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].