STAR-K CERTIFICATIONrealizes that there is no substitute for a person's own Rav. However, in today's busy and connected world many people have difficulty getting in touch with their Rabbanim when they are needed. In an effort to offer a solution to this challenge, STAR-K launched its Institute of Halachah as a public service. Over the years, the agency's Kashrus Hotline has answered more and more halachic questions beyond the scope of Kashrus information, from consumers the world over, beyond the standard steady stream of inquiries regarding the kosher status of foods and certified Sabbath mode appliances which has made the STAR-K Kosher Hotline famous. The formation of a separate official division within STAR-K testifies to the need for addressing these issues.
The Institute of Halachah is directed by HaRav Mordechai Frankel, under the guidance of HaRav Moshe Heinemann, STAR-K's Rabbinic Administrator. It is an invaluable resource for a diverse array of rabbis to discuss general halachic matters, as well as gain access to source materials for shiurim and answers to congregants' questions.
Shailos may emailed using the form below, or called into the Institute of Halacha at 410-484-4110 x238. Rabbi Frankel or on occasion another STAR-K Rabbi will respond to your email or return your call if you leave a message and phone number.
Previously Asked Questions
I have a set of sterling silver flatware which was given to me from a deceased relative's estate. They did not keep kosher, and I am planning to kasher it. I know that they used it, but it looks new - I checked in between the prongs on the forks. May I toivel it first? I'm trying to do as much as possible as early as possible.
You should kasher it first before being tovel it.
שו"ע יו"ד סי' קכא סעי' ב
I have a pinched nerve in my neck. B"H it's not painful, but I was given exercises from the physical therapist to do twice a day to help heal the moderate carpal tunnel syndrome I have. There is a possibility that the pinched nerve is causing the carpal tunnel. Am I allowed to do these neck exercises on Shabbos?
A person who is not all that sick should not do exercises if it is obvious and apparent that it is being done as therapy. If that is the case with these exercises, then I would suggest doing them on Friday afternoon and Motzei Shabbos. However, a person is allowed to stretch his neck on Shabbos if it is not apparent that it is being done as therapy. May Hashem send you a refuah sheleima, that the carpal tunnel syndrome goes away soon.
עי' בשמירת שבת כהלכתה פרק לד סעי' כג ובשו"ת ציץ אליעזר חלק יב סי' מה
I have heard that one should not draw the picture of a complete sun due to a connection with avodah zarah. I was going to make a cake today in the shape of a sun (a circle cake with cookie sticks around it as the sun's rays) and was wondering if that would fall into the same category. Would I be allowed to make such a cake?
It is true that one should not draw a picture of the sun. However, this is only true if the picture is clearly recognizable as the sun, and it is not clear whether your cake decoration would qualify. I would think that this kind of cake would not be considered an accurate representation, and therefore can be made.
עי' שו"ת אגרות משה או"ח ח"ה סי' ט אות ו
I have a student with a refrigerator that has a device, both in the refrigerator and freezer, which signals with a beeping noise after the door of one of them is open for 60 seconds or after a certain temperature is reached. Is it permissible to open the refrigerator/freezer for less than 60 seconds (besides a problem of an application of "shema yishkach") or is there an electronic device that starts automatically when the door is open? If there is such a problem, do you know if there is a way for an electrician to fix it?
Assuming that there are no other halachic issues with the refrigerator, Rabbi Heinemann holds that you can open the door of the fridge if you close it within the minute and no noise is produced. However, even if this is permissible, if one time you were not careful and the fridge/freezer stayed open for a minute, then the noise would start and you would not be allowed to close the door to make it stop. You would then have to leave the door open until the beeping stops, after which you could close the door. It would obviously be best if you could prevent this possibility by, before Shabbos, disabling the mechanism which causes the noise. Whether this is possible would depend on the type of fridge they have. There are different mechanisms by which a fridge senses that the door has been opened. Some fridges have a plunger on the side of the fridge where the door is hinged, so that opening the door releases the plunger. This can be disabled by taping down the plunger. Other fridges magnetically sense that the door has been opened. There may be a way to disable the mechanism by attaching magnets in the right places. Perhaps an experienced electrician may know how.