Chodosh in Chutz La’aretz - Part 3
The previous two articles (Part I and Part II) discussed the source and explanations of the prohibition of eating products containing chodosh flour or grain, as well as presenting five separate rationales for allowing leniency when eating chodosh grain in Chutz La’aretz, and the issues and difficulties involved with relying on each of them. And none seem to have the complete answer to the question posed in the original article, “Why has the traditional approach seemed to be lenient when most authorities rule that chodosh is prohibited Biblically even outside Eretz Yisrael?”
Justification to Feed the Masses
The most important factor to note is that many Gedolim through the ages worked tirelessly to find any sort of justification to allow the masses to partake of chodosh products. The reason was (as was previously mentioned) that in many parts where Jewry was located, if one would not eat the chodosh grain, he would be unable to eat any grain product for at least six months of the year, leading to possible starvation. A prime example of one of these authorities is the Mishkenos Yaakov, who upon hearing from Rav Chaim Volozhiner that it is proper to be melamed zchus (seek merit) for Klal Yisrael for eating chodosh, wrote a twenty-five page responsa(!) point by point, logical proof by logical proof, all in order to rationalize for the standard practice of allowing leniency about chodosh in Chutz La’aretz, and consequently “so Hashem should judge them meritoriously, and not chas v’shalom causing them to inadvertently sin”. However, he explains many times throughout this monumental teshuva that the hetterim are all only regarding extenuating circumstances, as in many countries it was extremely difficult to obtain yoshon grain.
Several other authorities, including the Pnei Yehoshua and Tzemach Tzedek, write similarly, that after toiling to find sources for hetterim to be lenient and rely that chodosh in Chutz la’aretz is only a Rabbinic enactment, that Chas v’shalom they would argue on all the poskim who hold it is a Biblical prohibition, rather, they stress that they are trying to find a hetter for those who are lenient, since not being able to eat chodosh products is considered an extenuating circumstance. The Magen Ha’elef similarly writes extensively, bringing Talmudic theories and hypotheses to be “melamed zchus on the Nation of Hashem”, but even so, concludes that a “ba’al nefesh” should be stringent.
There are also Gedolim who took the melamed zchus (merit seeking) a step further. The Sdei Chemed, after citing many poskim and much logic on both sides of the issue, concludes with the words of the Teshuos Chain “since Klal Yisrael generally has been lenient in the issue of chodosh in Chutz La’aretz for many generations due to the various hetterim and extenuating circumstances, it has developed into a “minhag hakadmonim” (long-standing custom), and even though it is against the standard halacha, one may not question those who keep it, for they have what to rely upon. Rav Yitzchak Shlomo Yoel, the Av Beis Din of Rovna, wrote extensively in this vein “for it is a mitzvah to be melamed zchus where the majority of the population will be unable to eat grain for three quarters of the year. And if we would rule stringently, then we will have effectively disqualified every divorce documentation from Chutz La’aretz, (for all the witnesses would be considered ineligible if they publicly transgressed a Biblical Commandment)”. The Chelkas Yoav writes similarly that, even according to thosewho rule leniently, chodosh in Chutz La’aretz should still be a Rabbinic prohibition. However, he explains that everyone relies on a combination of the lenient opinions. Namely, that chodosh in Chutz L’aretz is possibly only Rabbinic in origin, and furthermore may only apply to countries next to Eretz Yisrael. Additionally, most grain grown worldwide is by a non-Jew. Therefore taking all these opinions into account renders it muttar to be eaten. The Butchatcher Rav likewise defends the “minhag to be maykel”, stating that since all of World Jewry was lenient, it became a “minhag l’halacha amitis”, a halachically viable minhag, even though it’s against the standard halacha!
However, it appears that it would not be so clear-cut to rely on this, as historically this would not seem quite correct; there never was any prevalent “universal minhag”. The reason why people in Russiawere lenient is not the same reason why others were lenient in Poland. For example, the Aruch Hashulchan and Mishna Berura both stated that there is no safek sfeka (compounded doubt - the Rema’s hetter) to rely upon in Russia where the farmers were unable to plant grain before Pesach due to the frozen ground, and had to rely on an alternative hetter; whereas poskim from Eastern Europe felt that in their periphery there was always a safek as to the grain’s status (not clearly chodosh or yoshon). Some places held of the Bach’s hetter, others relied on the Taz’s and others on the Magen Avraham’s. So even though many were lenient in this manner, it does not seem conclusive to say that all came from the same source, that everyone relied on the same “minhag”. Indeed, even the Sdei Chemed himself concludes that “Anyone who fears Hashem should be stringent like the Rif, Rambam, Rosh, and the Baalei Tosafos”.
Rav Moshe Sternbuch addresses this issue and writes that “in our times, in places where there is no great difficulty to obtain yoshon flour, it is a strong issur to be mezalzel in the psak of the Shulchan Aruch and Gedolei Haposkim that maintain that chodosh produce is prohibited.” He continues that if it is easily obtainable, how can one rely on the Poskim who were moser nefesh to be melamed zchus on Klal Yisrael in times of extenuating circumstances? He maintains that if at all possible, it is obvious that one should not eat chodosh products, thereby entertaining the possibility of eating something that is prohibited.
Sof Davar Hakol Nishma…
In the final analysis, between the many rationales and differing authorities, there most definitely is what to rely upon to partake of chodosh products, and especially in places where yoshon flour is not readily available. However, what remains to be seen is the reason for the widespread use of eating chodosh products in Chutz La’aretz l’chatchila nowadays in places where yoshon flour is easily obtainable. For even with the many reasons and logicgiven to be melamud zchus, it must be stressed that the majority of poskim disagreed with each and every one of them. Nevertheless, although he wrote extensively exhorting all to try to be stringent in this matter to the fullest of their abilities, the Mishna Berurah declared that one may not object to someone who is lenient, as that fellow certainly has what to rely upon; that which some label a “universal minhag”.
Shu”t Mishkenos Yaakov (Y”D 67).
Pnei Yehoshua (Kuntress Acharon on Kiddushin, 51). He is the grandson of the other renowned Pnei Yehoshua (also known as the Meginei Shlomo) who ruled very stringently in regard to eating chodosh. See previous article - Part II. He utilizes a combined leniency approach - only grain from a non-Jew in Chutz Laaretz that is not near Eretz Yisrael and only combined with another safek.
Tzemach Tzedek (Lubavitch - Shu”t Y”D 218). After bringing sources and proofs to hold like the Bach and Pnei Yehoshua (see previous footnote), even so writes that “anyone with fear of Heaven should be stringent – like the Rif, Rambam, Tur, and Shulchan Aruch that chodosh in chutz l’aretz is deoraysa, and that the iker is that there is no difference whether the grain was owned by a Jew or non-Jew.”
Magen Ha’elef (O.C. 489, Kuntress Shaim Chodosh). See also Shu”t Meshivas Nafesh (vol. 1, end 16, s.v. v’yadaati) by the same author, whom while addressing the issue about a son who eats chodosh grain in Chutz La’aretz whether he is required to keep yoshon because of “kibbud av v’aim”, writes in an interesting footnote that even though no one is as great as the Gr”a (who, as mentioned in the previous article, was extremely stringent regarding chodosh produce), still chalila to make the whole world into Resha’im by transgressing an aveira deoraysa, and therefore we cannot bring a proof based on the Vilna Gaon’s greatness (similar to Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai, whom the halacha does not always follow, despite his greatness).
Sdei Chemed (vol. 8, Kuntress Haklalim, Asifas Dinim, Maareches Chodosh B’zman Hazeh).
Shu”t Teshuos Chein (25).
He wrote the second half of Sdei Chemed’s extensive kuntress on chodosh.
Shu”t Chelkas Yoav (Y”D 33 s.v. v’af).
Eishel Avraham (O.C. 489. s.v. ode matzasi). On a more contemporary note, see also Shearim Metzuyanim B’Halacha (172, 3) who likewise cites different sevaros and shittos to be lenient. The Ba’er Moshe (Shu”t vol. 7, pg 245) as well, writes simply that in Chutz L’aretz the minhag is to be lenient like the Acharonim who ruled leniently, and it’s almost a forgotten matter (that there is even an issue at all).
Cited in the previous article - Part II.
Not to mention the Tur and Shulchan Aruch, as well as later authorities including the Shach, Taz and Gr”a (see previous article - Part II).
Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos (vol. 1, 655).
I have heard from Rav Doniel Neustadt (Av Beis Din of Detroit) that there are those who posit that since yoshon flour is older, it has a higher infestation rate than chodosh flour, and especially if it is not stored properly. Therefore, they maintain that it is better to eat chodosh products, which with all the hetterim involved is only a safek issur, as opposed to eating yoshon which has a greater chance of unwittingly eating a bug and thereby transgressing a definite issur deoraysa.
Mishna Berurah (O.C. 489, 45, Biur Halacha s.v. v’af). It is said that Rav Moshe Feinstein, in line with the reasoning of Mishna Berura, was very scrupulous about this and made sure to have at least yoshon oats and barley, since it was much easier to observe yoshon with them than with wheat. See also Shu”t Igros Moshe (Y”D vol. 4, end 46) where although he maintains there is what to rely upon l’maaseh, maintains that still one should try to ascertain where he can purchase yoshon flour, as it is preferable.
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Disclaimer: These are just a few basic guidelines and overview of the Halacha discussed in this article. This is by no means a complete comprehensive authoritative guide, but rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issue. One should not compare similar cases in order to rules in any real case, but should refer his questions to a competent Halachic authority.
Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide, rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issues. In any real case one should ask a competent Halachic authority.
L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh HaYeshiva - Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben R' Yechezkel Shraga, Rav Yaakov Yeshaya ben R' Boruch Yehuda, and l'zchus for Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam and her children for a yeshua teikef u'miyad!