Modern Cholov Yisroel: A blunder of nomenclature

The Halacha of needing supervised kosher milk (Chalav Yisrael) is clear. It applies today, as it applied yesteryear. Every single Jew is enjoined to only drink Milk that was supervised by a Jew. (there are different approaches to supervision). There are different reasons between the Bavli and Yerushalmi as quoted by Tosfos in Avoda Zara, but what is inescapable is that:

There is no permission whatsoever not to drink Chalav Yisrael.

This is a famous law, and we (Orthodox Jews, ranging from Charedi to Centrist/Modern Orthodox) have no permission to drink anything other than Chalav Yisrael. The prime reason given is that we are concerned that non Kosher Milk was also mixed in. Without going into the details of whether non Kosher Milk looks different (greenish) and whether Camel’s milk today is in fact white now, and whether there are no non Kosher animals in the flock, the reality is that there is no Orthodox Posek in the world that ever abrogated the need for Cholov Yisroel. They cannot! They are powerless to annul this (nor would they want to annul it in the many lawless parts of the world).

The Pri Chadash and others suggested that the decree only existed where there was a possibility that there was non kosher milk mixed in. Where no such possibility existed, then the milk is considered at the level of Cholov Yisroel. Some reject the Pri Chadash and want to say that the entire country has to have no non-Kosher milk-bearing animals, but here is not the place to delve into the topic in respect to those details. The Acharonim in Yoreh Deah and after that, are troubled by the Pri Chadash’s observation.

We then have the two great permissive analyses of the Chazon Ish and Reb Moshe Feinstein. Neither of these argue that every single Jew need not drink Cholov Yisrael. For those who believe the Chazon Ish was not lenient, I have a wonderful analyses which I can make available once I ask permission.

The difference is what is considered SUPERVISION. According to R’ Moshe (and we rely on such considerations right throughout the Kashrus Industry) Dairies generally have cow’s milk only, and they fear being shut down and/or sued for presenting non Cow’s milk as cow’s milk, and this constitutes the necessary level of Mirtas (fear) by the non-Jew, to the extent that he will not destroy his business. Accordingly, what R’ Moshe and the Chazon Ish (and others) are telling us is that this particular style of fear is equal to the fear or if you prefer ‘halachic efficacy’ of being supervised by a Jew, (who may have washed out any buckets for exactitude at the beginning) and then being in a place near the flock to be able to stand up at any time and see what is happening. Accordingly, they were lenient, and note: this is not a leniency when people travel through China, India, Russia, and many countries where no such “fear of being sued” or “fear of being caught doling out adulterated products exists (I’m not even going to mention places like Africa and Asia). There is a case mentioned in the Aruch Hashulchan (a Giant Navardoker Misnagdish Posek ) where he relates that the Milk in some famous café was in fact Treyf as it was mixed with non Kosher fats to give it an “edge”).

What’s been the wash up of all of this? We now have a generation of people who say

No, we don’t keep Chalav Yisrael

This is plainly wrong. Everyone must keep Cholov Yisroel at all times. What they are really saying, is that they are keeping the Chalav Yisrael as defined by the promulgation of companies producing cow’s milk and the concomitant fear that their businesses will be ruined if they do not adhere to the standards set by Government. [ Imagine the court case, God forbid, of a child who is allergic to milk other than Cow’s milk who is found to have been given tainted milk, that had camel’s milk mixed suffering anaphylactic shock. The outcry would reverberate. This is why many companies say “may contain traces of nuts and dairy” when in fact this is so remote as to be halachically insignificant and basically a clause inserted by legal insurance to protect themselves.]

It’s not just milk. Generally speaking in most areas of Kashrus, one can find an ‘accepted norm’ and then those who (mainly for Kabbalistic reasons, especially with milk — and yes, both the Ramoh and the Mishnah Brura and the Aruch Hashulchan were affected by these considerations) expect more.

If I was an American Rabbi at that time, I would have visited R’ Moshe and asked that he announce that all observant Jews drink Chalav Yisroel. Some (the Ba’al Nefesh, as R’ Moshe was himself but not for his family or his guests) will assume the traditional mode of supervision, with the eye of Mashgiach.

In summary, I would have liked to have seen CHALAV YISRAEL divided up into two categories, just like much Kosher food (and here I do not include the outlier, unaccepted rogue authorities in many cities around the world)

  1. Chalav Yisrael Mehadrin
  2. Chalav Yisrael Stam (where this is known to be considered supervised through another Halachic method)

You might say I’m picky. I don’t believe I am. I’ve spoken inter-alia on this topic with many people over the years, and I have always been floored by the fact that they think that they are drinking NON CHALAV YISRAEL. Chas V’Shalom to think that a Jew doesn’t have this obligation TODAY, and that they are lax and not fulfilling it. No, they are fulfilling it, because it must be fulfilled. Nobody had nullified the degree. Reb Moshe didn’t “do away” with Chalav Yisrael!!!

By sadly calling them either

  1. Chalav Stam (a new extra halachic phrase that never existed) or Chalav HaCompanies (which was not used by R’ Moshe to defined a new type of milk,  but rather an innovative mode of supervision that renders the milk Chalov Yisrael.
  2. Chalav Yisrael

they have created generations of people who actually think that Cholov Yisroel is a Chumra and isn’t Halacha Lechatchilla. I believe this has done damage and created falsehood.

I would urge, certainly Kosher Australia, to use Mehadrin for Cholov Yisroel which is eyeballed by a Mashgiach, as there is a market for this type of supervision, Halachically and Kabbalistically. True, most local milk produced in Melbourne is under the Hungarian Adass Charedim, and they won’t drink non-eyeballed supervision. Kosher Australia uses Mehadrin for many things. The Charedim in Melbourne follow Kosher Australia’s Mehadrin as does the Badatz in Yerusholayim.

A simple paragraph by Koshe Australia explaining when they use Mehadrin for Cholov Yisroel achieves everything and does not passively cause people to err (and dare I say sin God forbid) and think that they don’t have to have Chalav Yisroel and that Chalav Yisrael is something just for people with bushy beards or long peyos. Sorry, Shulchan Aruch was written for all. People do err and they must understand that at all times and at all places Chalov Yisrael is a must! (I’m not going to discuss cheese or butter here)

[ Yes, with bread, which is a staple, the Gezeira of Pas Yisroel wasn’t accepted and there are leniencies, but without going into the different situations when and if these leniencies can be applied, this isn’t paralleled with Chalav Yisrael. ]

I should hasten, unlike the times of the Shulchan Aruch, we also need to be sure the bottled product is actually Kosher (ditto, the bread in a place where Jewish bread, is not available and there is a bakery (Pas Palter). Food production has changed markedly.

Sharing a coffee for social reasons in a non supervised non-Jewish coffee shop when a Kosher one is available, is something I would suggest people ask their Halachic decisor. I’m not comfortable with it.

[ For work, when I think it is necessary: I have black coffee in a glass, and have my own sweetener in a sachet, if theirs is not kosher, or I just drink water].

Author: pitputim

I'm a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia although my views have naught​ to do with my employer. I skylark as the band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel.

5 thoughts on “Modern Cholov Yisroel: A blunder of nomenclature”

  1. I saw an article recently – I don’t recall the source, other than it was written by an Orthodox rabbi in the US – that argued as follows: 1. Since Rav Moshe’s psak, there have been changes in the supervisory regimes regarding milk, and there is now more inspection and verification at the level of the individual farm, to ensure non-adulteration of cow’s milk with other forms of milk. 2. The penalties include removal of the farm’s license to market to the dairies. 3. Hence, there is a “fear factor” at the level of the individual milking, rather than at the recipient dairy (“company”) level. 4. Hence, such milk would be even more likely to satisfy the requirements for Chalav HaCompanies, according to Rav Moshe. 5. The author argues that even those who would not accept Rav Moshe’s approach regarding supervision/inspection at the dairy level, might accept this supervision/inspection at the farm level.

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    1. I personally don’t think so. Those who don’t accept the Chazon Ish and Reb Moshe primarily do so because they want to protect against Timtum Halev which can only be obviates via someone being there as an Eidus. There is in fact a bigger problem in America. Much milk is in fact Treyf because the Cow is a Treyfa having undergone some puncturing to alleviate a sore gut. In Australia the feed is better and there are less if these procedures and any animal that has had it is readily identifiable and able to be removed. I don’t know the percentages of the cows that have had this procedure but I’m told that in the USA it’s not insignificant.

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  2. I heard Rabbi Gordimer (the OU’s milk expert) say that we should speak of Cholov Yisroel type A (traditional) and type B (Reb Moshe).

    Re the new supervision on farms, that would only help those who already accept Reb Moshe’s first heter anyway, but are concerned about his second heter (which nobody talk about, for some reason), that the gezera only applies to the last goy who owned the milk, and no supervision is required over any previous goy.

    According to this reasoning,we can ignore all the arguments about levels of government supervision, and buy any milk in a sealed tamper-proof container from a goyishe milk bar! We know that the milk bar owner did not adulterate the milk, therefore according to Reb Moshe it is cholov yisroel no matter where it came from. And the same would be true in any country, unless there is a genuine concern that the percentage of treife milk in the supply is greater than 1/60.

    This was how Reb Moshe explained how one can buy from a dairy company which is under strict government supervision even though the farmers it buys from are not, and even though he was extremely clear that ONE MAY NOT BUY MILK DIRECTLY FROM A FARM. His whole heter depended on the fact that the dairy buys from the farm, and then you buy from the dairy (or from a Jewish grocery who bought from the dairy).

    The current supervision level at farms, which didn’t exist in Reb Moshe’s day, means that one doesn’t have to rely on this second heter. However it’s no help for one who is uncomfortable with the first heter, that knowledge is the same as eidus.

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    1. I don’t like Rabbi Gordimer’s proposed nomenclature. We have a catch all for various other foods and we should be consistent. It is called Mehadrin. As I said, the OU and others refer to Reb Moshe. That’s understandable. The Chazon Ish was clearly of the same view (who is not inconsistent with his view on powder). By the way it’s been years since I’ve read these Tshuvos but are you saying that that Reb Moshe ignores his own Mirtas until it gets to the person making the sale! So, he’d be permit it in an unregulated dairy industry with a regulated retail industry!?! Do they exist?

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      1. Yes, R Moshe says explicitly that farmers are not mirtas, because they’re hardly ever inspected. His original heter was only to buy from large companies. It’s not just the presence of inspection that creates the mirtas, it’s the fact that there are a lot of workers so it would be impossible to systematically adulterate the milk without bribing a lot of people not to tell the inspector, which the manager will only do if there’s a profit in it for him, and with milk there really isn’t one.

        His original heter was based on the (false) assumption that the large dairy companies have their own company-owned farms, run by employees, so it’s all one big industrial production where nothing could be going on without lots of people noticing and needing to be bribed. Then someone wrote to him that this is not how it works, and the dairy companies buy their milk from farmers, who he himself said can’t be trusted. So he explained his second heter, that the gezera only applies to the last goy, which is the dairy company. But that assumes that you buy from a Jewish grocery, which buys from the company. According to the second heter, if you buy from a goyishe milk bar you can ignore the whole discussion about how reliable inspection is, because you know that the milk bar owner didn’t tamper with it, so it doesn’t matter what happened before that.

        This is all premised on a milk supply that we are confident is basically kosher, i.e. there’s no large scale adulteration to the point where it becomes a sofek d’oraisa. Where there is a sofek d’oraisa the whole issue of cholov yisroel becomes moot, because it’s forbidden anyway, and chazal didn’t have to make a gezeira.

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