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In a time where we know with enough certainty (when compared with other kashrut principles) that cow’s milk sold in most countries where we live is indeed cow’s milk, how do we know whether the laws about chalav Yisrael still have a purpose? I'd like to know the arguments on both sides: those who say it is now not contextually relevant, or those who say it is still a binding law, at least until overturned by a Sanhedrin.

If it's only an added stringency, I don't know if I would keep it (I'm just in the conversion process) since it causes such complications in the community. Then again, if it was intended to matter and remain necessary across circumstances, I see very much why Talmudic agreements/decisions like this must be followed. Or even just because of the way cultural customs in the Jewish community do carry attributes of real value to following generations, and it's hard to separate them.

I am curious about how much the original intention vs. the literal detail should be known and followed when it comes to this particular law.

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Part of this question is a copy of my question here judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/31832/where-is-the-torah... I just thought it would help to focus in on this while still having the other question for its own broader purpose. –  Annelise Oct 23 '13 at 3:24
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ou.org/torah/article/… –  Menachem Oct 23 '13 at 16:43
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5 Answers

I think some are missing the point of this question.

Let's take a product like apple juice. The Talmud never talks about the laws of kosher apple juice, so today kosher certifiers will go into an apple juice factory, figure out what are the odds that the equipment or ingredients have anything non-kosher in them, and certify accordingly. Easy enough. If you bought uncertified apple juice but were somehow able to send it to a lab and absolutely verify it's 100% apple juice, it's kosher! (A hundred years ago in Lithuania, the Aruch HaShulchan actually had this question as there were concerns their olive oil was adulterated. The local pharmacists were able to determine that while it was not 100% olive oil, it was 100% plant material. Which was good enough, kosher-wise.)

The problem here is that the Talmud indicates there was a formal rabbinic ban issued on "milk bought from a non-Jew, unless a Jew was more-or-less present during the milking." 500 years ago if you bought mystery milk from a non-Jewish farmer it was automatically non-kosher. Even if you then were able to manually churn it into butter (pig milk doesn't manually churn), i.e. chemically verify its identity, it doesn't work because of the rabbinic ban. If there was a formal rabbinic ban, we can look for loopholes built within it, but we don't have the rabbinic firepower to actually overturn the ban.

Those who are strict today will insist all milk is covered by this rabbinic ban. (Just as kosher cheese must be made by Jews, even though we're certain this cheese has vegetarian rennet.)

Rabbi Feinstein and others, however, work around this by clarifying the nature of the ban. The ban was not "a Jew must have his eyeballs on the milk at all time", as the kosher supervisor is allowed to step in and out of the barn every so often. Rather, the law was "a Jew must ascertain at the time of milking that it's all kosher." And we ascertain it today via economics and regulation. (Or to take it a step further -- the ban was "don't buy mystery milk from a non-Jew", or better yet, "don't trust a non-Jew with mystery milk." Today's commercially-produced milk in most first-world countries is not "mystery milk", and therefore was not covered by the ban.)

Really halacha only recognizes two categories of milk: "chalav akum", "non-Jewish milk", which was prohibited by rabbinic ban; and "chalav yisrael", "milk that a Jew oversaw." Rabbi Feinstein argues that "chalav yisrael" is defined as "milk that a Jew ascertained", therefore commercial milk is "chalav yisrael." Those to the right argue no, it's "chalav akum." Today we speak of "chalav ha-companies", or "chalav stam", which means: "milk whose status is viewed as chalav yisrael by some, and chalav akum by others."

Those who are lenient could still find room for stringency (as Rabbi Feinstein recommended for elementary-level yeshivas in New York City) as the Talmud mentions that if a piece of meat required a judgment call from a learned scholar about its kashrut, some pious people wouldn't eat it. It's not about "oh what if it's not really kosher?" It's "I don't want to delve into nitty-gritty loopholes to justify my actions."

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+1, but, to clarify, those machmir on chalav stam are "to the right" (as you put it) on that issue and not necessarily in general. –  msh210 Oct 23 '13 at 18:15
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R. Moshe Feinstein and others held that it was an added stringency, which I believe is the generally accepted position. Normally a rabbinic prohibition still applies even when the reason doesn't, but there are many reasons here to be lenient. You can see a long discussion of the different views by R. Jachter:

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I was going to write a long answer, but this article really sums it up well. The bottom line is that there are different opinions about the acceptability of such milk, no matter how certain you are that it is pure unadulterated cows milk.

Going further from the article, in today's day we can know just as certainly that Cheese is made with Microbial Rennet, which is not the same Kosher problem as traditional Rennet. Yet no one seriously accepts the notion that therefore the Rabbinic requirement that a Jew supervise (and preferably - or perhaps exclusively - add) the rennet is therefore not operative. I'm sure some would find a distinction there, but really it seems to be more about necessity.

The heter it seems came about because of urbanization - people's removal from the farm made it very difficult and expensive to supervise the milk, unlike the "old days" where you went to the farm to pick up milk anyway, so you if it was a non-Jewish farmer, you went earlier, at the start of the milking, made sure the bucket was empty, had him fill your order while you were around, and moved on. Obviously it wasn't always so simple, but as long as that was the norm, it was easier to live with exceptions where things were more difficult.

Additionally, on Rav Moshe Feinstein's opinion a lot of people miss the fact that he tells a Ba'al Nefesh (literally "an owner of the soul" - which the best understanding of it that I know is someone who puts spiritual matters ahead of physical matters) to not only eat cholov yisroel, but to Kasher from that "Company milk" (which is what he called the milk under discussion).

If something is a stringency, the halacha is that you don't have to Kasher from it. So clearly he regarding keeping Cholov Yisroel as more than a mere stringency. EDIT: This may not be correct, as Rav Reisman reports here that Reb Moshe told him personally he didn't need to be concerned about serving Dairy Equipment. However, the Teshuva of Reb Moshe that he quotes and the understanding that he (Rav Reisman) gives for Reb Moshe's reasoning doesn't hold up, and if I found the Teshuva he was quoting, it doesn't say that there either. So if Reb Moshe told him this, it may be because he held it doesn't need to be kashered. It may also be that the circumstances there were exceptional.

Of the great Rabbis of Rav Moshe Feinstein's time, only Rav Yosef Dov Soliveitchik is quoted - and see that article for more details - as actually personally relying on a leniency and consuming such milk.

Once you decide about Cholov Yisroel, there are further questions though. What about when it is exceptionally difficult (e.g. when traveling)? What about things like butter (the Ramo specifically permits butter to not be Cholov Yisroel - but others are strict)? This is why the most important thing to do is decide on a community you want to join, and a Rabbi that you can rely on for questions and guidance.

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1) If comments become obsolete based on your edits you may flag them as such for deletion. 2) It sounds there like he's talking about having to kasher a ben yomo kli. That's not a good proof that it isn't just a stringency. –  Double AA Oct 23 '13 at 17:10
    
@DoubleAA, Quote: ולכן כשרוצים להחמיר יש להם להכשיר כמו מחלב עכו"ם. If he held it was just a חומרא, he would say don't bother Kashering. BTW, the whole Teshuva is about Kashering a pasteurizer, which is primarily about milk in the first place. –  Yishai Oct 23 '13 at 17:58
    
You repeated yourself without addressing my point. –  Double AA Oct 23 '13 at 18:36
    
I don't know how I could address it more clearly. He specifically says those chosing to be a Ba'al Nefesh should Kasher as if it was Cholov Akum. How much clearer can you get? –  Yishai Oct 23 '13 at 18:40
    
"It sounds there like he's talking about having to kasher a ben yomo kli. That's not a good proof that it isn't just a stringency." You could either show that he wasn't talking about a ben yomo kli, or show that one need not avoid ben yomo keilim for stringencies. (BTW It's chAlAv akum. They are patachs not komotzes.) –  Double AA Oct 23 '13 at 18:50
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How can anyone quote R' Moshe without looking at all of his Teshuvos (Igros Moshe YD 1:47-49, 2:31, 35, YD4:5) - and placing them into context?! He wrote a few Teshuvos a few years after each other, where he very clearly demonstrated that as Chalav Yisrael became more prevalent, the 'hetter for Chalav Stam' became less relevant, and more for extenuating circumstances! http://doseofhalacha.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/supervised-milk-chalav-stam.html

... R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe YD 1:47-49, 2:31, 35, YD4:5) wrote that so long as the milk production is regulated by government standards, it is considered supervised. Such milk is referred to as chalav stam. Initially R’ Moshe wrote that while a baal nefesh should refrain from chalav stam, one mustn’t criticize others who drink it. In his later Teshuvos, (perhaps as chalav yisroel became more prevalent in the US), he wrote that one should only rely on this hetter under extenuating circumstances.

While many in the US follow R’ Moshe’s (earlier) psak, in the UK (and Eretz Yisroel), most follow R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 1:138, 2:21) who didn’t rely on thishetter. Certainly, in a country where the dairy farms aren’t strictly regulated, one would not be allowed chalav stam...

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So what's the answer to the question: binding or stringency? –  Double AA Mar 23 at 20:07
    
accordingly, it is no longer a mere stringency to avoid. –  Zvi Mar 23 at 21:33
    
I didn't say "mere". I said stringency. It sounds from your answer like RMF agrees it's still a stringency, just he was more encouraging of people's adopting it. –  Double AA Mar 23 at 21:35
    
no, not at all. In his earlier Teshuvos he wrote 'Baal Nefesh Yachmir". That's a stringency. Later on, he forbade Chalav Stam - unless in the middle of nowhere with no access to Chalav Yisrael. That's not just a stringency.. –  Zvi Mar 23 at 21:37
    
That sounds like a stringency to me. If I was in the middle of nowhere would he let me eat a chicken/cheese sandwich? –  Double AA Mar 23 at 21:40
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It's not an added stringency.

R. Moshe Feinstein would himself never drink Cholov Akum. He advised the same to everyone.

R. Tauber told in his shiur on Mesilat Yesharim, that once by mistake someone gave R. Moshe tea with Cholov Akum. As R. Moshe was making his first sip someone told him, that it's not Cholov Yisroel. On the spot R. Moshe spat the thing out.

There is a good book by Rav Gross with endorsement of R. Moshe Feinstein and others on the topic - http://www.israel613.com/books/KOSHER_MILK1-E.pdf

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"He advised the same to everyone"? That's not what I heard. Do you have a source for that? Also, his endorsement of Rav Gross' book explicitly does not apply to halachic rulings. He never reviewed the book itself. –  Michael Sandler Oct 23 '13 at 13:33
    
here what other people heard: vosizneias.com/38090/2009/09/09/… would a decent person advice something, what he never would do? –  Daniel Oct 23 '13 at 14:12
    
Rav Gross doesn't bring his rulings in this book - it's mainly compilation of rulings by other poskim. –  Daniel Oct 23 '13 at 14:18
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