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First, is it permitted to have regular milk products (Chalav Akum) at all, or are there some leniencies regarding these issues?

Second, if there is no heter what is the halacha if the Chalav Yisrael products are much more expensive; can one therefore be allowed to purchase regular milk products?


In a famous responsa, Rav Moshe Feinstein allows for people living in the United States to purchase regular milk products since these are regulated by the United States government and therefore there is little chance that one would be drinking non-kosher milk.

However, Rav Moshe only allows this as a last resort situation (b’deavad) since he initially (l’chatchila) believes that one should consume only Chalav Yisrael products.

Given these parameters, it is advisable in all cases to consume only Chalav Yisrael products because this is the essential halacha. Thus, if they are available, and the quality is equal, and it is not substantially more expensive than regular milk products, one should adhere to Chalav Yisrael products.

However, if any of the above becomes an issue then one might rely upon the heter of Rav Moshe and purchase non-Chalav Yisrael products.

In any case one should consult their own rav for a final p’sak

– Rabbi Mordechai Weiss lives in Efrat, Israel, and previously served as an elementary and high school principal in New Jersey and Connecticut. He was also the founder and rav of Young Israel of Margate, N.J. His email is [email protected].

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As Rav Feinstein clarifies, there is no baseline obligation to observe Chalav Yisrael even when it is easy to do so. This is especially so if its prices are higher and quality lower than its non-Chalav Yisrael counterparts.

Many talmidei chachamim do not observe the strict view on Chalav Yisrael, and one has a right to be lenient if he wishes to be. I have written about this matter extensively in Gray Matter 3, which is available online, and will iy”H present an updated version in a forthcoming work on kashrut.

– Rabbi Chaim Jachter is a prominent rabbi who serves as the rabbi at Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck, and is a popular Torah teacher at the Torah Academy of Bergen County. He also serves as a Dayan on the Beth Din of Elizabeth and has acquired an international reputation of excellence in the area of Get administration. He has authored sixteen books on issues ranging from contemporary Halacha, Tanach, Aggada, and Jewish Thought all available on Amazon.

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Among the animals which the Torah initially presents as non-kosher is the camel (Vayikra 11:4), and it is singled out again later in the Torah (Devarim 14:7). From this fact that it is mentioned twice, one opinion cited in the Gemara in Bechoros (6b) is that both the camel and its milk are forbidden for consumption; another opinion there is that this ruling is correct, but for a different reason. The Mishnah earlier in Bechoros (5b) actually states as a general rule that anything produced by a non-kosher animal is likewise non-kosher, and the Gemara there (7a-b) indicates that this includes milk. The Rambam (Hilchos Maachalos Asuros 3:1) and the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 81:1) rule accordingly.

The Mishnah in Avodah Zarah (35b) lists various products which may not be consumed by a Jew if produced by a non-Jew, and the list includes milk which was milked by a non-Jew. The Gemara there explains that the concern is that the non-Jew may have mixed in some milk from a non-kosher animal, which is prohibited; the Rambam there (No. 13) and the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 115:1) again rule accordingly. It is, however, clear from a later Mishnah there (39b) that if a Jew is present at the time that the non-Jew does the milking, and can assert that all the milk indeed came from a kosher animal, the milk may be consumed; it is noted by Tosafos there (d”h tenina), among others, that the Jew need not be supervising at every moment, but rather that it suffices for the Jew to be nearby and able to see at any time what the non-Jew is doing. As such, the non-Jew would have “mirtas” – fear – lest he be caught doing something improper and lose his reliable reputation and hence his sales (see Meiri to 35b there, d”h haMishnah).

The Rambam there (No. 17) thus rules that if a Jew can potentially see the milking at any time, the milk is considered kosher even if the Jew is not actually there at every moment, and the Shulchan Aruch there agrees; the Shach there (No. 4) adds that it is sufficient if the Jew regularly comes in and out (unannounced) to the place where the milking is being done, because the “mirtas” factor is present. This would mean that in order for milk to be considered kosher, it must be produced under at least the general supervision of a Jew who can affirm that no milk from any non-kosher animal has been mixed in; such milk is colloquially referred to as “Chalav Yisrael,” or milk produced under Jewish supervision.

The Mordechai in Avodah Zarah (No. 826) quotes an authority who holds that if it can be ascertained that the non-Jewish milk manufacturer had no access to non-kosher milk, his milk may be consumed even if no Jew was present at all during the milking process. He himself rejects this leniency, and it is debated by later authorities (see, for example, Shu”t Radvaz 4:1147, Shu”t Chasam Sofer Yoreh Deah 107, Chochmas Adam 67:1, and Aruch HaShulchan Yoreh Deah 115:6).

A different leniency, however, is proposed by Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu”t Igros Moshe Yoreh Deah 1:47) which he says is applicable at least in the United States, where governmental laws strictly regulate the dairy industry, and where inspectors regular visit dairy plants to assure that the proper standards are being met. Since anything sold in the U.S. as milk without specifying its source must by law come from a cow (if USDA approved), no non-Jewish milk manufacturer would risk mixing in milk from other sources for fear of getting caught by the government and getting fined or losing his business. The aforementioned “mirtas” factor is thus present without a Jewish supervisor and the milk is therefore acceptable. Other authorities, including the Chazon Ish (Yoreh Deah 41:4) and Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank (Shu”t Har Tzvi Yoreh Deah 103), accept this approach.

It must be stressed, though, that Rav Feinstein himself, and many others, strongly suggest that observant Jews should nonetheless be stringent and consume only Chalav Yisrael, and not rely on this leniency. Others, however, including Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, maintain that it is not necessary to be stringent, especially in view of the fact that all the milking for commercially sold milk today is done by machines in any case. If Chalav Yisrael dairy products are easily available in one’s area, then, it is quite reasonable to be stringent and consume only such products, but the practice is still a stringency, and certainly not obligatory.

As a postscript, it should be noted that the above leniency applies in the United States only because of the current laws here; one who visits another country should ascertain the facts there before consuming any milk.

– Rabbi Michael Taubes has been involved in Jewish education, formal as well as informal, for over 40 years, serving both in the classroom and in various administrative posts. He is presently a Rosh Yeshiva at RIETS and Yeshiva University High School for Boys. In addition, he is the spiritual leader of Congregation Zichron Mordechai in Teaneck, N.J.

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