July 29, 2004

by Reb Yudel
Speaking of R' Schachter...

Was there ever any resolution on the copopods?

The last word I heard was, via Steven I's Fiddish blog, that R' Schachter had pronounced NYC water treif. I just ran across an article from the Young Israel of Kew Garden Hills that claims the opposite. Unlike blogs, though, shul newsletters aren't updated in real time, so I'm curious to hear the latest word.

{Update: Hirhurim has just posted a current OU statement. Briefly put, there are two opinions (kosher/treif) and currently no decision, so OU restaurants and caterers are instructed to be strict. There is no mention of the current opinions of specific individual poskim.)

Incidentally, the article quotes a teshuva from R' Moshe z'l that seems to take pretty clear sides in one of my debates with pseudonymous trio of Simcha, Y.Me and Gaon over in Fiddish. You'll have to read on to find out the winner and loser, but suffice it to say that it doesn't make me regret blogging under my own name....

From the Young Israel of Kew Garden Hills Torch, Troubled Waters:

Recently there have been a number of halachic issues which have been suddenly projected into the public arena. First there was the "Shebu" question pertaining to the kashruth of a certain species of cow found primarily in South America and an important source of meat for Israel and the United States. However, that was resolved in rather short order and the animal was determined to be kosher.

Next came the Indian hair tumult which affected women's wigs. Although most authorities agree it is not much of an issue in the United States in Israel the jury is still out.

Most recently here in good old New York we have our own "home grown" crisis, copopods! Tiny little creatures barely visible to the naked eye that are found in New York City's drinking water.

The problem is a potentially serious one. The Torah in Parshas Shemini (Vayikra 11:10) prohibits all living creatures that teem in the water. As the Sefer Chinuch explains (mitzvah 164) this includes even the most minute critters.

The fact is that New York water, famous for its high quality and clarity, is not filtered before it reaches our faucets. Ironically, the presence of copopods in the water is a sign that the water is healthy. In a bacteria laden environment these little creatures would not survive.

Here is the halachic issue. As stated, any teeming critter in the water is prohibited-dead or alive. However, it must be visible to the naked eye. In the case of these copopods they can be best described as looking like tiny specks of dandruff. It is upon closer inspection i.e by use of a microscope that they can be seen as a once living organism. Now there is no doubt that if an organism is only visible through use of a microscope then it is not prohibited to consume. (See Aruch Hashulchan Y.D. 84:36) However, in this case while it is true that the copopods cannot be determined without the use of a microscope or magnifying loop, they can be seen to the naked eye as tiny specks.

There are those who maintain that since they are visible as a speck, they are classified as visible creatures and are prohibited. It should also be noted that according to the DEP there are an average of four copopods per gallon of water.

On the other hand, Rav Herschel Schachter shlita maintains that since in the final analysis the copopods cannot be identified without the use of a microscope, an instrument not available to the generations of Chazal and beyond, they can not possibly be prohibited.

Rabbi Yisroel Belsky shlita feels that they are not prohibited for another reason. The Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 84:1) states that critters found in still bodies of water are permissible. Since copopods originate in reservoirs which unlike flowing rivers are considered still waters, they would remain permissible. As of this writing the OU follows the ruling of Rabbis Belsky and Schachter.

It should be noted that Rav Moshe Feinstein zt'l in Igros Moshe (Y.D. II:146) in dealing with a related issue of using microscopes to inspect for insects writes "such implements were never discussed in the Gemora and we must assume that all the subsequent generations of pious people did not consume anything not permissible even unwittingly."; I believe the exact same holds true of our water issue.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and kosher summer.

Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld