Reviewed by Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com
Every so often a Sefer comes along that combines remarkably comprehensive research, astounding accuracy, and far-reaching clarity with a fourth element – it sparks intense as well. Food – A Halachic Analysis by Rabbi Yehudah Spitz (483 pp. by Mosaica Press, 2021) is just such a sefer and more. It also covers a broad range of complex and important contemporary topics in Kashrus.
Rav Elyashiv zt”l once described Rav Nachum Yavrov zt”l, author of the Divrei Sofrim series on Halacha, that any area that he tackles – his sefer becomes an essential work on that topic. The same can be said of Rabbi Spitz’s articles. The work has extensive footnotes, but it is written with a clarity and a precision that even the layreader can thoroughly enjoy it.
Rabbi Spitz’s “Halachic History of Chalav Yisroel” deals extensively with Chalav Yisroel both in the United States and in Eretz Yisroel and reveals that in Eretz Yisroel, there are greater leniencies than in the United States. His discussion on Chodosh is very enlightening as is his treatment of gelatin, pas palter, overnight onions, and Quinoa. Rabbi Spitz is not only a master of halacha, but somehow he managed to fully master researching recent history as well.
In Rabbi Spitz’s discussion of the 5 and ½ hours versus 6 hours of waiting between meat and dairy )p.38), the author gives us an exhaustive list of who rejects the 5 and ½ hour reading of the Rambam and Meiri – a very useful resource when discussing the minhag with others. What about the minhag of three hours? Alas, the only source for it, Rabbi Spitz reveals as a misprint – although he also provides theories as to how it developed. One of these theories is that it was an uneasy compromise between one hour and six hours. Rabbi Spitz also reveals to us that the Arizal would follow Mar Ukvah’s father’s practice of waiting a full day in between milk and meat.
Although the sefer has a seven page index, it is not nearly what it should be, given the extensive footnotes throughout the work. Hopefully, the index can be expanded in the next printing. Doing so would make it an essential work for anyone learning Yore Deah to be applied in the ever-changing world of Kashrus today. The second critique is that the sefer is so essential it should be printed in Hebrew as well.
Rabbi Spitz is also an essential figure in Ohr Sameach’s Ohr LaGolah program, which trains Rabbonim for positions in Jewish communities across the world. It is clear to anyone that learns this sefer that its author is a future gadol b’yisroel, if not already. Both Ohr Sameach and his talmidim are blessed to have him. The book is available at bookstores throughout the United States.
The reviewer can be reached at [email protected]