Relying on the Kashrut of a Host

A clarification of last week’s article: In clear and firm minhagim practiced in entire communities, one should be machmir even when hosted by someone who does not hold by that minhag * There are three firm minhagim: eating only glatt kosher meat, Ashkenazim not eating kitniyot on Pesach, and eating only bug-free leafy vegetables grown in special crops, or soaking them in water with soap * Other minhagim, which are either a hidur or chumra, do not undermine the halakhic rule: when hosted by a “kosher” Jew who follows halakha, one should trust his kashrut * In the case of chalav nochri and avukat chalav nochri, the regular kashrut of the Rabbinate is in accordance with halakha

Summary of the Law Concerning Eating at a Friends House

Last week, I dealt with those who are accustomed to beautify the mitzvah of kashrut by buying products that have Mehadrin kashrut, how they should behave when hosted by a friend or relative who keeps kosher according to halakha, but does not meticulously buy products with Mehadrin kashrut, rather, settles for regular kashrut of the Rabbinate. I responded that the guest should rely on the host and eat his food, because regular kashrut follows halakha, according to halakhic rules. And although there is virtue in the hidurim (beautifications of the mitzvah) that take into account opinions of poskim who are machmir (stringent), we have learned from the words of our Sages on several issues that it is more important to increase peace among the Jewish people, and to respect halakha (Peninei Halakha: Kashrut 38:8).

However, concerning clear and firm minhagim practiced by entire communities, and whose members do not budge from them unless forced to due to illness, there is room to be machmir even when they are guests. There are three firm minhagim: 1) those accustomed to always eat glatt meat, 2) Ashkenazim who do not eat kitniyot on Pesach, 3) those careful to eat only leafy vegetables from special insect-free crops, or to soak them in water with soap and rinse well. (In contrast, they should not be machmir with cooked food containing leafy vegetables because of safek safeika (a double uncertainty) (Rashba, as brought in Peninei Halakha: Kashrut 23:7)

Correction from Last Week’s Article

Some people asked questions stemming from a mistaken sub-heading, which stated that the firm minhagim a guest should keep are “well-known minhagim identified with certain ethnic groups, such as kitniyot and glatt kosher meat.” This title, however, is misleading, for I did not write that one should be machmir because of the minhag of an ethnic group, rather, because they are firm minhagim practiced by entire communities.

However, when people are machmir not to eat other products with regular kashrut certification, which according to the accepted halachic rules of all ethnic groups and poskim are kosher, they act in contradiction to halakha, and harm the honor of Torah and halakha, by treating kosher products as non-kosher.

What Distinguishes the Three Minhagim

Some readers asked: After all, in addition to the three minhagim, there are other chumra minhagim, for example avukat chalav nochri (dry milk powder derived from milk that has not been milked under the supervision of a Jew). Why shouldn’t a guest be machmir in these chumras as well?

Answer: I wrote three minhagim because of a combination of two considerations: one, the extent of the minhag’s firmness, and their halakhic weight. Indeed, the minhag of kitniyot on Pesach is relatively minor in weight halakhically, but from the aspect of the minhag’s validity, it is extremely firm, since for more than six hundred years all Ashkenazim are extremely careful to safeguard the minhag. On the other hand, from the aspect of its halakhic weight, eating glatt kosher meat is the most severe of the halakha’s of kashrut, therefore, although it is not so firm in the minhagim of ethnic groups, it is correct for those who are always careful to eat glatt to do so as well, even when they are guests. As for leafy vegetables, I debated, for on the basis of its halakhic weight, it is a chumra intended to solve a safek d’rabbanan (a rabbinical uncertainty), since from the Torah, shratzim (insects) are batel b’shishim (halakhic nullification of a substance if mixed into another which is sixty times greater in volume). And yet, since this is an important chumra that many people are always careful to keep, I added it.

Ignorance in the Chumra Not to Eat Regular Kashrut

However, the other minhagim of hidur and chumra, both on the basis of their halakhic weight and firmness, cannot undermine the halakha that regular kashrut certification is kosher, and cannot undermine the principle that a Jew who is hosted by a “kosher” Jew, should respect and rely on him in matters of kashrut.

Indeed, there were some readers who argued – how can we trust the kashrut of the Rabbinate “upon whom doubts have been raised”, and in the opinion of many poskim “should not be relied upon”, or a private kashrut body from abroad that the Rabbinate approves, although abroad, “many people refrain from relying on it.” However, once again the question must be asked: What exactly are the claims against regular kashrut? Are these claims that, in accordance with the rules of halakha, cause these foods not to be kosher?

To this end, I have turned to my readers twice, asking to inform me about problems they are familiar with. For the third time: Is there anyone who knows of a claim based on facts, as a result of which regular kashrut should be designated not kosher?

In the meantime, however, claims of the machmirim against products manufactured in factories with regular kashrut stem from ignorance, for such people do not know the halakha, and consequently believe that regular kashrut is lenient beyond the boundary of halakha. This is incorrect; regular kashrut is in accordance  and within the boundary of halakha.

Indeed, someone who beautifies the mitzvah of kashrut and takes into consideration the methods of the machmirim is clearly virtuous, however, it is forbidden for them to invalidate regular kashrut and undermine the rules of halakha, for if so, their gain is cancelled by their loss.

Example: The Claim about Chalav Nochri

Many readers wrote me that regular kashrut should not be relied upon, since it depends on opinions of individual poskim, for example Rabbi Feinstein’s opinion regarding chalav nochri, despite the fact that most poskim are machmir, and therefore it should not be relied upon except in sha’at dachak (time of need).

This is a clear example of ignorance. I will summarize the issue:

Our Sages forbade Jews to consume milk milked by a non-Jew, lest he mixed-in the pure milk, impure milk (Avodah Zara 35b). However, when a Jew supervises that the non-Jew does not mix impure milk in the pure milk – the milk is kosher. And the intention  is not that the Jew maintains absolute supervision, rather, that he supervise in such a way that the non-Jew fears mixing-in impure milk with pure milk (Avodah Zara 39b; S.A., Y.D. 115:1).

The Law When there is No Concern of Mixing Impure Milk

Is supervision required when there is no concern impure milk will be mixed-in? Many opinions were stated in this issue, but in general, they can be divided into three methods:

The first method is divided into several opinions. The lenient poskim claim that for a non-Jew who does not have an impure animal in his flock, the milk he milked is kosher (‘yesh omrim’ in Mordechai; Tashbetz 3:143). Some say that only if there is no impure animal in the entire city, or that impure milk is more expensive, the milk milked by a non-Jew is kosher (Pri Chadash 115:6; Chazon Ish, Y.D. 41:4). This was the custom in most of the communities of North Africa (Otzar Ha’Michtavim Vol. 3, 1,392).

The second method: The prohibition is practiced even when there is a very remote concern, and this was the custom in Eretz Yisrael and Turkey (Chida, Birchei Yosef 115:1, and so wrote Chochmat Adam (67:1): “Everything the Chachamim decreed, even in a situation of remote concern, nevertheless it is forbidden.” This is also what Beit Meir wrote, Avnei Nezer (Y.D. 101), Aruch HaShulchan (115:16), and others (and safek in Radbaz, 4:75, whether the first or second method).

The third method: In the opinion of Chatam Sofer (Y.D. 107), this prohibition was decreed for any milk milked by a non-Jew, consequently, even if there is no concern that it contains impure milk, milk that is milked by a non-Jew is prohibited. This is the opinion of Melamed L’Ho’eil (36:4). And in our times, this was the ruling of Chelkat Ya’akov (Y. D. 34), Minchat Yitzhak (9:25), and Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu ztz”l.

In summary, in the opinion of the vast majority of poskim, only when there is a real concern, or even a remote one, that the non-Jew will mix impure milk in the pure milk, the milk he milked without supervision is forbidden. Consequently, according to the rules of halakha, the halakha is in accordance with the matirim (lenient poskim), both because they are the majority, and also because the machloket (controversy) is in Divrei Chachamim (rabbinic), in which case halakha goes according to the lenient opinion.

Discussion on the Strict Opinion

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein wrote (Igrot Moshe, Y.D. 1: 47-49) that even according to the strict opinion, in law-abiding countries, cow milk milked by non-Jews is kosher, since government supervision is as effective as Jewish supervision. And just as when a non-Jew fears that a Jew will catch him if he cheats – his milk is kosher, so too, a company that fears that if caught cheating will receive a fine and its reputation will be damaged – its milk is kosher. This is the accepted practice of the OU, the most widespread kashrut organization in the United States.

On the other hand, there are machmirim who argue that government supervision is not as effective as Jewish supervision, for two main reasons: 1) perhaps the supervision is not tight enough; 2) supervision must be done specifically by a Jew (Chelkat Yaacov, Y.D. 34; Mishneh Halakhot 4:103).

Discussion of the Strict Opinion on Avukat Chalav

Regarding avukat chalav nochri (non-Jewish milk powder), more poskim are of the opinion that even according to the strict method, there is no prohibition, since the entire basis of the method of the machmirim is that it is a decree of the Chachamim that applies even when there is no concern that the non-Jew will mix in impure milk, but the decree applies only to milk, and not milk powder. This was the opinion of Rabbi Zvi Pesach Frank (Har Tzvi, Y.D. 103), Zaken Aharon (Vol. 2, Y.D. 44), D’var Yehoshua (Vol. 3, Y.D. 17-19), Beit Avi (Vol. 1, Y.D. 92), Yaskil Avdi (Vol. 5, Y.D. 4), and Tzitz Eliezer (16:25). On the other hand, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu (Ma’amar Mordechai, Vol.1, Y.D. 4) and Binyan Av (5:47) were machmir, and Shevet HaLevi also inclined to agree (5:59).

Summary

In light of what we have learned, since today there is absolutely no concern – even one in a thousand – that in the cow milk of large company’s impure milk will be mixed-in – in the opinion of the majority of poskim, the milk is permitted, and consequently, milk powder made from it is also permitted. And according to the rules of halakha, one does not have to take into consideration the opinion of the machmirim. First, because the opinion of the vast majority of poskim is to be lenient. Secondly, even within the opinion of the machmirim, some poskim hold that nowadays in supervised companies, and kal ve’chomer (all the more so) regarding avukat chalav, the lenient opinion should be followed. Third, even if the poskim were equally divided, since it is a din d’rabanan (rabbinic law), halakha goes according to the lenient opinion (Peninei Halakha: Kashrut 30:4-6).

The Rabbinate Hechsher

What are the standards of the Rabbinate’s regular kashrut hechsher today? Regarding chalav nochri, since it is very easy to be machmir in Eretz Yisrael, they are accustomed to be stringent according to the opinion of the machmirim, and do not give kashrut to chalav nochrim, even when there is absolutely no concern that impure milk was mixed in. However, regarding avukat chalav nochri, in which there is a certain difficulty to be machmir, seeing as it is included in numerous products that come from abroad – the Rabbinate gives regular kashrut, according to the method of all the lenient poskim, and according to the method of the lenient poskim in the explanation of the method of the machmirim.

Here is an example of what I have written, namely, that the Rabbinate’s regular kashrut is in accordance with halachic law, and even beyond so when there is no difficulty to be machmir.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew. The Hebrew version may be found at: https://revivim.yhb.org.il/

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