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I've heard that Rav Soloveitchik ztz"l used to eat non-hekhshered cheese. Can you explain how the creation of hashgachah agencies has changed whether things need hashgachah, and would it be reasonable to argue that plain, non-hekhshered cheese (without added things in it like peppers) may be asur l'akhilah but doesn't actually tref dishes?

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What does the issur of gevinas akum have to do with hashgacha agencies? That said, it has to do with the manufacturer, not the product, so maybe it's not strictly an issue of kashrus per se, as you suggest. –  yoel Nov 20 '11 at 2:08
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yossi, welcome to Judaism.SE, and thanks very much for bringing your question here! Please consider registering your account, to help get you access to more of the site's features. –  Isaac Moses Nov 20 '11 at 2:36
    
I don't understand the question. Hashgacha has absolutely nothing to do with it. If you know that the cheese is kosher, then with hashgacha or without, it doesn't treif dishes. If you know it's not kosher, then with hashgacha or without, it does treif dishes. Is your question if you don't know if the cheese is kosher and there's no hashgacha? Why not just ask: "If some food that I don't know whether it was kosher or not fell on dishes, are they treif?". –  HodofHod Dec 1 '11 at 4:14
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This is not a question of "does product X require certification", it's much more complex than that.

The Gemara says that "cheeses of non-Jews" are non-kosher. The prevailing opinion is that out of concern for intermarriage, the rabbis absolutely prohibited all cheese if the milk was owned by non-Jews at the time of curdling, or if the rennet was added by non-Jews. Any kosher cheese certified by OU,cRc,Star-K, and the like today was owned and curdled by Jews.

There had been another interpretation of that Gemara that it was a concern regarding the rennet's animal origins. But many mass-produced cheeses today use microbial rennet or the like. Hence, anecdote has it that when kosher cheese was unavailable in his early years in Boston, Rabbi Soloveichik followed this interpretation and ate cheese that definitely did not contain animal rennet.

May I note that Rabbi Soloveichik was a brilliant Talmudic theoretician, whose school of thought was often to follow whichever longstanding interpretation he felt was most correct, even if it was viewed as more of a minority opinion by most. (For instance, the standard of Shulchan Aruch is that the visitor follows the practices of his hometown vis-a-vis second day of yomtov. This is the opinion taken for granted by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein among many others, and if anyone asked me, that's what I'd tell them too. Rabbi Soloveichik felt that R' Yaakov Emden's dramatic reinterpretation (visitor follows current locale) was correct, but also adopted some stringencies of the better-regarded interpretation, out of respect.)

So your question isn't "if a non-certified product falls into a mixture, how (un)certain am I that it contained non-kosher ingredients." It's "now that we follow the prevailing view of the rabbinic prohibition on non-kosher cheese, is there any room to follow other views in rare occasions ex post facto"? My sense on that is that once majority opinion codified into halacha that all cheese made by non-Jews is non-kosher, we treat it was any other rabbinically-prohibited foodstuff for all intents and purposes.

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So do we assume that once there was hekhshered cheese in Boston that Rav Soloveitchik had to kasher his dishes, or do we assume that the minority opinion was (is) valid "enough" that it doesn't require kashering dishes. –  yossi Nov 20 '11 at 5:15
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It was valid enough 70 years ago in Boston, if you were Rabbi Soloveichik and of sufficient rabbinic stature to follow minority opinions, that I doubt he kashered his dishes. –  Shalom Nov 20 '11 at 8:09
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This is not just 'anecdote': R. Soloveitchik felt that his view was correct and even told his students they could follow it and eat cheese made from vegetable rennet. See Mpinini HaRav p197 by R. Herschel Schachter. Also, in general R. Soloveitchik was a much more traditional (by the book) and less radical posek than R. Moshe, as R. Schachter makes clear in any number of talks on YUTorah. –  Curiouser Jan 6 '12 at 14:13
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