Rabbi Gershon Bess Makes ‘Machoah for Kovod HaTorah’ Regarding ‘Worms In Fish’

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Submitted to YWN by Rabbi Gershon Bess; Rov Congregation Kehilas Yaakov, Los Angeles with the permission of HoRav Elyashiv Shlit”a.

As a Rov of a Kehillah, I generally refrain from disseminating a halachic issue, which should be discussed in the Bais Medrash with the sole purpose of Asukay Shmaatzah Alibah D’Hilchoso, on the internet.  However, since the issue involves the Kavod of Gedolei Yisroel and there is much confusion being reported, I feel it is necessary to clarify a few points. Before sending this clarification, I asked Rav Aryeh Elyashiv to ask HoRav Elyashiv Shlit”a whether I should send this out to correct the erroneous quotes in HoRav Elyashiv Shlit”a‘s name and in the name of HoRav Wozner Shlit”a. He said that his grandfather Shlit”a responded unequivocally that I should.

Klal Yisroel owes a debt of gratitude to Rav Moshe Vaie Shlita for bringing attention to the issue of worms in fruits and vegetables. He is a genuine Talmid Chachom, a Yarei Shamayim, and one of the foremost experts on the subject.

  • The letter posted by YWN [5/26/10] in the name of Rav Vaye, however, quoting that the Gedolim were actually matir is, word for word, taken from a letter written about 6 months ago (except for the last pages that were added recently) . It was that letter and similar letters that created the confusion in the first place, since the Gedolim that were quoted by Rav Vaie as permitting the worms, had also been quoted by Talmidei Chachamim as forbidding them. This was the reason for my trip to Eretz Yisroel – to have the Gedolim express and sign clearly their opinion. 

Rav Vaye was not refused entry to Rav Elyashiv Shlit”a. He was actually called and told by Rav Elyashiv Shlit”a to retract what he had said in his name in the past regarding this issue because it does not accurately reflect Rav Elyashiv’s position. He did in fact retract, to a degree, in private. The original letter was sent by email to all Kashrus organizations. The retraction, unfortunately, was not.

  • It is sad that it can be written  that Rav Elyashiv Shlit”a, Rav Wozner Shlit”a and Rav Sternbuch Shlit”a hold that this worm is mutar, when, after Rav Vaie publicized his own letter, these Gedolim expressly wrote that it is assur.

 

  • Another serious inaccuracy is the quote from Rav Wozner Shlit”a despite his Psak in his sefer he told Rav Vaye that “as long as it is not known that it comes from the outside it is permitted.”  Rav Wozner Shlit”a clearly stated in my presence and in the presence of Rav Shaul Klein Shlit”a, his Av Bais Din, that while in the past he did not feel an obligation to be Mocheh [protest] since the evidence was based only on scientific reports, now that there is a Raglaim L’Dovor [strong circumstantial evidence] that it enters the flesh from the viscera, one is obligated to protest. It is for this reason that Rav Vosner added in his recent Psak that “It is forbidden according to the Torah.”

 

  •  It is somewhat  ironic that Rav Vaie states that Rav Falk Shlit”a concedes that the worm enters from the outside but permits it, yet he states in the paragraph before, that Rav Wozner Shlit”a permits since it does not enter the flesh. 

 

  • It has been claimed that the “Gabbaim” of Rav Elyashiv Shlit”a had not allowed an American Rov access to Rav Elyashiv Shlit”a. This is not accurate.   It was Rav Elyashiv’s decision not to see the Rov. However, to preserve the Kovod of the American Rov, he was not told that Horav Elyashiv Shlit”a refused to speak with him. He was asked to speak first with Rav Wozner Shlit”a. He did not attempt to do so.

 

  • To state that this exact question was posed to Rav Moshe ZT”L is simply inaccurate.  The shailoh was posed years ago by Rav Shlomo Gross Shlit”a as follows: Chazal say that worms generate in the flesh and the scientists say that it is untrue. Who do we follow? The obvious answer to this question is, as Rabbi Vaye quotes, Ayn lonu ella divrei Chazal! We ignore scientific theory that conflicts with the words of Chazal. The presentation of the issue to Rav Moshe is recorded in Teshuvos Mishneh Shleimah Siman 31. Rav Tuvya Weiiss Shlit”a has related to me that the question was posed in the same way to Rav Padva ZT”L. This is also Rav Vaie’s presentation of the Shailah in his own writings. He presents the question based only on scientific theory regarding the lifecycle of worms. There is no mention in the Shailah of the observed prevalence of this worm in the viscera!

 

  • The question posed to the Gedolei Yisroel today is completely different. We have a worm that is found in the viscera and in the flesh. In many fish, these worms are far more prevalent in the viscera than in the flesh. Are these worms permitted? The Gedolim have ruled that it is forbidden.

 

  • Rav Dovid Feinstein Shlit”a  has not been Matir the worms and recommends to all that ask him to be machmir.

  

  • It is said that Rav Moshe was asked to write a Teshuva that it is permitted. He answered that it is so poshut that it is a Bizayon to write a Teshuva. If the question was posed to the Rav Moshe in the same way as it has been presented now, it was as prevalent then as it is now, a situation that  the present Gedolim are machmir, would Rav Moshe have said that it is so poshut that there is no need for a teshuvah? There is no greater proof to the falsehood of such a report. The Rabbonim have been searching for months for some justification to permit worms that come from the outside, and have had to take difficult positions to be matir: Can one believe that Rav Moshe ZT”L held it is so poshut that it is mutar that there is no need for a Teshuvah. Look at the length of Rav Falk’s Teshuvah!

 

  • There is no doubt that Rav Falk Shlit”a is a very great talmid chochom and Posek and is surely entitled to render a psak, but one must realize that it is a psak that is contradicted by HoRav Elyahisv Shlit”a, HoRav Wozner Shlit”a and other Gedolei Yisroel.

 

  • When I was in Eretz Yisroel and met with Rav Vaye, the first question I asked him was: People say the question was not presented properly. Is there any difference between my understanding of the facts pertaining to the question and yours? He agreed that we are “on the same page” with regard to the facts.

  

  • Rav Vaye says that all the Gedolim were matir previously. However, all those that are still alive today who were matir then say today that it is forbidden!

 

  • It has been reported that Rav Shlomo Miller Shlit”a, The Toronto Rosh Kollel, is amongst the Matirim. This is also inaccurate. HoRav Miller is not matir and only allows one to use the wild salmon if it is ground, for reasons related to bittul.

 

I feel an obligation to make this Machoah for Kovod HaTorah.

With great sorrow,

Rabbi Gershon Bess.

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)




44 COMMENTS

  1. WOW !!!
    I cant say how many times I’ve heard statements in the name of R’ Elyashiv that he has never said.
    Everyone must ask his own Rav.

  2. The issue has surfaced already a few times in the last 40 years. Rabonim in England got first hand knowledge that Rav Wosner and Rav Karelitz have recinded. I have first hand knowledge that Rav M. S. Klien has second thoughts since seeing Rav Falks Tshuva. The osrim have one problem. It is obvios that this worm was always in the world. Was it missed by the creator of the Torah Caviyochil? If one thinks it is a new creation, that is nonsense, we do not believe in evoulution. Why doesn’t Rav Bess call Rav Falk? He answers the phone to anyone and discusses all types of halochos with Dayonim, lomdim, and balei batim.

  3. Unfortunately it appears that this post has now indeed denigrated the kovod of the “American rov” by disclosing that R’Elyashiv shlilt”a personally refused to admit him.

  4. Harav Bess Shlit’a: B’mechilas Kvodcha, Rav Vaye Shlit”a, Rav Falk Shlit”a, and Rav Belsky Shlit”a, have every right to pasken this particular shaala (with all the ‘new’ information) for the public, given their well expertise and first hand knowledge in this Sugya. Nobody has any right to intimidate any of them or any Rav who wishes to follow their psak. Rav Elyashiv Shlit”a may personally hold there is a mokom to be Machmir and [might] have rescinded his previous hetair [for everyone] to be said in HIS NAME, However, it was not Rav Elyashiv Slit”a intention at all to bind the Rabbanim who are well acquainted with the sugya from publicly expressing their psak to those that ask them. Any efforts to the contrary is actually going against the mesora of Klal Yisroel which has been to embody each Rov with the ability to pasken for his own flock.

    It is well known the story of the Vilna Gaon, who had “Assered” a “Maacholos Assuros” shaala to a Vilna resident w/o knowing that the local Rav had been “Mattir” the shaala to him already, whereas the Gaon went over personally to the Rav asking him “Mechila” for inadvertly stepping on his authority and going against the Minhag Hamokom. So if the Vilna Gaon didn’t assert his authority on Halacha matters even in his OWN city of Vilna, although he definitely was supreior in Knowledge to the Rav there, then Al Achas Kama V’kama in our own generation “Gabbaim” of Rav Elyashiv Shlit”a etc. shouldn”t be asserting their Chumras on the WHOLE WORLD and intimidate all our respectable Rabbanim [acquainted in the field] who were bestowed the right to pasken as per our enternal Mesora.

  5. I have mentioned this before and I will be relentless in mentioning it again; because I am driving home a very strong point about the hypocrisy here.

    Rabbi Bess; where is your Machoah to all the Litvasha Bochirim and Balla Batim against using shavers? There is NO Tshuva around – from any leading Posek – that even remotely hints to permitting using shavers, and not one Gadol in Erets Yisroel – including Rav Elyashiv and Rav Wosner Shlita’s permits using them? The Chofets Chaim – aka the Mishna Berura – writes in Likutai Halachas in Mesechas Makos that it is absolutely forbidden to use a shaver, and that was in his times when the shavers weren’t anywhere as sophisticated as the ones today. Yet, for the last who knows how many years, we haven’t heard one word about this terrible Issur Hatorah being violated, unfortunately, by the multitudes.

    You know and I know the reason for that; because when it comes to what makes you and the Litvasha Oilim uncomfortable, you remain deafeningly silent – even with the issue relating to violating a very serious Isur D’oraisa – but when it comes to the queasiness of eating worms in fish, it is rather simple to make a “Machao”.

    V’hamivin Yovin

  6. The last point that Rabbi Bess makes is that Harav Shlomo Miller assur’s such wild fish.

    This is not true. He says it is good to be machmir, but he does not assur it.

    See here a handwritten letter by Harav Shlomo Miller.

    (From a different website)

    “The type of salmon called ‘farmed salmon’ is permitted, as is lox which is made from [salmon], since these parasites are not found in them.

    The general rule is that [those types of fish] in which parasites are not [generally] found, like various types of flounder and otehr types of fish, are permitted. If one wishes to be stringent, one should check the fish himself opposite a light. If it is not possible to check them, one may eat them. All types of fish which have customarily been eaten cannot be made forbidden unless there is a clear reason to forbid them.

    And on this I sign my name, this 25th day of Adar 5770, here in Lakewood,

    Shlomo Eliyahu Miller

  7. I’m not sure who in Eretz Yisrael really holds what. What I am sure — and this was essentially confirmed even by Rabbi Bess’s version of events — is that access to Rav Eliyashiv, shlita, has been limited to those who agree with one position on this sheilah.

    What I question is whether Rav Eliyashiv HIMSELF actually told Rabbi Vaye to retract without allowing him to discuss the matter — or was it the “handlers.” We do know that Rav Yisroel Belsky was not allowed access to Rav Elyashiv to discuss this issue on his recent trip… of course the handlers said it was Rav Elyashiv’s decision not to let him discuss it.

    We’ll likely never know whether Rav Eliyashiv was ever presented with all sides of the facts.

    And by the way, I’m not sure of the moderators realized the implications of poster #4’s comment.

  8. First, I really appreciate finding out about the worm in your columns. I did notice that I was starting to get sick from Sushi and I was having problems with my stomach and I knew that there were parasites in fish but I didn’t know how dangerous the anisakis worm was.

    It makes sense to me that you have ground fish because then the worm is dead. You can’t take a pill to get rid of this worm. This worm has to be surgically removed and then whatever damage there is to the intestine has to fixed through surgery (the symptoms mimic Crohn’s disease). This is a serious matter as one can see so many sushi bars opening up in many of the restaurants.

    So thanks for the information. I guess the next stop is the doctor.

    Thank G-d we have such astute Rabbis who are not afraid to change their minds.

    Sincerely,
    Linda Haniford

  9. #3 and #4: Why don’t you find out who Rav Bess is before you “challenge” him? As evidenced by your comments, you don’t know Rav Bess or the level of learning and research that went into this letter.

  10. “Rav Vaye says that all the Gedolim were matir previously. However, all those that are still alive today who were matir then say today that it is forbidden!”
    Is this something like hearing aids. At first they were permitted, then forbidden and then permitted again. The reason was that each time the technology changed. What changed here though?
    Although there is a concept of accepting rulings from bigger talmidei chachomim in Torah, there is also an essential concept of basing every psak on human understanding based on the klolei hatorah.
    If one Rav who isn’t as famous as some other rabbonim comes with a clearly written psak to allow something, no one can come and say it is assur without shoing any Torah sources. “Daas Torah” is an invention of the past few years that was never accepted in Judaism.

  11. May someone please explain what Kvod Hatorah was disrespected by the Matirim.??

    Why use the issue of Kvod hatorah, as a reason for implementing a psak??

    According to the above article, it is basically saying that Rav vaye is a liar.

    According to the above article, the public letter signed by Rav Shlomo Miller of Toronto, where he clearly states that it is Muttar, is a fabrication and a lie.

    Regretfully, the above article is lacking plenty.

  12. This Paragraph is totally nonesense from anyone with common sense. It’s twisted and shows no svara involved when writing this article. He writes:

    It is said that Rav Moshe was asked to write a Teshuva that it is permitted. He answered that it is so poshut that it is a Bizayon to write a Teshuva. If the question was posed to the Rav Moshe in the same way as it has been presented now, it was as prevalent then as it is now, a situation that the present Gedolim are machmir, would Rav Moshe have said that it is so poshut that there is no need for a teshuvah? There is no greater proof to the falsehood of such a report. The Rabbonim have been searching for months for some justification to permit worms that come from the outside, and have had to take difficult positions to be matir: Can one believe that Rav Moshe ZT”L held it is so poshut that it is mutar that there is no need for a Teshuvah. Look at the length of Rav Falk’s Teshuvah”
    Firstly:
    FACT: The fact that today’s Gedolim are machmir isn’t in any way a proof that to R’ moshe it was pashut to be matir
    Secondly:
    You call that a proof? Enough to falsefy what R’ Moshe’s own talmidim heard m’peh kudshoy shel R’ Moshe ZTZ”L? Simply ignorant!!!!
    Thirdly:
    What takes R’ Falk the length of his tshuva to be matir was a few minutes of thought for R’ Moshe.
    That whole paragraph is a bezayon Hatorah for R’ Moshe Feinstein Z”L. He was much greater than all the above Gedolim and if he was matir, then the fact that all the gedolai Eretz Yisrael hold to be oiser, isn’t in anyway a proof that the question wasn’t properly presented, besides for the fact that R’ Dovid Feinstein Shlita himself didn’t hold it to be asur, just that one should try to be machmir (probably for the kavod of R’ Elyashiv)
    and many other big poskim didn’t understand the reason for the isur.
    Don’t be so naive.

  13. if rav eliyashiv has no koach to speak to rav belsky then perhaps he has no koach to withstand the pressure from his gaboim too. Btw why are you so afraid of rav moshe vaya’s opinion? Something is fishy!

  14. I read through this article and I am at a loss to understand it. He seems to be saying that because the bugs are found in the stomach, this is a new reason to asur and [almost] everyone would agree. He (correctly ) does not claim that bugs in the stomach prove that the worms came from outside, rather that this indicates a probability of that they came from the stomach.

    However there are two fundamental problems with that:
    Bugs in the stomach proves nothing, even if we knew for a fact that the bugs in the flesh came from the stomach, that wouldn’t asur because the bugs in the stomach are only safek asur and as such perhaps chazal knew that the ones that go from the stomach to the flesh are the ones that are muter in the stomach (even though in the stomach we can’t tell)
    Obviously, we need to conform to chazal. I guess he is saying that the metzious changed or that these are a different kind of bugs. But if a probability is enough to say this, why didn’t the poskim say this when the shaila was raised based on scientists 20-25 years ago? They could have just as easily said then then the same explanation. Halachically we generally follow scientists, unless the contradict chazal. If it is so easy to say things changed/these are different bugs, why didn’t they say it then??
    If he were to saying (as others are) that they have concrete evidence of the worms entering the fish from the water when visible, that would be a different story, but he does not seem to be saying this.

  15. Don’t be taken in; this is nothing but being Marbai Machlokis B’yisreol.

    The Kotsker used to say, “when you do something “L’shaim Shamaim”, at least try to do it L’shaim Shamaim”.

    This one, though, is a no-brainer.

    If anything is sad (“It is “sad” that it can be written that Rav Elyashiv Shlit etc…”) it’s how this Machlokis has so obviously – to anyone with an ounze of Saichel in their head – turned personal. Shame, big shame!

  16. Ironic,
    You keep saying “not one Gadol in Erets Yisroel”. Please see Yabia Omer YD;9:10 (originally written when he was just 17!). See there that he quotes a talmid of Rav Moshe asking if there is reason to ne machmir.. to which Rav Moshe responded that it just like being machmir not to cut challah on Shabbos because of the melacha kotzer.

    Rav Ovadia may not be of your political persuasion, but you can’t say noone allows shaving.

    BTW, does anyone know if Rav Ovadia was asked about the worms…?

  17. I fail to understand the distinction Rabbi Bess makes between what he mistakenly calls “scientific theory” (he probably meant to say “hypothesis” – a theory in science is quite different from a theory in general) and “observations”. Science is based on observation as well. The position of science concerning the origins of these and similar worms is based on observation as well – just as it was when the shailos were presented to previous gedolim. I just don’t undertand why the observations of a scientist can’t undermine Chazal but the observations of a lay person can. Sorry, but Chazal’s opinion should not be so easily disrespected.

  18. Rav Dovid Feinstein Shlit”a has not given anyone permission to publicize ANY psak in his name.

    Saying that Reb Dovid: “recommends to all that ask him to be machmir” would seem to be in direct violation of this directive of Reb Dovid.

  19. I don’t think Rav Bess is calling Rav Vaye a liar, I think he’s saying he didn’t follow Rav Elyashiv’s request to stop publicizing the old heter, since these poskim were chozer.
    I think many of the comments here imply that Rav Bess is a liar. The only statement which , I believe, needs explanation, is his quoting Rav Miller as assuring. This is in fact what I hear, as well, but it should be explained that he also changed his mind.
    I don’t think anyone is claiming that Rav Elyashiv hasn’t enough koach to speak with Rav Belsky, just that he doesn’t want to, at least not until he speaks to Rav Vosner.
    As far as why the poskim didn’t assume 25 years ago that this is a different metzius than in the times of chaza”l, Rav Bess addressed this point very well, and said that the shailoh was not presented the same way then than it was now.
    And yes, seems that one of these comments (#$) is way out of line.

  20. Wow! Wow! Wow! These aree comments one would not expect to see on ywn. Period! Shame on the commentors and shame on the moderator! Rabbi Bess is one of the greatest non political poskim in the US. How dare you say its personal or that its not logical. Perhaps you don’t understand it. The utter chutzpah and lack of respect displayed in the above comments is really saddening. Bottom line- no one here really knows the facts- as displayed in all the contradictory comments..rabbi bess can be trusted that he did thorough research into the sugya before sending out this letter. If something doesn’t make sense to you HESITATE before writing disparaging remarks about Harav Bess…hesitate! The available anonyminity of writing comments here somehow gives people the heter and audacitity to write whatever they please. Talking negatively about a talmid chacham is a huge deal rabbosai! Be careful! I’m not telling you whether or not to go with his psak. Just show proper kavod hatorah!

  21. ironic: The electric shaver DIN NOT EXIST when the Likutei Halachos was printed, it was only invented 6 years later. The “machinka” that the Chofetz Chaim assered was a safety razor, which noone would deny is an issur d”oraisa.

  22. OK. So Sof Davar how do we know what and when we are allowed to eat fish. Or is it that if the fish has a good hechsher then everything is OK?

  23. “How do we know what and when we are allowed to eat fish?”.
    You can eat fish unless your Rav tells you that it’s assur and not some jerks opn the internet.

  24. arita430:
    It doesn’t depend on how good the hechsher is, it depends on what their policy is regarding the anisakis. And please remember that much of the fish we eat is not affected by this issue.

  25. cherrybim: why not the opposite, You can NOT eat fish unless your Rav tells you that it’s mutar and not some jerks on the internet?!?!?!?

  26. you all sould be a shamed of yourselves…
    Edited….

    Moderators Response: And YOU should be ashamed of what you wrote based on who YOU are. How dishonest can one be?! We will stop here.
    Get your act together. And fast.

  27. To hello99 says:

    Shavers are, in essence, safety razors. Besides your facts are plain and simple wrong. Mainly, though, you’re missing my point; that ALL the Gedolim, in Erets Yisroel, like Rav Elyashiv and Rav Wosner Shlita’s, forbid using shavers, period! So if we don’t make machaos, here, about shavers, why make machaos about worms in fish which “yaish al mi lismoch” – many Rabbanim clearly are matir.

    Additionally, I want to note, that the “Gabbaim” turned out to be in wrong with the Shaitel debacle, and Rabbi Belsky Shlita, who was not permitted entry, turned out to be right. According to Halacha, the Gabbaim may even have to pay for the lost money that people incurred from throwing out shaitels. Yet, instead of, at least an apology from them back then, we now have to put up, again, with the same fiasco, just now with the fish.

  28. On November 6, 1928, Colonel Jacob Schick patented the first electric razor. Likutei Halachos was printed well before that.

  29. rav revach the one who started this whole controversy has a labratory in israel with technolagy to detect these worms and for the right price he is willing to teach all kashrus org. To get his process. Does this shock you?

  30. So what we have here essentially is a turf war machlocis, l’shem shamayim of course.

    It’s times like this that we really miss Rav Moshe and his first cousin, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, unaffiliated poskim and g’dolim, without agenda or handlers, and second to none.

  31. arita43:
    I’ll tell you about Sof Davar;

    “Sof Davar hakal Nishma, es elokim yirai ves mitsvosav tishmor ki ze kol ha’adom.”

    Sof dvar hakal nishma; regardless of how well the real intentions were cloaked with “l’shaim Shamim” or “kavaod hatorah”; every word and every subtlety of Loshan Hara is nisham – heard above, and will eventually haunt the individual who was responsible for it.

  32. ironic: You are blaming the gabbaim when Rav Bess writes that they are not at all responsible, and he knows personally. On what basis are you calling him a liar.

  33. Rav Moshe Heinemann sh’lita issued the following p’sak:

    It is well known in the Torah world that there exists a dispute among our Poskim regarding the
    matter of the permissibility of the use of the electric shaver to shave off one’s beard; there are
    Poskim who permit the use of the electric shaver, and there are Poskim who rule that using an electric
    shaver is a violation of a Torah prohibition.
    I was delighted to see that there has now appeared an electric shaver for those who wish to shave
    , off their beards that was manufactured by the company “Epilady” under the guidance of the Bais
    Din Zedek Chanichai Yeshivos and it has received endorsement by the greatest po skim of our generation,
    because this shaver does not cause Hashchasa (i.e. the hair are not cut off completely).
    It is befitting for every Jew who fears the word of Hashem and who does not wish to grow a beard
    to use this machine as it is kosher according to all opinions. About fifty years ago a machine for
    cutting the beard which is similar to this one called “Outliner” was brought to Moreinu Harav
    Hagaon Rav Aron Kotler )1I::n and he was inclined to deem it permissable. This machine is manufactured
    in the U.S. and is still possible to be purchased. Both machines – the one manufactured
    by Epilady and the Outliner – are permissable to be used for cutting the beard.

    This was also signed by all of the Lakewood Roshei Yeshiva sh’lita.

  34. AS of Adar 5771 there is not one recognized Kashrus Authority that forbids consuming fish with anisakis or whatever worm is in the flesh! The whole rakus was started by a liar trying to create wealth by frightening people like Rabbi Bess and Rabbi Riseman. It is time to close the subject since the liar has been exposed.