The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.For final rulings, consult your Rav.
THE REQUIREMENT of CHALOV YISRAEL
In order to protect the inadvertent consumption of non-kosher milk, the
Rabbis enacted a strict ordinance: The milking of every [kosher] animal must
be supervised(1) by a Jew(2) in order for the milk to be kosher. The Rabbis'
fear was not that one might mistakenly drink non-kosher milk, since horse or
camel's milk looks altogether different from cow's milk(3), but rather that
a non-Jew might mix a small, undetectable amount of non-kosher milk into the
cow's milk rendering it non-kosher for the unsuspecting kosher consumer.
While the Rabbis realized that such an occurrence is unlikely, they were
still concerned about it even as a remote possibility(4). Thus, they
prohibited drinking all unsupervised milk(5).
The prohibition against unsupervised milk, known as chalav akum, is a
Rabbinical prohibition like any other: Thus:
It is prohibited to drink chalav akum even when no other milk is available
or when supervised milk is very expensive(6).
A utensil in which chalav akum was cooked is prohibited to use unless it
undergoes a koshering process(7).
A utensil in which cold chalav akum is stored for twenty-four hours is
prohibited to use unless it undergoes a koshering process(8).
Chalav akum is nullified, bateil, if it is inadvertently mixed into a
permitted food or liquid that is sixty times greater in volume(9).
QUESTION: Is chalav akum ever permitted?
DISCUSSION: Several hundred years ago, the Pri Chadash ruled that it is
permitted to drink unsupervised milk if there are no non-kosher milk
producing animals in the entire vicinity. His argument was that since there
is no reasonable possibility that a non-Jew could mix non-kosher milk into
the kosher milk - supervision is no longer required. Several other poskim
also agreed with this ruling(10).
But almost all of the poskim who followed the Pri Chadash disagreed with
his view(11). They all reached the consensus that the ordinance against
drinking unsupervised milk is the type of a decree which can be classified
as a "permanent ordinance", which, once enacted, can never be abrogated.
There are two schools of thought as to why this ordinance remains in force
even when there is no non-kosher milk to be had:
Some explain that since the rabbinical degree was issued originally only
because of a remote possibility, since hardly ever was non-kosher milk mixed
with kosher milk, the fact that no such milk is available in the vicinity is
of no consequence Milk can be certified as completely kosher only if it is
The Chasam Sofer(13) explains that the ban on unsupervised milk was
pronounced irrespective of the availability of non-kosher milk. Even if it
could be ascertained beyond all doubt that there was no possible access to
non-kosher milk, it is still prohibited to drink unsupervised milk. Only
milk which comes from animals whose milking was supervised by a Jew is
exempt from this ban.
Whether for the first or the second reason(14), it is agreed by almost all
of the poskim(15) that the Pri Chadash's leniency cannot be relied upon.
Some poskim add that even if the halachah were to be decided according to
the Pri Chadash it would be of no consequence, since it has already been
accepted by all Jews as binding custom - which has the force of a vow - not
to drink unsupervised milk even if there are no non-kosher milk producing
animals in the entire vicinity. One must, therefore, be stringent in this
In more recent times, another argument for leniency was advanced by several
poskim(17). They argued that since government authorities in the United
States and other developed countries closely monitor the dairy industry and
strictly enforce the law against mixing other milk with cow's milk,
government regulation should be tantamount to supervision(18). According to
this argument, the fear of being caught by government inspectors who are
empowered to levy substantial fines serves as a sufficient deterrent and may
be considered as if a Jew is "supervising" the milking. Based on this
argument, several poskim allowed drinking "company milk", i.e., milk
produced by large companies, without supervision(19).
But many others oppose this position as well:
Based on the aforementioned view of the Chasam Sofer, who maintains that the
rabbinical ordinance against unsupervised milk applies even when there is no
possible access to non-kosher milk, there is no room for leniency just
because of government regulation. Nothing short of actual supervision by a
Jew renders milk kosher(20).
Some poskim argue that government regulation does not totally and
unequivocally preclude the possibility of non-kosher milk getting mixed into
cow's milk. This is because dairymen can, if they wish, cheat or bribe the
government inspectors. Some may choose to risk getting caught and pay a
minimal fine rather than conform to the law. While it is highly improbable
that this would happen, it has already been ruled upon by all authorities,
unlike the Pri Chadash, that the rabbinical ordinance applies even for
What is the practical halachah? Years ago, when supervised milk was hardly
available [or was of inferior quality] and it was truly a hardship to obtain
chalav yisrael, many people relied on the leniency. Some people continue to
rely on this lenient opinion even nowadays when supervised milk is readily
available(22). Indeed, many kashruth organizations in the United States
confer kosher certification on dairy products (and milk) that contain no
non-kosher additives or ingredients, but which are produced from
unsupervised "company" milk".
Many others, however, no longer rely on this leniency, since conditions
have radically changed and chalav yisrael is so readily available. It is
important to note that while Harav M. Feinstein agreed in principle with the
lenient ruling and permitted drinking "company milk" according to the basic
halachah, he himself would not rely on the leniency and advised scrupulous
individuals, ba'alei nefesh, and bnei Torah(23) to refrain from drinking
unsupervised milk. He recommended that schools strain their budgets in order
to purchase chalav yisrael. The following letter(24) gives us an idea of how
he felt on this issue (free translation):
"Regarding the milk of government regulated dairies in our countries, there
are definitely grounds for permissibility to say that they are not included
in Chazal's prohibition, as we see that many are lenient in this due to
dochak (pressing circumstances) in many places. However, in a place that
chalav yisrael is obtainable, even though it requires a bit more effort or
is a bit more expensive, it is not proper to be lenient in this. One should
purchase chalav yisrael."
In recent years, a question has arisen concerning the kashruth of some
milk-producing cows due to surgical procedures performed on their stomachs
for various reasons. According to the available information, many chalav
yisrael companies are now using only cows which do not undergo this
1 "Supervised" means either watching the actual milking or standing guard
outside the milking area to make sure that no other milk is brought in from
the outside; Y.D. 115:1.
2 Even a minor over the age of nine may be the supervisor; Aruch ha-Shulchan
115:8. [Nowadays, when the chance of mixing non-kosher milk into cow's milk
is remote, even a non-believing Jew may be trusted with the supervision
since only non-Jews were included in the original decree; Igros Moshe Y.D.
3 Cow's milk is pure white, while non-kosher milk is greenish; Avodah Zarah
35b. Some hold that they taste different as well (R' Akiva Eiger on Shach
Y.D. 118:8), while others hold that they taste the same (Beis Meir, ibid.)
4 As explained by Chochmas Adam 67:1.
5 Powdered milk, too, was included in this ordinance; Chazon Ish Y.D. 41:4;
R' Yonoson Shteif 159. See, however, Har Tzvi 103-104 who is lenient, and
his ruling is followed by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate which certifies
unsupervised powdered milk as chalav yisrael (Daf ha-Kashrus, December
1997). Most chalav yisrael chocolate manufacturers, however, do not rely on
the Har Tzvi's leniency, and use only powdered milk made from supervised
milk. Note that almost all milk chocolate products are made of powdered
milk; liquid (fluid) milk is usually not used to make milk chocolate.
6 Darkei Teshuvah 115:6.
7 Rama Y.D. 115:1.
8 Taz Y.D. 115:7.
9 Shach Y.D. 115:17; Chochmas Adam 67:5.
10 See Teshuvos Radvaz 4:74 and Pri Toar 115:2.
11 See Pischei Teshuvah 115:3, Aruch ha-Shulchan 115:5 and Darkei Teshuvah
12 Beis Meir Y.D. 115:1; Chochmas Adam 67:1; Avnei Nezer 103; Igros Moshe
13 Teshuvos Y.D. 107, quoted by Pischei Teshuvah 115:3.
14 Some additional arguments against this leniency are: 1) There are hardly
any locales, especially in rural areas, where such animals do not exist;
Beis Meir, ibid. 2) Chazal did not always divulge all of their reasons for
any particular edict; sometimes even when the obvious reason does not apply
there are other, concealed, reasons which may apply; Aruch ha-Shulchan
15 The view of the Chazon Ish 41:4 is somewhat unclear on this.
18 As mentioned earlier, "supervision" also includes standing guard outside
the milking area so that no non-kosher milk is being brought in from the
19 This became known colloquially as chalav stam ("plain milk"), which
refers to its status as being neither expressly prohibited chalav akum nor
expressly permitted chalav yisrael. Note that only large milk companies are
included in this leniency; there is no leniency for milk that comes from
small farms, etc.
22 Even today there are situations where chalav yisrael is not available,
e.g., business travelers or hospital patients. They may rely on the lenient
opinion; Harav Y. Kamenetsky (Emes L'Yaakov Y.D. 115:1).
23 Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:35.
24 Dated 5716 and printed in Pischei Halachah, pg. 107. For unspecified
reasons, this responsum was not published in Igros Moshe.