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Torah Talk for Parashat Shmini

April 19, 2017 by Sharon Freundel (Community)

After the dedication of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and the ordination of the cohanim (priests), two of Aharon’s sons bring a strange fire before God and are consumed by fire; God then instructs Moshe and Aharon regarding which animals, fish, and birds may be eaten by the Bnei Yisrael.

Both animals and fish display physical characteristics which indicate whether or not they are kosher: a kosher animal has completely split hooves and chews its cud, and a kosher fish has fins and scales. Birds, however, are different. Twenty-four avian species are specifically prohibited in the parasha, including the stork, raven, hawk, and owl. Historically, a list of permissible birds was passed down orally from generation to generation until a mesorah (tradition) developed as to which birds were kosher.

However, what about birds like the turkey? As a relatively recent entrée, dating to the “discovery” of the New World around 400-500 years ago, the turkey has no ancient tradition governing its status. Is the turkey kosher? Read more >