With all the confusion, what is the normative halacha? Some Rishonim,
such as the Ramban (Chullin 62) who describes examining many birds
to identify the kosher traits, were willing to trust their understanding
of the Talmud and to rely on the physical characteristics. The Shulchan
Aruch (YD 82:3) narrowed the use of physical signs and required a priori
knowledge that the bird is not a dores. The Shulchan Aruch
also provided some means, to be discussed below, of ascertaining that a
bird is not a dores.
Rashi (Chullin 62a), based on the incident of the tarnugulsa
d'agma in which people ate a non-kosher bird as a consequence of applying
physical characteristics 19
as a criterion, opines that we can never be sure that a bird is not a dores
and hence rules that birds may be eaten only if there is a mesorah
- a tradition attesting to the acceptability of this particular species.
The Ramo (YD 82:3), the principal authority for all Ashkenazic lands,
followed the lead of Rashi and the Levush and ruled that the only
applicable principle as far as he is concerned is that "no bird should
be eaten unless there is a mesorah that it is a kosher species."
This is based on accepting two different rulings of Rashi.
First, Rashi's opinion that the three physical indicia do not prove that
the bird is not a dores. Second, his assertion, agreed to by the
Gra (YD 82:7), that we can never be sure through any means that a bird
is not dores. 21
Putting these two opinions of Rashi together yields the result that a mesorah
is always required in order to permit a bird. Harsh languages has beens used
in analyzing this opinion of the Ramo. The Kreisi U'plasi expresses wonderment
at the origin of this concept, and the Minchat Yitzchak (2:85) obligingly
points out the sources. The Aruch Hashulchan (YD 82:29) writes that although
some have voiced surprise at the Ramo's stringency, he can show that it
is firmly rooted in halacha, and that this stringency should not be violated.
The Chachmat Adam (36:6) similarly states that no signs in the world would
permit a bird, only a mesorah could do so.
This ruling of the Ramo, 22
that there is an absolute requirement for a mesorah motivates the
question regarding turkey, a New World species, and will be the launching
platform for what follows. If "no bird should be eaten in the absence of
a mesorah" how is it possible for a New World species to be kosher?