What is Yoshon?

By Rabbi David Gorelik, Rabbinical Coordinator, OU Kosher

The source for the laws pertaining to Yoshon (old crops) are found in Vayikra (23:9-14). These laws are applicable to the Chamishas HaMinim of barley, oats, rye, spelt, and wheat.

These grains are Yoshon if they took root prior to Pesach. If the grains did not take root prior to Pesach then they are chadash (new crops) until the subsequent Pesach. There is a halachic dispute if the hashrashah (grain taking root) must be 3 days or two weeks prior to Pesach. The laws of chadash do not apply to other grains such as rice, corn and buckwheat.

There are a number of halachic discussions concerning the prohibition of chadash.

  1. Is it a Biblical or Rabbinic prohibition?
  2. Is it prohibited only in Israel or also outside of Israel?
  3. Does the prohibition apply only to Jewish owned land or does it include non-Jewish ownership?

A significant number of commentators argue that outside of the land of Israel one should be diligent in avoiding chadash. However, different Rabbinic decisors discuss the general leniency in observing Yoshon outside of the land of Israel.

  1. Some utilize a sfek sfeika (double doubt) – maybe the crop is from the previous year. If it is this year’s crop perhaps it took root prior to Pesach.
  2. Others suggest that most grains take root before Pesach. This is especially true in the United States since 75% of the wheat planted in the United States is winter wheat which by nature is Yoshon.
  3. There are those who argue that there are a number of factors to consider:
    1. Doubts exist if the flour is chadash or Yoshon
    2. Bread is a staple (and consequently it is viewed as a shas hadchak (extreme need))
    3. Flour is difficult to store
  4. The Aruch Hashulchan 10- 293:6 cites the Ohr Zarua who argues that the dispute concerning the prohibition of chadash lacks a conclusive resolution since the Gemara does not a offer a definitive psak. This was done because if difficult situations arise, then one has the right to rely on the lenient opinion for Chadash outside the land of Israel.
  5. The Aruch Hashulchan 10- 293:19-20 discusses why the prohibition of chodosh in areas outside of Israel would only be applicable in lands in close proximity to the land of Israel as opposed to more distant countries. He compares it to the terumos u’maasros of Rabbinically prohibited produce for the lands adjacent to Israel.

In the United States most barley and oats are chadash since they do not take root prior to Pesach. Canadian oats are also chadash and a significant amount is imported into the United States. Domestic rye is always Yoshon; however, rye bread can be chadash since it is primarily composed of spring wheat. Spelt grown in the US and Canada are Yoshon.

Wheat has both a winter and a spring crop. Winter wheat is Yoshon since it has taken root before Pesach. Spring wheat is usually chadash since it does not always take root prior to Pesach. The different wheat yields different types of flour.

  1. Low gluten flour is used for crumbly products such as cookies, matzah and pretzels. The source for this flour is winter wheat.
  2. High gluten flour is used for chewy products such as bread, challah, pizza and bagels. It is produced from spring wheat.
  3. Medium gluten flour is a mixture of spring and winter flour and is also used for bread, challah and pizza.
  4. Durum wheat is needed for pasta products and it is usually a spring crop.

The following flours are usually chadash: high gluten, high strength, bread, patent, clear, pizza, all purpose and graham.

Malt is derived from barley which can be chadash. The malt is added to wheat flour for baking applications. The amount added is usually less than 1% by volume. The malt enhances the chemical reaction between the flour, yeast and water. It allows the dough to rise better. Barley malt is added to all barley and grocery flour. Flour made especially for baking cakes and cookies do not contain malt. Barley malt can be added to some foods for coloring and flavoring. These products include pretzels, candies, cereals (such as Corn Flakes), beer, vodka, gin, cordials and prepared cocktails. There is a halachic discussion if the malt added to the above applications can be considered botel. The chadash malt enters the market around December 15.

White vinegar does not have any chadash concerns. The exception is for specialty vinegars such as malt vinegar, tarragon vinegar and salad vinegar.

Matzah meal is ground matzah and is, therefore, Yoshon. Rye crackers are Yoshon provided that the wheat, oats and malt listed in the ingredient panel are also Yoshon. One must be careful with oatmeal cookies since both the oats and the wheat flour must be Yoshon. Pizza stores sometimes line the oven wall with semolina flour. One has to be certain that the semolina flour is Yoshon.

Products from Israel bearing a reliable Kosher supervision are Yoshon. Products imported into Israel are not necessarily Yoshon. If a package has multiple hashgachos and also states Yoshon then one must ascertain which kashrus agency assumes responsibility for the Yoshon status of the product.

As far back as the 1930’s domestic wheat was stored and, therefore, was Yoshon. During the 1950’s, Rav Aharon Soloveitchik became the certifying Rabbi of Streit’s products. Before accepting this position, Rav Aharon investigated the milling process and also inquired about the flour sources. The latter inquiry was important to Rav Aharon since he observed the laws of Yoshon. He found that domestic wheat was not being stored and, consequently, one could no longer assume that the flour in the marketplace was Yoshon. Rav Aharon informed Streit’s that he would provide Kosher supervision only if all their products would be Yoshon and the company agreed to this provision. Based on the aforementioned information, Rav Aharon ate matzah, and not bread, until he purchased a freezer to store the various products. When Rav Aharon moved to Chicago he convinced a bakery to become Yoshon and eventually other bakeries in Chicago did the same. Rav Yitzchak Giffin, a Talmid of Rav Aharon, guided these bakeries in observing Yoshon. In the 1970’s, other individuals became concerned when the US began selling its surplus wheat to the Russians. Consequently, the domestic storage was depleted and one could no longer assume that the flour was Yoshon. Due to this situation Rabbi Yosef Herman of Monsey, NY began compiling information about the Yoshon status of the domestic grains. Because of his diligence more people have access to Yoshon information and it is easier to observe this mitzvah.

When Rabbi Herman first began gathering information, he utilized the halachic principal of meisiach lefi tumo (casually discussed). The companies would inform him about packing dates, best used dates and purchase dates. This information helped determine the chadash or Yoshon status of a product. A number of years ago, Rabbi Herman decided that meisiach l’fi tumo would no longer be applicable since the companies are now aware about the significance of the Yoshon market. Therefore, Rabbi Herman determines the chadash information based on the USDA crop progress reports. He calculates the earliest possible date that the products could be viewed as chadash. Consequently, he has far earlier cutoff dates than in the past.

In order to observe Yoshon one must store the various products. If flour is not stored in a refrigerator then infestation can occur. The eggs of the flour beetle enter the mill attached to the wheat. Flour mill companies have a cleaning system to remove virtually all the eggs. Any remaining eggs are able to hatch live beetles that have a life cycle of 21 days. The probability of the eggs hatching is increased as the storage time and the storage temperature increases. In addition, worms can enter the flour bags even if the opening is extremely minute. Therefore, it is imperative to store the flour in refrigerated conditions, be certain that the flour bags have no openings and maintain proper cleanliness.

It is possible for a flour mill to produce yoshon flour even after the new wheat has been delivered to the facility. Rabbi Belsky, Senior Rabbinic Halachic Consultant at the OU, devised the following procedures: Prior to the arrival of the chadash wheat, the Yoshon wheat is sealed in their own bins. The RFR (Rabbinic Field Representative) would release the Yoshon wheat for the Yoshon run. The next key step is the cleanliness of the equipment from the previous chadash productions. The best method to clean the equipment is by having a wet wash. The problem is that the flour milling companies rarely wet wash the equipment. Therefore, the equipment is cleaned by flushing it with Yoshon flour and labeling the first pallet as chadash. The subsequent pallets would be labeled Yoshon. The RFR is on sight in order to confirm that the flush is labeled as chadash. Rabbi Belsky felt that this method would sufficiently remove the chadash and overcome the halachic principle of davar sheyaish lo maturin (prohibited item which will eventually be permitted). Rabbi Schachter, Senior Rabbinic Halachic Consultant at the OU, also felt that there is a limit to an issur mashehu (extreme minimal amount). He argues that if a drop of chametz fell into a reservoir, the water could still be used on Peach. Similarly, the miniscule amount of chadash that could be left would not prohibit the usage of the Yoshon flour.

The OU policy is that equipment which produced chadash products must be eino ben yomo (more than 24 hours since previous usage) in order to produce Yoshon products. This policy is based on the Sha’agas Aryeh’s (Sha’agas Aryeh Chadashos Dinei Chadash Chapters 1-2) opinion that chadash is a Biblical prohibition even outside of the land of Israel and, therefore, the standard rules of taam c’ikar (taste of food is regarded as equivalent to its chodosh substance) apply. Rav Aharon Soloveitchik was also careful that the manufacturing equipment should be eino ben yomo.

OU Kosher Staff