May 18, 2024
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May these words of Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel ben Harav Yoel David Balk a”h and le’iluy nishmat Meira Chaya Nechama Beracha a”h bas David Mordechai Fishel sheyichyeh.

This week we learned Chullin 66. These are some highlights.

May a person remove fish scales from the fish while it is still alive?

Rama (Even Haezer Siman 5:14) writes that it is forbidden to pluck feathers off of a living chicken for such activity is the way of cruelty. We are not allowed to act in ways that will turn us into uncaring people. What about fish? Shut Siach Yitzchok (Siman 387) wonders about removing scales from a living fish, is it forbidden or allowed? Are fish different from birds? Are scales different from feathers?

Pri Megadim in his introduction to the laws of Shechitah teaches in the name of the Sefer Hachinuch (Mitzvah 451) that the reason for slaughter with a sharp non-scratched knife is to fulfill the mandate of not harming creatures excessively, tza’ar ba’alei chaim. A sharp knife cuts swiftly and relatively painlessly. Shut Siach Yitzchak (Siman 387) argues that we are therefore allowed to remove scales from a fish that is still alive. We have no mandate of shechting fish (Yoreh Dei’ah 13:1). Apparently, there is no concept of tza’ar ba’alei chaim with fish, a person would therefore be allowed to remove the scales while the fish is still alive. Siach Yitzchok adds that our Gemara teaches that fish scales differ from bird feathers. Our Gemara explains that the terms for scales, kaskeses, means a coating of scales like a warrior who wears an armored shirt made of many metal links. An armored shirt is easily removable. The scales of the fish are external shirt-like shells and they too are easily removed. Their detachment does not inflict great discomfort to the fish. Feathers on a bird are different. They are attached to the bird’s skin and removing them pains the bird. Siach Yitzchok adds that while the poskim prohibit plucking feathers from a live bird for it develops a cruel personality, that is only true about creatures that scream out in pain when they are afflicted. An uncaring personality results from hearing a creature cry in pain and ignoring the cries. Fish do not cry out. Removing their scales does not engender any cruelty within the person.

Shut Kinyan Torah (Cheilek Heh Siman 88) seems to disagree with a key argument of Shut Siach Yitzchok. Shut Siach Yitzchok argues that there is no law of tza’ar ba’alei chaim with fish. Shut Kinyan Torah feels that there is a concept of tza’ar ba’alei chaim with fish. Shut Kinyan Torah writes that we are not allowed to support the actions of the scientists who engineer carp fish without scales because of tza’ar ba’alei chaim. Our Gemara teaches that fish scales are like armor. Armor protects a soldier and fish scales therefore protect those fish who are fortunate enough to have scales; scientists who engineer fish without scales are causing harm and pain to their product and therefore we should not support their actions since we have a mandate not to pain living creatures. He also writes that those fish who shed their scales when they are lifted from the sea are dropping their scales in frustration and upset. Apparently it is upsetting for the fish to not have scales. He therefore writes that just as we may not pluck feathers off a living fowl we are not allowed to do a cruel act of encouraging fish to live without scales merely for the sake of our financial profits. It seems clear that he would prohibit pulling scales off of a living fish (Mesivta).

By Rabbi Zev Reichman


Rabbi Zev Reichman teaches Daf Yomi in his shul, East Hill Synagogue.

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