Thursday, June 4, 2009

Gevinas Yisrael

These are the notes from a shiur I gave on Shavuos (2:30 in the morning) on teh subject of Gevinas Yisrael - Kosher Cheeese

In Chutz LaAretz how many of you were somech on:

1. Chalav Yisrael? (Some of you)
2. Pas Yisrael? (Most of you)
3. Gevinas Yisrael? (Actually all of you should have answered YES!)

Why minhag of Gevina on Shavuous?

1. Keilim all treif

Received Torah on Shabbos and then realised that all their keilim were treif. All they had to eat was their cheese.

2. Mount Sinai is not cheese.

Thillim 58:16-17 “The mountain of Hashem is a choice (chosen) mountain, the mountain of majestic peaks [Har Gavnunim]?”.

The answer is no, it is not, it is a humble modest mountain.
Gevina is a remez as to why Hashem chose Har Sinai and not other bigger mountains and why Hashem chose Am Yisrael and not greater, more powerful nations.

3. Honey and Milk

Shir Ha Shirim (4:11) “Torah is sweet and drops from your tongue like honey and milk”.

Perush: Torah should be as sweet as honey and as fresh as milk.

4. Babies Milk

Just as a baby relies on milk alone to survive so we rely on Torah. Just as a baby never gets fed up with the taste and moreover, every time it drinks its as if its fresh for the first time, this is the same as Hashem’s gift of Torah to us.

5. Moshe Rebeinu.

Midrash tells us that Moshe Rebeinu was placed in the teiva on Shavuos. When the Mitzrim removed him from the teiva they tried to nurse him but he would only nurse from a Jewish woman. In other words he was shomrei Chalav Yisrael (LOL)!

Which leads me nicely into the subject of the shiur – Chalav and Gevinas Yisrael.

Please note: I am not a Rav, let alone a Posek so this is just general halachik discussion. If you have any LeMa’aseh questions, please speak to your LOR. Halachic sources come from shiurim by Rav Issacher Frand, Rav Zev Leff, Rav Bernard Goldberg and Rav Zvi Liker.

Chalav Yisrael

Mishnah in Avodah Zara 35b2

Asur to drink milk that a goy milked without Jewish supervision.

Gezeira of Rabanim “Chalav Akum”:

Why? Gemara gives the reason. The goy could mix milk from non-kosher animal into bucket.

The Famous hehter of Rav Moshe Feinstein.

Milk in America is equivalent to Chalav Yisrael because it’s supervised by the government.

To what extent can you rely on this? Can you completely ignore the whole inyan of Chalav Yisrael?

Story of the school.

NO! Rav Moshe was once asked by a Torah school that was facing closure through debts whether they could start buying regular milk instead of spending extra money buying Chalav Yisrael products.
Rav Moshe said “chas veshalom”. Without the purety of Chalav Yisrael Torah learning will suffer.

Rav Zev Leff explains that this hehter can be relied upon when there is no chalav Yisrael available but where there is, one should only drink Chalav Yisrael.

I know some people who still buy Cadburys chocolate in Israel. This is NOT what Rav Moshe’s hehter was for! It’s not really a chumra at all.

Cadburys tell us that their milk chocolate is made with fresh milk and not milk powder.


The nature of a Tachanas Rabbanim is that it is limited to the specific item mentioned in the gezeira and does not include derivatives.

This has LeMaaseh implications. The gezeira of Chalav Yisrael is only for milk (including pasteurised). As soon as the milk is processed and its form is changed then the gezeira ceases to apply. Example: Butter, Cheese and even milk powder.


Rambam, brought down Halacha LeMa’aseh,
Butter is not included in Gezeira of Chalav Yisrael.
Rambam: It is impossible to produce butter from non-kosher milk!

Asur to make butter from Chalav Akum but permitted to ask goy to take his chalav Akum and make you butter!

Halacha LeMa’aseh: Where the minhag is to eat the butter. Mutar.
Where the minhag is not then asur.

Butter and popular butter products like Walkers shortbread and Danish Cookies come with an LBD or OU hechsher.

They are “chalavi” but are not Chalav Akum!

In other words, even those who are machmir in 100% chalav Yisrael, eat Danish butter and Walkers shortbread or Danish Royals.

Powdered Milk Products – Avkas Chalav Nochrei

There is a machlokes amongst the poskim regarding powdered milk products.

Chocolates, biscuits, American (Duncan) Donuts, coffee machines all contain Avkas Chalav Nochrei.

Elite produce two levels of kashrus chocolate:

“Elite” contains Avkas Chalav Nochrei that has a hechsher from the Rabanut Natzaret Elite. “Elite Megadim” contains Avkas Chalav Yisrael and has a Badatz hechsher.

Elite claim that their regular Elite is also for Shomrei Chalav Yisrael!

The famous story on Rav Arie Levine and the 35 soldiers, 7 of them who could not be identified also involved another Rav, the Rav Rashi of Yerushalayim at the time, Rav Zvi Pesach Frank.

He poskemed that powdered milk should be considered like butter and not included within the gezeira of Chalav Yisrael.
Not because its impossible to make powered non-kosher milk but because

1. It is a derivative of milk and therefore is outside the authority of the gezeira.

2. Similar to the hehter of Rav Moshe that it isn’t in the company’s interests to make anything other than 100% cow’s milk as there are government product standards. Therefore must have been produced with kosher milk.

Rav Zvi Pesach Frank argues that its permissible to those who are Shomrei Chalav Yisrael

But many others disagree!!! Hence the Elite Megadim versions as well.

Whipped Cream – Shamenet Katzefet

Regular cream (the fatty top of the milk) has the same din as milk.

Whipped cream is different.

1. It is not included in the gezeira of Chalav Yisrael as it has been processed.

Aruch HaShulchan (Rav Epstein) writes in his sefer about two businessmen from his town who meet by chance in a hotel in a far away place. Both were shomrei chalav Yisrael at home but not when they were travelling on business. The first invites the second to have breakfast with him and offers him whipped cream in his coffee. “Where did you get the wipped cream from?” “From the makolet across the road”. They went the next morning the buy some more. The shop owner had not finished yet so he took them round the back to see how he produces the cream. There was a large saucepan of boiling milk on the fire. To this he added animal brains to make more fatty cream.
Their hehter for whipped cream had turned into an isur Deorisa to eat neveila.

2. Because it is processed sometimes using animal fat, it is asur without a hechsher.

Cheese – Gevina

One would think that cheese should fall under the same category of butter. Not included within gezeira of Chalav Yisrael and therefore mutar to buy Gevinas Nochrei.


Chazal issued a separate gezeira for cheese – Gevinas Yisrael

Even though you might know fore sure that the ingredients to that cheese is 100% from kosher sources, nevertheless:

All cheeses of the goyim are Asur!

Why is there a special gezeira on Gevina?

Mishna Avoda Zara 29b2

This is a very unusual mishna. Compare this to the mishna about Chalav Yisrael. There it states the isur and the reason. Here it states the isur but refuses to divulge the reason for it.

It quotes Shir HaShirim 1:2

Tachles! Lets say you are in the supermarket and someone comes up to you and wants an explanation as to why this 100% kosher ingredients cheese is actually asur!

Possible reasons for Gevinas Yisael given in the Gemara

Asur to eat the Rennet from a neveila

Is this true though?

Mesechet Avodah Zara 34b discusses ox’s poo.

Q. Are you allowed to use ox’s poo to perform a kedushin?
A. Yes because its worth more than a peruta.

Q. Are you allowed to use the poo from an ox who has gored his neighbour?
A. Yes because even though the ox is asur behana’ar, the contents of its intestines and stomach are considered separate.

Avodah Zara brings example that it is permitted for a Cohen to eat the raw rennet from a korban that he cannot eat from.

Q. Are you allowed to use the poo from an Avodah Zara korban?
A. No! Because whole animal including the contents of the stomach is dedicated to the Avodah Zara.

Rambam in Hilchas “Ma’achalot Asurot” 9:15

Rennet from calves’ stomach is considered separate to animal – He uses the word - “PIRSHA”.

Moreover he explains that rennet is a waste product and is not considered food.

In fact it is neither chalavi or basari. It has no kashrus status.

The Rambam poskems that there is actually no kashrus issue at all with regards to rennet.

Sefek Avodah Zara?

However you could argue that the rennet may have come from a neveila of Avodah Zara and therefore it is asur from this sefek.

The Chachamim said that because of this sefek it was asur to eat the rennet of a neveila but not asur behana’ar – to make use of it.

Q. It could be possible to use it where it would be batel BeShishim just like Muryas fish dip that had yayin nesech mixed in with it?

A. This would only be possible if
1. Can’t see it.
2. Can’t smell it.
3. Cannot taste it.

This is true for the muryas but not for rennet.

You can see the effects of the rennet, it just hardened the cheese!!!!

Therefore you cannot use the cooler of batel beShishim.

Shmuel’s argument (35a3)

The goyim don’t just use the rennet found in the stomach, they also use the lining of the stomach which is treif food.

Cannot say that its battle because you can see its effects.

One could argue that the minutist amount of skin from the stomach scraping is batel.
Therefore it should be OK (Debatable).

Rabbi Yeshua ben Levi’s argument (35a2)

The cheese might contain snake venom that entered because goyim to not cover their containers.

1. If the milk contained venom then it would prevent it from turning into butter or cheese.
2. Chazal tell us that dried venom is not dangerous.

Pig’s Fat

Perhaps the goyim covered the cheese with pig’s fat to seal it while it matures.

Goyim don’t do this because it spoils the taste of the cheese.

Yayin Nesech in Cheese

This cannot be the reason. Its Batel beshishim just like the muryas.

Contains the sap of an Orlah

1ST 3 years of tree’s life it is asur to eat or get benefit from it.

However (as Rav Yishmael argues in the Gemara) the gezeira on Gevinas Akum states that the cheese is not asur behanaar and the sap of an Orlah certainly is. Therefore this cannot be the reason.

Rabbi Chanina (35a3)

Cheese has crevices / holes inside it which might contain milk. The milk might well be the non-kosher milk that did not turn into cheese because it cannot.

Note: You cannot make the same argument for butter because it is condensed down to a solid mass and contains no holes.

Argument against this

If this is the reason then we don’t need a separate gezeira for cheese. Just say that it contains pockets of chalav akum.
Therefore cheese would be allowed under the same hehter.



Rambam, Shulchan Aruch

Ther reason that it gives derech agav is that it is because they use the stomach of a neveila and therefore its treif.

If this was really the case then in places where there is a tradition to use vegetarian rennet (from flowers) then there ought to be a hehter in these places BUT THERE ISN’T!

Rabeinu Tam

The reason is the danger of the snake venom.


The reason is because of pockets of possible non-kosher milk.


To get back to our original point: When asked in the supermarket why we cannot buy cheese without a hechshir even though the packet states that it is 100% vegetarian:

No exceptions! Even though the cheese might contain 100% kosher ingredients eg, rennet made from flowers, the gezeira still stands and there is no hether!

Explanations one can give:

1. You might say that the gezeira stands today only because of the halacha brought down in Meseches Beitza 5a. That is, if Chaza”l did not clearly state the reason for a gezeira then it cannot be annulled by a future lower Beis Din even though they think that they know what the actual reason for the gezeira was and that reason no longer applies.

2. Perhaps the gezeira of Givinas Akum is similer iin nature to the gezeiros of Bishul Akum and Pas Akum. That is, Chazal wanted to avoid intermarriage. Cheese is a common social food served in many countries at every meal. (Pub in England – Ploughman’s lunch). This is actually the understanding of the Ramban and Rashba.

3. Even though during the time of the Gemara it was not possible to make cheese from non-kosher milk, somehow Chazal knew (or at least feared) that at some future date, it would be possible to do it and they were right! Rav Zvi Liker, a kashrus expert, informs me that they are making cheese from non-kosher animals in China and Tibet.

Getting a goy to make Gevinas Yisrael

There are two opinions on this matter:

1. The Rambam (12th century) , Rashba(13th century) , Rama (16th century) and Node BeYehuda (17th century) hold that Gevinas Yisrael is like Chalav Yisrael in this respect. That is, you only have to supervise the goy and make sure that he does not slip any non-kosher ingredients into the cheese.

2. The Shach (Rav Shabtai Cohen, commentary on Yoreh Daeiah, 17th century), The Vilna Gaon (17th century) and the Choschmas Adam are all of the opinion that the gezeira is like Bishul Akum. That is:

a. A Jew has to be part of the process in order to call is Gevinas Yisrael, eg, by adding the rennet himself.

b. The Shach says that at least, if not participating in the process, the milk itself should be Jewish owned.

Rav Moshe Feinstein poskims (based on Aruch Hashulchan) that the halacha is like the Rama. Nevertheless he says that we should be machmir in this issue like the Shach.

As a result of all this, Samson’s milk products in the UK such as yogurts, cottage cheese and cream cheese have a strange hechshir on them. It states on the package that the product is “Kosher Gevinas Yisrael made from Chalav Akum”.

Cottage Cheese, Yogurts and Levana

Rav Moshe’s tshuva to Rav Shwab.

Not considered cheese because it doesn’t require rennet to produce even though some manufactures might add it for product consistency.

Even though this might happen, you cannot see its effects and therefore its batel (such small amounts).

Therefore if its not considered cheese and it’s processed then it should be in same category as butter?

But is Cottage Cheese considered like butter?

No! Because that whey that you see floating on top could well be non-kosher milk that did not convert into the cheese.

Therefore, Rav Moshe says that it ought to have the same din as chalav Yisrael.

Mystery regarding Cottage:

Surely If you are somaich on Rav Moshe’s hehter then cottage cheese and Fromage Frei ought to be OK?

So why does both LBD and OU say that the gezeira of Gevinas Yisrael includes Cottage Cheese and white cheeses like Levana and these products are not kosher without a hechshir?

1 comment:

Bouncer said...

Read this with great interest while munching on a bar of CDM