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Ask the rabbi Halacha Gentile Cooking, Wine and Milk

Chalav Yisroel at milking time

Question
My son keeps Chalav Yisroel. We are traveling to Eastern Europe where Chalav Yisroel is mostly unavailable. I can occasionally arrange that we be present at the part of the milking process at a local farmer who has cows. Is it enough for us to visit and check the milking once and see that he doesn’t have a donkey or horse or other course of non kosher milk? I cannot be present during the entire milking as it takes a long time and I don’t want to annoy the farmer either. Also we may not necessarily receive from the milk that was from the same milking that we observed. Would this still be considered Chalav Yisroel? Do we have to be present at each milking?
Answer
Shalom, Thank you for your interesting question. The laws of Chalav Yisrael (Jewish supervised milk) can be found in the Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah, 115. There the Rema and commentators state that in order for the milk to be acceptable, a Jew should first check the container into which the miking is done to see that it is empty and clean (though there are certain situations when this condition can be forgone). Then a Jew needs to watch the entire milking from start to finish - or to "come and go" into the milking shed during the entire process. It would also be enough to sit near the milking shed even though from the seat the milking is not in view, because one is able to stand up at any point. This is true even if one checked and found that there were no non-kosher animals on the farm. (There is one opinion that is more lenient if there are no non-kosher animals in the whole city, but this is rejected by all the major codifiers (see Chochmat Adam, 67) - in any event it is very likely that there could be a non-kosher horse or dog on the farm). From all of this, it is clear that the type of supervision you will able to provide will not be enough for the milk to be considered Chalav Yisrael. You have two options - either avoiding milk (there are long-life travel milks that you can take with you); or to rely on the rabbinic opinions that allow unsupervised milk in countries with good government regulations on the purity of their milk. You could check with the local rabbis in the places you are going to in order to find out if the local standards are reliable. It is true that your son does not normally rely on this ruling, but if he has a real need for milk, he might consider approaching his rabbi with a question as to whether he can be lenient during your trip because of the pressing need. Blessings.
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