Q: Is it correct to say that Sephardim in the US do not have to keep Chalav Yisrael (as Moshe Feinstein says) but do have to keep yashan?
- Harpaul Kohli
A: As a matter of clarification for the readership, let me define the terms you used. Chalav Yisrael means milk produced under Jewish supervision, as opposed to milk which, though it may be from a kosher animal, was not supervised. Kemach yashan literally means 'old grain'. The Torah tells us that we must not eat grain from the current year's harvest until Passover. A simple way to remember this is to imagine that newly planted grain must celebrate Passover at least once before it becomes permitted. So we are told to continue to eat grain that was planted before last Passover until the next Passover comes around and permits the 'new grain', or 'chadash'. Some later halachic authorities maintain that this prohibition applies only in the land of Israel and that, therefore, it would not hold in the US.
In response to the first part of your question: It is more accurate to say that Chalav Yisrael is not a specifically Sephardic issue. The requirement to eat chalav Yisrael is equally applicable to everyone, but it is up to our poskim (rabbinic decisors) to determine the parameters of the prohibition. As you mentioned, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein maintained that the reason for the institution was purely practical - we needed to make sure that the farmers were not mixing, say, pig milk into the cow's milk they were selling. Since nowadays government regulations serve to keep the dairy industry in check and protect us against the occurence of fraud and/or tampering, Rabbi Feinstein argued that we need not demand actual Jewish supervision anymore. This is not a matter of Sephardic vs. Ashkenazic practice, it is simply a question of the interpretation of a concept in Jewish law. Some Ashkenazic rabbis may take a more conservative approach, viewing the Jewish-supervision requirement as absolute and not subject to change, and some Sephardic rabbis may agree with Rabbi Feinstein's more lenient position. So one should follow one's personal rabbi regarding this matter.
Regarding kemach yashan, the answer is simpler. The hallmark of Sephardic tradition is our acceptance of the rulings of Rav Yosef Karo, also known as the Bet Yosef. In his classic code of Jewish law, the Shulchan Aruch, the Bet Yosef unequivocally states that the law of kemach yashan applies both inside and outside of Israel. See Shulchan Aruch Orah Hayim 489:10 and Yoreh Deah 393