I keep coming back to this question from last week’s big Team Trivia Tournament:
What is the only Kosher invertebrate?
Our little team of three Lutherans, an agnostic and a recovering Baptist were stumped. We went through several good ideas with what little understanding of Kosher Laws we had. First we thought it was squid, but then I thought no, squid are fish without scales (I think fish with skin are right out of the Kosher diet), and my friend Iris wouldn’t eat calamari when we went out, so that wasn’t it. We hemmed and hawed and finally answered “snails”.
We were wrong.
Turns out the answer is Locusts. OK, fair enough, but why? It’s been bothering me for days that I don’t know why snails AREN’T Kosher, but Locusts are. From my hours of painstaking research on the Internet, the answer to the Kosher locust question is this: Almost no one can remember which grasshoppers are and which aren’t allowed.
Wikipedia says that “With four exceptions, all insects and other invertebrates… all reptiles, and all amphibians are considered ‘loathsome, crawling creatures,’ and are forbidden by the Torah. ” That’s where the snails go French. But the exception seems to be “the kosher locust native to the Arabian Peninsula, encompassing four distinct species.” The ancient writings in various books say a Kosher insect needs to have so many legs used for walking and wings that cover so much of the body and a half dozen other specs. But further research goes on to explain that there is too much confusion between insect species to generally allow the eating of locusts, and the Orthodox Jews no longer consider them . So, are they or aren’t they really Kosher?
There were some folks who posted in various places say that kosher locusts have to do with Manna in the desert. OK, I buy that. It sounds good to me. Some folks got caught up on the rule about the four legs, and questioned who was around pulling the other pair off all the grasshoppers in Arabia. Those Kosher Laws say “4 walking legs”, so the jumpy pair aren’t counted. Then again, I’ve seen a locust walk, and those legs all seem to be used. So, to be honest, the whole thing boggles my mind.
What I did find interesting was the Jewish concept that a food only remains Kosher for so long as there is a continuity of the use of that food. The final ruling ( Halachah ) says “one is allowed to eat a specific type of animal only if there is a ‘continuous tradition’ that affirms that it is Kosher.” I guess that means that if all the Jews everywhere stopped eating Kosher Locusts at any point, then they would cease to be Kosher forever. Some say locusts may or may not still be eaten in Yemen. Interesting, no?
It’s not that big a deal, really. As I am not Jewish and don’t keep a Kosher home, and wouldn’t care to eat a locust in any form, this whole question is just academic. Despite the fact we didn’t know our Halachah from a hole in the ground, we still finished second place in the big show, and that’s nothing to “nos” at.