Today one sees the proliferation of the word “Yashan” in association with many kosher baked goods. What does Yashan mean? How does it compare to “Chadash”? Is Yashan a kosher requirement? Did my grandparents also eat products that were Yashan?
The Torah Requirement
The requirement to eat Yoshon is of biblical origin. The Torah commands that upon our arrival in the land of Israel we are to bring a special bundled oat offering (Korbon Omer) on the second day of Pesach. Until this offering is brought the new crop (Chadash) of the five grains (wheat, barley, oats, spelt & rye) may not be consumed. Only once the Korban Omer if sacrificed or in its absence, the day of the Korban has passed, is the new crop no longer new (Yoshon) and permissible to consume.
Yoshon in the Diaspora
While all agree that the laws of chadash still apply for the grains grown in Israel, there is much discussion whether one may eat chadash from the Diaspora. Historically, it was very difficult for European Jewry to avoid eating chadash wheat. Although the Vilna Gaon wrote very strongly against being lenient even in chutz l’aretz, the minhag among Ashkenazi Jews has certainly been to be lenient.
There are three basic approaches taken by the commentators on Shulchan Aruch explaining why one may be lenient today:
1) The Rama considers that in general when purchasing a product that contains wheat (without knowing its origin), one is faced with a double doubt (sfek sfeika). One does not know if the grains that were used were from this year’s crop or from last year’s crop, and even if it was from this year’s crop, perhaps the grain was planted before the Omer. Because of the existence of this double doubt, one may eat the product.
2) The Poskim exclude the diaspora from the Chadash prohibition because: a) land belonging to non-Jews is exempt from the rules of chadash, b) although chutz la’aretz is included in the prohibition of chadash, lands that are very far from Eretz Israel are exempt. Europe and certainly America are considered to be distant lands and are thereby exempt from the prohibition of chadash, or c) the Mishna records a dispute as to whether chadash applies outside of Israel, the Gemara does not state explicitly which opinion to follow. The Taz explains that the Gemara intentionally left the matter unresolved so that if future generations find themselves in lands where there is great difficulty in avoiding chadash, one can be lenient.
3) Some people follow a third approach which is in essence a compromise position. They are stringent when it comes to consuming products which might infringe on a torah prohibition of chadash, but they are lenient regarding products for which the violation would be at most Rabbinic. An example of this would be those who would only eat yoshon bread, since it is made primarily with spring wheat, which might be chadash, but would eat any pretzels since they are made primarily from winter wheat which is yoshon. Although pretzels contain some spring wheat, nonetheless the Torah prohibition is removed due to the rules of bitul (nullification).
The OU and Yoshon
The OU does not enforce a Yashan status of products under its supervision in Chutz L’Aretz, basing itself on the prevalent custom as explained above. Nonetheless, the OU does assist, wherever possible, those who wish to avoid Chadash. The OU works with various flour mills that we certify to monitor Yoshon product in a limited basis.
Yoshon monitoring starts at the harvest. The OU monitors the earliest harvest of spring wheat and works with OU certified flour mills to verify which production lots of flour are produced using wheat from the previous year’s crop.
Using Yoshon flour can sometimes provide ancillary kashruth challenges. Although domestic flour undergoes a series of procedures that eliminate most concerns of infestation, when milled flour is stored for long periods of time in less than ideal conditions (unsealed, warm, moist) infestation is a very real concern.
The OU is often called-upon to comment on various OU certified products. Where feasible, we will provide a cut-off on production dates before which the consumer can safely know that the product is in fact Yoshon.
Sefer HaChinuch explains that just as one may not partake from a food until a beracha is recited, so too we must wait to eat from the new crop of grains until the korban Omer is brought, to show that we recognize that Hashem is the source of all of our sustenance. May we merit a heightened awareness of our Provider through the bringing of the korban Omer and the proper fulfillment of all the laws of yoshon, speedily in our days.