Are turkeys kosher?

Daniel Eidensohn (
Fri, 11 Jul 1997 17:04:38 -0700

In Torah Forum 3:46 Eli Turkel writes:
<< More fundamentally, it is not that simple. Ashkenazi Jewry does not eat
grasshoppers that Yemenite Jewry considers kosher. Though they can rely on
their traditions others cannot >> replies:
<<< I do not believe that this is correct. If a "kosher" aid echad (legally
acceptable witness) sfaradi (from [Spanish or] middle eastern descent)
informs me that he or she knows that this locust or grasshopper is kosher I
have every right to accept that testimony according to Jewish law. Once I
am taught to discern the kosher species I, now, have every right to go and
teach it to others. I do not believe that there is any disagreement on this

This is very different from the turkey which everyone agrees is indigenous
to the Americas. >>>

The issue of relying on another person's traditions as opposed to accepting
his testimony is discussed by Reb Moshe (Igros Moshe Y.D. I #34 page 52). In
Europe there were certain communities which had a tradition that a
particular bird was kosher while neighboring towns did not have such a
tradition. He writes, "it is possible to rely on another's tradition if
there is not a minhag [custom] to prohibit it in spite of the awareness of
the tradition. The tradition however, can not be just concerning eating a
bird with that name but must be for that particular bird....Especially when
there are many birds that might be similar to the bird which has a
tradition. Therefore one must be very exacting and not rely simply on the
testimony of ordinary people and to consider their statements to consitute
a tradition. Furthermore even if there is an accurate mesora it is proper
not to permit it when there are similar birds [without a tradition] which
might be misidentified."

In sum, relying on a tradition is not functionally equivalent to relying on
a single witness for kashrus and can not be automatically utilized.
Consultation with a competent rav is required.

Daniel Eidensohn - Jerusalem