Volume 30 Number 94
                 Produced: Sun Jan 16 11:24:47 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Cholov Yisroel and Chumrot
         [Zev Sero]
Definition of Chumrah
         [Mark Steiner]
Humrot and Hinnuch
         [Shlomo Godick]


From: Zev Sero <Zev@...>
Date: Thu, 13 Jan 2000 18:16:20 -0500
Subject: Re: Cholov Yisroel and Chumrot

Jonathan J. Baker <jjbaker@...> wrote:

I haven't read the teshuvah in a long time, but roughly speaking
the logic is as follows.

>1) It is the halacha that one must drink Cholov Yisroel.
>2) Cholov Yisroel has generally meant milk whose production was 
>   supervised by Jews.
>3) The reason for that supervision is so as to avoid adulteration.
>4) In the United States, fear of the USDA and the Pure Foods Act
>   keeps non-Jewish farmers and dairies from adulterating their
>   milk.

Correction: this applies only to large dairies, and absolutely *not* to
farmers.  R Moshe explicitly rules - in the teshuva immediately before
the one you're quoting - that there is no heter at all for drinking milk
purchased from a goyishe farmer.  Thus his term `chalav hacompanies',
i.e. the milk produced by large dairies, as opposed to individual

The logic in step 4 is that in a large company individual employees have
no reason to break the law, so illegal mixing can only take place as a
result of a deliberate policy by management.  Such a policy could not
easily be kept a secret, so both employees and inspectors would have to
be paid off in order to implement it.  The potential profit from mixing
treife milk into the kosher milk is tiny, and no company would incur the
cost of secrecy and the risk of being caught for such a small return.
This logic is thus specific to the realities of the US dairy industry as
R Moshe understood them; it does not apply to farms or small/family
businesses, where the risk of detection is low, or to industries such as
meat, where the potential profits from substitution are high.

You also left out the most important steps in the chain:
4a) Absolute certainty about something can be halachically equivalent to
seeing it.  Our certainty that large dairy companies, operating under
the conditions that they do in the USA, do not adulterate the milk is
strong enough that it is as if we were witnesses to it (`anan sahade'),
and thus the milk really is under supervision - instead of shlepping out
to a farm at the crack of dawn, we can supervise the milk from the
comfort of our own kitchen, by our certain knowledge that nothing
untoward happened.

4b) The gezera of chalav yisrael is only relevant when there is no real
concern that the milk has been adulterated with more than 1/60 of treif
milk; if there is a real concern then the milk is forbidden as a `safek
deoraita', and there was no need for a specific decree.  It's only when
we're certain enough of the milk's kashrut to satisfy the ordinary rules
that the gezera comes into effect and says that specific supervision is
required (which can be satisfied by absolute certainty as in step 4a).

4c) The gezera does not apply to milk while it is in the possession of
goyim; it applies at the moment that the milk is transferred into the
possession of a Jew.  Therefore, it doesn't matter that when the farmer
milked the cows in the first place there was no supervision, not even
the `virtual supervision' of step 4a; so long as we do not suspect
actual adulteration (to a proportion of more than 1/60), the milk
remains kosher, because it is still in the farmer's possession, and thus
the gezera has not yet taken effect.  And when the farmer transfers the
milk to the dairy, the gezera still does not take effect, because the
dairy is owned by goyim.  The gezera only takes effect when the dairy
transfers the milk to a Jew (e.g. a Jewish shopkeeper).  This step
obviously does not apply where the dairy is owned by Jews, and in fact R
Moshe does not permit milk that is produced by goyishe farmers and
processed by a Jewish dairy.

4d) At the point where the gezera takes effect, i.e. when the milk is
transferred from the dairy to the Jewish shopkeeper, the only goy with
whom we need to be concerned is the one from whom the Jew is taking
possession, i.e. the dairy.  Therefore, so long as we have the `virtual
supervision' of step 4a with regard to the dairy, the provisions of the
gezera are satisfied and the milk is chalav yisrael.

>5) Commercial milk (chalav hacompanies) in the US, thus, is just
>   as unadulterated as Jewish-supervised milk.  Therefore, IT IS 

>6) As a chumra, though, since we should support Jewish dairies, 
>one should buy Jewish milk.  I think he states this in terms of
>baal nefesh yachmir (as for what a baal nefesh is, that's a whole
>different discussion).

He doesn't give this reason of supporting Jewish dairies.  IIRC he
doesn't give a reason at all.  He just says that a baal nefesh should be
strict and not rely on this heter, and in several other places he refers
to this, e.g. when he rules that a school's mission is to educate
children to be baalei nefesh, and thus it may not supply them with
chalav companies, out of concern not for kashrut but for chinuch.

This leads in to what Frank Silbermann <fs@...> writes
later in the same issue:

>A Chuk is a law which would be nonsensical to do -- save for that G-d
>commanded it.  To do _more_ of a Chuk than what G-d commands, is
>therefore, by _definition_, nonsensical.  (I am told that Kashrut falls
>into the category of Chuk; that it is wrong to look for reasons behind
>the prohibitions.  Therefore, there is no reason to presume that G-d
>wants our restrictions to be increased.)

I think Frank's got the wrong end of the stick here.  IMHO he's
absolutely right that if we are certain that a particular item is
kosher, refraining from eating it is not a `chumra' in kashrut, it's
simply silly; we have no reason to suppose that Hashem has any desire
for us to do so (of course, there may be other reasons to avoid it).
But that's not what most chumrot in kashrut are.  Instead, a chumra
arises when there is some doubt as to whether something really is
kosher.  The question is investigated, and a decision is made that it is
kosher.  Sometimes all that is required is to determine the true facts
of the case, and the question then disappears of its own; in such a
case, even a baal nefesh has no reason to refrain.

But in other cases the facts themselves don't lead to a clear
conclusion, and one must rely either on educated guesswork (e.g. rov,
chazaka, etc) or on deciding among conflicting poskim (e.g. by the
majority or by community tradition); in such cases, while a halachic
decision has been properly arrived at, and a person has every right to
rely on it, the fact remains that there really is still a doubt.  It is
possible that this piece of meat was bought in the minority of shops
that are treif, or that the reasoning which permitted it was faulty.  A
chasid/baal-nefesh goes `inside the line of the law', and does not rely
on such heterim; instead, he follows the old Jewish maxim that `a shayla
macht treif', and avoids the situation.

This does not mean that he is questioning the decision; he agrees that
the Rabbi who was asked the shayla had the obligation to make a decision
one way or the other, and since he is not a prophet he had no choice but
to apply the rules laid down by halacha for how to resolve a doubt (and
in some cases, even if he were a prophet that wouldn't help him reach a
decision).  But the individual baal nefesh has no need to resolve the
doubt; he can leave the situation alone, by simply refraining from
eating the food, and therefore he need not take the risk that in this
case the halachic process for doubt-resolution will come up with the
wrong answer.

And it's in this light that I understand R Moshe's exhortation that a
baal nefesh should avoid chalav hacompanies.  R Moshe's logic is a big
chidush.  IMHO he himself was not absolutely certain that he was right.
When he was asked for a ruling, he had no choice but to apply the
halachic rule that `a judge may only be guided by the evidence that is
in front of him', and in this case he found his logic compelling, so he
had to follow it where it led.  He had no right to speculate that there
might be some undiscovered flaw in his logic, because that's not what
the halachic process says to do.  But with regard to his own consumption
he had no need to rely on this logic, and therefore he preferred not to,
and publicly stated that baalei nefesh should not rely on it, and that
schools should so educate their students.

Zev Sero                Give a man a fire and he'll be warm for a day;
<zsero@...>       set him on fire and he'll be warm for the
                        rest of his life.   - Ankh-Morpork proverb


From: Mark Steiner <marksa@...>
Date: Thu, 13 Jan 2000 14:23:11 +0200
Subject: Re: Definition of Chumrah

I think it would be useful, in light of current discussions, to define
the term "humra."  Many disputes would disappear if the participants in
the discussions realized that they are using the term in different ways.
What appears below is only a first approximation; I'm sure others could
do better.

For example, an uncontested law in the Shulchan Arukh is sometimes
called a "humra" (on this list) if it contradicts common practice or
opinion.  The basis for this view would seem to be the ideology that
there is always a way to "solve halakhic problems" (meaning resolving
contradictions between what is written and what we do) by reinterpreting
the texts.  A rabbi who refuses to do this would then be called a

Others adopt the position that a "humra" can refer only to a case in
which there is a genuine disagreement among the historical poskim.  A
rabbi is a mahmir only if he tends to choose the stricter opinions.

A third sense of "mahmir" is to avoid giving decisions altogether, but
to attempt to accomodate all (whatever "all" means) extant opinions,
especially when the law in question is a Biblical one (mideoraysah).
The basis of this could be simply a conservative policy of "take no
chances."  (E.g. the Mishnah Berurah in many cases) But it could also be
an ideology of "trying to do what Hashem wants."  (I'm told that the
Hazon Ish justified the practice among yeshiva bochurim of spending many
hours (and lots of money) looking for the "best possible" lulav, going
well beyond what the Mishnah Berurah requires even of "baalei nefesh,"
by noting that the search for perfection is itself good for the soul,
aside from the success of finding the 1 in a thousand lulav.  It was the
Hazon Ish's version of "mussar.")

A fourth sense of "mahmir" is really what should be referred to as
"kannai" (zealous).  Namely, the ruling of a Rav should reflect the
effort of Judaism to distance itself from foreign or corrupting
ideologies.  (Consider the Hazon Ish's position on not using electricity
produced on Shabbos by companies violating the Shabbos not so much
because of Hillul Shabbos but Hillul Hashem.  Another example was his
attitude to the heter mekhirah of Rav Kook to partially suspend the
sabbatical laws in Israel.  In order to preserve the "humra" of not
allowing this "Zionist" idea, the Hazon Ish introduced wide ranging
"kulot" for the use of Kibbutz Hafetz Hayim so that they could keep the
sabbatical laws without this heter.  The Soloveitchik family, which--as
we read recently here--took a dim view of his view on "cholov akum",
didn't like his connection to the kibbutz any better.)  Recently, I came
across a memorial volume dedicated to the memory of a pious Jew in Bnei
Brak.  The authors remarked that it was difficult for them to describe
for the present generation what a tzaddik this Jew was, because of the
change in behavior of the generations.  What used to be a humra, or even
extremism, they say, is considered wild leniency today (kula mufleget).
As an example, the cite the attitude of this tzaddik towards reading
(secular) newspapers.  He would read them, but warn his children against
taking them seriously.  Today, they remark, "nobody would dream" of
contaminating their eyes and minds with newspapers.  In a sefer recently
published in Bnei Brak about the laws of Terumot umaasrot, one of the
definitions of "am haaretz" (an unreliable Jew, suspected of not
separating Maaser) is any Jew who sends his children to high school...
The book is dedicated to the memory of a pious Jew who had the title
"chover" (which is the opposite of am haaretz) who sent his children to

Mark Steiner


From: Shlomo Godick <shlomog@...>
Date: Thu, 13 Jan 2000 19:42:43 +0200
Subject: Re: Humrot and Hinnuch

R. Yosef Gilboa wrote: << Through the ages, Haza"l have frowned upon
excessive expression of our love for God, especially in public.  >>

Sources? (Your claim sounds reasonable but I would still like
to see you document it with quotes from Chazal.)

<<For this very reason, it has been stated many times
that an individual may impose a humra on himself but not on his family
or his community. If he is convinced of his own sincerity, it does not
guarantee that his family or his community are eligible for this kind of
excessive piety. >>

To continue the mashal [example - Mod.], the father does not hide his
acts of mesirus nefesh [lit. - giving up of his life, idiomatic - Mod.]
towards his wife from his children - adaraba [the opposite is true -
Mod.], he wants them to witness them and learn from them.  Similarly,
within the family setting, the father should observe his chumros openly,
without coercing his family to follow his behavior, but on the other
hand hoping that they will follow his example and freely adopt a loving,
lifnim m'shuras ha-din [going beyond what is required - Mod.]  stance
towards their Creator (not necessarily by copying a specific chumra -
see below for other options).

<<It seems to me that too often we put the cart before
the horse by assuming that the very acceptance of a humra will somehow
make us into "better" Jews. The opposite is true - until one reaches a
level of true piety by study, introspection, etc. that assures him that
he is free of all self-seeking tendencies - he has no right to accept

I think that the Sefer Ha-Chinuch's dictum of "l'fi ha-peulot nimshachot
ha-l'vavot"  [repeated external behavior can effect internal emotional/
psychological change] is germaine here as well.  I think your demand to
attain absolute purity of heart prior to undertaking a chumra is unrealistic
and also contradicts the mashal:  should a husband put off being
moseir nefesh for his wife until he *really* feels it, or should he begin
even with mechanical, artificial gestures in the hope that ultimately his
newly adopted behavioral habits will sink into his consciousness
and make him a better person?  The nimshal is clear.

< And if he does, he should keep it to himself. >

Or better: he should demand it only of himself.  But if the behavior is
not overly intimate in nature and others can benefit from his example,
there is no reason for him to hide it.  This, of course, demands a fair
amount of open-mindedness on all sides.  Some people feel threatened in
some way just by viewing another's chumros, as if their own level of
observance is being called into question.  This is response is immature,
and people must learn to be tolerant and understand that each person has
a particular derech to HaShem that is uniquely his.  (And returning to
chinuch: teaching our children to respect the otherness of others is one
of the most important lessons we can teach them.  And another important
lesson is teaching the child that he establishes his derech [path -
Mod.] by competing with himself, not by comparing himself against

IMHO chumrot are not the only vehicles for powerfully expressing love of
one's Creator.  Equally if not more effective is the performance of the
mitzvah itself in a way which is not mechanical, but rather integrates
one's whole depth personality - intellectual, emotional, spiritual -
into service of HaShem.  In the words of R. Micha Berger (Aishdas

   To burn with AishDas means to learn from and grow with the mitzvos. To
   be observant not merely out of habit or upbringing, but to connect with
   the deed on intellectual and emotional levels.

   In order to reach this level, Torah must become the whole life. It is
   not enough to pursue the depths of the soul to reach the fire within.
   Das must not be limited to the synagogue or the charity box, but an
   entire    lifestyle. Halachah defines our primary relationships -- with
   our fellow man, with Hashem, and with ourselves.

Maybe because this is a more elusive qualitative distinction while the
"more" of chumrot is usually more quantitative in nature, the path of
chumrot appears more attractive to some.  Both, of course, are valid
drachim [paths] to HaShem.

Kol Tuv,
Shlomo Godick


End of Volume 30 Issue 94