Submitted to Matzav.com 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 [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