I'm searching for some clarification regarding what Rav Moshe Feinstein, z"l, held with regard to chodosh in chutz la'aretz. My father-in-law recently attended a lecture of a student of Rav Reuven Feinstein, shelit"a, who claimed his father relied on the opinion that it is only a Rabbinic prohibition outside of Israel. However, my understanding of his responsum on the topic (Igros Moshe YD 4:46) is that he only relied on a double uncertainty where such was available, implying he held it was a biblical prohibition even in New York. What is further baffling is that the responsum is actually written to Yosef Herman who puts out the popular Chodosh Guide based on the assumption that there is no reliable double uncertainty. (I tried to contact Mr. Herman but never received a reply.)

Rabbi Yehuda Spitz cites the ruling as a qualified leniency:

See also Shu”t Igros Moshe (Y”D vol. 4, end 46) where although he maintains there is what to rely upon l’maaseh, maintains that still one should try to ascertain where he can purchase yoshon flour, as it is preferable.

I'm curious if anyone can shed light on what the reality was in terms of the plausibility of the presence of chodosh in the kosher market up to and including the time of the responsum, and/or whether Rav Moshe changed his mind at any point regarding what if any leniencies there were, both in his personal practice and in his rulings for others.

  • The responsum opens with details about the reality (41% of this kind of wheat, 59% of this kind, etc.)
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 19:30
  • Did Rav Reuven explain how that would help? Did Rav Moshe not keep rabbinic prohibitions?
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 19:30
  • @DoubleAA I did not attend the lecture. I assume he was incorporating the opinion that the enactment only affected adjacent lands (not sure why it was an issue in Bavel though then?) and/or that there was at least one uncertainty...
    – Loewian
    Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 19:32
  • btw have you seen the dedication to rav moshe in the r herman's guide?
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 19:42
  • 1
    Rabbi Yehuda Spitz in the link cited in the OP also states that R' Moshe "made sure to have at least yoshon oats and barley, since it was much easier to observe yoshon with them than with wheat". Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 19:18

1 Answer 1


In an interview published in Mishpacha magazine in 2011, R. Michel Shurkin reports the following:

...I ask whether Reb Moshe was supportive of the trend towards being machmir even if there was a mesorah otherwise. Rav Michel answers with a story, of course. “During the 1970s, Kissinger sold a lot of wheat the US had stockpiled to Russia. The reason people aren’t so careful about eating chadash is based on a sfek-sfeikah [double doubt] recorded by the Rema, which relies on uncertainty that the grain is chadash. HaGaon HaRav Meiselman (Rosh Yeshivah of Toras Moshe) came to Reb Moshe with statistics proving that the grain in the US after they sold their stockpiles was certainly chadash. Reb Moshe was not impressed. ‘In Lithuania we ate grain that was certainly chadash,’ he said. After about an hour of discussion, Reb Moshe finally said, ‘Efsher iz es a sheineh minhag – maybe it’s a nice custom.’ But that’s as far as he would go, because, whether stringent or lenient, mesorah was mesorah.” In a similar vein, Reb Moshe was certain that a community in Klal Yisrael couldn’t be guilty of doing something wrong en masse. “I recently heard that a gadol ruled a certain way,” says Rav Michel, “and someone asked, ‘But doesn’t everyone do the opposite?” The gadol replied, “There’s plenty of room in Gehinnom.” “Reb Moshe held there was no way that the entire public would go to Gehinnom. There must be a reason why what they were doing was permissible, and he would find that reason. He held that just as you have to have emunah in Hashem, you have to have emunah in Klal Yisrael.”

  • +1 Fascinating additional reference. I believe I have seen/heard a somewhat similar sounding approach from Rav Nachum Rabinovitch, shlita, as well as Rav Belsky, z'l. Though it does not sound like the (at least explicit) approach of the teshuva at all. And it raises a lot of additional questions regarding how Rav Shurkin and/or Rav Moshe interpret the many sources in Tanach, Chazal, Rishonim, and Achronim that discuss communal errors, e.g. historical communal sins and punishments, the par he'elam davar, annulling of an errant custom (minhag ta'us), mutav sheyehu shogegin, etc.
    – Loewian
    Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 15:09
  • Also, it might be useful to know what was the specific communal practice about which he was "certain that a community in Klal Yisrael couldn’t be guilty of doing something wrong en masse". Is the article available online?
    – Loewian
    Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 15:13
  • @Loewian I saw it the excerpt here drive.google.com/file/d/1iNuVGGdOdLRvznSxE65TjHqBTmjBv-Ro/view
    – wfb
    Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 19:46

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