zivotofsky and I have worked hard to collect tens of testimonies from Yemenites and North Africans on the ID and traditions of which chagav (locust-like insect) is kosher. There is no question, as there are still many people alive who can remember them from their countries of origin.

Birds as the paradigm

As mentioned in Isaac Moses' response above, this article quotes the Shulchan Aruch stating one can rely upon another community with a tradition as an eid ached, that a particular bird is not a dores (considered a predator) and hence acceptable. The shulchan aruch needs to know that the bird is not a dores. In each community, they were familiar with their local kosher birds. That is why if you don't have such a tradition you can rely upon somebody who does, to clarify the reality of the anatomy of the bird. Does it attack or not? It is not an issue of a minhag not to eat a particular bird. If indeed you have an active minhag in your community NOT to eat a particular bird, then you are not allowed to eat it based upon another tradition.


Indeed, the Shach in Hilchot Chagavim (YD 85) (Laws of Chagavs) actually refers to Hilchot Ofot (Laws of Birds) as the paradigm for relying upon another community's mesorah in order to eat such animals. If you have the mesorah and I don't, I can rely upon you. This is what Rav Kapach told us and wrote many times. See, for example, the scanned-in responsa under "Rav Kapach on Locusts" on this section of our website.

Hard to imagine an Ashkenazi invited for shabbat to the house of Rav Kapach or the Rambam for that matter and refusing to eat the chagavim served as an appetizer since you don't trust their testimony.

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    Ari Greenspan, welcome to Mi Yodeya and thank you for bringing your expert knowledge here. Please consider registering your account to be able to fully participate on the site. I look forward to seeing you around! – Double AA Jun 8 '12 at 16:17
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    Indeed, thanks very much for sharing your expertise! R' Zivotofsky wrote the following to me in an email: "I think the premise of the question needs to be slightly refined. It is not ed echad that is needed here, but an eida. ed echad neeman b'isurin relates to a specific item. here we need testimony about the existence of a mesorah within the community. But the question is still great - if the Yemenite and Moroccan communities have a tradition can everyone else rely on it? ..." – Isaac Moses Jun 8 '12 at 16:32
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    (email continued) "... We have unfortunately not (yet) written about this and there is not much in writing. Rav Kapach wrote in HaZofeh in the 1950s explaining that others can rely on them. Rav Munk from Haifa wrote a tshuva explaining why not. there is the famous Ohr Hachaim in his commentary on the Torah and to Yoreh De'a where he prohibits. there is a tshuva by Eretz Chemda in response to a question by us that they have published. you would definitely want to see the material in Zohar Amar's book ( biupress.co.il/website_en/index.asp?id=278 )." – Isaac Moses Jun 8 '12 at 16:32
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    @IsaacMoses, could you ask R' Zivotofsky if the reverse is true. Taking an extreme example, can Yemenites marry into Ashkenazi families, trusting the Mesorah that the Ashkenazim are in fact Jewish? What is it about the Mesorah of the Yemenites that precludes us from just accepting it? Just because we haven't seen it? Clearly this shows their Mesorah is stronger than ours (argumentative tone intended for effect, not actually to be argumentative)! Hmm, I think I have a new question. – Seth J Jun 8 '12 at 17:54
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    Followup to SethJ's comment is judaism.stackexchange.com/q/16955 – msh210 Jun 8 '12 at 18:27

The author of Or HaChayim writes (Pri To'ar 85) that he discouraged the members of his city from eating them for a few reasons, one of them being because their tradition was not completely reliable.

I later happened to come across this article which discusses this topic more extensively.

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    See this article which claims that R Chaim ibn Attar was disolusioned with the local locust population because they didn't match a description of kosher locusts written by Rashi (who had probably never seen such a locust in his life) which doesn't match any existing locust. – Double AA May 26 '13 at 17:28
  • @DoubleAA, that sounds like a fantastic explanation of the phenomenon of not relying on the Yemenite (or any) Mesorah. Whether it ought to be followed or not, I'm not qualified to answer, but it makes sense as an explanation of the "loss" of our Mesorah. – Seth J Jan 19 '16 at 22:38

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