1) THE STRING TEST
OPINIONS: The Mishnah (59a) says that even though the signs of a Kosher bird are not mentioned in the Torah, the Chachamim taught that there are several ways to identify a Kosher bird. In addition to the four signs of a Kosher bird, Rebbi Elazar b'Rebbi Tzadok adds that any bird that is "Cholek Es Raglav" ("divides its feet") is Tamei. The Gemara here quotes a Beraisa in which this phrase is explained. One should pull a string taut and have the bird stand on the string. If the bird puts two of its toes on one side of the string and two toes on the other side, this is a sign that it is not Kosher. If the bird puts three of its toes on one side of the string and one toe on the other side, it is Kosher. RABEINU YEHONASAN adds that this test can be done by having the bird stand on a stick as well.
In what way does splitting its toes two and two, or three and one, indicate the status of Kashrus of the bird?
quotes an opinion that says that this test determines whether or not the bird has an Etzba Yeseirah. If it splits its toes evenly, then it is obvious that all of its toes function in an equal manner and none can be called "extra." If, however, it splits its toes with three on one side and one on the other side, then this indicates that the lone toe has a function different from the other three, and is extra, since the bird supports its weight on the three other toes and not on the lone toe. (It seems that this explanation follows the opinion of RASHI
(59a, DH Etzba Yeseirah, see Insights to Chulin 59:3
), who maintains that the Etzba Yeseirah is a back toe situated behind the other toes.)
(b) The ME'IRI writes that when a bird splits its toes evenly, this is a sign that it is Dores and therefore not Kosher. The Me'iri says that the Halachah does not follow Rebbi Elazar. Rather, a bird is non-Kosher only if it actually is Dores, and not if it splits its toes evenly.
Others give the same explanation as the Me'iri but assert that Rebbi Elazar does not argue with the Chachamim. Rather, he is explaining how one can determine whether or not a bird is a Dores. This is the opinion of the TUR (YD 82) and others. The TOSFOS YOM TOV comments that it is clear that the BARTENURA rules like Rebbi Elazar, for otherwise he would have said that the Halachah is not like Rebbi Elazar (as is his style throughout the Mishnayos). This explanation of Rebbi Elazar's intent is recorded by the SHULCHAN ARUCH (YD 82:2) as the Halachah.
(c) The BA'AL HA'TURIM (Bereishis 27:3) seems to understand that the manner of the splitting of the toes is an independent sign. He relates that Yitzchak Avinu taught Esav the laws of Shechitah and the laws of Kosher animals. Among other things, Yitzchak told Esav to be careful about the "five signs" of a Kosher bird: it is not Dores, it has an Etzba Yeseirah, it has a crop (Zefek), its gizzard can be peeled (Kurkevano Niklaf), and it does not split its toes. This implies that the splitting of the toes is an entirely independent sign.
HALACHAH: As mentioned above, the Shulchan Aruch (YD 82:2) rules that one sign of a non-Kosher bird is that it is a Dores. If one does not know if a certain bird is Dores or not, then he should perform the string test. If the bird splits its toes evenly, then he knows that the bird is Dores and is not Kosher.
This Halachah was the subject of discussion a number of years ago, and the discussion has resurfaced in recent days. The vast majority of commercial egg-producing chickens in America is the Levorno, or "Leghorn," chicken. This chicken has a slightly different appearance from ordinary chickens, and it can fly, while ordinary chickens cannot fly. It has been reported that when subjected to the string test, the Levorno chicken was found to split its toes evenly, in the manner of a non-Kosher bird. Although the Levorno chicken is not used for meat production, if it is a non-Kosher bird then its eggs are also prohibited. The SHACH (YD 82:6) explicitly writes that any bird that "fails" the string test is not Kosher even if it was assumed to have a Mesorah that it was Kosher.
A recent conference of rabbinical authorities in America have concluded that, until further notice, it remains permissible to eat these eggs. Some authorities maintain that in the experimental string test, the chickens split their toes initially out of fear of humans, and after a short time assumed the three-and-one toe arrangement. Others say that the chickens that were tested persisted in arranging their toes evenly, but they permit the eggs for other reasons. (Y. MONTROSE)
(For an in-depth discussion of the issue of variant breeds of chickens, refer to Rabbi Dov Zupnik's online Audio Shi'ur to Chulin 65, "What's In a Chicken?")
2) WHICH LOCUSTS MAY BE EATEN
QUESTION: The Torah lists four different types of Kosher locusts: the Arbeh, Sal'am, Chargol, and Chagav (Vayikra 11:22), and the Gemara derives from the verses that additional species are included in each category.
RASHI on the verse (Vayikra 11:21) writes, "Although we find all four signs of Kashrus on the common locusts, they may not be eaten since some of them have elongated heads and tails, and [in order to permit a locust] we must know that it is called 'Chagav,' which we do not know [concerning the common locust]."
Why does Rashi mention the trait of elongated heads? It would suffice for him to say the we may eat only those species that are known to be called "Chagav."
(a) The RAMBAN (66a, DH v'Shuv) quotes the words of Rashi there and suggests that Rashi may mean one of two things. Perhaps Rashi means that no locust is Kosher unless it is called "Chagav," and locusts that have elongated heads are not Kosher even if they are called "Chagav."
(b) Alternatively, Rashi might mean that only a locust with an elongated head must be called "Chagav" in order to be permitted, but a locust without an elongated head is permitted even if it is not known to be called "Chagav."
The RAMBAM (Hilchos Ma'achalos Asuros 1:22) rules like this interpretation of the Ramban. A person may eat a Chagav after checking its Simanim, but if its head is elongated and it has a tail it may be eaten only if it is called "Chagav."
(c) TOSFOS (DH Rebbi Yosi) and the ROSH (3:66) explain that according to the Mishnah (59a), the four signs of Kashrus are not enough. We must also know that the locust is called "Chagav" before we may eat it. This is the ruling of the SHULCHAN ARUCH (YD 85:1), who writes that we may eat Chagavim only if we have a Mesorah that the species is called "Chagav." (Z. Wainstein)