Rav Bess Responds On Worms-in-Fish Issue


gershon-bessSubmitted 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 

{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. Rav Belsky still says it’s ????. End of story.

    “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. ”

    The American Rov was R’ Belsky ????”? and the story is not inaccurate. To preserve his ?????!?!? This is the ????? the gaboim have? Get serious.


    {Besides, who eats wild salmon anyway? ???? ?????? who have a craving for such things?}

  2. The correct story which is circulating in eretz yisroel is that that the gedolim paskened it is osur only due to a person coming to them wanting to start a new business selling tinned fish and wanted to make all other fish osur…. He gave over some rubbish information and therefore they paskened its osur. Very simple!

  3. Incolved, Are you saying that Rabbi Bess is in the fish business? I don’t think so. He is the Rav of most of the Los Angeles community. He has nothing financial to gain from any of this. If anything, he spent alot of time researching, alot of money and time flying to Eretz Yisroel, alot of his kochos to help YOU not be ovar on a issur diOraysa. What makes you “INVOLVED”? Maybe YOU sell wild salmon? YOU go by some anonymous name, while the Rav has nothing to hide? Why? Are you embarrased of YOUR real agenda?

  4. Can the Matzav editor contact Rav Belsky and have him issue a clear psak going through the machlokes and his maskanah?

  5. Rav Vaye has had the ear of all the Gedolim for over 25 years without agenda without negios. All of the sudden he gets kicked to the curb ?

  6. R’ Miller clearly hold’s it is “muttar” as per a letter “he” wrote one month ago which was circulated in lakewood. He only said there was “makom” to be machmir (because of gedolim in e.y.). there is a large difference between a chumra and issur.

  7. The fact that access to R’ Elyashiv was denied to R’ Belsky is reason enough not to believe anything bshem R’ Elyashiv, unless R’ Elyashiv writes a tshuva including the mitzious as he understands it we can’t know what he was told. Golus!

  8. Comment made about halochoh le’maseh and lomdus, and facts which could change the halochoh do not have any value if the name of the writer is not known.

    This comment is just an obvious point which Ieveryone knows, but may be overlooked.

  9. Rabbi Millers letter appeared on matzav and stated clearly that there is no issur. Only that if one wants to be machmir can be machmir on wild salmon other fish have no issue, and one can not say it is ossur. Matzav Editor Please post letter again. I hope i I quoted the letter correctly. I am going by memory.

  10. Rav Dovid Feinstein Shlit”a has not given anyone permission to publicize ANY psak in his name. Saying that Reb Dovid: “recommends to all that ask him to be machmir” would seem to be in direct violation of this directive of Reb Dovid.

  11. It is a known fact that a certain gabbai (name deleted by editor) by rabbi elyashuv doesn’t like Rav Belsky. Ever since the Shaitel story when that gabbai who had an agenda did the same thing to any Rabbonim who said there was no problem with the Shaitels. In the end he made Rav Elyashiv look bad and that gabbi was was proven wrong as our indian shaitels never even originated from the temple – as rabbi belsky was saying all along. Those in Eretz Yisroel are well aware that these people “protecting” Rav Elyashiv are a bunch of hooligans.

    I do not know the Halochos and I am FAR from qualified to offer an opinion. All i do know is that right now I feel that a major disservice was done to those in America.

  12. Rav Elyashuv never said that rabbi belsky cannot see him. he holds of rabbi belsky in the highest regard.

    the gabboim told rabbi belsky that he can go in but only if all the kanoim who say its ossur go in with him at the same time.

    From past experience, rabbi belsky new that just results in a shouting match, something that does not bring any success . he wanted to speak to reb elyshuv privately without all the kanoim interjecting hum every two seconds.

    the gaboim told rabbi belsky – if you go in with them – we will let you in. in not, you cant come in.

    rabbi belsky then said forget about it. its a waste of time to go in and have them not letting him talk for 2 seconds without interjecting with all their yelling. Rav elyashuv never liked such meetings either as no one can explain themselves properly and it just disrupts into a shouting match.

    rabbi belsky therefore decided its not worth to go in.

    how could someone now lie to protect themselves that rav elyashuv did not want to see him. when would rav elyashuv not agree to talk to a rov who is from the biggest poskim in the united states.

    people must be dumb to believe such a story. its a cover up by the gabboim.

  13. Same “Anonymouse” as #1. I reiterate and agree with the above statement by another poster:

    Rav Dovid Feinstein Shlit”a has not given anyone permission to publicize ANY psak in his name. Saying that Reb Dovid: “recommends to all that ask him to be machmir” would seem to be in direct violation of this directive of Reb Dovid.

  14. #15, I know people in Torah Vodaath and I learned there. It is not a cover up. R’ Belsky was refused entry.

  15. Rav Elchonon Tauber who is a Posik in Los Angeles said there is absolutely no problem with the fish worms, in fact he said the Issur of shaving shold be a topic at hand, not the fish.

  16. Rabbi Vie told me nothing has changed, there are no new worms, even Rabbi Elyashev never said it is Oser.

  17. remember at the end of the day- if there are bugs you are oyver 5 lavim by eating each one. So maybe look into this more before taking sides.

  18. This whole story is very fishy. The gaboim didn’t allow Rabbi Belsky in because they didn’t want him to open a can of worms.

  19. Yeah I’m not quite sure I believe that Reb Elyashiv REFUSED to let someone in to him! That is absurd! More likely is that his over protective (and I dare say politically motivated) gabboim had something to do with it.
    So as we have it, Every Rov is saying Reb Elyashiv, Reb Vosner said something else.
    I’m confused.
    Its ridiculous.
    To have a Machlokes is fine.
    Mud slinging is not.

  20. Rav Belsky is the most widely respected Morah Horah in the Yeshivisher world in America.
    All in all, the issue of worms in contemporary fish is a valid concern and every individual should act according to his own Rav. Don’t have a Rav? Get One !!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. An additional comment. Rav Pam zt”l once said that the sin of Miriam and Aaron in this week’s parsha (Bahaloscha) is that they compared themselves to Moshe rabeinu and felt themslves on the same level. Sadly, this generation is the

  22. Same old answer to this one –

    Ask your rav or local posek. Don’t rely on internet reports, shul gossip of the “I heard…” variety, or wall posters in Yerushalayim.

    Ask your own Rav. End of story.