What is Yoshon?
The terms yoshon and chodosh (literally old and new) in halacha refer to crops which began to take root either before or after the second day of Pessach. Crops which took root before Pesach are referred to as yoshon, and crops which took root after Pessach (even if planted before Pessach) are referred to as chodosh. According to Torah law, one may only consume crops that are yoshon.(In the land of Israel, the law outside Israel will be explained below). Chodosh crops remain prohibited for consumption until the following Pesach (at which point they become yoshon).
What is the Source?
The mitzvah of yoshon is derived from the Torah in Sefer Vayikra, Parshas Emor (23,14):
” וְלֶחֶם וְקָלִי וְכַרְמֶל לֹא תֹאכְלוּ עַד עֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה עַד הֲבִיאֲכֶם אֶת קָרְבַּן אֱלֹקיכֶם חֻקַּת עוֹלָם לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם בְּכֹל משְׁבֹתֵיכֶם: “
“You shall not eat bread or parched grain or fresh ears, until that very day, until you have brought the offering of Hashem (the korban ha’omer); it is a law for all time throughout the ages in all your settlements.”
Simply put, the Torah prohibits the consumption of “new” grain prior to the offering of the korban ha’omer (omer sacrifice). The korban was brought on the 16th of Nissan, the second day of Pesach. Once the korban was offered, these once prohibited “chodosh” grains transformed to “yoshon” grains and were thus permitted for consumption.
With the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash (when we stopped sacrificing korbanos,) the day of the 16th of Nissan itself serves as the turning point from chodosh to yoshon. As the passuk states “You shall not eat bread or parched grain or fresh ears, until that very day.” Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai later established a prohibition on chadash grains until the night of 16th of Nissan (beginning of the 17th of Nissan, as the Jewish calendar date cycle counts each day from the preceding night) In Chutz Laaretz, where we observe two days of yom tov, the chodosh grains become permitted on the 17th of Nissan at night (the beginning of the 18th).
Which Products are required to be Yoshon?
There are five grains that are subject to the laws of yoshon: 1) wheat, 2) barley, 3) spelt, 4) rye 5) oats. Any derivative, byproduct or product which contains any of the above-mentioned grain are subject to the halachos of yoshon.
There are multiple species, varieties, and names for the above-mentioned grains. Due to their origins, they remain subject to the various halachos that pertain to grains. For example, durum is a specie of wheat, and is therefore must be yoshon. Couscous, which is produced from durum wheat (semolina) is required to be yoshon as well. Another example is triticale; as a hybrid of wheat and rye, it remains bound to the laws of yoshon.
On the other hand, rice and quinoa, although considered grains, are not part of the above mentioned yoshon grains and therefore are permitted year-round.
Where is Yoshon Practiced?
There is a dispute amongst the greatest halachic authorities if the prohibition of chodosh applies solely to the produce of Eretz Israel, or to the produce of Chutz Laaretz (outside the land of Israel) as well. The Shulchan Aruch (YD siman 293) rules that the laws of chodosh applies to Chutz Laaretz as well as Eretz Yisrael. The Rema holds that although eating Chodosh outside of Eretz Yisrael may not be prohibited by Torah Law, it none the less remains prohibited mideraban (according to rabbinic law). In contrast, the Bach (YD siman 293) is of the opinion that only chodosh owned by a Jew in the land of Israel is prohibited, but in Chutz Laaretz, even Jewish owned crops are permitted.
When is the Yoshon Season?
The agriculture practice in North American and in certain European countries is to have two grain harvests- winter crop and spring crop. Winter wheat is planted in the late summer or fall and is harvested in spring. Spring wheat is planted in the early spring and is harvested in the summer. As such, winter wheat would generally be considered yoshon, and spring wheat would be considered chodosh.
In practice: in North America, starting in August, chodosh products become available on the market. Oats are generally the first grain to be available as chodosh on the market.
The general consumer might not be aware of the origins of the grains he is consuming. Kosher supervisors such as the MK provide its consumers with the information necessary to determine the yoshon status on many products and establishments. The MK is happy to help all with your yoshon inquiries! We can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another valuable tool is The Yoshon Network Inc. TYNI is an organization which educates and provides information on products worldwide, aiding the consumer to determine the yoshon status of virtually all kosher products. Just type the product in the search bar and you will have all the information you need!