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Peninei Halakha > Pesah > 08 – Laws of Kashrut on Pesaḥ

08 – Laws of Kashrut on Pesaḥ

01. Matza Ashira (“Egg Matza”)

The ḥametz 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 ḥametz 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 ḥametz, one may knead, bake, and eat such dough on Pesaḥ. Nevertheless, one would not fulfill the mitzva of matza on the first night of Pesaḥ with it, because the Torah calls matza “leḥem oni” (“poor man’s bread”), whereas 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, the dough can become ḥametz. 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 Pesaḥ (SA 462:1-3).

Ashkenazic custom is to prohibit eating anything made of dough kneaded with fruit juice out of concern that water mixed with the fruit juice, causing the dough to become ḥametz. 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 ḥametz 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 ḥametz (R. Mordechai Eliyahu).[1]

[1]. There are two sugyot that pertain to this issue: the first is whether flour mixed with fruit juice can become ḥametz, 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 ḥametz. The first issue relates to the law that “fruit juice does not cause ḥametz” (Pesaḥim 35a). According to Rashi and those who agree with him, a flour and fruit juice mixture can become ḥametz nuksheh, which is rabbinically forbidden. Most Rishonim maintain that flour mixed with fruit juice alone never becomes ḥametz, but if any water got into the mixture, the mixture can become ḥametz. There is a dispute about the severity of this ḥametz: according to Rambam, it is ḥametz gamur, and according to Rabbeinu Tam it is ḥametz nuksheh. Pri Megadim states that all agree it becomes ḥametz gamur when the majority of liquid in the mixture is water (BHL 462:2 s.v. “memaharim”). See Berur Halakha ad loc. and Matza Ashira (Alba) 5:7-8.

The second sugya, on Pesaḥim 36a, concerns a tannaitic dispute about matza ashira on Pesaḥ. According to Rif and Rambam, the halakha follows R. 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 ḥametz, just as one would with a standard flour-water mixture. This is also the opinion of R. Natronai Gaon and Me’iri. Against them, many Rishonim maintain that one should not knead flour with fruit juice and water, since it turns into ḥametz faster than does flour and water, but they disagree 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 Ḥananel, 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 ruling of SA 462:2.

Ashkenazic custom is to be strict out of concern for the view of Rashi and those who agree with him, who maintain that flour and fruit juice alone can become ḥametz, 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 (and see the Encyclopedia Talmudit entry “Ḥametz,pp. 89-99). Regarding Sephardic custom, R. Mordechai Eliyahu had a long-standing opposition to certifying matza ashira as kosher for Pesaḥ out of concern that the fruit juice has been mixed with water or substances that have the status of water, like an agent that causes the dough to rise. (There are also grounds to forbid this because it catalyzes an action that resembles leavening, as explained in Pesaḥim 28a, in the commentary of Maharam Ḥalawa, and in Matza Ashira, p. 178.) Over time, it became apparent that his concern was justified, and water and occasionally even agents that cause the dough to rise are added to fruit juice. Nevertheless, some authorities rule leniently; according to them, these leavening agents do not cause the dough to become ḥametz. This ruling appears in Yabi’a Omer 9:42 and Shema Shlomo 4:13-17. However, according to many authorities these agents are forbidden by the Torah, or at least rabbinically, and therefore they prohibit Sephardim from eating factory-produced matza ashira on Pesaḥ.

02. Becoming Ḥametz 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 ḥametz, 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. Since completely baked matza cannot become ḥametz, it is permitted to soak it in soup. 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 milled into flour, it is permitted to knead it with water; one need not worry about it becoming ḥametz 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 Pesaḥ 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 ḥametz. 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 ḥametz. There is yet another reason to be strict about matza meal: an unlearned person might confuse matza meal with flour and end up violating the prohibition of ḥametz on Pesaḥ. Ḥasidim accept this stringency and refrain from eating soaked matza, 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 Sephardim and non-Ḥasidic Ashkenazim. Today, even some Jews from Ḥasidic families are lenient because the common practice is to bake thin matzot, so 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. Although technically eating soaked matza is permitted le-khatḥila, one should not disparage those who practice this stringency.[2]

[2]. A baraita in Pesaḥim 39b states: “These are the things that cannot become ḥametz: baked items….” Rambam rules accordingly in MT, Laws of Ḥametz 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 ḥametz 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 may have 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 Pesaḥ. When the town’s rabbis heard what had happened, they banned matza meal because of marit ayin (see Tur §463). Pri Ḥadash and many other Aḥaronim disagreed with this ban; see also She’elat Yaavetz 2:65 citing the author’s father (Ḥakham Tzvi) 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 the Encyclopedia Talmudit entry “Ḥametz”, pp. 83-84. Many maintain that even according to the stringent view, there is no need to be concerned about thin matzot, like the ones we use (Kaf Ha-ḥayim 461:31). Yeḥaveh Da’at 1:21 rules leniently le-khatḥila 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 Ḥasidic descent no longer observe the stringency of gebrokts because today’s 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 Ḥasidic 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 ḥametz on Pesaḥ. Additionally, Jews in the Diaspora who keep gebrokts customarily make matza balls on the eighth day of Pesaḥ to show that matza sheruya is not fully prohibited. They prepare the matza balls on Ḥol 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 kelim in which matza was soaked. Responsa Kinyan Torah Be-halakha 2:87 rules stringently that one may not even soak matza for children or sick people.

As far as soaking 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 Be-halakha 2:87 is stringent regarding this as well. (See Piskei Teshuvot 458:5-7.) Sha’arei Teshuva 460:10 states that even those who are strict about gebrokts may dip matza in water and eat it immediately, before it could conceivably become ḥametz. Those who are stringent about dipping matza in fruit juice are stringent about this as well.

03. Sephardic and Ashkenazic Approaches to Keeping Kosher on Pesaḥ

In general, there are two fundamental approaches to the laws of kashrut on Pesaḥ. According to most poskim, the laws of ḥametz on Pesaḥ 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 ḥametz is not. However, all other laws of mixtures apply to ḥametz on Pesaḥ. Therefore, when there is no halakhic reason to suspect that a food mixture has absorbed the taste of ḥametz, it is kosher for Pesaḥ. Likewise, where an individual posek is stringent and the great majority of poskim are lenient, halakha follows the lenient opinion.

However, Ashkenazim are customarily very strict about ḥametz, 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 care is taken 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 ḥametz is forbidden; thus, if a mere crumb of ḥametz renders its entire mixture forbidden, so too individual halakhic opinions should be taken into account.

This is the root of the consistent difference between the rulings of Shulḥan Arukh, which follow general halakhic principles, and those of Rema, which account, le-khatḥila, 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 Shulḥan 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 ḥozer ve-ne’or, since it is an uncertainty about a case of rabbinic law, SA rules in accordance with the lenient view that it is not ḥozer ve-ne’or. Rema rules strictly that ḥametz in a dry mixture “reawakens,” though not in a fluid mixture. 2) In 447:5, regarding a food that was not guarded for Pesaḥ but there is no indication that it may have become forbidden for Pesaḥ: according to SA it is kosher, and according to Rema it is not. 3) In 447:10, regarding ḥametz that is noten ta’am li-fgam: according to SA and most poskim, it is kosher on Pesaḥ (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 kashering kelim: according to SA, we determine the method based on the main use of the kli, and according to Rema we determine the method based on the most severe usage. 5) In 451:11, regarding kashering a frying pan: according to SA, it may be kashered in boiling water (hagala), and according to Rema, it is kashered le-khatḥila in fire (light libun). 6) In 451:16 and 17, regarding kashering ḥametz pounding and kneading kelim: according to SA, they are kashered via hagala, and according to Rema, they are kashered 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 ḥametz. 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 Ḥasidim is to prohibit gebrokts.

[4]. Some Sephardic poskim are stringent like Rema, as Kaf Ha-ḥayim states in 447:86, 88, and 119. Also, Zekhor Le-Avraham states at the beginning of the laws of Pesaḥ that the Sephardim have the practice to be stringent like Rema “to the extent that when it comes to Pesaḥ, 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).

04. Principles of Kosher Supervision on Pesaḥ

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

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

However, Rema writes that Ashkenazic custom is preferably to avoid eating specific products without special supervision for Pesaḥ. This is because ḥametz 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 ḥametz pots.

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

Where the facts of a case are not in doubt, there are still often practical differences between the rulings of Shulḥan Arukh and Rema. Although fundamentally the law accords with Shulḥan 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 are grounds to encourage those who follow Shulḥan Arukh and the majority of poskim to continue following their practice.[5]

[5]. The issue of ḥozer ve-ne’or lies at the heart of this question. Those who are stringent are concerned that a crumb of ḥametz fell into a food before Pesaḥ, and that when Pesaḥ begins ḥametz “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 ḥametz is not ḥozer ve-ne’or, even if a crumb had fallen into the mixture, it would have been batel before Pesaḥ and does not reawaken on Pesaḥ. Moreover, Pri Ḥadash states that even according to the opinion that ḥametz is ḥozer ve-ne’or there is room to be lenient in this case, since there is no reason to suspect that a crumb of ḥametz fell into the mixture. Furthermore, all agree that the prohibition of eating a food into which a drop of ḥametz fell is rabbinic, and according to She’iltot, even ḥametz is batel be-shishim.

There is another concern that one cooked the food in ḥametz utensils, and it absorbed some of the ḥametz taste from the kelim. However, those who are lenient hold that there is no reason to suspect this, since it is assumed that most kelim have not been used within 24 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 kelim had been used within 24 hours of cooking the dish, ḥametz before Pesaḥ is permissible, thus the cooked dish is a “nat bar nat” (the pot absorbed the taste of the ḥametz and in turn, passed the taste on to the cooked dish) of permissible food, which is permitted; and see Yeḥaveh Da’at 1, 11 and in the notes. This fundamental dispute hinges on other issues, such as whether sharp food (davar ḥarif) restores and improves the taste absorbed in the kelim. (See Peninei Halakha: Kashrut 23:8, 12; MB on SA 447:5.)

05. Milk from an Animal That Ate Ḥametz

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

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

The dispute concerns milk from a gentile’s cow that ate ḥametz after the onset of the prohibition. Some are lenient, contending that since the ḥametz prohibition does not apply to the animal of a gentile, its milk is not considered produced in a forbidden manner. Furthermore, ḥametz alone does not cause milk to be produced. Rather, it must be combined with other foods and the animal’s biological processes. Since the ḥametz is only one factor, it is not prohibited. Against them, some poskim rule stringently that as long as ḥametz is a factor causing production of milk, the milk is forbidden. Others say that if 24 hours elapsed between the eating of ḥametz and the milking, the milk is kosher.

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

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

[6]. There are two factors in the production of milk: the cow’s physiology and the food it eats. If the cow ate ḥametz, the status of the milk is subject to the tannaitic dispute about something that is produced by multiple factors (“zeh ve-zeh gorem”), one of which is permitted and the other forbidden (Avoda Zara 48b). In practice, SA YD 142:11 rules that something that is produced by a combination of two factors is permissible. Accordingly, the milk of a cow that ate ḥametz is permissible.

However, MA 445:5 (as well as Taz) states that due to the stringency of ḥametz, which renders mixtures forbidden even in the smallest quantity, something produced by ḥametz and another factor is forbidden. Nevertheless, most poskim, including SA, Shakh, and Gra, maintain that even in the case of ḥametz zeh ve-zeh gorem” is permitted. SAH (445:10 and Kuntrus Aḥaron) concludes that the consensus of most poskim is to be lenient, and one may certainly be lenient 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 ḥametz is permitted. As explained in Beit Ephraim, OḤ 35 (cited in Sha’arei Teshuva at the end of §448), since ḥametz is permissible for a gentile on Pesaḥ, 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 ḥametz is intact, unlike in the case of the milk. Responsa Mahari Aszod §127 and Responsa Maharam Schick §§212 and 222 rule likewise. Igrot Moshe OḤ 1:147 states that even if the gentile feeds his cow only ḥametz, 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 ḥametz. Thus, there is still uncertainty if less than 24 hours passed between when the cow ate ḥametz and the milking (if more than 24 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 24 hours after the cow ate ḥametz, but if less than 24 hours passed, the milk is still permissible as long as the cow ate permissible foods in addition to the ḥametz (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.” Arugat Ha-bosem 2:138 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 Ḥai (Year One, Tzav 42) states that one should not drink milk from a gentile’s cow out of concern that the gentile fed it ḥametz. R. Ḥayim Palachi writes similarly in Ru’aḥ Ḥayim 448:1.

If the cow ate ḥametz before the ḥametz became prohibited and was milked after the ḥametz became prohibited, the vast majority of poskim maintain that the milk is kosher for Pesaḥ. Sdei Ḥemed mentions the opinion of Rinun Yitzḥak forbidding the milk of a cow that ate ḥametz before Pesaḥ and was milked after the ḥametz 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 Pesaḥ. Sdei Ḥemed expands this topic in Ma’arekhet Ḥametz U-matza 2:4, and see Kaf Ha-ḥayim 448:113 as well.

[7]. According to Nishmat Adam and Igrot Moshe OḤ 1:147, if a Jew feeds his animal ḥametz on Pesaḥ, the animal’s milk is kosher for Pesaḥ. 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 Pesaḥ are made from the milk of cows that did not eat ḥametz, so that the milk will be acceptable to everyone and can be bought on Pesaḥ. 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 Pesaḥ, 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 ḥametz is not ḥozer ve-ne’or. If the grain fell into the milk on Pesaḥ, 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 Pesaḥ. However, I heard from R. Weitman that Tnuva 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 Pesaḥ even according to the strictest opinions.

06. 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 Pesaḥ, there is no halakhic problem, even if it had eaten ḥametz. However, since the stomach may contain undigested leavened barley grains, its contents must be thrown out. If a gentile’s animal was fed ḥametz and slaughtered during Pesaḥ, some poskim forbid consuming its meat, while others are lenient. One should be stringent and not buy the meat of a Jew’s animal that was fed ḥametz on Pesaḥ.

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

The same applies to eggs: as long as the eggs were bought before Pesaḥ, they are entirely kosher for Pesaḥ; that the hens were fed ḥametz makes no difference because it was not prohibited when eaten. The halakhic status of an egg that comes from a hen that ate ḥametz on Pesaḥ 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, one must be stringent and refrain from buying such eggs. In practice, there is no supervision on eggs laid during Pesaḥ, so it is best to buy eggs laid before Pesaḥ.[8]

[8]. Nevertheless, those who are lenient and purchase eggs on Pesaḥ have committed no transgression, even if the eggs are not certified kosher for Pesaḥ. As noted, even though a Jew owns the chickens and fed them ḥametz, there are lenient authorities. Furthermore, most of the food chickens consume on Pesaḥ is not ḥametz, 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.

A problem also arose with regard to the markings stamped on each egg. Some are concerned that these markings contain ḥametz and that a drop of it might fall into Pesaḥ food. But I heard from Tnuva’s Rabbi 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 Pesaḥ with a stamp that contains no ḥametz. (The stamp’s pattern is several stars.)

07. Medicines on Pesaḥ

Medicines are the subject of some of the most common questions on Pesaḥ. For example, 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 ḥametz? It must be emphasized that a dangerously ill person whose treatment requires eating ḥametz has a mitzva to eat ḥametz. Saving a life overrides the prohibition against eating ḥametz. 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 Pesaḥ. In cases of uncertainty, it is forbidden to ingest them. Under pressing circumstances, if there is no way to clarify the uncertainty, one may be lenient (see the note).

However, if the medicine is bitter or tasteless to the point that it is not fit as food, it may be swallowed on Pesaḥ. 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 ḥametz. As we have seen, ḥametz that was rendered unfit for a dog’s consumption before Pesaḥ is no longer considered ḥametz and may be kept on Pesaḥ. The fact that one wants to swallow the medicine does not demonstrate that the ḥametz in the medicine is important to him, since the medicine, not the ḥametz, is significant for him, and the ḥametz itself is bitter and unfit for consumption. The ḥametz in it is thus batel and not prohibited (Ḥazon Ish, Mo’ed 116:8; Igrot Moshe, OḤ 2:92).

Some meticulously observant people try to avoid even bitter medicines that contain ḥametz. They show concern for the opinion of the few poskim who maintain that medicine is not considered unfit for a dog’s consumption since we deem it significant, and it is thus rabbinically prohibited. Other poskim permit swallowing bitter medicines that contain ḥametz starch for one who is bedridden or whose entire body is in pain, but rule stringently for one suffering from mild aches and pains. But the view of most poskim is that bitter medicines containing ḥametz starch may be taken by any ill person and 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 checking that they are free of wheat starch. As we have learned, most poskim maintain that medicines rendered unfit for a dog’s consumption before Pesaḥ may be consumed during Pesaḥ even if they are known to contain ḥametz. 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 ḥametz. 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 Pesaḥ without ascertaining whether they contain ḥametz. When one knows for certain that a particular medicine contains ḥametz starch, he may choose to rely on the lenient opinion of most poskim or the stringent minority.[9]

[9]. Ḥametz that was rendered unfit for a dog’s consumption prior to Pesaḥ is no longer considered ḥametz, and according to Ha-ma’or, Ran, and other Rishonim it may even be eaten on Pesaḥ. Conversely, Rosh, Rabbeinu Yeruḥam, and other Rishonim maintain that this type of ḥametz is rabbinically prohibited, since by eating it the person assigns importance (“aḥshevei”) 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 Pesaḥ since it is unfit for a dog’s consumption and thus not considered ḥametz. However, he may not eat it, since by eating it he assigns significance to it. However, even according to the view of Ha-ma’or and Ran, it is not clear that it would be forbidden to swallow bitter ḥametz-containing pills on Pesaḥ, and even according to Rosh and those who agree with him it may be permissible, since the Aḥaronim debate whether swallowing ḥametz that is unfit for a dog’s consumption for medicinal purposes assigns significance to the ḥametz. Sha’agat Aryeh §75 states this indeed assigns significance to the ḥametz, whereas Ktav Sofer OḤ §111 states that it does not impart significance. If the ḥametz is not the main ingredient in the pill, most Aḥaronim maintain that even Rosh would concede that swallowing a bitter pill does not impart significance to the ḥametz. See Ḥavalim Ba-ne’imim 5:4; Ḥazon Ish, Mo’ed 116:8; Igrot Moshe OḤ 2:92; Yeḥaveh 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 ḥametz nuksheh, which did not undergo a complete leavening and is only rabbinically prohibited. Since this ḥametz nuksheh is part of a mixture within a bitter pill, there is no reason to be stringent. Nevertheless, some incline toward stringency (Arugat Ha-bosem 2:99, and Atzei Ha-Levanon §19). Some have written that although these pills are technically permitted, the holy people of Israel are strict even about ḥametz mixed into a bitter pill (Tzitz Eliezer 10:25:20). But Nishmat Avraham OḤ 1:466:1 states that most pills do not contain ḥametz at all. It is further stated there in the name of R. Ovadia Yosef that even though he writes in Yeḥaveh Da’at 2:60 that only a genuinely sick person may be lenient, if it is uncertain whether or not the pill contains ḥametz, 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 ḥametz rendered unfit for a dog before Pesaḥ started.

A tasty medicine requires kosher certification. However, under pressing circumstances, and when it is uncertain whether there is ḥametz in this medicine and there is no way to clarify (generally because companies guard the composition of medicines like a trade secret), since the vast majority of medicines do not contain ḥametz, one may be lenient based on the majority, as explained in SA YD 110:3. Regarding concern for a prohibited substance in tasty medicines, I wrote in Peninei Halakha: Kashrut 37:8 that if there is no medicine with kosher certification, one may take a tasty medicine without kosher certification. However, in the present case, due to the stringency of the prohibition of ḥametz, I wrote that one may be lenient only under pressing circumstances.

08. Citric Acid

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

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

In contrast, many poskim are stringent in this case. In their opinion, ḥametz 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 ḥametz for all purposes (Minḥat Yitzḥak 7:27; Or Le-Tziyon 1:34; Shevet Ha-Levi 4:47).

The halakha follows the lenient view, and in accordance with the words of R. She’ar Yashuv Cohen, of blessed memory, the municipal rabbi of Haifa, who investigated and found that there is no concern that citric acid is ḥametz. First, the flour that starts the process does not become ḥametz since it sits in water for only six minutes – not enough time to become ḥametz. Second, the starch is then extracted from the mixture, and starch alone cannot become ḥametz. Third, 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 Pesaḥ ḥozer ve-ne’or once Pesaḥ begins? Even if not, would a stabilizing agent (“davar ha-ma’amid”) be any different? And what if it is not the sole agent? The Badatz and many other kosher-certification agencies are very strict about citric acid and similar products. However, according to R. She’ar Yashuv Cohen’s long essay in Teḥumin vol. 1, it seems clear that there is no reason for concern that citric acid contains ḥametz. 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 18 minutes for flour and water to become ḥametz, so the flour could not have become ḥametz in those six minutes. By then the starch, which has already been separated from the gluten, cannot become ḥametz, because the gluten is the substance within the flour where the leavening takes place. Without gluten, starch cannot become ḥametz. The starch is then heated to 140ºC until it liquefies as dextrose (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.

The liquid dextrose is then mixed with sulfur to destroy the enzymes in it and render it inert and unable to ferment. Since it never had the chance to become ḥametz, it certainly will not become ḥametz in the future. This is the first stage of the process, which shows that the extracted starch does not become ḥametz. 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 Pesaḥ, certainly citric acid excreted by molds that digested a liquid that never became ḥametz in the first place would be kosher for Pesaḥ. This conclusion has major implications for other industrial ingredients that use wheat starch that never became ḥametz and that undergoes fundamental alterations before being reintegrated into food.

09. Soaps, Cosmetics, and Disposable Kelim

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

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

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 gifts). All other Torah prohibitions relate to eating alone, not anointing. Although it is forbidden to derive benefit from ḥametz, the ḥametz in these products was rendered unfit for a dog’s consumption even before Pesaḥ began and thus lost the status of ḥametz. It is therefore permissible to derive benefit from them and apply them to the body during Pesaḥ.

Since this dispute relates to rabbinic law, the halakha accords with the lenient opinion, and meticulously observant individuals act stringently. We must distinguish between four gradations of products containing ḥametz, of which the middle two are subject to dispute:

  • Toothpastes must be certified kosher for Pesaḥ because they are flavored and thus like any other food product.
  • Creams that are absorbed into the skin, flavorless lipstick, and perfumes that contain alcohol need not be certified kosher for Pesaḥ, in keeping with the lenient opinion, since they are not fit for consumption and generally do not contain ḥametz Nonetheless, many choose to be stringent and buy creams and perfumes that are certified kosher for Pesaḥ.
  • 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.
  • 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 ḥametz, its taste was befouled before Pesaḥ and it is no longer considered ḥametz.[11]


Occasionally uncertainties and concerns arise when ḥametz is found in various products, like paper cups, tin foil, baking sheets, and paper tablecloths. However, there is no need to be concerned, as they have no discernible taste. Unfortunately, these doubts arise for reasons of economics and marketing, not because of any halakhic reasons.

[11]. The Rishonim disagree about the equation of 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 Aḥaronim tend toward stringency if the item is for enjoyment and leniently if it is needed for health reasons (see Yeḥaveh Da’at 4:53). They incline toward leniency if the lard’s taste has been befouled (AHS YD 117:29). Regarding Pesaḥ, there is a more stringent aspect, namely, that one is forbidden to derive any benefit from ḥametz, but there is also a more lenient aspect, namely, that the ḥametz lost its status when it became inedible before Pesaḥ, 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 ḥametz over Pesaḥ since its taste has been befouled. It does not address whether or not the soap may be used on Pesaḥ. 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 Ḥazon Naḥum §56 states that the law follows the current situation, namely, that the taste of the ḥametz has been befouled, and the mixture is thus permissible. Ḥazon Ish, Demai 15:1 suggests that only something edible may not be used as an ointment. Igrot Moshe OḤ 3:62 rules leniently in the case of an ointment that contains ḥametz that is used for health purposes. Bedikat Ḥametz U-vi’uro 2:43 summarizes the topic and rules stringently unless it is uncertain whether a product contains ḥametz, 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). As a matter of 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 most products from 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 Pesaḥ. 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 ḥametz. According to Rav Kook (Oraḥ Mishpat, p. 129), even if these liquids are forbidden, they were already batel be-shishim before Pesaḥ and are not ḥozer ve-ne’or on Pesaḥ. Moreover, many authorities maintain that even if this liquid was considered ḥametz, since it is not fit for consumption it loses its status as ḥametz. Another issue arises regarding lotions, although it is not certain that wheat starch-based lotions are considered ḥametz, 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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