A bottle of cholov yisroel milk
|Halakhic texts relating to this article:|
|Babylonian Talmud:||Avodah Zarah 35b|
|Shulchan Aruch:||Yoreh De'ah 115:1|
|* Not meant as a definitive ruling. Some observances may be rabbinical, custom or Torah-based.|
Chalav Yisrael (Hebrew: חלב ישראל), sometimes pronounced Cholov Yisroel, is a halachic term which refers to all dairy products, including cheese and non-fat dry milk powder, which derive from milk that has been milked under the supervision of an observant Jew.
According to Jewish law (halacha), milk is kosher only if it comes from a kosher species of animal (such as cows and sheep), while milk from a non-kosher species (such as horses and camels) is forbidden.
In the past it was not uncommon for farmers to mix the milk of their various animals together, unbeknownst to their customers. Since it was conceivable to have a farm selling a mixture of Kosher and non-Kosher milk, the rabbinic authorities in talmudic times issued an injunction against the drinking of any milk whose milking was not done by, or under the supervision of, an observant Jew - such milk is alternately referred to in halachic literature as either chalav akum or chalav nochri. This prohibition was codified in the Shulchan Aruch which unequivocally forbids consumption of any milk not milked under Jewish supervision.
 In the USA and other countries with similar regulations
Modern health standards (regulated by health organizations, such as the USDA) are intended to ensure that milk sold in stores labeled as "cows' milk" is, in fact 100% cows' milk. Therefore, many rabbis of the early 20th century, eventually formalized in responsa by Rav Moshe Feinstein, permit the use of regular cows' milk in the United States and other countries with similar regulations. This is commonly referred to as chalav stam, meaning "plain milk", and it is referred to in Igros Moshe as chalav hacompanies. Today, many rabbinic authorities permit drinking such milk, and others limit their permission to when Chalav Yisrael is either not available or more expensive. On the other hand, many other rabbis, especially Hasidic ones, actually forbid the use of milk that is not chalav yisroel under any circumstance as violation of a rabbinical prohibition.
All dairy products made in the USA or countries where people eat "chalav stam", even when bearing a Kosher symbol, are most likely to be "chalav stam". Kosher certifications in such countries usually mark "chalav yisrael" in either English or Hebrew next to their kosher symbol. Kosher certification In Israel, kosher certifiers don’t usually mark “chalav yisrael” since it is the standard there--in fact, kosher dairy products in Israel that are not Chalav Yisrael need to be marked as such.
There are also Kabbalistic reasons for being strict concerning chalav yisrael; these are not based on the possibility of mixing non-kosher milk but on spiritual ramifications to drinking non-chalav yisrael which leads to "timtum ha-lev" a spiritual deadening of the heart.
"A chassid once came to the Alter Rebbe lamenting the fact that his son-in-law was subject to periods when he would doubt his faith. The Alter Rebbe responded that the son-in-law had unwittingly consumed milk which was milked by a non-Jew, with no Jew in attendance. Though he was unaware of this fact, and though the prohibition against such milk is only of Rabbinic origin, this had so strong an effect upon him that it caused him to doubt his faith." - Chapter 8 of Lessons in Tanya by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi with additions and explanations by both Rabbi Yosef Wineberg and Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schnearson.
 See also
- sec. Yoreh Deah 115:1
- OU Introduction to Cholov Yisroel on OUKosher.org
- Kashrus Kurrents, Cholov Yisroel: Does a Neshama Good by Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, Star-K Rabbinic Administrator