QUESTION: In last week's Yated Reader's Write forum, a reader quoted a
Medrash Tanchuma that states that is preferable to patronize a Jewish
business. What are the specifications of this Halachah?
DISCUSSION: Rashi in Parashas Behar(1) quotes a similar Chazal, in the
name of Toras Kohanim, which states that one should patronize a Jew
whenever possible. Although this is not recorded as law in the Rambam and
Shulchan Aruch, the Chafetz Chayim(2) rules that one should follow this
policy. Even if the Jewish-owned business is located a bit farther away
and it will take longer to shop there, it is still a mitzvah to give
preference to the Jewish-owned establishment.(3)
One must shop at Jewish-owned store, however, only when the price
is the same or slightly higher. If the price is much higher, then there is
no mitzvah to patronize it. The poskim do not give a precise definition of
what is considered "much higher" and what is considered "slightly
higher,"(4) and it may, therefore, be up to each individual to decide this
When judging what is considered much higher or slightly higher,
the judgment may be based on the total outlay of money, not on the price
differences per item. For instance, if shopping at the non-Jewish store
will yield an overall savings of twenty dollars, even though the savings
per item is only a few cents, twenty dollars may be considered a
significant difference and it would be permissible to shop at the non-
The same ruling applies to differences in service. If there is
only a slight difference, then it is a mitzvah to support the Jewish
businessman. If there is a great disparity, then it is not a mitzvah.
QUESTION: It has recently been announced that this year's Chadash season
has begun. Is one required to accept upon himself the prohibition of
Chadash? Why are some observant Jews more lenient than others in regard to
Discussion: Chadash ("new" grain) is grain(6) that was planted after the
annual sacrifice of the Omer was brought on the 16th of Nissan. The Torah
(7) prohibits eating such grain until the following 16th of Nissan, when
the Omer sacrifice was brought once again. Although we have no Korban Omer
today, we must still wait until the second day of Pesach(8) of the
following year in order to eat grain planted during or after Pesach of the
Thus, in order to avoid the prohibition of chadash, we must
ascertain exactly when the grain was planted, since any grain which grew
after the 16th day of Nissan is prohibited to eat until the following 16th
day of Nissan. There are many people who meticulously observe this mitzvah.
The majority of observant Jews, however, follow the centuries-
custom of being lenient in regard to this halachah. Most of the major
kashruth organizations in the United States do not require grain to be
yashan (old) before certifying a product as kosher. Over the years,
various poskim have attempted to explain the laxity in observing this
halachah. Let us list some of the explanations which they suggest:
1. It is difficult to ascertain exactly when the grain was planted.
there is doubt whether the grain is from this year's crop (thus possibly
being prohibited chadash) or last year's (permitted yashan). Additionally,
even if the grain is from this year's crop there is still a possibility
that it may be yashan - for grain to be considered chadash, the seeds must
take root after the 16th of Nissan. Thus there is a "double doubt" (s'feik
s'feika) concerning the grain:
1) Is the grain this year's or last
2) Even if it is this year's, it may be that it was planted shortly
the 16th of Nissan which allowed the seeds to take root before the deadline
(10), and it would thus be permitted. Generally, one may be lenient when
a "double doubt" applies to any given prohibition (even when the
prohibition is Biblical in nature)(11). Nowadays, this approach is
difficult to rely upon, since it is almost always possible to ascertain
the planting dates and growing stages of all grain products(12).
2. Some Rishonim are of the opinion that the Biblical prohibition of
chadash applies only in Eretz Yisrael. The Rabbis extended the prohibition
to nearby countries only, such as Egypt and Babylonia. Other countries
were never included in the Rabbinic decree. Although many other Rishonim
disagree(13), the lenient view has become the customary practice(14) since
it was difficult in those days to obtain yashan wheat at all times.
3. Some poskim rule that the prohibition of chadash applies only to
owned grain. Grain products belonging to a gentile were never included in
The above leniencies are exactly that - leniencies. Mishnah Berurah(16)
rules that those who rely upon them are relying on accepted authorities
and one need not object to their practice. He nevertheless recommends that
one should be strict and not rely on the above leniencies since there are
poskim, notably the Gra, who treat the prohibition of chadash as a
Biblical prohibition, even outside of Eretz Yisrael and even if the grain
is owned by gentiles(17).
Mishnah Berurah(18) rules that even those who are strict in the
observance of chadash may use dishes in which chadash was cooked, provided
that 24 hours elapsed since the cooking of the chadash grain.
Jewish-owned grain in Eretz Yisrael is prohibited according to
the poskim, since none of the above leniencies apply(19). In fact,
however, the entire problem does not really exist in Eretz Yisrael today,
since the planting season is in the beginning of the winter and harvesting
is generally done after Pesach. In the United States, however, the various
grains are planted and harvested throughout the year, making the problem
much more acute.
[Note that in the U.S., in almost all cases, spelt and rye are
winter crops (permitted yashan wheat) while barley and oats are almost
always spring crops and are subject to the restrictions of chadash. Wheat
comes in both winter and spring varieties. High gluten wheat, used mostly
in bread, challah and pizza, is generally from chadash spring wheat. Low
gluten wheat, generally used for cookies, matzah and pretzels, is almost
always from yashan winter crops. Durum, another type of wheat used mainly
in pasta, is generally from spring crops(20)].
1 25:14. It is also quoted as practical halachah in Teshuvos Tashbatz
3:151 and Teshuvos Rama 10.
2 Ahavas Chesed 5:7 and Nesiv ha-Chesed 12.
3 Maharam Shick C.M. 31.
4 See Minchas Yitzchak 3:129, who remains undecided on this issue.
5 See Kol ha-Torah, vol. 42, pg. 305.
6 Wheat, barley, oats, spelt and rye. Corn, rice and other grains, as well
as legumes, are not included.
7 Vayikra 23:14.
8 Outside Eretz Yisrael the date is the 17th of Nissan, the third day of
9 O.C. 489:10; Y.D. 293:1.
10 The poskim (see Shach, Nekudos ha-Kesef, Dagul Mervavah, Aruch ha-
Shulchan Y.D. 293 and Mishnah Berurah 336:33) debate how long it takes for
seeds to take root after planting. Some rule that it takes two weeks.
Consequently, any grain planted two weeks or less before Pesach may be
chadash. Others are more lenient and allow seeds planted up to three days
before Pesach to be considered yashan. See also Minchas Yitzchak (6:43).
11 This argument to permit chadash is advanced by the Rama (Y.D. 293).
Many other poskim are critical of this approach for various reasons.
12 Mishnah Berurah 489:45. In the U.S. where all grains are dated and
encoded, the information needed is easily accessible; see Igros Moshe Y.D.
13 See Beiur ha-Gra (Y.D. 293:2) and Sdei Chemed on Chadash.
14 See Aruch ha-Shulchan (Y.D. 293:6,19) who strongly relies on this.
15 This is the view of the Bach (Y.D. 293). The Ba'al Shem Tov is quoted
by his disciples as having ruled like the Bach, which partly explains why
many poskim in Eastern Europe ruled leniently regarding chadash.
17 In addition, some poskim (see Chasam Sofer, Toras Moshe on Parashas Bo;
Da'as Torah 453:4) warn against using chadash wheat when baking matzos for
Pesach, even for those who are lenient during the rest of the year.
18 Ibid. 48.
19 The status of gentile-owned grain that was shipped to Eretz Yisrael and
baked there by Jews is debated by the poskim. Some are strict (Achiezer
others are lenient (Har Tzvi 2:70).
20 Information supplied by the Orthodox Union (Daf ha-Kashrus, Jan. 1998).