Yoshon: Frequently Asked Questions

Yoshon: Frequently Asked Questions Title Image

By Rabbi Yechiel Teichman, COR Rabbinic Coordinator

1) What is yoshon?

The Torah states that grain which was planted after Pesach may not be consumed until the following Pesach.

In greater detail, grain may not be consumed until it has “seen” the 18th of Nissan (in Israel, it is the 17th of Nissan). Grain which was planted or has taken root after Pesach is considered new, or chodosh, crop and will not be permissible until the 18th of Nissan of the following year. After that date, the grain is considered old, or yoshon, crop and is permitted to be eaten.

If grain has been harvested or has taken root prior to the 16th of Nissan, then it is considered yoshon.

Clearly, all grain is yoshon immediately after Pesach, and concerns about chodosh products begin only when the next crop has been planted and reaches the marketplace.

2) Which grains are regulated by the laws of chodosh?

The “five grains” – wheat, oats, rye, barley and spelt.

3) Do the laws of chodosh apply outside of Eretz Yisroel?

Shulchan Aruch O.C. 489:10 states that these laws apply outside of Eretz Yisroel.

4) Why is it that many view yoshon as merely a chumra (stringency)?

Many reasons are given why most observant Jews do not keep this custom. The Magen Avrohom outlines that the minhag is to rely on an opinion in the Rishonim. This opinion states that, in our times, chodosh is a Rabbinic decree that was enacted only for the areas near Eretz Yisroel. This minority opinion is relied upon as a result of the difficulty in obtaining an adequate supply of basic items that are yoshon. Additionally, some say that chodosh only applies to grains that are grown by a Jew. Another reason offered by the Rema in Yoreh Deah. (293:3) is that based on the concept of sfek sfeika (literally a double doubt), we can assume where it is not otherwise certain that the grain one is consuming is indeed yoshon and therefore permissible.

5) What is the halacha?

It has become the custom in many communities to be lenient in this regard, while some communities follow the Mishnah Berurah’s (O.C. 489:45) recommendation to be strict when and where possible.

6) Does COR publish Canadian yoshon updates? If yes, how can I access this information?

COR Senior Rabbinic Coordinator, Rabbi Yehoshua Norman, publishes periodic updates with yoshon cutoff dates for many commonly used Canadian products.

These updates are available on our website, www.cor.ca. They can also be obtained by signing up for Rabbi Heber’s Kosher Insiders email group. To be added to the list, please email Rabbi Heber at [email protected] or call the COR office.

Additionally, a valuable source for information on American products is called A Guide to Chodosh, written by R’ Yosef Herman of Monsey N.Y.

To order A Guide to Chodosh, send a request to [email protected]

7) Does COR certify retail food establishments as yoshon?

Yes, COR certifies select retail food establishments, including bakeries, restaurants and pizza shops, that provide yoshon goods. A yoshon-certified establishment will have on display a yoshon certificate, identifying which items on the menu are yoshon. To find a list of COR establishments which provide yoshon goods, please refer to Rabbi Norman’s most recent yoshon update online.

8) If I want to keep yoshon, should I stockpile grain products for six months?

It is recommended to employ a three pronged strategy that includes:

1) identifying stores, brands and products that will be yoshon all season

2) stocking up on items that will be difficult to find later

3) learning to read date codes to identify a product’s yoshon status

9) Which stores specifically stock yoshon products?

Kosher Grocer, Kosher City Plus, Sobeys on Clark Avenue, and Real Canadian Superstore at Dufferin and Steeles are COR stores that sell and even stock yoshon items.

Other stores such as Kolbo, and Family Shop also reportedly stock many yoshon items.

As these stores carry both yoshon and chodosh items, one may speak to the store managers or Mashgichim, when applicable, to request help with identifying which items are yoshon. Ultimately, it is the consumer’s responsibility to verify the yoshon status of any given product.

10) What are the cutoff dates for yoshon?

While A Guide to Chodosh provides both specific and general cutoff dates for various grain products, the COR list provides consumers with solely the specific cutoff dates for products. Consumers should be aware that the general cutoff dates make estimates regarding when the new crops that were planted and harvested after Pesach will start to be used by product manufacturers.

It is interesting to note that A Guide to Chodosh outlines the first possible dates that items may become chodosh, based on marketplace availability. To contrast, the yoshon update provided by Rabbi Norman outlines specific yoshon dates based on reports from the mashgichim at the companies.

11) What are the general 2013 US Chodosh dates that are provided by A Guide to Yoshon?

Spring wheat- August 18

Noodles and pasta- August 25

Pearl barley- August 18

Oats in cereal- September 1

Oats in General Mills cereal- September 19

Oats in cookies etc. – August 4

Barley malt- December 15

12) How does one read a date code?

Some date codes list the manufacturing date, while other codes outline the best before date. While some manufacturing dates are straightforward, others are in code form and need to be interpreted. One common code system, known as the Julian date, refers to the number of days in the year. For example, a code of 13 256 would refer to 2013 September 13.

13) How does a best before date tell us when a product was manufactured?

The best before date is used in conjunction with the product shelf life to determine the date that the product was manufactured. Most cold cereals have a one year shelf life, while pasta will typically have a two to three year shelf life.

14) Which products are always yoshon?

North American winter wheat, spelt and rye are winter crops and are always

yoshon because they are planted before Pesach of the previous year. Products made with winter wheat include matza, some brands of licorice (Hershey’s and Twizzlers), and hard pretzels. Products from Eretz Yisroel that bear a reliable kosher certification are always yoshon.

15) What are the cutoff dates for some common American food items?

Tofutti Cuties – chodosh date- 2303 or later (230= day of year, 3= year)

Tradition soups – chodosh date Feb 18 15 (18 months after packaging)

Kemach Bread Sticks – chodosh date – 01 Jan 15 (12 months after packaging)

Kemach Flat Breads – chodosh date – 01 Feb 15 (13 months after packaging)

(from A Guide to Chodosh)