The Torah in two places (Sefer Vayikra Perek 11 & Sefer Devorim Perek 14) lists the two signs necessary for a sea creature to be eaten: It must have fins to swim with and scales on its body like armor (See Rashi in Vayikra Pasuk 9).

Rashi there (Pasuk 12) brings a Medrash Toras Kohanim which derives from this Pasuk (12) that sea creatures are kosher even if these signs are not on them when the creatures come up from the water, as long as they had the simonim while in the water. One can presumably assume then that there are such creatures who this applies to - they have the kosher signs while swimming in the water, but lose one or both of the signs while coming up. How many species does this apply to?

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    I remember years ago reading a story about a non Jewish king who had a Jewish advisor who had a kaballah from his father that a certain fish was permissible to eat, even though it had no noticeable kosher simonim. Long story short, they went out to sea together & caught one such fish. The king was able to see that it shed it's fins and scales while still in the water.
    – Earl
    Apr 26, 2017 at 2:11
  • Your title and your question body ask two different things -- your title says "Kosher Status of Fish That Don't Have Simonim When Caught," while the body asks "How many species does this apply to?" I'm going to assume that you meant to ask the latter, and edit accordingly. If this is not what you intended, by all means edit the question yourself to clarify what you mean to ask. I hope you find what you're looking for :)
    – MTL
    Apr 26, 2017 at 3:02
  • In USA there have been multiple reports that many fish--both kosher and non-kosher--are being mislabeled at disturbingly high rates. Even legitimate food outlets have been fooled by the purposeful mislabeling of species. I've heard some distributors--especially from Asia--even place the flesh on the skin of a different and higher price fish. Although this is not a halakhic response to your question, I think the realities of the situation mandate that you do not take a chance with a fish as described in your post.
    – JJLL
    Apr 26, 2017 at 3:47

2 Answers 2


The Snoek fish loses its scales when you take it out of the water.

Many kosher consumers in South Africa eat Snoek.

Discussion of South African fishermen regarding Snoek: http://www.sealine.co.za/view_topic.php?id=11666&forum_id=1

Bes Din of South Africa listing Snoek as a popular Kosher fish: http://www.uos.co.za/kashrut/fish.asp

More about Snoek: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-3094219/Bringing-snoek-one-South-Africas-staple-fish.html

Scientific : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thyrsites

  • Thank you for those links. What about fins? The articles don't mention whether those are still on when Snoek is caught. Can anyone who has eaten this type of fish shed light on this? Although for my question it would suffice that it lose at least one sign while in the water & still be kosher to eat. @shokhet thank you for your edit, this is what I meant
    – Earl
    Apr 26, 2017 at 14:17
  • I checked with a colleague of mine from South Africa who confirmed snoek shed their scales when caught but their fins are still attached.
    – Earl
    Apr 26, 2017 at 19:03
  • @Earl Your Welcome:) Apr 26, 2017 at 20:53

The story you are remembering in your comment about a Jewish adviser to a non-Jewish king is about a type of Swordfish.

The Jewish adviser was Rabbi Moshe Benvenisti, most famous as the grandfather of Rabbi Chaim Benvenisti, author of the Knesset haGedolah. The non-Jew is not actually the king, but one of the King's high officers. I don't think we know an exact year, but the story happened some time around 1600. In the story, the Vizier challenges his Jewish adviser to prove that the Espada (swordfish) is Kosher, and the adviser does so by throwing a garment into the fishing net as it is lowered into the water and finding scales embedded in the garment when the net has been pulled back in. (See Me'am Lo'ez Lev. 11:9-12; page 122 in the standard Hebrew edition, which quotes the story; see Ba'ei Chayyei YD 125 for the story as told by the Knesset haGedola himself.)

While most modern poskim do not consider the Swordfish to be Kosher, that is a fairly recent development. Until the 1950's, most poskim did consider the Swordfish to be Kosher, as it does have scales when it is younger, which loosen and fall off as it ages. This topic has already been addressed at length here.


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