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Is Turkey Kosher?

By: Rabbi Ari Z. Zivotofsky,** Ph.D.

INTRODUCTION:

KASHRUT OF BIRDS - THE BIBLICAL STORY:

For the purpose of identifying kosher animals, the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 79, 82, 83 and 85), based on Lev. 11:1-27 and Deut. 14:3-20, divides the animal kingdom into four categories. 1 These are: terrestrial mammalian quadrupeds, birds, fish, and invertebrates. 2 In general, the Torah specifies the features characterize a kosher species. For example, among the mammalian quadrupeds, an animal is kosher if it both chews its cud (ma'alay gara) and has fully split hooves (mafreset parsah v'shosa'at shesa prasot). In many cases the talmudic sages clarified, elaborated, embellished and added to the indicators, and these are often recorded as normative halacha in the Shulchan Aruch.

Birds are categorically different from the other three classes in that the Torah offers no identifying features to distinguish the kosher from the non-kosher species. The Torah simply provides a listing of those birds that are not kosher. An even score of species are listed 3 and after several of them "and its species" is stated, for a total of 24 non-kosher species. 4 By inference, all of the other, vast number of bird species, are kosher. 5 Thus, for Moshe Rabbenu, or any expert ornithologist who is able to correctly identify the 24 listed species, things are relatively straightforward - all other birds are kosher. However, today when these can no longer be accurately identified, things are quite a bit more complicated. 6 "In order to fully explain the identification of kosher birds would take a small booklet of its own" (Minchat Chinuch, mitzvah 157). And Chatam Sofer, Rabbi Yonatan Eibschitz, and others wrote several. What will be presented here is, by necessity, only a brief summary of the main ideas, with a focus on those relevant to the question of turkey.

KASHRUT OF BIRDS - THE RABBINIC STORY:

KASHRUT OF BIRDS - THE NEED FOR A MESORAH:

MESORAHS: TRANSMITTING, MAKING, APPLYING, AND AMENDING:

KASHRUT OF THE TURKEY


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