“Chadash” As It Applies Nowadays-The Opinion of the Sha’agat Aryeh
In the previous Halacha we have explained that any byproduct of the five grains produced before the Pesach holiday are forbidden for consumption until the Seventeenth of Nissan (the Eighteenth of Nissan outside of Israel). This grain is referred to as “Chadash”. Grain which the Pesach holiday has “passed over” is called “Yashan”. Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim, Chapter 489, Section 10 and Yoreh De’ah, Chapter 293) rules as follows: “One may not consume ‘Chadash’ even nowadays until the beginning of the night of the Seventeenth of Nissan.” (Add one extra day outside of Israel.)
We have explained that in Israel, most wheat and barley products pose no “Chadash” concern. Nevertheless, the situation outside of Israel is totally different because it is common in such places to harvest wheat in the month of Cheshvan which is then immediately marketed to consumers and these grains are prohibited for consumption until Pesach arrives.
The Sephardic vs. Ashkenazi Customs
In all Middle Eastern countries, Jews were always careful regarding the prohibition of “Chadash”. In any case, in these countries, wheat was generally planted in the beginning of the winter and harvested in the beginning of the summer such that grain sold in these places had no concern of “Chadash” since Pesach had already passed over them. Nevertheless, in Ashkenazi countries, especially Poland, most people were not meticulous regarding this prohibition since it was very difficult to do so in these places where wheat was planted in the summer and harvested in the beginning of the winter, usually during Cheshvan. The wheat would then have to be stored in silos until after Pesach so that it could then be consumed and this was very difficult to do.
For this reason, the Poskim discuss whether or not Ashkenazim have on whom to rely in not being careful regarding “Chadash”. Indeed, the Poskim, including the great Rama, discuss several leniencies regarding this matter. Many Acharonim relied upon the opinion of the Bayit Chadash who rules that the prohibition of “Chadash” only applies to grain owned by a Jew and not that of non-Jews. Since all grain outside of Israel is grown and produced by non-Jews, the prohibition of “Chadash” does not apply.
Hagaon Harav Yechezkel Katzenelenbogen (the uncle of the Sha’agat Aryeh) rules leniently on this matter based on the aforementioned reason. On the other hand, his nephew, the great Sha’agat Aryeh writes very harshly against those who rule leniently on this matter, so much so that he writes that the Torah dresses itself in sackcloth about this opinion which is contrary to Torah law and which causes people to transgress a Torah prohibition based on weak arguments. The Sha’agat Aryeh relies heavily upon the Talmud Yerushalmi (quoted in the previous Halacha) which clearly implies that the prohibition of “Chadash” applies to non-Jewish produce as well. The Sha’agat Aryeh was so stringent about this matter that he ruled that one may not use the vessels of those who acted leniently on the prohibition of “Chadash” similar to one who cooked non-kosher meat in one’s vessels; he ruled that the vessels must be koshered before using them again. Indeed, the great Gaon, Rabbeinu Eliyahu of Vilna, also ruled stringently on the issue of “Chadash” nowadays.
Nevertheless, most of Ashkenazi Jewry did not heed the ruling of the Sha’agat Aryeh because of the great difficulty it involved. Because he was so stringent about this issue, no community in Europe wished to hire the great Sha’agat Aryeh as their rabbi and he lived in poverty for most of his life, wandering from place to place disseminating Torah in dire straits (until he was hired to serve as the rabbi of the French city of Metz in his old age).
Many Poskim, among them Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l, rule that one must avoid the prohibition of “Chadash” even nowadays, even with regards to non-Jewish produce and this is indeed a Torah prohibition. This is especially true regarding Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jews who are bound by the rulings of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch. Thus, in the United States and Europe where “Chadash” crops are common, one must make certain to only purchase products free of “Chadash” concerns. Regarding prepared products containing these crops that are produced in these countries and then imported into Israel, one must be sure not to purchase products after Pesach that were produced using “Chadash” produce. (We must point out that the “Orthodox Union” or “OU” Kashrut agency based in the United States is not careful regarding the “Chadash” status of the grain products they certify since they rely on the more lenient opinions we have discussed above. Thus, as opposed to several other Kashrut agencies in Israel and abroad, just because a product bears an “OU” symbol does not automatically render it “Yashan”. Many of their products may very well be “Yashan” and one should consult local “Chadash” guides to determine the given products status using codes, best-by dates, and the like.)
Maran zt”l would speak about this issue constantly and proclaimed that if people would know the severity of the matter and how easy it is to act stringently today, people would certainly do so; in our day and age it is much easier to take the necessary steps to avoid “Chadash” as opposed to previous generation when this was a great obstacle and which caused the Poskim to search for reasons for leniency as a result of the pressing circumstances. Indeed, many bakeries and other establishments in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere have begun to include the words “Without Concern for Chadash” or “Kemach Yashan” in their Kashrut certificates and advertising venues in order to show that they have begun taking care of this issue. This is indeed the proper custom and behavior that everyone should undertake.
We should also point out that grain products manufactured in the United States being sold on the market now do not pose “Chadash” concerns since we have recently just concluded the Pesach holiday. Only towards the beginning of the fall/winter will “Chadash” products return to the market.