Sunday, February 19, 2006

Kemach Yashan II

Rabbi Dr. Rubin posed a follow-up question regarding kemach yashan in the "Comments":

Q: If I want to follow yashan, where can I buy grain products that are yashan?

A: The answer to this question is somewhat complicated. First of all, it is important to emphasize that the law of yashan only applies to the "five grains". So fruits, vegetables, rice, etc., are not subject to this rule.

Proper observance of yashan requires some "know-how". The easiest case to handle is when a bakery or establishment advertises that it uses kemach yashan, or when a product's label indicates that it is made from kemach yashan. More often than not, though, we need to investigate more thoroughly to determine what is or is not problematic vis a vis the prohibition. Here are some rules of thumb:

- All products manufactured in Israel under ANY rabbinical supervision are always made from kemach yashan.

- 'Cake flour' may be presumed to be yashan. If you are shopping in a bakery that offers a selection of cakes and cookies, ask for items that are made with cake flour only (no bread flour).

- Products made from matza meal only (as long as it is not whole wheat) are presumed to be yashan.

- When it comes to oats, when in doubt one can be lenient. The reason for this is that the status of oats as one of the five grains is a matter of dispute (Maimonides, for example, does not recognize oats as one of the five grains). We are stringent on Passover about avoiding oats, and, if we have definite information, we should be stringent regarding yashan too. However, if information about a specific product containing oats is not readily available, the oats can be assumed OK for yashan purposes.

The best advice I can offer you is to order the "Guide to Chodosh", a resource booklet on the laws of yashan that is distributed each year in three installments. The cost is minimal ($15). The rabbi who prepares the guide also manages a "Chodosh Hot Line" where updated information is made available and detailed questions may be asked.

In addition to a general overview of general concepts and issues relevant to yashan, the Guide gives information regarding specific products and their "cutoff dates" for yashan. For example, it tells you how to read a given box of cereal or pasta and determine when it was made and, by extension, whether it poses any problems. Overall, it is an excellent source of information, extremely helpful.

Observing yashan may seem overly difficult because it imposes an additional restriction and limits our freedom to enjoy food. However, with the help of the data that it provides, the Guide enables us to purchase almost any kind of product at any time of the year and to remain faithful to the mitsvah. It makes adherence to the law of yashan much more accessible and user-friendly.

It should be noted that the Guide is also interspersed with halachic rulings and opinions that represent the author's view or that of his rabbis. So, while the Guide is a reliable source of factual information, it is still important to consult your own rabbi regarding halachic principles and applications.

Rabbi Maroof


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