Kashrut Terminology

Following a request at the recent Rabbinic Conference, we wish to explain some of the terms commonly found in the Beth Din Kosher Guide and Kashrut Alerts/Notices:

Chazal (Our Sages of Blessed Memory) prohibited us from consuming milk which was milked by a non-Jew without a Jew supervising in order to ensure that milk from non-kosher animals was not mixed in.

Some great Halachic authorities have permitted the use of milk in Western countries due to strict government inspections and penalties for adulterating the product in any way, including adding in milk from other species. As a result of these government inspections and penalties, it can therefore be assumed with absolute certainty that the companies would not mix in any non-kosher milk, and is, therefore, equivalent to a Jew observing the milking. Such milk has become known as “Chalav Hakampanies”, and subsequently as “Chalav Stam” (regular milk).

Other authorities maintain that the Rabbinical decree stands so long as no actual Mashgiach was present to observe the milking process.

Where the milking was supervised by a Jew, the milk and products made from that milk, are referred to as “Chalav Yisrael”. Although Rabbi Moshe Feinstein acknowledges the permissibility of “Chalav Stam”, he nevertheless states that a Baal Nefesh (a person who is meticulous in fulfilling mitzvot) should consume “Chalav Yisrael”.

According to some opinions, powdered milk was not included in the above decree, whilst others do not differentiate between powdered and non- powdered.

In view of the above, the Beth Din provide both Milchik (“Chalav Stam”) products, which applies to milk products manufactured without an actual Mashgiach present, including products containing unsupervised milk powder, and Chalav Yisrael products, which applies to milk products manufactured in front of an actual Mashgiach. Dairy products certified by the Beth Din will state beneath the BD diamond logo whether they are Milchik or Chalav Yisrael.

Since the milk of non-kosher animals lacks the properties necessary to congeal, butter cannot be made from such milk. Accordingly, many Rabbinic authorities permit butter that is manufactured without the supervision of a Jew provided that all of the other ingredients used in the manufacturing are kosher certified. However, here too, some opinions are stringent and require a Mashgiach to supervise the milking prior to the manufacturing of the butter. Butter that has been manufactured with supervision of the milking will have an appellation Chalav Yisrael beneath the BD diamond logo.

Due to various reasons, Chazal forbade cheese manufactured by non-Jews, to such an extent that even if the ingredients are all kosher, it is still forbidden to be eaten, until a Jew oversees the manufacturing process. According to some authorities the Jew also has to be actively involved in the manufacturing by actually placing the rennet into the milk, which has become the common practice today.

Whether or not a Mashgiach supervised the milking or only participated by placing the rennet into unsupervised milk, the cheese will be considered kosher because, as noted regarding butter (above), milk from non-kosher species does not congeal.

Some authorities require that the milking be supervised in addition to the placing of the rennet.

Accordingly, cheese manufactured from milk that was supervised by a Mashgiach will be labeled Chalav Yisrael and cheese made from unsupervised milk will be labeled Milchik.

As with cheese, Chazal forbade bread (and other grain products, e.g., crackers and biscuits) manufactured by non-Jews, to such an extent that even if the ingredients are all kosher, it is still forbidden to be eaten. Due to what has traditionally been the unique status of bread, as the staple of every meal, Chazal hoped to reduce as a result of this prohibition the amount of socializing with non-Jews that would take place, in an effort to prevent situations that might lead to intermarriage, G-d forbid.

Assuming kosher ingredients, equipment and utensils were used, if a Jew were to participate in the process of the baking, for instance by lighting the ovens, then this would render the bread to be “Pas Yisrael”.

In the event that Pas Yisrael is not readily available, or if the kind of bread one wants is only obtainable from a commercial non-Jewish baker, or even if this particular variety is the more preferred bread, then Halacha permits the use of such bread, provided of course that all ingredients of that bread are kosher certified. Such bread is known as “Pas Palter” (bread baked by a non-Jewish baker). Some persons are stringent to only consume Pas Yisrael whenever possible.

During the Ten days of Repentance (from Rosh Hashana until after Yom Kippur), and according to some authorities on Shabbat and Festivals as well, one should refrain from consuming Pas Palter (non-Jewish bread) unless no Pas Yisrael is available.

Unless otherwise stated on the packaging, commercial bread products, biscuits and crackers under the supervision of the Beth Din are Pas Palter. Pas Yisrael bakery products can be obtained from all of the Beth Din licensed bakeries in Johannesburg.

Mehadrin generally refers to products that conform to the strictest levels of Halacha. Products labeled Mehadrin (either on their packaging or in the Beth Din Kosher Guide) are, for example, Chalav Yisrael and Pas Yisrael. With regard to fresh or frozen fish, for example, Mehadrin generally refers to fish that has attached to it skin with the scales still visible. For more specific details regarding the Mehadrin status of any particular product, please contact the Kashrut Department.