3.Sephardic and Ashkenazic Approaches to Keeping Kosher on Pesaĥ
In general, there are two fundamental approaches to kashrut on Pesaĥ. According to most poskim, the laws of ĥametz on Pesaĥ are no different than the laws of all other forbidden foods, with one exception: all other forbidden foods are batel be-shishim (rendered insignificant when constituting less than one sixtieth of the volume of a mixture), whereas ĥametz is not. However, all other laws of mixtures apply to ĥametz on Pesaĥ. Therefore, when there is no halakhic reason to suspect that a food mixture has absorbed the taste of ĥametz, it is kosher for Pesaĥ. Likewise, where an individual posek is stringent and the great majority of poskim are lenient, halakha follows the lenient opinion.
However, Ashkenazic Jews are customarily very strict about ĥametz, often showing concern for a stringent opinion even against the lenient majority and practicing caution where general halakhic principles indicate no reason to do so. Nevertheless, Ashkenazic custom also places a limit to its stringencies, and poskim are careful not to pile restrictions upon existing restrictions. The general tendency, though, is to show concern for every uncertainty. The basis for this approach is the Sages’ ruling that even a drop of ĥametz is forbidden; thus, if a mere crumb of ĥametz renders its entire mixture forbidden, so too individual halakhic opinions should be taken into account.
This explains the consistent difference between the rulings of Shulĥan Arukh, which follow general halakhic principles, and those of Rema, which account, le-khatĥila, for the stringent opinions. Nonetheless, in cases of pressing need Rema adopts the lenient approach, since halakha fundamentally accords with most poskim. 3
In general, Sephardim follow Shulĥan Arukh and Ashkenazim follow Rema. However, some Sephardic poskim tend to be stringent, and their rulings are accepted in some Sephardic communities. 4
4.Principles of Kosher Supervision on Pesaĥ
There is a fundamental question regarding the laws of kashrut on Pesaĥ: what is the status of foods that are not normally made with ĥametz all year round? Are they kosher for Pesaĥ as they are, without any special supervision, or must we consider the possibility that they were somehow mixed with ĥametz and should not be eaten on Pesaĥ?
According to Shulĥan Arukh, as long as there is no real concern that some ĥametz fell into this food or that it has absorbed the taste of ĥametz by being cooked in a pot in which ĥametz was cooked recently, there is no need to suspect that the food contains ĥametz.
However, Rema writes that Ashkenazic custom is preferably to avoid eating specific products without special supervision for Pesaĥ. This is because ĥametz is used throughout the year, and we are not generally cautious about it, so we suspect that some of it may have fallen unnoticed into these particular foods. We are also concerned that the foods may have been unwittingly cooked in ĥametz pots.
In practice, all kashrut organizations today tend to follow the stringent ruling of Rema and do not certify foods for Pesaĥ unless due caution to avoid ĥametz was exercised during the food’s preparation. Perhaps this is the way one must act today even according to Shulĥan Arukh, because all industrially produced foods contain a variety of ingredients, and there is concern that one of them is not kosher for Pesaĥ. Therefore, during Pesaĥ, one must be careful not to eat any factory food products that are not certified kosher for Pesaĥ.
Where the facts of a case are not in doubt, there are still often practical differences between the rulings of Shulĥan Arukh and Rema. Although fundamentally the law accords with Shulĥan Arukh, the tendency today is to be stringent so that food will be kosher for all communities. This is the appropriate practice when it is not overly difficult to be stringent. However, when stringency causes significant loss, there is room to support those who follow Shulĥan Arukh. 5
5.Milk from an Animal That Ate Ĥametz
One issue that the foremost Aĥaronim dealt with is the status of milk which came from a cow that ate ĥametz. Clearly the milk itself does not contain ĥametz, for it was digested and completely transformed to the point that it is no longer considered ĥametz at all. However, the cow was able to produce milk by virtue of the ĥametz, and since it is forbidden to derive benefit from ĥametz, perhaps it is forbidden to benefit from milk produced by the virtue of ĥametz.
The poskim agree that milk obtained from a cow before the onset of the prohibition of ĥametz is kosher for Pesaĥ, because one is allowed to derive benefit from ĥametz before Pesaĥ. Just as it is permissible to sell ĥametz before Pesaĥ and use the money to buy food for Pesaĥ, so too it is permissible to feed a cow ĥametz before Pesaĥ in order to produce milk that will be consumed on Pesaĥ.
The disagreement concerns milk from a gentile’s cow that ate ĥametz after the onset of the prohibition. Some poskim take a lenient stance, contending that since the ĥametz prohibition does not apply to the animal of a gentile, its milk is not considered produced in a forbidden manner. Furthermore, ĥametz alone does not cause milk to be produced. Rather, it must be combined with other foods and processed by the animal’s body. Since the ĥametz is only one component, it is not prohibited. On the other hand, some poskim rule stringently that as long as ĥametz is a factor causing the production of the milk, the milk is forbidden. Others say that if twenty-four hours have passed since the cow ate ĥametz, the milk is kosher.
If the animal owned by a Jew was fed ĥametz in violation of halakha, one may not drink its milk, firstly because it is forbidden for the animal’s owner to derive benefit from ĥametz, and secondly because one may not assist those who violate the Torah. 6 The same applies to eggs and meat.
During Pesaĥ, Tnuva, a major Israeli dairy producer (and perhaps others) only accepts milk from dairy farms that have been made kosher for Pesaĥ and whose cows are not fed ĥametz. In this case, it is unnecessary to be scrupulous and buy milk products before Pesaĥ, because even dairy products manufactured on Pesaĥ are completely kosher for the duration of the holiday. 7
6.Meat and Eggs
The status of beef and chicken in this regard is the same as that of milk. If the animal was slaughtered before Pesaĥ, there is no halakhic problem, even if it had eaten ĥametz. However, since the stomach may contain undigested leavened barley grains, its contents must be thrown out. If a gentile’s animal was fed ĥametz and slaughtered during Pesaĥ, some poskim forbid consuming its meat, while others are lenient. It is proper to be stringent and not buy the meat of a Jew’s animal that was fed ĥametz on Pesaĥ.
In actuality, most meat is sold in packages, which thus must be labeled kosher for Pesaĥ. Even if the animal was slaughtered before Pesaĥ, when there is no problem if it was fed ĥametz, supervision is nevertheless required to ensure that no ĥametz fell into the meat between the slaughtering and the packaging.
The same applies to eggs: as long as the eggs were bought before Pesaĥ, they are entirely kosher for Pesaĥ; that the hens were fed ĥametz makes no difference because it was not prohibited when eaten. The halakhic status of an egg that comes from a hen that ate ĥametz on Pesaĥ depends who the owner is. If the hen belongs to a gentile, the poskim disagree about the permissibility of the eggs. If the hen belongs to a Jew, even though some poskim are lenient, it is proper to be stringent and refrain from buying such eggs. In practice, there is no supervision on eggs laid during Pesaĥ, so it is best to buy eggs laid before Pesaĥ. 8
Another problem that has arisen pertains to the markings stamped on each egg. There was some concern that these markings contain ĥametz and that a drop of it might fall into Pesaĥ food. However, I heard from Tnuva’s R. Ze'ev Weitman that all eggs brought to market via Israel’s Egg Production Council (which does not include the black market) are marked before Pesaĥ with a stamp that contains no ĥametz (the relevant mark is a series of stars).
^ 3.. Here is brief overview of the major disputes between SA and Rema: 1) In 447:4, regarding the dispute among the Rishonim about ĥozer ve-ne’or (see above 7:4), SA rules that the ĥametz does not "reawaken," taking the lenient approach in the case of a rabbinic law, whereas Rema rules strictly that ĥametz in a dry mixture "reawakens," though not in a fluid mixture. 2) In 447:5, regarding a food that was not guarded for Pesaĥ but there is no indication that it may have become forbidden for Pesaĥ: according to SA it is kosher, and according to Rema it is not. 3) In 447:10, regarding ĥametz that is noten ta’am li-fgam: according to SA and most poskim, it is kosher on Pesaĥ (especially since the uncertainty relates to a rabbinic law), and according to Rema it is prohibited. 4) In 451:6, regarding the proper method for koshering utensils: according to SA, we determine the method based on the main use of the utensil, and according to Rema we determine the method based on the most severe usage. 5) In 451:11, regarding koshering a frying pan: according to SA, it may be koshered in boiling water (hagala), and according to Rema, it is koshered in fire (light libun). 6) In 451:16 and 17, regarding koshering ĥametz pounding and kneading utensils: according to SA, they are koshered via hagala, and according to Rema, they are koshered via light libun. 7) In 453:1, the well-known custom of kitniyot. 8) In 462:1, regarding egg matza: according to SA, it is kosher, and according to Rema, we are concerned that perhaps a drop of water mixed in with the fruit juice, causing it to become ĥametz. Rema states in 462:4 that we are only lenient in extreme cases, for sick people. 9) In 467:9, regarding whole, uncracked kernels of wheat or barley that are found in a cooked dish: according to SA, the dish is permissible, and according to Rema, it is prohibited. 10) In 467:10 and 447:1, regarding a cracked kernel of wheat that is found in a cooked dish: according to SA, one may sell the dish to a gentile, excluding the value of the wheat kernel, and according to Rema, he must burn the entire dish. 11) The custom of the Ĥasidim is to prohibit gebrokts.
^ 4.. Some Sephardic poskim are stringent like Rema, as Kaf Ha-ĥayim states in 447:86, 88, and 119. Also, Zekhor Le-Avraham states at the beginning of the laws of Pesaĥ that the Sephardim have the practice to be stringent like Rema "to the extent that when it comes to Pesaĥ, we are Ashkenazim." This is echoed by additional Sephardic poskim. On the other hand, in extenuating circumstances even Rema rules to be lenient in accordance with SA (in most cases).
^ 5.. The issue of ĥozer ve-ne’or lies at the heart of this question. Those who are stringent are concerned that a crumb of ĥametz fell into a food before Pesaĥ, and that when Pesaĥ begins ĥametz "reawakens" and causes the entire mixture to become forbidden (Rema 447:4 based on several Ashkenazic Rishonim, and Radbaz 1:487). However, according to the opinion that ĥametz is not ĥozer ve-ne’or, even if a crumb had fallen into the mixture, it would have been batel before Pesaĥ and does not reawaken on Pesaĥ. Moreover, Pri Ĥadash states that even according to the opinion that ĥametz is ĥozer ve-ne’or there is room to be lenient in this case, since there is no reason to suspect that a crumb of ĥametz fell into the mixture. Furthermore, all agree that the prohibition of eating a food into which a drop of ĥametz fell is rabbinic, and according to She’iltot, even ĥametz is batel be-shishim.
There is another concern that one cooked the food in ĥametz utensils, and the food absorbed some of the ĥametz taste from the utensils. However, those who are lenient hold that there is no reason to suspect this, since it is assumed that most utensils have not been used within twenty-four hours and would then not influence the taste of the dish in a positive way (and would not make the dish prohibited). Furthermore, even if the utensils had been used within twenty-four hours of cooking the dish, ĥametz before Pesaĥ is permissible, thus the cooked dish is a "nat bar nat" (the pot absorbed the taste of the ĥametz and in turn, passed the taste on to the cooked dish) of permissible food, which is permitted; and see Yeĥaveh Da’at 1, 11 and in the notes. This fundamental dispute is dependent on other issues, including ones that involve sharp foods (davar ĥarif) and their interaction with absorbed tastes; and see MB 447:5.
^ 6.. A cow’s milk is the product of two factors: the cow’s body and the food it eats. If the cow ate ĥametz, the status of the milk is subject to the tannaitic dispute (AZ 48b) about something that is produced by multiple factors ("zeh ve-zeh gorem"). One disputant forbids and the other permits. SA YD 142:11 states that something that is produced by a combination of two factors is permissible. Accordingly, the milk of a cow that ate ĥametz is permissible.
However, MA 445:5 (as well as Taz) states that since we are stringent about ĥametz, maintaining that even a drop renders a mixture forbidden, it follows that something produced by a combination of two factors is forbidden if one of them is ĥametz. Most poskim, including SA, Shakh, and Gra, maintain even in the case of ĥametz "zeh ve-zeh gorem" is permitted. SAH (445:10 and Kuntrus Aĥaron) concludes that the consensus of most poskim is to be lenient, and one may certainly rely on this consensus in a situation of significant loss or an extenuating circumstance. This is also the view recorded in BHL 445:2.
Some, however, argue that regardless of one’s position on zeh ve-zeh gorem, milk from a gentile’s cow that ate ĥametz is permitted. As explained in Beit Ephraim §35 (cited in Sha’arei Teshuva at the end of §448), since ĥametz is permissible for a gentile on Pesaĥ, we do not view the milk from his cow as having been produced by something from which one is forbidden to benefit. Nishmat Adam §9 permits on different grounds: MA’s stringency only applies when the ĥametz is intact, unlike in the case of the milk. Responsa Mahari Aszod §127 and Responsa Maharam Schick §§212 and 222 echo the same idea and state that the milk of the gentile’s animal that ate ĥametz is kosher on Pesaĥ. Igrot Moshe OĤ 1:147 states at length that even if the gentile’s cow ate only ĥametz, its milk is permissible even according to the strict opinions.
On the other hand, Pri Megadim (in Eshel Avraham on §448) is concerned about causing benefit that derives from ĥametz. Thus, there is still uncertainty if less than twenty-four hours passed between when the cow ate ĥametz and the milking (if more than twenty-four hours passed, the milk is permissible). Yeshu’ot Yaakov also states that one should preferably use milk that was extracted from the cow more than twenty-four hours after the cow ate ĥametz, but if less than twenty-four hours passed, the milk is still permissible as long as the cow ate permissible foods in addition to the ĥametz (because of zeh ve-zeh gorem; see MB 448:33). Some authorities ruled stringently: Kitzur SA 117:13 cites both opinions and concludes: "One who guards his soul should be strict, and especially in places where the prevalent custom is to be stringent, God forbid one should be lenient." Arugot Ha-bosem §138 states that even according to those who permit the milk, a righteous person ("ba’al nefesh") should refrain from drinking it, since it has negative spiritual effects. Ben Ish Ĥai (Year One, Tzav 42) states that one should not drink milk from a gentile’s cow out of concern that the gentile fed it ĥametz. R. Ĥayim Palachi writes similarly in Ru'aĥ Ĥayim 448:1.
If the cow ate ĥametz before the ĥametz became prohibited and was milked after the ĥametz became prohibited, the vast majority of poskim maintain that the milk is kosher for Pesaĥ. Sdei Ĥemed mentions the opinion of Rinun Yitzĥak forbidding the milk of a cow that ate ĥametz before Pesaĥ and was milked after the ĥametz became forbidden, and states that this goes too far, since all other poskim say that this milk would be permissible. Nonetheless, because of this opinion some act stringently and only purchase dairy products before Pesaĥ. Sdei Ĥemed expands this topic in Ma’arekhet Ĥametz U-matza 2:4, and see Kaf Ha-ĥayim 448:113 as well.
^ 7.. According to Nishmat Adam and Igrot Moshe OĤ 1:147, if a Jew feeds his animal ĥametz on Pesaĥ, the animal’s milk is kosher for Pesaĥ. Nonetheless, many others are stringent, not only because of zeh ve-zeh gorem, but because the Jew assists in the violation of a prohibition ("mesayei’a"). In fact, I heard from R. Weitman, the rabbi of Tnuva, that all dairy products produced on Pesaĥ are made from the milk of cows that did not eat ĥametz, so that the milk will be acceptable to everyone and can be bought on Pesaĥ. Another potential problem was that straw and possibly some grain might stick to the cows’ bodies as they wallow in mud, and these grains might accidentally get mixed into the milk. If the milk was produced before Pesaĥ, the taste of the grain is batel be-shishim even if it found its way into the milk, and since this is a liquid mixture even Rema (447:4) would agree that the taste of the ĥametz is not ĥozer ve-ne’or. If the grain fell into the milk on Pesaĥ, however, it is not batel. Although in the present case it is uncertain that any grain fell in, it would nevertheless be commendable to buy dairy products before Pesaĥ. However, I heard from R. Weitman that Tnuva recently introduced the practice of filtering all the milk very thoroughly right after the milking, so that no grain that falls in would have enough time to flavor the milk. Thus, one may purchase dairy products on Pesaĥ even according to the strictest opinions.
^ 8.. Nevertheless, those who are lenient and purchase eggs on Pesaĥ have committed no transgression, even if the eggs are not certified kosher for Pesaĥ. As noted, even though a Jew owns the chickens and fed them ĥametz, there are lenient authorities. Furthermore, most of the food chickens consume on Pesaĥ is not ĥametz, so even according to the stringent opinions it is unclear that these eggs are forbidden. Thus, there are two uncertainties ("sfek sfeika") about a rabbinic prohibition.