8 – Pesaĥ Kashrut

1. Matza Ashira (“Egg Matza”)

The ĥametz that the Torah forbids is comprised of flour and water. If flour was kneaded with fruit juice – even if the dough sits a full day and rises – it is not considered ĥametz since rising of this kind is different from the type forbidden by the Torah. The category of “fruit juice” (“mei peirot”) includes wine, honey, milk, oil, and egg, in addition to all juices squeezed from a fruit, like apple or berry juice. Since fruit juice does not cause dough to become ĥametz, one may knead, bake, and eat such dough on Pesaĥ. Nevertheless, one would not fulfill the mitzva of matza on the first night of Pesaĥ with it, because the Torah calls matza “leĥem oni” (“poor man’s bread”), and matza made from fruit juice is “matza ashira (“rich matza” – colloquially known in English as “egg matza”), since it possesses more than the taste of just flour and water.

If a drop of water gets mixed in with the fruit juice, it can cause the dough to become ĥametz. Moreover, according to many poskim, the combination of water and fruit juice actually expedites the leavening process. Thus, in order to avoid such doubts, the Sages prohibited kneading dough with a mixture of fruit juice and water during Pesaĥ (SA 462:1-3).

The Ashkenazic custom is to avoid eating anything made of dough kneaded with fruit juice out of concern that water mixed with the fruit juice causing the dough to become ĥametz. Furthermore, it takes into account the opinion of Rashi, who disagrees with most Rishonim and maintains that fruit juice alone can cause something to become ĥametz on the rabbinic level. Although in principle it is possible to follow the lenient ruling of the vast majority of poskim, Ashkenazic custom, which should not be altered, is nevertheless strict, except in the case of the elderly and ill, where the custom is to be lenient (Rema 462:4). Nowadays, many Sephardic poskim also rule stringently, because it is known that water and other ingredients are generally added to fruit juice, increasing the likelihood that the egg matza became ĥametz (R. Mordechai Eliyahu).[1]

[1]. There are two issues here: The first is whether flour mixed with fruit juice can become ĥametz, and the second is whether, in a case where water was added to the dough, one may knead the dough while being careful that it does not become ĥametz.

The first issue is summarized in Birur Halakha on Pesaĥim 35a, s.v. “mei peirot ein maĥmitzin.” According to Rashi and those who agree with him, a flour and fruit juice mixture can become ĥametz nuksheh (see above 2:5), which is rabbinically forbidden. Conversely, most Rishonim maintain that flour mixed with fruit juice alone never becomes ĥametz, but if any water got into the mixture, the mixture can become ĥametz. There is a dispute about the severity of this ĥametz: According to Rambam, it is ĥametz gamur, and according to Rabbeinu Tam it is ĥametz nuksheh. Pri Megadim states that all agree it becomes ĥametz gamur when the majority of liquid in the mixture is water (BHL 462:2 s.v. “memaharim”). See the book Matza Ashira 5:7-8.

The second issue is explained in Birur Halakha on Pesaĥim 36a, which cites a tannaitic dispute about matza ashira on Pesaĥ. According to Rif and Rambam, the halakha follows Rabbi Akiva that one is permitted to knead flour in a mix of fruit juice and water provided that one takes caution to prevent the mixture from becoming ĥametz, just as one would with a standard flour-water mixture. This is also the opinion of R. Natronai Gaon and Me’iri. On the other hand, many Rishonim maintain that one should not knead flour with fruit juice and water, since it turns into ĥametz faster than does flour and water. There is a dispute about what to do be-di’avad. According to R. Hai Gaon and Behag, the halakha follows Rabban Gamliel that one is required to burn the kneaded dough. According to Rabbeinu Ĥananel, Ritz Gi’at, and Rosh, the halakha follows the Sages that if one bakes the dough very quickly, he is permitted to eat it. This is the opinion that SA accepts (462:2). The Ashkenazic custom is to be strict out of concern for Rashi’s opinion that flour and fruit juice alone can become ĥametz, or out of concern that some water will mix with the fruit juice.

The parameters of what is considered water and what is considered fruit juice are discussed in SA 462:3 and 7 and §466. The entire topic is summarized in detail in Encyclopedia Talmudit entry “Ĥametzpp. 89-99.

Regarding the Sephardic custom, R. Mordechai Eliyahu had a long-standing opposition to certifying matza ashira as kosher for Pesaĥ out of concern that the fruit juice has been mixed with water or a leavening agent. (There are also grounds to forbid this because it generates activity that mimics the process of becoming ĥametz, as explained by Maharam Halawa on Pesaĥim 28a and Matza Ashira p. 178.) Over time, it became apparent that this concern was justified, and water and occasionally leavening agents are added to fruit juice. Nevertheless, some authorities rule leniently; according to them, these leavening agents do not cause the dough to become ĥametz. This ruling appears in Yabi’a Omer 9:42 and Shema Shlomo 4:13-17. However, according to many authorities these leavening agents are forbidden by the Torah, or at least rabbinically, and therefore they prohibit Sephardim from eating factory-produced matza ashira on Pesaĥ.

2. Becoming Ĥametz Once It Has Been Baked, and the Status of Matza Sheruya (Soaked Matza; “Gebrokts”)

Once matza has been completely baked, the flour in it loses the capacity to become ĥametz, even if it is soaked in water for a long time. An indication that the matza is fully baked is that a crust has formed on its surface and that it breaks cleanly, with no threads of unbaked dough extending from it. Thus, it is permitted to soak matza in soup, and an elderly or sick person who cannot eat dry matza on the Seder night may soften matza by soaking it in water (SA 461:4 and below 16:29). Likewise, if the matza was ground into flour, it is permitted to knead it with water; one need not worry about it becoming ĥametz because, as mentioned, once it has been thoroughly baked, it cannot (SA 463:3). Therefore, one may bake cakes from the five species of grain during Pesaĥ, or cook various dishes – such as gefilte fish and matza balls – that contain matza meal.

Yet there are some who avoid soaking fully-baked matza in water, lest some of the flour was not kneaded properly and remained unbaked, and soaking the matza will cause the unbaked dough to become ĥametz. They likewise fear that some flour may have stuck to the matza after the baking process, and if the matza is soaked in water, this flour will become ĥametz. There is yet another reason to be strict about matza meal: an unlearned person might confuse matza meal with real flour and end up violating the prohibition of ĥametz on Pesaĥ. Ĥasidim accept this stringency and refrain from eating matza that has been soaked, or “gebrokts.”

The poskim, however, nearly unanimously agree that one need not be stringent, since it can be assumed that the kneading was thorough, leaving no flour unkneaded or unbaked. This is the custom of Sephardic and non-Ĥasidic Ashkenazic Jews. Today, even some Ĥasidic Jews are lenient because, due to the popular practice of baking thin matzot, there is no longer any concern that some of the flour was not properly baked. Likewise, there is no concern that flour may have gotten stuck to the matza, since matza bakeries are careful to separate the area where flour is handled from the area where the matza comes out of the oven. MB 458:4 states: “Although in principle there is no reason for concern about this, and it is permitted to eat soaked matza, one should not mock conscientious people who choose to be stringent.”[2]

[2]. Pesaĥim 39b states: “These are the things that cannot become ĥametz: baked items….” Rambam rules accordingly in MT, Laws of Ĥametz and Matza 5:5, and this is the consensus of the Rishonim. The sign that something is completely baked is that it has a crust on the outside and that it breaks cleanly, with no threads of dough extending (these two standards are identical, as per MB 461:15 and SHT 23 ad loc.). SAH 463:3 states that a baked item cannot become ĥametz and one may cook with matza meal. However, responsum §6 at the end of SAH states that matza meal is only permissible if one is absolutely certain that all of the flour was fully baked, and one should be concerned that perhaps not all of the flour was fully baked or that some flour stuck to the matzot after baking. SAH concludes that one should not reprimand the masses who are lenient since they have acceptable authorities on which to rely, but one who is stringent is commendable. Regarding matza meal, Knesset Ha-gedola §461 recounts that a woman once saw her neighbor, the rabbi’s wife, cooking and frying with matza meal and mistakenly assumed that it was permissible to use actual flour on Pesaĥ. When the town’s rabbis heard what had happened, they banned matza meal because of marit ayin (see Tur §463). Pri Ĥadash and many other Aĥaronim disagreed with this ban; see also She’elat Yaavetz 2:65 citing the author’s father (Ĥakham Zvi) and Sha’arei Teshuva §460, cited in MB 458:4. In Ma’aseh Rav §183 it is written that one is permitted to make kufta’ot (dumplings). See Encyclopedia Talmudit entry “Ĥametz” pp. 83-84. Kaf Ha-ĥayim 461:31 mentions the different opinions of the Aĥaronim, and concludes: “Where the custom is to be lenient, one may be lenient, since there is basis for this opinion, but where there is no custom, one should be stringent.” It adds: “There is no concern about rekikim (“flatbreads”).” Our matzot are “rekikim.Yeĥaveh Da’at 1:21 rules leniently le-khatĥila and states that one who was stringent because he thought that this is the halakha erred and may switch to the lenient practice without performing hatarat nedarim (the annulment of vows). However, one who accepted the stringency (without saying “bli neder”) because he wanted to go beyond the letter of the law and now wishes to be lenient should first perform hatarat nedarim.

In practice, many people of Ĥasidic descent no longer observe the stringency of gebrokts. This is because contemporary matzot are very thin and our ovens are very strong. If one’s father was lenient in this matter, one need not perform hatarat nedarim, even if he is from a Ĥasidic family. However, if one’s father was stringent and he wants to be lenient, he should perform hatarat nedarim and make sure not to insult his father.

The details of practicing the stringency of gebrokts: Those who do not eat gebrokts may be lenient when it comes to children or sick people, since soaking matza is not considered making ĥametz on Pesaĥ. Additionally, Jews in the Diaspora who keep gebrokts customarily make matza balls on the eighth day of Pesaĥ to show that matza sheruya is not fully prohibited. They prepare the matza balls on Ĥol Ha-mo’ed but do not otherwise eat off the dishes used to prepare the gebrokts. She’arim Metzuyanim Be-halakha 113:7 allows using utensils in which matza was soaked. On the other hand, Responsa Kinyan Torah 2:87 states that one may not even soak matza for children or sick people.

As far as soaking the matza in fruit juice, SAH (op cit.) states that one need not be stringent, and indeed the widespread custom is to soak matza in wine and spread various spreads on matza. Kinyan Torah 2:87 is stringent regarding this as well. See the extended discussion in Piskei Teshuvot 458:5-7.

Sha’arei Teshuva 460:10 states that even according to those who keep gebrokts one may dip the matza in water and eat it immediately, before it could conceivably become ĥametz. Those who are stringent about dipping matza in fruit juice are stringent about this as well.

3. Sephardic and Ashkenazic Approaches to Keeping Kosher on Pesaĥ

In general, there are two fundamental approaches to kashrut on Pesaĥ. According to most poskim, the laws of ĥametz on Pesaĥ are no different than the laws of all other forbidden foods, with one exception: all other forbidden foods are batel be-shishim (rendered insignificant when constituting less than one sixtieth of the volume of a mixture), whereas ĥametz is not. However, all other laws of mixtures apply to ĥametz on Pesaĥ. Therefore, when there is no halakhic reason to suspect that a food mixture has absorbed the taste of ĥametz, it is kosher for Pesaĥ. Likewise, where an individual posek is stringent and the great majority of poskim are lenient, halakha follows the lenient opinion.

However, Ashkenazic Jews are customarily very strict about ĥametz, often showing concern for a stringent opinion even against the lenient majority and practicing caution where general halakhic principles indicate no reason to do so. Nevertheless, Ashkenazic custom also places a limit to its stringencies, and poskim are careful not to pile restrictions upon existing restrictions. The general tendency, though, is to show concern for every uncertainty. The basis for this approach is the Sages’ ruling that even a drop of ĥametz is forbidden; thus, if a mere crumb of ĥametz renders its entire mixture forbidden, so too individual halakhic opinions should be taken into account.

This explains the consistent difference between the rulings of Shulĥan Arukh, which follow general halakhic principles, and those of Rema, which account, le-khatĥila, for the stringent opinions. Nonetheless, in cases of pressing need Rema adopts the lenient approach, since halakha fundamentally accords with most poskim.[3]

In general, Sephardim follow Shulĥan Arukh and Ashkenazim follow Rema. However, some Sephardic poskim tend to be stringent, and their rulings are accepted in some Sephardic communities.[4]

[3]. Here is brief overview of the major disputes between SA and Rema: 1) In 447:4, regarding the dispute among the Rishonim about ĥozer ve-ne’or (see above 7:4), SA rules that the ĥametz does not “reawaken,” taking the lenient approach in the case of a rabbinic law, whereas Rema rules strictly that ĥametz in a dry mixture  “reawakens,” though not in a fluid mixture. 2) In 447:5, regarding a food that was not guarded for Pesaĥ but there is no indication that it may have become forbidden for Pesaĥ: according to SA it is kosher, and according to Rema it is not. 3) In 447:10, regarding ĥametz that is noten ta’am li-fgam: according to SA and most poskim, it is kosher on Pesaĥ (especially since the uncertainty relates to a rabbinic law), and according to Rema it is prohibited. 4) In 451:6, regarding the proper method for koshering utensils: according to SA, we determine the method based on the main use of the utensil, and according to Rema we determine the method based on the most severe usage. 5) In 451:11, regarding koshering a frying pan: according to SA, it may be koshered in boiling water (hagala), and according to Rema, it is koshered in fire (light libun). 6) In 451:16 and 17, regarding koshering ĥametz pounding and kneading utensils: according to SA, they are koshered via hagala, and according to Rema, they are koshered via light libun. 7) In 453:1, the well-known custom of kitniyot. 8) In 462:1, regarding egg matza: according to SA, it is kosher, and according to Rema, we are concerned that perhaps a drop of water mixed in with the fruit juice, causing it to become ĥametz. Rema states in 462:4 that we are only lenient in extreme cases, for sick people. 9) In 467:9, regarding whole, uncracked kernels of wheat or barley that are found in a cooked dish: according to SA, the dish is permissible, and according to Rema, it is prohibited. 10) In 467:10 and 447:1, regarding a cracked kernel of wheat that is found in a cooked dish: according to SA, one may sell the dish to a gentile, excluding the value of the wheat kernel, and according to Rema, he must burn the entire dish. 11) The custom of the Ĥasidim is to prohibit gebrokts.

[4]. Some Sephardic poskim are stringent like Rema, as Kaf Ha-ĥayim states in 447:86, 88, and 119. Also, Zekhor Le-Avraham states at the beginning of the laws of Pesaĥ that the Sephardim have the practice to be stringent like Rema “to the extent that when it comes to Pesaĥ, we are Ashkenazim.” This is echoed by additional Sephardic poskim. On the other hand, in extenuating circumstances even Rema rules to be lenient in accordance with SA (in most cases).

4. Principles of Kosher Supervision on Pesaĥ

There is a fundamental question regarding the laws of kashrut on Pesaĥ: what is the status of foods that are not normally made with ĥametz all year round? Are they kosher for Pesaĥ as they are, without any special supervision, or must we consider the possibility that they were somehow mixed with ĥametz and should not be eaten on Pesaĥ?

According to Shulĥan Arukh, as long as there is no real concern that some ĥametz fell into this food or that it has absorbed the taste of ĥametz by being cooked in a pot in which ĥametz was cooked recently, there is no need to suspect that the food contains ĥametz.

However, Rema writes that Ashkenazic custom is preferably to avoid eating specific products without special supervision for Pesaĥ. This is because ĥametz is used throughout the year, and we are not generally cautious about it, so we suspect that some of it may have fallen unnoticed into these particular foods. We are also concerned that the foods may have been unwittingly cooked in ĥametz pots.

In practice, all kashrut organizations today tend to follow the stringent ruling of Rema and do not certify foods for Pesaĥ unless due caution to avoid ĥametz was exercised during the food’s preparation. Perhaps this is the way one must act today even according to Shulĥan Arukh, because all industrially produced foods contain a variety of ingredients, and there is concern that one of them is not kosher for Pesaĥ. Therefore, during Pesaĥ, one must be careful not to eat any factory food products that are not certified kosher for Pesaĥ.

Where the facts of a case are not in doubt, there are still often practical differences between the rulings of Shulĥan Arukh and Rema. Although fundamentally the law accords with Shulĥan Arukh, the tendency today is to be stringent so that food will be kosher for all communities. This is the appropriate practice when it is not overly difficult to be stringent. However, when stringency causes significant loss, there is room to support those who follow Shulĥan Arukh.[5]

[5]. The issue of ĥozer ve-ne’or lies at the heart of this question. Those who are stringent are concerned that a crumb of ĥametz fell into a food before Pesaĥ, and that when Pesaĥ begins ĥametz “reawakens” and causes the entire mixture to become forbidden (Rema 447:4 based on several Ashkenazic Rishonim, and Radbaz 1:487). However, according to the opinion that ĥametz is not ĥozer ve-ne’or, even if a crumb had fallen into the mixture, it would have been batel before Pesaĥ and does not reawaken on Pesaĥ. Moreover, Pri Ĥadash states that even according to the opinion that ĥametz is ĥozer ve-ne’or there is room to be lenient in this case, since there is no reason to suspect that a crumb of ĥametz fell into the mixture. Furthermore, all agree that the prohibition of eating a food into which a drop of ĥametz fell is rabbinic, and according to She’iltot, even ĥametz is batel be-shishim.

There is another concern that one cooked the food in ĥametz utensils, and the food absorbed some of the ĥametz taste from the utensils. However, those who are lenient hold that there is no reason to suspect this, since it is assumed that most utensils have not been used within twenty-four hours and would then not influence the taste of the dish in a positive way (and would not make the dish prohibited). Furthermore, even if the utensils had been used within twenty-four hours of cooking the dish, ĥametz before Pesaĥ is permissible, thus the cooked dish is a “nat bar nat” (the pot absorbed the taste of the ĥametz and in turn, passed the taste on to the cooked dish) of permissible food, which is permitted; and see Yeĥaveh Da’at 1, 11 and in the notes. This fundamental dispute is dependent on other issues, including ones that involve sharp foods (davar ĥarif) and their interaction with absorbed tastes; and see MB 447:5.

5. Milk from an Animal That Ate Ĥametz

One issue that the foremost Aĥaronim dealt with is the status of milk which came from a cow that ate ĥametz. Clearly the milk itself does not contain ĥametz, for it was digested and completely transformed to the point that it is no longer considered ĥametz at all. However, the cow was able to produce milk by virtue of the ĥametz, and since it is forbidden to derive benefit from ĥametz, perhaps it is forbidden to benefit from milk produced by the virtue of ĥametz.

The poskim agree that milk obtained from a cow before the onset of the prohibition of ĥametz is kosher for Pesaĥ, because one is allowed to derive benefit from ĥametz before Pesaĥ. Just as it is permissible to sell ĥametz before Pesaĥ and use the money to buy food for Pesaĥ, so too it is permissible to feed a cow ĥametz before Pesaĥ in order to produce milk that will be consumed on Pesaĥ.

The disagreement concerns milk from a gentile’s cow that ate ĥametz after the onset of the prohibition. Some poskim take a lenient stance, contending that since the ĥametz prohibition does not apply to the animal of a gentile, its milk is not considered produced in a forbidden manner. Furthermore, ĥametz alone does not cause milk to be produced. Rather, it must be combined with other foods and processed by the animal’s body. Since the ĥametz is only one component, it is not prohibited. On the other hand, some poskim rule stringently that as long as ĥametz is a factor causing the production of the milk, the milk is forbidden. Others say that if twenty-four hours have passed since the cow ate ĥametz, the milk is kosher.

If the animal owned by a Jew was fed ĥametz in violation of halakha, one may not drink its milk, firstly because it is forbidden for the animal’s owner to derive benefit from ĥametz, and secondly because one may not assist those who violate the Torah.[6] The same applies to eggs and meat.

During Pesaĥ, Tnuva, a major Israeli dairy producer (and perhaps others) only accepts milk from dairy farms that have been made kosher for Pesaĥ and whose cows are not fed ĥametz. In this case, it is unnecessary to be scrupulous and buy milk products before Pesaĥ, because even dairy products manufactured on Pesaĥ are completely kosher for the duration of the holiday.[7]

[6]. A cow’s milk is the product of two factors: the cow’s body and the food it eats. If the cow ate ĥametz, the status of the milk is subject to the tannaitic dispute (AZ 48b) about something that is produced by multiple factors (“zeh ve-zeh gorem”). One disputant forbids and the other permits. SA YD 142:11 states that something that is produced by a combination of two factors is permissible. Accordingly, the milk of a cow that ate ĥametz is permissible.However, MA 445:5 (as well as Taz) states that since we are stringent about ĥametz, maintaining that even a drop renders a mixture forbidden, it follows that something produced by a combination of two factors is forbidden if one of them is ĥametz. Most poskim, including SA, Shakh, and Gra, maintain even in the case of ĥametz zeh ve-zeh gorem” is permitted. SAH (445:10 and Kuntrus Aĥaron) concludes that the consensus of most poskim is to be lenient, and one may certainly rely on this consensus in a situation of significant loss or an extenuating circumstance. This is also the view recorded in BHL 445:2.

Some, however, argue that regardless of one’s position on zeh ve-zeh gorem, milk from a gentile’s cow that ate ĥametz is permitted. As explained in Beit Ephraim §35 (cited in Sha’arei Teshuva at the end of §448), since ĥametz is permissible for a gentile on Pesaĥ, we do not view the milk from his cow as having been produced by something from which one is forbidden to benefit. Nishmat Adam §9 permits on different grounds: MA’s stringency only applies when the ĥametz is intact, unlike in the case of the milk. Responsa Mahari Aszod §127 and Responsa Maharam Schick §§212 and 222 echo the same idea and state that the milk of the gentile’s animal that ate ĥametz is kosher on Pesaĥ. Igrot Moshe  1:147 states at length that even if the gentile’s cow ate only ĥametz, its milk is permissible even according to the strict opinions.

On the other hand, Pri Megadim (in Eshel Avraham on §448) is concerned about causing benefit that derives from ĥametz. Thus, there is still uncertainty if less than twenty-four hours passed between when the cow ate ĥametz and the milking (if more than twenty-four hours passed, the milk is permissible). Yeshu’ot Yaakov also states that one should preferably use milk that was extracted from the cow more than twenty-four hours after the cow ate ĥametz, but if less than twenty-four hours passed, the milk is still permissible as long as the cow ate permissible foods in addition to the ĥametz (because of zeh ve-zeh gorem; see MB 448:33). Some authorities ruled stringently: Kitzur SA 117:13 cites both opinions and concludes: “One who guards his soul should be strict, and especially in places where the prevalent custom is to be stringent, God forbid one should be lenient.” Arugot Ha-bosem §138 states that even according to those who permit the milk, a righteous person (“ba’al nefesh”) should refrain from drinking it, since it has negative spiritual effects. Ben Ish Ĥai (Year One, Tzav 42) states that one should not drink milk from a gentile’s cow out of concern that the gentile fed it ĥametz. R. Ĥayim Palachi writes similarly in Ru’aĥ Ĥayim 448:1.

If the cow ate ĥametz before the ĥametz became prohibited and was milked after the ĥametz became prohibited, the vast majority of poskim maintain that the milk is kosher for Pesaĥ. Sdei Ĥemed mentions the opinion of Rinun Yitzĥak forbidding the milk of a cow that ate ĥametz before Pesaĥ and was milked after the ĥametz became forbidden, and states that this goes too far, since all other poskim say that this milk would be permissible. Nonetheless, because of this opinion some act stringently and only purchase dairy products before Pesaĥ. Sdei Ĥemed expands this topic in Ma’arekhet Ĥametz U-matza 2:4, and see Kaf Ha-ĥayim 448:113 as well.

[7]. According to Nishmat Adam and Igrot Moshe OĤ  1:147, if a Jew feeds his animal ĥametz on Pesaĥ, the animal’s milk is kosher for Pesaĥ. Nonetheless, many others are stringent, not only because of zeh ve-zeh gorem, but because the Jew assists in the violation of a prohibition (“mesayei’a”). In fact, I heard from R. Weitman, the rabbi of Tnuva, that all dairy products produced on Pesaĥ are made from the milk of cows that did not eat ĥametz, so that the milk will be acceptable to everyone and can be bought on Pesaĥ. Another potential problem was that straw and possibly some grain might stick to the cows’ bodies as they wallow in mud, and these grains might accidentally get mixed into the milk. If the milk was produced before Pesaĥ, the taste of the grain is batel be-shishim even if it found its way into the milk, and since this is a liquid mixture even Rema (447:4) would agree that the taste of the ĥametz is not ĥozer ve-ne’or. If the grain fell into the milk on Pesaĥ, however, it is not batel. Although in the present case it is uncertain that any grain fell in, it would nevertheless be commendable to buy dairy products before Pesaĥ. However, I heard from R. Weitman that Tnuva recently introduced the practice of filtering all the milk very thoroughly right after the milking, so that no grain that falls in would have enough time to flavor the milk. Thus, one may purchase dairy products on Pesaĥ even according to the strictest opinions.

6. Meat and Eggs

The status of beef and chicken in this regard is the same as that of milk. If the animal was slaughtered before Pesaĥ, there is no halakhic problem, even if it had eaten ĥametz. However, since the stomach may contain undigested leavened barley grains, its contents must be thrown out. If a gentile’s animal was fed ĥametz and slaughtered during Pesaĥ, some poskim forbid consuming its meat, while others are lenient. It is proper to be stringent and not buy the meat of a Jew’s animal that was fed ĥametz on Pesaĥ.

In actuality, most meat is sold in packages, which thus must be labeled kosher for Pesaĥ. Even if the animal was slaughtered before Pesaĥ, when there is no problem if it was fed ĥametz, supervision is nevertheless required to ensure that no ĥametz fell into the meat between the slaughtering and the packaging.

The same applies to eggs: as long as the eggs were bought before Pesaĥ, they are entirely kosher for Pesaĥ; that the hens were fed ĥametz makes no difference because it was not prohibited when eaten. The halakhic status of an egg that comes from a hen that ate ĥametz on Pesaĥ depends who the owner is. If the hen belongs to a gentile, the poskim disagree about the permissibility of the eggs. If the hen belongs to a Jew, even though some poskim are lenient, it is proper to be stringent and refrain from buying such eggs. In practice, there is no supervision on eggs laid during Pesaĥ, so it is best to buy eggs laid before Pesaĥ.[8]

Another problem that has arisen pertains to the markings stamped on each egg. There was some concern that these markings contain ĥametz and that a drop of it might fall into Pesaĥ food. However, I heard from Tnuva’s R. Ze’ev Weitman that all eggs brought to market via Israel’s Egg Production Council (which does not include the black market) are marked before Pesaĥ with a stamp that contains no ĥametz (the relevant mark is a series of stars).

[8]. Nevertheless, those who are lenient and purchase eggs on Pesaĥ have committed no transgression, even if the eggs are not certified kosher for Pesaĥ. As noted, even though a Jew owns the chickens and fed them ĥametz, there are lenient authorities. Furthermore, most of the food chickens consume on Pesaĥ is not ĥametz, so even according to the stringent opinions it is unclear that these eggs are forbidden. Thus, there are two uncertainties (“sfek sfeika”) about a rabbinic prohibition.

7. Medicines on Pesaĥ

Medicines are the subject of some of the most common questions on Pesaĥ. There is concern that pills contain wheat-based starch. The purpose of the starch is to solidify and harden the pills. Had the starch been produced from potatoes or kitniyot, there would be no problem even for Ashkenazim, as for medicinal purposes one may swallow pills containing kitniyot. But what about starch extracted from a type of grain that can become ĥametz? It must be emphasized that a dangerously ill person whose treatment requires eating ĥametz has a mitzva to eat ĥametz. Saving a life overrides the prohibition against eating ĥametz. The question applies to an ill person whose life is not at risk.

The answer depends on the taste of the medicine: if it is flavored, like syrup, lozenges, or chewables, then one must ascertain that it is kosher for Pesaĥ. In case of doubt, its use is forbidden. However, if the medicine is bitter or tasteless to the point that it is not fit as food, it may be swallowed on Pesaĥ. Even if the starch was derived from wheat, since it has been mixed with various bitter substances it is inedible and has lost its status as ĥametz. As we have seen, ĥametz that was rendered unfit for a dog’s consumption before Pesaĥ is no longer considered ĥametz and may be kept on Pesaĥ. The fact that one wants to swallow the medicine does not demonstrate that the ĥametz in the medicine is important to him, since the medicine, not the ĥametz, is significant for him, and the ĥametz itself is bitter and unfit for consumption. The ĥametz in it is thus batel and not prohibited (Ĥazon Ish, Mo’ed 116:8; Igrot Moshe, OĤ  2:92).

Some meticulously observant people try to avoid even bitter medicines that contain ĥametz. They show concern for the opinion of the few poskim who maintain that medicine is not considered unfit for animal consumption since we deem it significant, and it is thus rabbinically prohibited. Other poskim permit bitter medicines that contain ĥametz starch for one who is bedridden or whose entire body is in pain, but rule stringently for one suffering from mild aches and pains.

However, most poskim maintain that bitter medicines containing ĥametz may be taken by any ill person, even only to reduce mild pain, as a prophylactic, or to fortify the body.

Practically speaking, if one is uncertain whether certain bitter or tasteless medicines contain wheat starch, he may swallow them without ensuring that they are free of wheat starch. As we have seen, most poskim maintain that medicines rendered unfit for animal consumption before Pesaĥ may be consumed during Pesaĥ even if they are known to contain ĥametz. Even one who prefers to comply with the stringent opinion on this issue need not be strict if he is uncertain whether the medicine contains ĥametz. This is especially true nowadays, when we know that potato and corn starch are used more widely than wheat starch. Thus, in practice, one may consume bitter or tasteless medicines on Pesaĥ without ascertaining whether they contain ĥametz. When one knows for certain that a particular medicine contains ĥametz starch, he may choose to rely on the lenient opinion of most poskim or the stringent minority.[9]

[9]. Ĥametz that was rendered unfit for a dog’s consumption prior to Pesaĥ is no longer considered ĥametz, and according to Ha-ma’or, Ran, and other Rishonim it may even be eaten on Pesaĥ. Conversely, Rosh, Rabbeinu Yeruĥam, and other Rishonim maintain that this type of ĥametz is rabbinically prohibited, since by eating it the person assigns importance (“aĥshevei”) to it and shows that, for him, the food is still edible. Accordingly, SA 442:9 and MB 43 ad loc. rule that one may keep such an item over Pesaĥ since it is unfit for a dog’s consumption and thus not considered ĥametz. However, he may not eat it, since by eating it he assigns significance to it. Thus, according to Ha-ma’or and Ran one would certainly be permitted to swallow bitter ĥametz-containing pills on Pesaĥ, and even according to Rosh and those who agree with him it may be permissible, since the Aĥaronim debate whether swallowing ĥametz that is unfit for a dog’s consumption for medicinal purposes assigns significance to the ĥametz. Sha’agat Aryeh §75 states this indeed assigns significance to the ĥametz, whereas Ktav Sofer  §111 states that it does not impart significance. If the ĥametz is not the main ingredient in the pill, most Aĥaronim maintain that even Rosh would concede that swallowing a bitter pill does not impart significance to the ĥametz. See Ĥavalim Ba-ne’imim 5:4; Ĥazon Ish, Mo’ed 116:8; Igrot Moshe OĤ  2:92; Yeĥaveh Da’at 2:60; SSK 40:74; and many others.

However, it seems that SAH 442:22 derives from the case of tiryaka, an edible type of medicine, that Rosh would prohibit swallowing a pill as well. Most authorities, who are lenient, would differentiate between tiryaka, which is eaten by the ill, and medicines that are swallowed but not eaten. Moreover, even when the starch is from wheat flour, it generally did not have time to rise, and at worst would be classified as ĥametz nuksheh, which did not undergo a complete leavening and is only rabbinically prohibited. Since this ĥametz nuksheh is part of a mixture within a bitter pill, there is no reason to be stringent. Nevertheless, some incline toward stringency (Arugot Ha-bosem §99, and Atzei Ha-Levanon §19). As stated, some have written that these pills are permissible according to the letter of the law, but the holy people of Israel are customarily strict even about avoiding ĥametz mixed into a bitter pill (Tzitz Eliezer 10:25:20). On the other hand, Nishmat Avraham 1:466:1 states that most pills do not contain ĥametz at all. It is further stated there in the name of R. Ovadia Yosef that even though he writes in Yeĥaveh Da’at 2:60 that only a genuinely sick person may be lenient, if it is uncertain whether or not the pill contains ĥametz, there is no need to ascertain. As noted, the vast majority of poskim maintain that it is not at all prohibited to swallow a bitter pill, and even one with a minor ailment may take a pill that contains ĥametz rendered unfit for a dog before Pesaĥ started.

8. Citric Acid

Citric acid is used to flavor juices, jams, candies, and various food items. In the past it was produced from lemons and other fruit, but nowadays it is produced industrially from wheat flour.

Although during the production process the flour is initially mixed with water and may become ĥametz, at a later stage it loses its taste and appearance, is rendered unfit for a dog’s consumption, and thus loses its status as ĥametz. Some poskim therefore permit eating products containing citric acid on Pesaĥ (Yeĥaveh Da’at 2:62).

However, many poskim are stringent in this case. In their opinion, ĥametz only loses its status if it becomes unfit for a dog’s consumption due to spoilage. If it is intentionally rendered inedible so that it may be used to flavor foods, it is not nullified and is considered ĥametz for all purposes (Minĥat Yitzĥak 7:27; Or Le-Tziyon 1:34; Shevet Ha-Levi 4:47).

Rabbi She’ar Yashuv Cohen, the municipal rabbi of Haifa, investigated and found that there is no concern that citric acid is ĥametz. To begin with, the flour that starts the process does not become ĥametz since it sits in water for only six minutes – not enough time to become ĥametz. At this point, the starch is extracted from the mixture, and starch alone cannot become ĥametz. Moreover, citric acid is not produced from the wheat starch itself, but from molds that feed off a substance whose ingredients include a material extracted from the unleavened starch.[10]

[10]. This debate is very extensive, and the key questions are: is something that was batel be-shishim before Pesaĥ ĥozer ve-ne’or once Pesaĥ begins? Even if not, would a stabilizing agent (“davar ha-ma’amid”) be any different? And what if it is not the sole agent? See Yalkut Yosef, Mo’adim p. 358 which responds to Minĥat Yitzĥak’s criticism of R. Ovadia Yosef. Badatz and many other kosher-certification agencies are very strict about citric acid and similar products. Nevertheless, according to R. She’ar Yashuv Cohen’s long essay in Teĥumin vol. 1, it seems clear that there is no reason for concern that citric acid contains ĥametz. More precisely: the starch is first separated from the gluten by spinning the wheat flour in water for six minutes. As we know, it takes eighteen minutes for flour and water to become ĥametz, so the flour could not have become ĥametz in those six minutes. By then the starch has already been separated from the gluten, and it is well known that the leavening process takes place in the gluten. Thus once the starch has been isolated from the gluten, it can no longer become ĥametz. The starch is then heated to 140º Celsius until it liquefies as dextrose (also known as glucose). This heating process destroys the existing molecules and changes their composition. To dispel any doubt, an attempt was made to leaven this substance, but it was unsuccessful.

R. Halperin writes that at worst this substance can be considered ĥametz nuksheh, which is rabbinically prohibited, becomes batel in any mixture prior to Pesaĥ, and would be ĥozer ve-ne’or on Pesaĥ. According to R. She’ar Yashuv Cohen, this substance is not even considered ĥametz nuksheh, which is dough whose leavening process was halted after it began; the substance in question never even began the leavening process.

The liquid dextrose is then mixed with sulfur to destroy the enzymes in the glucose and render it inert and unable to ferment. Since it never had the chance to become ĥametz, it certainly will not become ĥametz in the future. This is the first stage of the process, which shows that the extracted starch does not become ĥametz. The next step is to place the liquid into large vats, to feed the molds. It is left until the mold has finished digesting all of the dextrose and excreted another substance: citric acid. Thus, citric acid is not a product of the starch, but a product of the mold. Just as if one used organic fertilizer that contained remnants of bread to fertilize vegetables, the vegetables would undoubtedly be kosher for Pesaĥ, certainly citric acid excreted by molds that digested a liquid that never became ĥametz in the first place would be kosher for Pesaĥ. This conclusion has major implications for other industrial ingredients that use wheat starch that never became ĥametz and that undergoes fundamental alterations before being reintegrated into food.

9. Soaps and Cosmetics

Poskim disagree whether body ointments that contain ĥametz may be used on Pesaĥ. While soaps, shampoos, and creams are not made from ĥametz, they sometimes contain grain alcohol or other ĥametz derivatives, leading to queries about their status on Pesaĥ.

Some say that applying an ointment is equivalent, by rabbinic enactment, to drinking. Consequently, even if the ĥametz in these products is not fit for a dog’s consumption, it retains the status of ĥametz because it is suitable for anointing, and thus it is forbidden to use them on Pesaĥ. Accordingly, one must use soaps, shampoos, and creams that are kosher for Pesaĥ.

Others maintain that the Sages only equated the application of ointment to drinking with regard to Yom Kippur and anointing with oil consecrated as teruma (priestly gift). All other Torah prohibitions relate to eating alone, not anointing. Although it is forbidden to derive benefit from ĥametz, the ĥametz in these products was rendered unfit for a dog’s consumption even before Pesaĥ began and thus lost the status of ĥametz. It is therefore permissible to derive benefit from them and apply them to the body during Pesaĥ.

Since this dispute relates to rabbinic law, the halakha accords with the lenient opinion, and meticulously observant individuals act stringently.

Distinctions must be made between four gradations of products containing ĥametz, of which the middle two are subject to dispute:

  1. Toothpastes must be certified kosher for Pesaĥ because they are flavored and thus like any other food product.
  2. Creams that are absorbed into the skin, flavorless lipstick, and perfumes that contain alcohol need not be certified kosher for Pesaĥ, in keeping with the lenient opinion, since they are not fit for consumption and generally do not contain ĥametz ingredients. Nonetheless, many choose to be stringent and buy creams and perfumes that are certified kosher for Pesaĥ.
  3. Soaps and shampoos warrant even more room for leniency because they are designed to clean, not to be absorbed into the skin. Nevertheless, some are stringent.
  4. Detergents, shoe polish, and the like do not require any kosher certification. Even dishwashing detergents need no certification because their taste is foul. Even if these substances were mixed with ĥametz, its taste was befouled before Pesaĥ and it is no longer considered ĥametz.[11]

[11]. The Rishonim disagree about the principle that equates anointing with drinking: some apply it only to Yom Kippur and teruma oil, while others hold that it applies to other prohibitions, though only on the rabbinic level. The question  arises with regard to soap made of lard, and many Aĥaronim tend toward stringency if the item is for enjoyment and leniently if it is needed for health reasons (see Yeĥaveh Da’at 4:53). They incline toward leniency if the lard’s taste has been befouled (AHS YD 117:29). Regarding Pesaĥ, there is a more stringent aspect, namely, that one is forbidden to derive any benefit from ĥametz, but there is also a more lenient aspect, namely, that the ĥametz lost its status when it became inedible before Pesaĥ, making it less strict than something that had been forbidden from the outset. In practice, Responsa Sho’el U-meishiv 3:2:146 states that one may keep soap that contains ĥametz over Pesaĥ since its taste has been befouled. It does not address whether or not the soap may be used on Pesaĥ. Responsa Divrei Malkiel 4:24:43 states that one may not use cosmetics that contain wheat-derived alcohol, since the alcohol helps spread their scent and is thus significant. The alcohol is not batel since it can be isolated from the rest of the mixture. Responsa Divrei Naĥum §56 states that the law follows the current situation, namely, that the taste of the ĥametz has been befouled, and the mixture is thus permissible. Ĥazon Ish, Demai 15:1 suggests that only something edible may not be used as an ointment. Igrot Moshe OĤ  3:62 rules leniently in the case of an ointment that contains ĥametz that is used for health purposes. Bedikat Ĥametz U-vi’uro 2:43 summarizes the topic and rules stringently unless it is uncertain whether a product contains ĥametz, in which case one may be lenient. It seems to me that even those who rule stringently should distinguish between fat-based soap and contemporary soaps: fat-based soaps are absorbed in the skin and may be considered ointments, whereas contemporary soaps merely clean and remove dirt from the body, but are not absorbed into it. I have thus distinguished between ointments and creams, which are absorbed into the body, and soaps and shampoos, which are not (though hair conditioner may be more akin to an ointment). In practice, I heard from R. Nachum Rabinovitch that he rules leniently regarding all products unfit for a dog’s consumption, as did his mentor, R. Pinchas Hirschprung. This is the opinion of R. Dov Lior as well.

In reality, the vast majority of cosmetic products produced in Israel do not contain wheat-derived alcohol. Even the majority of products produced abroad do not contain wheat-derived alcohol, since it is more expensive than potato-derived alcohol. However, a few products in fact contain wheat-derived alcohol, and according to the stringent views one should not use them on Pesaĥ. Still, when one has a product and is not sure whether it contains wheat-derived alcohol, even if he is normally stringent he may be lenient, based on a combination of several uncertainties and doubts.

Another issue arises regarding the use of products that contain wheat germ oil, which is a source of Vitamin E, since it is unclear whether liquids exuded by wheat are considered ĥametz. According to Rav Kook (Oraĥ Mishpat p. 129), even if these liquids are forbidden, they were already batel be-shishim before Pesaĥ and are not ĥozer ve-ne’or on Pesaĥ. Moreover, many authorities maintain that even if this liquid was considered ĥametz, since it is not fit for consumption it loses its status as ĥametz. Another issue arises regarding lotions, although it is not certain that wheat starch-based lotions are considered ĥametz, and moreover they are inedible. Therefore, in practice, one may be lenient and use any cosmetic product not fit for consumption.

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