Yoshon and Chodosh

February 15, 2008

Pronounce it as you will, Israeli or Ashkenazi, but there is a growing awareness of the issue of Yoshon, referring literally to “old wheat” – crops that were planted and took root before 16 Nissan. Yoshon is applicable to the five grains: wheat, oats, spelt, rye and barley.
This all begins with the Biblical commandment from the parsha of Emor, where the Torah speaks of the Omer offering, which in Temple times released the new flour so-to-speak, making it permissible for use.
The Torah states “in all your dwelling places,” from which most of the Rishonim learned makes adherence to yoshon applicable everywhere, not only in Israel. Due to less sophisticated food manufacturing processes, lack of availability and other circumstances, Ashkenazim were less stringent as to adhering to this but Sephardic Jews have been stricter in their adherence.
Of late, there has been a marked increase in adherence to yoshon, and many Sabbath Observant Jews are now careful to only buy and eat products certified as “yoshon,” containing old wheat, the permitted crop. On the east coast in America today, one can also find many eateries and caterers certified regarding yoshon as well as other aspects of kashrut.
The good news, all items produced and sold in Jerusalem which bear a badatz supervision from one of the old established agencies is guaranteed to be yoshon, alleviating any concerns for those who wish to take on this added mitzvah.
For those of you abroad, there is much literature available and one only needs to ‘Google it’ for in-depth articles and practical guidelines towards the observance of yoshon. One site with a wealth of practical information as well as offering a free online PDF file is the Star-K Online, a well-established and trusted certifying agency. (http://www.star-k.org/) .
The Star-k document addresses yoshon issues around the world, including the United States, Europe, Israel and other areas.
The Star-K does a splendid job explaining the differences between winter and summer wheat, as well as which baked good usually are manufactured with winter wheat only, making life considerably less complicated – at least concerning a number of items.
The site also offers online videos with basic instruction regarding inspection of fruits and vegetables for insect infestation and an ‘ask the rabbi’ feature to write in with general kashrut questions.
One can also ‘ask the rabbi’ on the OU website (www.oukosher.org/index.php/consumer/ask )
Or the Star-K
(http://www.star-k.org/comments_questions.asp)
A number of agencies also offer kosher alerts. This includes;
1. OU (http://www.oukosher.org/index.php/consumer/alerts)
2. Kof-K (http://www.kof-k.org/kosheralerts.php)
3. Star-K (http://www.star-k.org/sksubscribe.asp)
Today, with an increasingly complicated world, we are fortunate to have the internet which brings a wealth of reliable information to our fingertips. A word of caution however, one must be careful to access websites of reliable kashrut agencies when using information to make kashrut decisions. The three mentioned above are just a number of the agencies available outside of Israel. There are many more, each offering its own unique style, seeking to provide the kosher-conscious consumer with information to enable us to enjoy without compromising.
Yes, this primarily addresses kashrut outside of Israel, but nonetheless contributes to overall awareness regarding what we ingest.
The main point of the posting is an extremely brief introduction to yoshon and the good news – it is relatively easy in Jerusalem.
I think that it is also worthy of pointing out that while there is a commendable increase in awareness of yoshon, once again, many visiting the Holy City of Jerusalem let their guard down and fall victim to less-than-reliable eateries and we must work in unison to raise the community’s level of kosher awareness.

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