On the Chocolate Trail

Full Text of Two Responsa

Full Text of Two Responsa

I. Question: What blessing does one say over chocolate?

Tshuvot V’Hanhagot, part one, 187; The author of this responsum is Moishe Sternbuch (also spelled Moshe Shternbuch). He was born in London in 1926 and lives in Jerusalem.

I have seen in a book discussing birkot ha’nehenin (rabbinically ordained enjoyment blessings) by Rabbi Gavriel Kraus, (may he live a long good life, Amen), from England that concluded that since the cocoa beans come from a tree, and are made almost exclusively into chocolate, the essence of the blessing is borei p’ri ha’etz, and he expressed wonder about those whose custom it is to bless shehakol. And in his book Mekor HaBracha he states that the Pachad Yitzchak (a rabbinic encyclopedia written by Isaac Lampronti) mentions that the writer of the Yad Mal’achi really did instruct that one should say the fruit blessing over chocolate, but in his book (Yad Mal’achi) he agrees to bless shehakol, since that is the custom, but we wanted to put this issue, of the production of the chocolate and the kashrut certificate, in order, and we inquired about the mixtures and ingredients, and found that about fifteen substances and spices went into the chocolate and so on.

Therefore, it seems that chocolate is eaten specifically for its good flavor, and the form of the cocoa bean is completely changed by the mixtures that add essential and indispensable flavors, and even if the cocoa beans are predominant, the mixtures and added ingredients are more important than the bean, therefore it is appropriate to say shehakol, because we follow the taste and form, and this would not be the case with chocolate that is made of pure cocoa beans, since the mixtures completely change the shape and form of the cocoa bean, and the chocolate is eaten for that reason precisely, as it was said.

And now I have seen in the Minchat Shlomo of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (letter 91) that discusses the possibility that since the cocoa is never eaten as is, and rather, is mixed with other ingredients and its form is changed- perhaps the blessing on it should be shehakol, but he also notes that in that regard, the blessing over ground ginger blended with sugar is borei p’ri ha’etz, and it is written elsewhere that this is so despite the fact that ginger is never eaten as is, and is ground and added to other foods. And he ends (and this requires further consideration) that in any case, those who mix sugar and cocoa and eat it, it seems that if the cocoa is predominant, the blessing should definitely be borei p’ri ha’etz, since the cocoa was not really transformed into something else, just as is the case with ginger, up to here are his words, like a spice that improves the taste, and the flavor of the spice is the essence as we have found upon research, and this is different from ginger where sugar is not the essence and therefore the blessing is borei p’ri ha’etz, which is why the custom to say shehakol over chocolate is reliable, as we have clarified. But, if one eats chocolate as a remedy for constipation and not for its chocolate flavor, and it doesn’t have many ingredients that add flavors to it, it seems that the blessing should be borei p’ri ha’etz, since one who blesses shehakol (the general blessing) on something that has a specific blessing is an ignoramus, even though after the fact he has still fulfilled his obligation. But it seems to me that people have always said shehakol over medicine, when one does not derive pleasure out of the medicine, and this is elaborated on in the Shulchan Aruch. And in regards to the flavor that he says the blessing over – that is over the spice and additives and it seems that the correct thing to do is bless shehakol, but this issue requires examination, and look at what the Rema (Rabbi Moshe Isserles) says that if one eats that which is of secondary importance before the essence, even though its blessing is borei p’ri ha’etz, you still only say shehakol, because it doesn’t matter that it is of lesser importance, and here too, the chocolate (cocoa?) is not as important and it is eaten only for the good taste of the mix, and this is why when the cocoa is not significant- the blessing over chocolate is shehakol.

II. Question: From the rabbinate of Zurich –May chocolate products from Switzerland be imported in order to sell in Israel?

Responsa Tzitz Eliezer (16:25); The author of this responsum is Rabbi Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg, (December 10, 1915 – November 21, 2006) who lived and worked in Jerusalem.

A large company in Israel came to me with the possibility of importing chocolate products from Switzerland in order to sell in Israel. We checked the manufacturing both in terms of the means of production (production line), and in terms of the ingredients used to make the chocolate, and we have found that all of the products used to make this chocolate of which we speak are strictly kosher, with no doubt or hesitation. Also, all of the emulsifiers are all vegetal and there is not even the slightest chance that fat or some other elements from animal have been mixed in to the chocolate. However, there is one problem, which has to do with the milk provided for these chocolates. We therefore went to the dairy farm that produces the milk powder for these chocolates, and we have found that all of the milk powder comes from cows’ milk, and no other ingredients are added.

We should also note that there is a government issued regulation in Switzerland that prohibits adding any ingredients (other than milk) to the milk powder, and the milk comes only from cows. Advanced laboratories check the milk composition and its base and any deviation from the governmental standards (meaning, pure cows’ milk) is unfathomable. There are also severe government punishments if the laboratory-run examinations come up with excess pesticides. This has nothing to do with kashrut and we only note it to show the severity of the governmental supervision.

There is a clear possibility, which we have posed as an initial stipulation, which would be to have supervisors (mashgichim) present both at the chocolate production and at the milk powder production. Similarly, there is also an option to have supervisors present at the dairy farm during the milking, but on this point I am not sure that we can have supervisors at every single dairy farm.

Among others, for these reasons:

1. Stringencies of the Swiss government, including severe punishments, in the interest that the milk be produced according to the law, that the milk is strictly cow’s milk, free of any other additives.

2. Complete certainty that the milk is only cow’s milk (even without the governmental laws).

3. Jewish observant supervisors, that we will provide will generally be present for the cow-milking, although (as we mentioned earlier) they will not be able to be at every site from the beginning of the milking process to its end, but we will try to do that.”

And this is my answer, with God’s help:

I would like to note in advance that I will prevent myself from addressing the core halachic issue of milk that has been milked by non-Jews and Jews were not present at the milking, where there is not a fear that impure milk has been mixed into it, an issue that has been debated by many and has many opinions and approaches by some of the greatest adjudicators (poskim) beginning with the greatest Rishonim (earliest) and up to the greatest Achronim (latest), because this issue is like grinding flour and the tradition of Eretz HaTzvi is to be stringent, as the Chida attests. It suffices to mention that this issue is discussed in the Darchei Tshuva, Sdei Chemed, and Divrei Yisrael response.

And I shall write briefly that according to my humble opinion, it can be said that in this case, even those who are stringent would recognize that a case like this should be permitted, and this is why:

1. The case we are dealing with is not with buying the milk as it is, rather it is buying milk powder that is produced from it, and more specifically, not even buying the milk powder as it is, but rather buying chocolate products, of which one ingredient is the milk powder which is made of “unsupervised milk.” Since this is the case, one can say that this product is not included in the prohibition of our Rabbis about unsupervised milk. And because this is not a big issue for most people, the only uncertainty is that maybe non-kosher milk is mixed in to the milk powder, and to assuage that uncertainty it would suffice that the Zurich Rabbinate wrote that they have clarified this, and above all doubt we know that this is cows’ milk. And even more, that there is a serious governmental prohibition on any other type of milk added, and severe punishments to those who violate this, in addition to the fact that advanced labs check the composition of the chocolate, of which only one of the ingredients that goes into the chocolate is milk powder made by milk that was milked by non-Jews.

However, what you need to be strict about, in a situation like this, is that the contract with the company be made only with the company producing the chocolate, and not with the dairy farms producing the milk powder, in which case it seems (as mentioned above) that Jews have no contact with milk made by non-Jews, or even with the milk powder producers. Rather, they are in contact only with the company making the chocolate, from which only one ingredient is milk powder which is produced of non-Jews’ milk, as we have mentioned.

2. We have found that, similarly to the Amorites ruling, Rav Moshe Feinstein (may he rest in peace) also raised this issue in his book of responsa collection, Levush Mordechai. In his lengthy response to the great Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog (may he rest in peace), back in the days when he was still the presiding judge and rabbi of Dublin and was asked about butter made by non-Jews, the halachic reasoning he raised was that the ruling about not using unsupervised milk included only taking non-Jews’ milk and making cheese out of it, but the decree did not include mixtures or blends, and in any case, those which the decree does not include fall into the category of things that are not rooted in the Torah, that may then be canceled out by a majority. And even if we know that the non-Jew’s intention is to make butter or cheese, still the decree does not apply as long as a Jew has not taken it. And if the non-Jew makes butter it is permitted. Therefore, in a case where we do not worry about blends (because the decree didn’t include those), the only source of prohibition would be from Davar SheBaminyan (something that has been voted on by the Rabbis and declared forbidden). In that case, what was included in the decree, namely, that a Jew would buy milk that has been milked by a non-Jew in order to make butter, but butter made by a non-Jew was not prohibited through that vote, in which case the butter is permitted since you need not worry about prohibited mixtures, as aforementioned. And he writes that one should still make sure not to sign a contract saying that the milk is bought from the non-Jew before the cheese is made, because then it would still fall under the decree that was voted on and decided that it is prohibited for Jews to buy milk (from a non-Jew) and make cheese from it. And this requires much more consideration.

And here we have support and validation of the Amorites from the great rabbi we have mentioned above, and we rule the same in our case as was ruled there. And I stress that in our case it is an even easier case that the one discussed by the responsa of the Levush Mordechai, since aside from the milk powder there are other ingredients mixed into the chocolate that are strictly kosher, and they come from plants and there is no chance that fat or other derivatives from animals are added (as stated in the letter from the Zurich Rabbinate). And this kind of situation was surely not discussed by our rabbis, and this is surely included in the decree that was held to a vote (even according to those that hold that the decree regarding non-Jews’ milk is considered a decree of a davar SheBeminyan, that was voted on and declared prohibited).

3. We also found that the great Rabbi Tzvi Frank in his Har Zvi responsa collection, when asked about milk powder made in America, gave a lengthy explanation on all considerations that may be in permitting it, and in his explanation he also wrote (as we have concluded) that milk powder is not included within the realm of the decree, neither in terms of milk nor in terms of cheese, and it was not prohibited through a vote, and therefore, since the factory is known to use only cows’ milk, and specifically because there is a penalty to those who disobey that law, there is no reason to prohibit that which is permitted and create our own decrees, and this is better than butter, which is why we should say that regarding milk powder all agree that it may be eaten, and his lengthy explanation requires further examination as well as the section after it where he strongly reiterates his permission and its sources.

Thus, aside from that which was derived from Rabbi Frank’s responsum that milk powder used in chocolate is permitted as a rule, we learn that all the more so in our case where to the Israeli buyer, this is already the second blend (meaning, after the milk powder is already mixed in with another substance, the chocolate products). Therefore, we have the grounds to say that even those who are stringent in regards to milk powder would agree that when the milk powder does not stand on its own and is mixed in with other substances, that it is taken out of the boundaries of the Rabbis’ decree, and all we are left with is the doubt regarding the source of the milk powder, and since we know very clearly that the source is purely cow’s milk, then everyone would admit that it is permitted.

4. Although the permission is clear, as we have presented, in order to go above the letter of the law they should also do what was mentioned in the letter from the Zurich Rabbinate, which is to have supervisors not only at the chocolate and milk powder production lines, but also at the milking site, and even though they state that they do not know if they will be able to have supervisors at every milking site for the whole length of the milking (although they will try very hard to do so), we are inclined to say that there is sufficient supervision to the milking process and the non-Jews will know that at any given moment there is the possibility of the sudden appearance of a supervisor (not knowing where or when it may happen) and therefore we can say that it is as if there is round-the-clock supervision, since the non-Jews would be frightened (of being caught). We have found that this was also decided in the Shulchan Aruch. When this permission is added on to the other considerations and permissions, it seems that any doubt is removed regarding the kashrut of the chocolate, and the chocolate may be permitted according to everyone.

5. In light of all of the above, I will summarize and say that in my humble opinion you may permit the import of these chocolates and there is no reason to worry about milk that is provided in the form of milk powder. And as for the things mentioned in the letter from the Rabbinate of Zurich, they are “lumped in” with emulsifiers that are strictly kosher, and you can give them the kashrut stamp. With friendship and love, Rabbi Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg.

1 For detailed explanations of the concern about cooking on Shabbat and the three k’li options, see “Laws of Cooking on Shabbos,” accessed, December 11, 2011, http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/163324/jewish/Keli-Rishon-Sheini-and-Shlishi.htm.

2 “ Tithing,” accessed October 4, 2011, http://www.kashrut.com/articles/tithing/ and “Terumah,” accessed October 4, 2011, http://www.oukosher.org/index.php/common/article/separating_terumah/.

On the Chocolate Trail

On the Chocolate Trail