Chalav Yisrael Part ll: – The Strict View by Rabbi Chaim Jachter



Last week we presented the lenient view among Poskim regarding Chalav Yisrael.  We noted that many great Poskim support the lenient view and that there is a strong basis in the Gemara, Rishonim, and Acharonim for those who follow the lenient view.  This week, however, we will outline the view of those who follow the strict approach to this issue.  They also enjoy the support of many great Poskim and their logic can be supported by the Gemara, Rishonim, and Acharonim.  We will outline their view and three related issues - the status of powdered milk, cheese, and milk proteins that are produced from milk produced by a non-Jew that was not supervised by an observant Jew.

Government Supervision - Rav Moshe Feinstein

Last week we noted a classic dispute whether the rabbinic prohibition to consume milk that was not supervised at the time of milking by an observant Jew applies when there are no non-Kosher animals in the area that are milked for commercial purposes.  The Pri Chadash is most prominently associated with the lenient view and the Chatam Sofer is most prominently associated with the strict opinion.  The core of this dispute is whether this rabbinic prohibition applies even when the reason for the rabbinic enactment does not apply.  In other words, the question is whether the prohibition of Chalav Akum is categorized as a Davar Sh’b’minyan, as we explained last week.   

We noted last week that the Chochmat Adam, the Aruch Hashulchan, and Teshuvot Melamed Lihoil record that the custom in most of Europe was to follow the strict view of the Chatam Sofer regarding Chalav Yisrael.  In the United States, however, the practice of most observant Jews in America during the early part of the twentieth century was to follow the lenient opinion.  There were some people, though, even in early twentieth century America who followed the strict approach of the Chatam Sofer who insists that an observant Jew must see the milking process even if we are certain that the farmer is not introducing non-Kosher milk.  My grandfather, Reb Chaim Adler of Brooklyn, made sure that the milk he sold in his grocery store was Chalav Yisrael, as he hired a Mashgiach to supervise the milking of the cows in the dairy in Queens that supplied his milk.  My grandfather’s practice, though, constituted the exception rather than the rule at that time in the United States. 

Rav Melech Schachter (father of Rav Hershel Schachter, who arrived in this country as a very young man in the early 1930s) told me that those who were lenient regarding milk assumed that they were following the lenient approach of the Pri Chadash.  Rav Moshe Feinstein (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe Yoreh Deah 1:47), however, argues that in America where there is government supervision of the milking process to ensure that only cow’s milk is being sold, even the Chatam Sofer would permit consuming the milk even without rabbinic supervision.  Rav Moshe argues that this is because the Halacha, in the context of the laws of testimony, equates knowledge of an event with seeing an event, (see Shavuot 34a).  Thus, he argues that our knowledge that the government monitors the milk in this country is the equivalent of our watching the milking process. 

This argument is supported by the fact that the Gemara (Avodah Zarah 39b) does not require a Jew to actually observe every step of the milking process.  Rather, the Gemara states that it is sufficient if a Jew is nearby and has easy access to view the milking, since then the non-Jew fears introducing non-Kosher milk because the Jew may at any time unexpectedly watch the milking.  Rav Moshe argues that even non-Jewish government supervision creates a similar situation and thus the milk is permissible even according to the Chatam Sofer.

A Critique of Rav Moshe’s Leniency

Rav Moshe’s argument, however, is somewhat debatable.  The point of the Chatam Sofer appears to be that even though we are certain that there is no non-Kosher milk introduced to the milk, a Jew still must supervise the milking process.  The Chatam Sofer rejects the Pri Chadash’s argument that the facts of greater expense of non-Kosher milk and the absence of non-Kosher animals being milked in the area create a certainty that there is no non-Kosher milk introduced and thus obviate the need for a Jew to supervise the milking process.  Thus, the Chatam Sofer seems to reject the argument that knowledge equals vision in the context of this Halacha.  Even in the aforementioned Gemara the observant Jew is involved with the milking process, as he is seated outside the barn.  In the case of government supervision an observant Jew is not at all involved in supervising the milking process. 

On the other hand, in the Pri Chadash’s situation there was no external supervision of the milking process and no fear (Mirtat) on the part of the non-Jews milking the cows.  Rather, the Pri Chadash was relying only on the reasoning that it is extremely unlikely that the non-Jews were introducing non-Kosher milk into their product.  Thus, in the situation of government supervision it is debatable whether it should be equated with the case in the aforementioned Gemara or the situation of the Pri Chadash. 

Parenthetically, we should note that those who adopt the strict approach to the Chalav Yisrael issue discuss whether supervision by video cameras and computer suffices even according to the Chatam Sofer.  Rav Zev Whitman (Techumin 22:466-468) and Rav Mordechai Gross (B’n’tiv Hechalav pp. 54-56) discuss this issue.  In both these situations, though, a Jew is involved in the supervision process and it seems to be more analogous to the situation described in the aforementioned Gemara than the situation of non-Jewish government supervision.  Rav Whitman reports that Rav Yosef Shalom Eliashiv and Rav Shmuel Wosner, two of today’s leading Poskim, ruled (in a ruling issued to the Mehadrin division of the rabbinical supervisors of the giant Israeli dairy company Tenuva) that supervision of the milking process by video cameras suffices to satisfy the opinion of the Chatam Sofer and to categorize the milk as “Chalav Yisrael”.

Indeed, the Chazon Ish (Y.D. 41:4) aligns the idea of relying on the government supervision with the reasoning of the Pri Chadash.  According to the Chazon Ish, the Chatam Sofer rejects relying on government supervision in this context.  We must clarify, though, that the Chazon Ish in his writings is quite inclined to the view of the Pri Chadash, although he does not rule explicitly in accordance with the Pri Chadash.  The Chazon Ish’s view on this matter is clarified by his brother-in-law Rav Yaakov Kanievsky (Krayna D’igrata 2:123) that the Chazon Ish relied on the Pri Chadash to permit frail Yeshiva students drink powdered milk in difficult wartime years when milk was not readily available in Eretz Yisrael.  Thus, the Chazon Ish essentially accepts the view of the Pri Chadash but only in case of great need.  For further discussion of the Chazon Ish’s view on this issue see B’n’tivei Hechalav p.31.   

Many other Acharonim adopt the approach that government supervision is inadequate to satisfy the view of the Chatam Sofer.  These opinions include Rav Yaakov Breisch (Teshuvot Chelkat Yaakov 3:37-38), Rav Yaakov Yitzchak Weisz (Teshuvot Minchat Yitzchak 9:81), and Rav Shmuel Wosner (Teshuvot Sheivet Halevi 4:87).  See Rav Wosner’s responsum where he records a remarkable conversation he had with the Chazon Ish about this matter.

We should note that even Rav Zvi Pesach Frank who permits powdered milk produced from non-Chalav Yisrael milk, does not permit the consumption of the actual milk even though we are certain that no non-Kosher milk has been introduced because of government supervision.  Thus, Rav Zvi Pesach should be included in the list of Rabbanim who do not subscribe to Rav Moshe’s lenient ruling. 

Moreover, Rav Ovadia Yosef (Teshuvot Yechave Da’at 4:42) rules in accordance with the strict view despite the fact that the two primary advocates of the lenient view, the Radvaz and the Pri Chadash, are among the most authoritative Sephardic Halachic authorities and despite the fact that the Chatam Sofer is most insistent regarding Ashkenazim that they have a tradition to reject the lenient rulings of the Radvaz and Pri Chadash.  Rav Ovadia explains that his ruling is based on the fact that the Chida (Shiyurei Bracha 115; the Chida is also among the most prominent of Sephardic Halachic authorities) who records that the custom in Eretz Yisrael and its environs is to follow the strict opinion.  Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, another major contemporary Halachic authority, writes (Kol Tzofayich 145) that even those who observe only the standard level of Kashrut (and not Mehadrin) should scrupulously avoid relying on the lenient opinion on this matter. 

Indeed, it is well known that even Rav Moshe Feinstein writes in his many responsa on this topic that a Ba’al Nefesh (someone on a high spiritual level) should follow the strict opinion on this issue.  It seems that Rav Moshe was aware that his argument was somewhat debatable.  Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, though, felt the lenient approach is sufficiently convincing that even he relied on the lenient view for reasons that we discussed at length in last week’s issue of Kol Torah. 

We should note that Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky (Emet L’Yaakov p.308) rules that those who follow the strict opinion regarding Chalav Yisrael are permitted to eat from the dishes and utensils of those who follow the lenient view.  He cites as a precedent the ruling of the Rama (Y.D. 64:9) regarding a certain fat regarding which there was a Halachic dispute about its Kashrut and some communities adopted the lenient view and others followed the stricter view.  The Rama rules that those who adopt the strict view are permitted to eat from the dishes and utensils of those who adopt the lenient view.  The Rama (Y.D. 115:1) rules similarly regarding the dispute (that we will, Im Yirtzeh Hashem and Bli Neder, discuss next week) about butter produced by a non-Jew, regarding which there are different practices among different communities. (For an explanation of these rulings of the Rama, see “Gray Matter” p.247).  Rav Yaakov also rules that one who adopts the strict view is permitted to give non-Chalav Yisrael products to those who are lenient about this issue, and he does not violate thereby the prohibition to cause others to sin (Lifnei Iveir Lo Ti’tein Michshol).  (For an explanation of this ruling see “Gray Matter” p.171.)

Next week we shall complete our discussion of the strict view regarding Chalav Yisrael.  We will present the policy of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate regarding this issue and the debate regarding cheese, powdered milk, and whey derived from non-Chalav Yisrael milk.

Chalav Yisrael: Part III by Rabbi Chaim Jachter

Chalav Yisrael – Part I Rav Soloveitchik's View by Rabbi Chaim Jachter