Saturday, April 28, 2012

Has nature changed? And does that change Jewish law?


[Preface: The Talmud prohibits roasting fish with meat, out of concern for potential poisoning.]

"Rabbi Solomon Luria wrote: Based on the fact that Maimonides did not cite the Talmudic passage prohibiting fish roasted with meat, we see that in Maimonides’ expert knowledge of nature and medicine he was aware that the vapor would not cause harm.

"It is well-known that this is a forced answer, for then Maimonides should at least have mentioned that one may not actually roast fish and meat together…

"It first occurred to me that Maimonides held that ‘Binita’ is a specific fish, and that this specific type of fish is prohibited with meat due to danger, but not other fish…and the Binita is not found among us, and so Maimonides excluded it. This appears strained, though, for that fish surely has not been extinguished in its own land, and so Maimonides should have mentioned it for the sake of the people in that land!

"It appears more likely that in his great knowledge, Maimonides knew and understood that nature had changed regarding this, as we find in a variety of cases…Since we see that Maimonides, whose power in medicine and nature was great, omitted this law, it must be that he experimented and found that nature had changed in this matter…

"We would not depend upon this in practice to permit eating fish and meat together, for it could be that this is considered a practice which has been banned by a court’s decision…therefore we are careful, and the custom of our ancestors is Torah. However, we still profit in that we are no longer dealing with a concern which has the level of danger, for there is no more danger, and perhaps even in their time the concern extended only to the Binita fish, and not with our fish."

(Rabbi Moshe Sofer, Chatam Sofer Yoreh Deah 101)

Have a great day,


  1. It seems that "nature changed" can be used to explain any inconsistency of Torah with modern thought.

    For instance, Talmud prohibits hoarding of food staples. From modern economic point of view, that prohibition is actually detrimental to E"Y economics, since it prohibits speculation in anticipation of food (or oil) shortages. How do we explain this? Nature (of economics) changed.

  2. It certainly can be abused - but does that mean it's always invalid?