Monday, January 14, 2013

Spiced Honey Locust, Anyone?

Jewish law prohibits the consumption of insects, referring to them as sheratzim, that which swarm. One might think that this dietary restriction is easy, as most people do not generally have a desire to eat ants or spiders or flies. In fact, traditional Jews are extremely careful to avoid consuming insects and make certain to wash and check their produce to remove small bugs that may feed upon it.

Trivia fans might interject that some Jewish communities, such as the Jews of Yemen, eat locust. This is not a myth. They are one of the only Jewish communities who have maintained a continuous tradition that identifies which creatures fulfill Leviticus 11:20-22: "All winged swarming things that go upon all fours are a detestable thing unto you. Yet these may you eat of all winged swarming things that go upon all fours, which have jointed legs above their feet, wherewith to leap upon the earth; even these of them you may eat: the locust after its kinds, and the bald locust after its kinds, and the cricket after its kinds, and the grasshopper after its kinds."

While the translation cited above appears to list specific species, there are numerous sub-species of each of these groups that would not be kosher. In order to partake of these unique kosher items, however, there must be an unbroken tradition that identifies the exact species. Most Jewish communities have lost the knowledge of the acceptable species (and cannot now assume them).

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