Jewish Living

A No-Grainer: The Laws of Yoshon Simplified

Q: While it’s certainly far from widespread, I notice that there’s been an uptick in kosher consumers observing yoshon, and that “made with yoshon flour” appears on more kosher products than in the past. Can you explain the term yoshon?
A: The Torah (Vayikra 23:14) states that it is forbidden to eat the new year’s grains until after the Omer sacrifice (barley offering) is brought to the Beis Hamikdash on the second day of Pesach. Today, in the absence of the Omer, we must wait until the full second day of Pesach has passed, and then we consider all grain that took root before Pesach as yoshon (old), which is permissible to be eaten. Grain that took root after the second day of Pesach is known as chodosh (new) and is not permitted until the following year’s Omer offering. This prohibition applies exclusively to five varieties of grain: wheat, barley, spelt, rye and oats.

Q: What is the meaning behind the mitzvah of Korban Omer?
A: Grains serve as our primary means of sustenance. We bring an offering of grain to thank Hashem for the new crop before enjoying it ourselves. Similar to the mitzvah of bikkurim, the mitzvah of Omer (and thereby yoshon) is designed to inculcate a deep sense of gratitude on the part of the individual to Hakadosh Baruch Hu for providing him with all of his material needs.  

Q: Does the prohibition of chodosh apply in the Diaspora?
A: Though we are no longer able to bring a Korban Omer, the prohibition of chodosh is still in effect. While it is accepted that the Torah prohibition of chodosh applies in Israel, there are different opinions as to whether the prohibition applies in other countries as well. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 293:2) writes unambiguously that the laws of chodosh apply in all circumstances, both in Israel as well as outside of Israel. Indeed, many Sephardim are known to be careful to not eat chodosh in accordance with this ruling. However, there are two main dissenting opinions among the Ashkenazic posekim.

•   The Bach (Yoreh De’ah 293) disagrees with the Shulchan Aruch and writes that the prohibition of chodosh outside of Israel applies only to grain grown by Jewish farmers, while grain grown by non-Jewish farmers outside of Israel is permitted.

•   The Magen Avraham (489:17) writes that because of the difficulty in observing this law, many rely on the opinion that the prohibition of chodosh is limited to Israel and adjacent lands. According to this opinion, chodosh would apply to grain from countries neighboring Israel, but would not apply in Europe or America.

The Rema (Yoreh De’ah 293:2) mentions a third consideration. Since it is uncertain when the planting occurred, one may be lenient and permit eating these grains because of a double doubt (sfeik sfeika). (The two doubts: was the grain seeded before or after Pesach and perhaps the grain is from last year’s crop.)

The Mishnah Berurah (489:45) writes that the majority of people follow the above leniency, and one should not disapprove of those who follow this approach; nonetheless, he writes, it is preferable to be stringent. If one wishes to be stringent, he should only purchase items that are labeled yoshon or obtain yoshon information from the OU. (See information further down about the OU Kosher website where consumers can obtain product information.)

Q: At which point in the year do I need to start being concerned about chodosh (in the US)?
A: The laws of chodosh apply to the five grains, as mentioned above. 

In the US, rye and spelt are always winter crops. This means that they are planted in the fall or winter and are not harvested until after Pesach. As such, these grains are always yoshon and do not pose any concern. (As long as the grain took root before Pesach, it is considered yoshon and may be used as soon as it is harvested.) 

Barley and oats are always spring crops. This means that they are planted in the springtime (April–May). Depending on when Pesach falls, some might be planted before Pesach, but a significant amount is planted after Pesach as well. Canadian oats tend to be planted later in the season because of Canada’s northern climate. The colder the climate, the later the grain tends to be planted, since farmers are concerned about frost. Therefore, barley and oats pose a concern for those who are stringent. The new crop of oats can potentially enter the consumer market in August, and the new crop of barley by September.

According to the National Association of Wheat Growers, wheat is the primary grain used in US grain products—approximately three-quarters of all US grain products are made from wheat flour. About half of the wheat grown in the United States is used domestically. 

Wheat can be planted as either a winter crop or a spring crop. Winter wheat is planted in the fall and is always yoshon. It is used, for example, in hard pretzels and matzah. Spring wheat, on the other hand, which is predominantly planted in the northern US and Canada, is planted in April and May. It should not be assumed to have taken root before Pesach. Therefore, spring wheat poses a concern for those who are stringent. It is often used for bread, pizza, soft pretzels, bagels and pasta. Spring wheat generally enters the consumer market by September. And as the year progresses, the more likely it is that the spring wheat is chodosh. However, once Pesach arrives, every product that could be chodosh automatically becomes yoshon. If, for example, a box of pasta was chodosh before Pesach, after Pesach it is automatically yoshon. Chodosh becomes a concern again once the new crop is harvested in the summer. 

Q: So practically speaking, if a consumer wants to take on the practice of yoshon, what does he or she need to do?
A: Here are some practical recommendations in keeping with the Mishnah Berurah’s admonition: 

Firstly, you can purchase products with kosher certification that also state “yoshon” on the package. (If a package has multiple hashgachos and also states “yoshon,” one must ascertain which kashrus agency assumes responsibility for the yoshon status of the product.) It’s important to note that products from Israel bearing a reliable kosher certification are yoshon. However, products imported into Israel are not necessarily yoshon. 

Secondly, starting mid-summer, you can stock up on cereal, crackers or other products that could contain spring wheat flour, oats or barley as ingredients. When stocking up on yoshon products to last through the season, take steps to ensure the products do not become infested. Bags of barley and flour, which are prone to infestation, should be refrigerated or stored in the freezer. 

Q: What do I do if I neglected to purchase products mid-summer?
A: Noting the surge of interest in yoshon products by kosher consumers and food manufacturers, the OU recently added the category of “yoshon” to its vast product search website, The OU Kosher website, geared for consumers, has the most up-to-date list of OU-kosher certified products. Consumers can search the database to see if products are gluten-free, kosher for Passover, chalav Yisrael or made on dairy equipment or yoshon. 

The OU obtains information from companies selling flour, cereal, cake mixes and other foods containing grain-derived ingredients about when their mills and plants first begin to process and use the new crop of spring wheat. In this way, the OU is able determine the yoshon status of products. 

Constantly striving to provide timely kashrus information to help the kosher consumer, the OU added the yoshon category to its product search as a public service to the community. If a product’s yoshon status is not listed in our database, consumers can try calling the OU Kosher Hotline at 212-613-8241.

Q: Are all OU products yoshon?
A: The OU certifies both chodosh and yoshon products. This is in accordance with the prevailing custom of Ashkenazi Jews, who adhere to the Bach’s ruling that the prohibition of yoshon does not apply to non-Jewish farmers in countries far from Israel. 

Yoshon in America: “Yeast”-erday and Today
Q:Why does there seem to be a greater emphasis on yoshon today than there was generations ago?

A: As mentioned above, the Rema (Yoreh De’ah 293:2) writes that when we are uncertain when grain was planted and harvested, the grain is permissible based on a sfeik sfeika: the wheat may have been harvested before Pesach, and even if it was harvested after Pesach, it may have taken root before Pesach. In past generations, it was impossible to know when a particular sack of wheat was harvested or in which month it was planted. In addition, until the 1970s, the US stored its surplus grain from one year to the next. Under such circumstances, the sfeik sfeika of the Rema was applicable.

Not Your Run of the Mill Manager 
Rabbi Mordechai Stareshefsky, rabbinic coordinator at the OU, works closely with milling expert Randy Watson who oversees quality assurance at Stafford County Flour Mills in Hudson, Kansas. Randy, a religious Christian, is proud of his expertise in yoshon, and while giving routine tours of the mill, he always makes sure to provide visitors, most of whom are Protestant, with an in-depth explanation of the intricate laws of yoshon!

However, today, the wheat supply can be tracked so efficiently that there is much less doubt as to whether the wheat is from this year’s or last year’s crop. Every shipment of wheat contains paperwork that identifies the type of wheat and the year it was harvested. Crop reports inform us when each variety of wheat is planted for every state. Furthermore, there is little chance that the wheat is from a previous year, since the US exports its wheat surplus. Far from qualifying as a double doubt, in certain circumstances one might even know with certainty that a particular batch of flour is chodosh. In fact, the Mishnah Berurah (489:45) cautioned against purchasing Russian wheat that was known to be chodosh.

Nevertheless, the opinions of the Magen Avraham and Bach (mentioned above) would still apply, for those who wish to be lenient.

Q: Can you share some of the history behind the observance of yoshon in America? 
A: As far back as the 1930s, domestic wheat was stored and was therefore yoshon. During the 1950s, Rav Ahron Soloveichik became the certifying rabbi of Streit’s products. Before accepting this position, he investigated the milling process and inquired about the flour sources. The latter inquiry was important to Rav Ahron since he observed the laws of yoshon. He felt, based on his investigation, that domestic wheat was not being stored and, consequently, one could no longer assume that the flour in the marketplace was yoshon. [Not every rav agreed with this position at that time.] Rav Ahron informed Streit’s that he would provide kosher supervision only if all their products would be yoshon, and the company agreed to this provision.

When Rav Ahron moved to Chicago, he convinced a bakery to become yoshon, and eventually other bakeries in Chicago did the same. Here’s how Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher, summarized the history in an article on yoshon: “Until the late 1960s, the US had a huge wheat surplus, and therefore all grain that reached the market was yoshon. During the Nixon era, there were massive grain sales to Russia and the US no longer had that kind of surplus, so the issue of chodosh emerged. Rav Ahron Soloveichik believed very strongly in the importance of keeping yoshon even outside of Israel. While the number of people who kept yoshon was small in his day, today [keeping yoshon] has become more widespread. Many others, however, continue to follow the lenient positions about chodosh in chutz la’Aretz, such as that of the Bach and others.” 

Another person who is credited with the growing awareness of yoshon in America over the last few decades is Rabbi Yosef Herman, z”l, of Monsey, New York. When the issue of chodosh emerged in the 1970s, he began obtaining US Department of Agriculture crop progress reports to determine the yoshon status of various products, and he published updates each year. It is due to his diligence that more people today have access to yoshon information and it is easier to observe this mitzvah. 

As this is a challenging, albeit meritorious, practice, please consult your local Orthodox rabbi for further guidance.


Rabbi David Gorelik has been a rabbinic coordinator at OU Kosher since 1995 and is OU Kosher’s yoshon expert.

Special thanks to Rabbi Gavriel Price, OU Kosher rabbinic coordinator, for helping to prepare this article for publication. Some of the information is adapted from OU Kosher’s Halacha Yomis, a daily email containing brief halachic tidbits. To sign up to receive Halacha Yomis, visit 

This article was featured in the Spring 2024 issue of Jewish Action.
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