What’s “New” in Chodosh

Winter 2024

The Torah states[1] that chodosh (new) crops of the five grains may not be eaten until after the second day of Pesach (outside of Israel, not until the third day).[2] Thus, grain harvested in the summer of 2023 would not be allowed until Pesach 2024. On the other hand, yoshon (old) crops, which were harvested in the summer of 2022, became permitted after Pesach 2023. Grain planted at least two weeks or more before Pesach are permitted upon harvest, since they took root before Pesach.[3]

Outside of Israel, there are various customs based on numerous sources as to whether or not one needs to be stringent about using only yoshon products (see Rabbi Mordechai Frankel’s article in this issue). Each person should consult their rav for guidance. In Israel, however, these leniencies do not apply. Therefore, any product from Israel bearing a reliable kosher certification is definitely yoshon.

Wheat in the U.S. has two planting seasons a year: winter and spring. Winter wheat can be planted anytime between October and February. The wheat grows to a young plant stage and remains dormant until spring, at which time growth resumes. Once the wheat matures, it is harvested, usually in late spring/early summer. Spring wheat is planted between April and June and harvested as soon as it is ripe, typically 6-12 weeks after planting (usually at the end of July).

Since winter wheat is always planted at least two weeks before Pesach, it is always yoshon. Spring wheat, however, is planted right around Pesach and (so far) never more than two weeks before, and thus is always a chodosh concern. Unlike wheat, the remaining four grains are single-season crops: oats and barley are spring crops planted after Pesach and harvested in the summer and therefore a chodosh concern; rye and spelt in the U.S. are primarily winter crops and are therefore not a chodosh concern.

Between Pesach and the end of the summer (roughly mid-August), all grain products are considered yoshon because they are either all from a winter crop or the previous year’s spring crop. The new spring crop only enters the market around August, which signals the start of the “yoshon season.” At that point, any products containing the new spring wheat, oats or barley may not be eaten by those who adhere to the stringency of yoshon until after Pesach of the following year.

The “Olden” Days

There was a time when “keeping yoshon” wasn’t such an issue. Most grain was yoshon, because for the most part, the U.S. stockpiled its grain. That changed in the 1970s, when America began to export its stockpiled grain, and chodosh grain from that year’s summer crop became more prevalent, entering the market shortly after harvest.

Once that happened, Rabbi Yosef Herman zt”l recognized the need to conduct extensive research about yoshon products, and he took upon himself the responsibility to publish the results of his research in his acclaimed Guide to Chodosh. The Guide provided dates for products that consumers could use to determine if an item was yoshon or not. Rabbi Herman did this for decades without remuneration. After his petirah in 2019, the Herman family continued his legacy and shouldered the responsibility to publish the printed guide themselves. Rabbi Herman and his family are credited with singlehandedly raising awareness about yoshon in America and throughout chutz la’aretz.

During the course of the last decade, it became apparent that there was a need to have comprehensive yoshon information available online and not just in a printed guide. In 2010, The Yoshon Network, Inc. (TYNI) launched the yoshon.com website and mobile app using information largely based on Rabbi Herman’s Guide. Meanwhile, in response to consumer requests to create an abridged version, about five years ago, STAR-K began publishing and posting the Yoshon Quick Reference Guide on star-k.org, listing the most popular and commonly used yoshon items.

“Chadashot” This Year

With the increasingly global nature of food productions, the ability of the Herman family to obtain and accurately track yoshon data in a timely manner became much more challenging, causing them to reach out to the Association of Kashrus Organizations (AKO) and express their concerns. In response, the major kashrus agencies formed a committee together with yoshon.com to collaborate on gathering and disseminating yoshon information.

The new committee of kashrus agencies has begun working directly with their mashgichim in each food plant to obtain precise data about specific products. The updated information is now posted on the yoshon.com site and mobile app. The site is also planning to soon provide a link which will allow consumers to download the full TYNI guide and print out a hard copy .

This new collaborative approach has resulted in some significant changes. Previously, one yoshon date was used for all grain products based on the start of the grain harvest. So, if the harvesting of wheat began on August 1, the listed cutoff date was about two weeks later, on August 15. The new approach allows for dates to be both more precise and much later, thereby exponentially increasing yoshon availability. There are now separate dates for flour mills (which are earlier) and for food products (which are naturally later). Additionally, as mashgichim monitor plant productions, they are better able to ascertain whether or not items are yoshon. For more information about yoshon products, visit star-k.org/yoshon or yoshon.com.

[1] Vayikra 23:14.

[2] Outside of Israel, not until the third day.

[3] see Dagul Mervava Y.D. 293.