The Kosher Conversation Sukkos Special

Arba Minim with Rabbi Mordechai Frankel

A special episode focusing on the Halachos of the Arba Minim: Esrog, Lulav, Hadassim, and Aravos.

Rabbi Frankel walks us through the selection process of the Daled Minim:

Do the size and shape of your esrog matter?Does your lulav need to be straight?How much should you spend on a chinuch set?Do you need to check the esrog with a loupe?

All this and much much more on this special Sukkos episode of the kosher conversation!

Feedback and questions are always welcome at 1-410-816-9509 or [email protected]

A Shemita Primer for Chutz La’aretz

By: STAR-K Rabbinic Staff

Beginning on Rosh Hashana this year (5782) and ending Rosh Hashana next year (5783), it is the Shemita/Sabbatical year in Eretz Yisroel. This is certainly one of the most special mitzvos that we have. The amazing demonstration of our absolute faith and emunah in Hashem which is displayed from its proper observance is unique from all other mitzvos. Furthermore, the guarantee that Hashem will provide us with sustenance in advance that comes along with observing Shemita is something that proves that the Torah can be directly only from Hashem himself.

Although Shemita does not apply to land outside of Eretz Yisroel, there are still a number of circumstances that we in chutz la’aretz will likely encounter, and thereby give us the ability to observe the mitzvah of Shemita properly. The laws of Shemita are quite extensive and complex. The goal of this article is to […]

Rosh Hashana Simanim Checking Guide

Click image below for a larger view and a handy printable version.

A HALACHIC GUIDE TO HONEY AND BEE DERIVATIVES

Click here for STAR-K’s Halachic Guide to Honey and Bee Derivates by Rabbi Dovid Heber.

Thermador Oven Alert

BSH Home Appliances has recently discovered a glitch in the
Thermador Professional Series Double Wall Ovens. The Sabbath mode operation is
working properly, but the temperature adjustment allowance during Sabbath mode
is not working once Sabbath is activated.

The following products are affected:

Product

Description

PO302W

Pro
Dbl Oven, 30″, SS, Select

POD302LW

Pro
Dbl Oven, 30″, SS, Deluxe, Left Side-Opening

POD302RW

Pro
Dbl Oven, 30″, SS, Deluxe, Right Side-Opening

POD302W

Pro
Dbl Oven, 30″, SS, Deluxe

PODS302W

Pro
Spec Dbl, 30″, SS, Deluxe, Steam and Convection Oven

This issue can be fixed through
a software update and BSH has already initiated actions to implement the fix
within the factory, as well as an “over-the-air” update. […]

Insights from the Institute: Pet Neutering

Q: May one ask a vet to spay a pet?

A: I frequently get asked this question. People who have pets often prefer to have them neutered, as this makes the animals more docile. However, there are serious halachic issues associated with this. Poskim differentiate between whether a male or female animal is being neutered. The neutering of a male animal is known as castration, whereas neutering a female animal is called spaying.

The Torah (Vayikra 22:24) states that castrating men and male animals is forbidden. This prohibition is known as sirus.1 It is also forbidden to remove a woman and female animal’s reproductive organs. The Gr”a is of the opinion that this is a Torah prohibition. The Taz, however, feels that causing a female animal to become infertile is permitted. According to the Taz, the reason it is forbidden to remove a female animal’s reproductive organs is solely due to […]

Dacor Refrigerator Alert

If your refrigerator has an Auto Door Open (ADO) feature, it must be turned off before Shabbos/Yom Tov.  See  pages 17, 18, 32 and 33 here”.

GE Sabbath Mode Oven Alert

Effective January 1, 2022, GE began marketing their Sabbath Mode ovens without STAR-K certification. Certified ovens purchased and delivered prior to January 1, 2022, remain certified.

Consumers seeking to purchase cooking appliances compatible with Shabbos and Yom Tov are advised to select models certified by a reliable kashrus organization.

Consumers who have questions or concerns about this issue can contact GE directly at 1-800-626-2005.

Undercover: The Halachos of Schach

Fall 2009

When our Torah speaks about the Festival of Sukkos it states, “Chag HaSukkos Taaseh Lecha B’Aspecha Migornecha U’Miyikvecha.”1  “The Sukkos holiday should be observed at the time that you harvest your grain and your wine,” during the fall.  Our Chachamim, sages, have taught us that this pasuk has another esoteric meaning.  The sukkah, in which we dwell during this chag, should be made from the unused parts of the harvesting grain and wine, namely the stalks of grain and twigs of the vine.  These are the items that should be used for the schach, the covering, which is placed on top of the sukkah instead of a permanent roof.

Maryland Beer Alert Pesach 2022/5782

Updated April 4, 2022

It has come to our attention that two large beer distribution companies, who are the exclusive distributors of many brands in Maryland, are Jewish owned. Due to numerous challenges, a proper sale of Chometz is not possible. As a result, many brands of beer sold in our area will be “Chometz She’avar Alav HaPesach”. The problematic beer in stock will not be depleted until sometime in June. Please check our website after June 1st for an update. Until that time, the beers on the list here should not be purchased. We do not have any information about beers sold outside of Maryland.

For a list of stores where brands listed may be purchased in Maryland see here.

Additionally, one may purchase beer at the following stores with the listed conditions:

Accents Liquor Store (new!) – All beer in the store
Dugan’s – Only beer that has an approval sticker bearing the STAR-K symbol and Hebrew signature of Mashgiach.
Kosher […]

Don’t Miss the Boat: Halachic Guidelines of Kosher Cruises

The task of food preparation aboard a modern cruise ship is enormous. Activity begins even before the first passenger comes aboard. Needless to say, food is central to a cruise. “Kosher Cruise” may simply imply that the food is kosher; other halachic issues may not have been addressed by the kosher certification agency. In this article, we will examine kashrus, as well as other topics including Shabbos, davening and tznius.

Kashrus

Providing kosher supervision on a cruise ship is not an easy task. “Mega-ships” can carry over 4,000 guests.1 Food preparation occurs around-the-clock in multiple locations. Most often, a ‘kosher cruise’ means that an entrepreneur has booked a number of cabins aboard a large ship. In such an arrangement, kosher and non-kosher food will be prepared and served simultaneously.

The traveler must have confidence in the kashrus agency that is certifying the cruise. In order to instill confidence, a reliable kashrus organization must address many issues.

What arrangements have been made to […]

Meshane Makom/Meshane Brocha: When do I need a new Brocha?

Almost every time I enter a supermarket, I marvel at the wide variety of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, as well as a plentiful assortment of epicurean delights. If someone were to call their market “Gan Eden” – in the secular sense – they would be right.

Before consuming our supermarket delicacies, we must give proper consideration to an important shaila: What is the correct brocha for this food? Many times, this is not an easy question. After all, there are so many aspects of birchos hanehenin1 to keep in mind. How does it grow? Is it processed? Is one of the chameishes minei dagan (five special grains) present in a halachically meaningful way? What part of the food is the ikar (primary) to me? Do I need to recite a brocha if I already said the same brocha on a different food? What if I decided I was […]

Schach/Sukkah Mats (Webinar)

August 2017

Webinar host Rabbi Zvi Goldberg discusses schach mats with Rabbi Boruch Beyer.

Additionally, you can listen here for a shiur by Rabbi Goldberg, given at Congregation Darchei Tzedek, Baltimore, on the subject of various types of schach mats. The shiur includes an explanation of STAR-K certified mats.

Kosher Wine Comes of Age

Throughout the ages, alcohol has always played a vital role in historical and religious observance. Dovid Hamelech’s declaration ויין ישמח לבב אנוש,1 “Wine will gladden the hearts of humanity,” certainly has borne itself out in modern history. Wine accompanies happy occasions in almost every society known to man. Chazal declare אין שמחה אלא ביין.2
When I was growing up, there weren’t many choices when it came to kosher wine. When my parents bought our childhood home, my father was thrilled to find that it came with a wine cellar. He was then faced with the formidable challenge of finding kosher wine good enough to bother storing. I remember a time when there were only two wines from Eretz Yisroel available, both from Carmel Chateau Rishon: Vin Rouge and Vin Blanc; basically, the whole range was sweet red and white! Domestic wines were even more limited; while there were a few […]

A Halachic Guide to Sheva Brachos

Chazal tell us that Moshe Rabeinu established the “shivas y’mai hamishteh”, the seven days during which the choson and kallah rejoice together following their wedding.1 During this time, family and friends come together and prepare beautiful seudos, followed by the recitation of the “Sheva Brochos” at the conclusion of Birchas Hamazon. Such seudos are quite common, and it is important to review the various applicable halachos.2

What is Necessary For Sheva Brochos

If a choson and kallah are at a meal held in their honor during the first seven days of their marriage, and there is a minyan present, including a panim chadashos, Sheva Brochos are recited. The following is an explanation of what is required:

1. Minyan – At least seven adult males over the age of Bar Mitzvah eat enough bread that requires Birchas Hamazon,3 and at least three others eat enough food (e.g., cake, fruit, etc.) or […]

Insights from the Institute

Q: May one pet an animal on Shabbos?

A: Chazal enacted a takanah designating certain types of objects as muktzah, thereby limiting a person’s freedom to move those items on Shabbos. There are various categories of muktzah with differing degrees of limitation of movement. For example, a utensil which is generally used for an activity prohibited on Shabbos is muktzah. A naturally occurring object such a stone is also muktzah unless it has been designated before Shabbos for a specific purpose. Similarly, the Talmud states that an animal is muktzah.

In former times, it was common for children to play with young birds and listen to them sing. Tosefos suggests that a bird should not be considered to be muktzah as it can be used as a distraction for a crying child. However, Tosefos rejects this and concludes that birds are muktzah. Similarly, the Shulchan Aruch paskens that animals are muktzah and […]

Just a Spoonful of Glycerin Makes the Medicine Go Down

In the world of food ingredients, there is no ingredient as versatile as glycerin. In the world of kosher ingredient sensitivity, there is no kosher-sensitive ingredient that compares to glycerin. Glycerin’s ingredient versatility is not limited to food grade applications. Glycerin is used extensively as a major component in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries, as well.

Glycerin is known as a humectant. That means that glycerin helps retain moisture. Therefore, glycerin is a perfect ingredient for the baking industry to keep bakery goods moist and give products a longer shelf-life. Glycerin is sweet and can be used as a substitute for liquid sugar. Glycerin is an excellent solvent and is used as a mainstay for food colors. These properties make glycerin an essential ingredient in a myriad of food applications.

Furthermore, glycerin’s natural properties make it an essential element in pharmaceutical products, as well as health and beauty aids. What is that […]

Fresh from the Field: Staying Up To Date On Insect Checking/Bedikas Tolayim Part 1

Halachic issues of infestation in many of the fruits and vegetables that we consume are well known. Much has been written and said about these issues, albeit to various degrees of halachic stringency. This article will focus on the methods used to monitor this evolving industry. Doing so requires both monitoring of the various produce items, as well as keeping track of their sources on an ongoing basis. This is easier said than done! We will explore the challenges inherent in accomplishing these objectives and discuss some of the more recent items that have surfaced on the infestation radar screens.

The world of entomology is ever evolving. Chaza”l1 stress the importance of knowing the facts in each locale, as the variables that affect insects and infestation change constantly. It used to be that due to their short shelf-life, produce was mainly sourced locally. Knowing the infestation issues inherent in each location […]

Insights from the Institute

Q: Under which circumstances is a person obligated to erect a fence around the roof of his house?

A: The Torah in parshas Ki-Setze states, “When you build a new house make a railing for your roof, and you shall not bring blood on your house if someone falls from there”.1 The Torah requires one to build a maakeh – a fence – around a flat roof that people walk on, so as to protect them from falling. The mitzvah applies not only to someone who builds a house but also to someone who buys, inherits or is gifted a house.2 A person who rents a house is also required to build a maakeh if the owner has not already done so.3

A maakeh has to be strong enough that a person could lean against it without falling, and it has to be ten tefachim high.4 This measurement […]

Sabbath Mode FAQs

KitchenAid 1996:
Dear Rabbi Rosen,
The STAR-K KitchenAid Sabbath Mode project had been evolving for 2 ½ years. This novel venture was initiated by KitchenAid to address the needs of the Sabbath observant Jewish community that would not be able to use the new age KitchenAid ranges and wall units due to the new electronic technology and advanced features.
Jewish Sabbbath observance does not permit the kindling or extinguishing of a fire or the cooking of food on Sabbath. Jewish Holiday observance does not permit the creation of a new flame, but cooking and adjusting fire as needed for cooking is permitted.
The issues that KitchenAid engineers had to address in order to create a user-friendly oven for the Sabbath observer were the following:
1. Could the 12-hour automatic shutoff be bypassed?
2. Could the oven be opened without lighting an icon on the control […]

Bal Tashchis: Waste Management in Everyday Life

Shockingly, the Natural Resources Defense Council reports that about 40% of all food in the United States goes uneaten; it is either left to rot or tossed in the garbage. In fact, 7% of all food doesn’t even make it out of the farm, and a significant amount doesn’t even get picked because it doesn’t meet standards for color and shape! One industry estimate claims that an average of $2,300 of food products are discarded each day by individual grocery stores due to impending expiration dates. American families throw out between 14-25% of the food and the beverages that they purchase, and restaurant diners leave about 17% of their food uneaten.1

Of course, we know the Torah teaches us that we need to be careful and not wasteful. We also know that we are not just talking about wasting food. We are charged to appreciate every chair, book and bobby […]

Getting into the Fabric of Shatnez Checking with a Man of the Cloth

INTRODUCTION

The Torah forbids the wearing of a garment made from tzemer (wool) and pishtim (linen) together. There are two pesukim in the Torah that refer to Shatnez. It states,1 “Ubeged kilayim shatnez lo ya’aleh alecha,” a garment composed of a mixture which is Shatnez should not be draped upon oneself. We find a different expression of this same mitzvah, “Lo silbash shatnez tzemer uphishtim yachdav2 – Do not wear shatnez, wool and linen together.” Chazal tell us that these two pesukim complement one another. In Devarim, the Torah forbids actual wearing of Shatnez – levisha, whereas the Vayikra prohibition of Shatnez includes he’elah – draping Shatnez over one’s body. The Gemara3 explains that draping is prohibited only if it is done in a way which is similar to wearing, i.e., where some benefit is derived from the Shatnez such as being covered or warmed. It […]

HE-BREWS: A Micro View into A Microbrew

Introduction
If there is a word that can be used to describe the unprecedented growth of microbreweries it is explosive’. There are more microbreweries than ever in the U.S., accounting for $22.3 billion of revenue and 21% of market share. In 2015, the brewery count stood at 4,269 breweries: 2,397 microbreweries; 1,650 brew pubs; and 178 craft breweries. In essence, this dynamic growth has in essence reshaped the playing field, both in quality and new offerings. Of course, the success of the microbrewery is changing the face of the beer industry from traditional to innovative, which obviously impacts the typical kashrus perception of a microbrewery.
It was previously assumed that microbreweries were more purist than their ‘big brother’ counterparts. This means that they would not deviate from the strict rules of the reinheitsgebot-German Beer Purity laws. Is this still true today? And if not, what is the kosher status of […]

Shiluach Hakan

Published Spring 2017

Shiluach Hakan1 (sending away the mother bird before taking her young) is a mitzvah that is infrequently performed. Its reward is the blessing of a long life – similar to the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents. Let’s examine how, when and where to perform the mitzvah of Shiluach Hakan.
“If a bird’s nest happens to be before you…young birds or eggs, and the mother is roosting…you shall not take the mother with the young. You shall surely send away the mother and take the young for yourself, so that it will be good for you and will prolong your days.”2

Possible Reasons for the Mitzvah

The Rabbis ruled that a person may not state that the reason for the mitzvah is compassion for the mother bird. One commentator interprets the Talmud’s prohibition as applying strictly to reciting this in one’s prayers, as if to establish compassion as the definitive, […]

“Beer” Chometz – An overview of Beer Distribution in Baltimore and Chometz She’avar Alav haPesach

It is by now well known that much of the beer sold in Baltimore and surrounding counties is distributed by Jewish owned companies, creating a significant Chometz She’avar Alav haPesach issue for our community. The following is a brief explanation of the issue.

What exactly is Chometz?

The Torah[1] forbids eating any chometz – leavened grain products during Pesach. Simply defined, leavening is dough or batter that has increased in volume either through yeasts or chemical means. The process of how this happens is the following.

A chemical leaven such as sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) react with compounds naturally present in the dough to produce carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide (CO2) released from this reaction becomes trapped inside the dough, thereby causing the dough to expand – and rise.

Another way to cause dough to rise is through a process called fermentation. Yeast, a fungus naturally present in grains (or commonly added […]

Important Appliance Pre-Purchase Advice

When shopping for a new appliance, it is worth considering the different features each one offers and whether they meet your needs regarding Shabbos and Yom Tov use. Here are some suggestions and considerations to help you make the best decision for your needs.

Advice Re: Cooktops

Electric smoothtops may present a problem of kashering for Pesach. Check with your rav.
Electric cooktops may pose a problem with adjusting the temperature on Yom Tov.
Electronic ignition may pose a problem with initiating a flame on Yom Tov.
Some cooktops (gas or electric) have knobs that light up when the burner is turned on, and on some of these cooktops an illuminated ring displays on the knob itself. Some knobs are backlit with a soft glow to indicate an ‘On’ setting, and some knobs offer progressive illumination that adjusts to indicate the burner setting. These types of knobs pose a problem.
Additionally, be aware that some high-end […]

Oven Kashrus For Yom Tov Use

Yom Tov celebrations could never be complete without the traditional piping hot delicacies from past generations. However, the kosher homemaker must be well educated on how to prepare Yom Tov meals without fear of transgressing a Torah or rabbinic prohibition.
When mentioning the prohibition of work on Shabbos the Torah writes, “Do not do any melacha (work prohibited on Shabbos).”1 This prohibition applies to melacha performed for food preparation, as well as other non-food purposes. In stating the prohibition of melacha on Yom Tov the Torah writes, “You shall not do laborious work.”2 In addition, when giving the initial command about the Yom Tov of Pesach the Torah writes, “No work may be done on them (first and seventh day of Pesach), except for what must be eaten for any person, only that may be done for you.” (Shmos 22:16) The Ramban explains that the contrast of terms […]

Shaimos Guidelines

The Torah forbids discarding holy objects by throwing them into the trash. Some objects always have kedusha and must be placed in shaimos. Other objects gain kedusha once they are used for a mitzvah and need to be treated with special care.

SHAIMOS
Objects which have innate holiness, kedusha, are shaimos. This means that, when discarded, they must be wrapped in plastic and buried. The following objects are included in this category:
1. A Sefer Torah.
2. Sefer Torah covers.
3. Tefillin, tefillin bags, mezuzos, and mezuzah covers.
4. Siddurim and bentchers.
5. Seforim, whether handwritten, printed, photocopied or downloaded and printed (e.g., chumashim, siddurim, machzorim, seforim, Gemara, Shulchan Aruch, etc.).
6. A quote from tanach, chazal, Rishonim or Achronim, that has been printed or written with the intention of explaining Torah, or to teach us how to conduct ourselves according to hashkafos haTorah.
7. Invitations from organizations and individuals that […]

Balsamic Vinegar: Sour Grapes or Sour Sweet Success

Vinegar is one of nature’s most unique and versatile products. Folklore maintains that vinegar was discovered quite by accident, when wine was inadvertently left to sour. This resulted in the first batch of full-bodied wine vinegar. Indeed, the word ‘vinegar’ is derived from the French word vinaigre, which means sour wine. Euphemistically, the Talmud refers to a ne’er-do-well son of a righteous father as a Chometz Ben Yayin, “vinegar son of wine.”
Folklore aside, vinegar was well known in the time of Tanach. The Torah forbids a Nazir to drink wine vinegar or eat other grape and wine products. In Tehillim,1 Dovid Hamelech asked to drink vinegar when he said, “Vlitzmaie Yashkuni Chometz”. In Megilas Rus, Boaz’s workers dipped their bread in vinegar.2
The Hebrew term for vinegar, chometz (pronounced ch-oh-metz), is similar to the word chametz (pronounced ch-aw-maitz), leavened bread products. This etymological similarity underscores the correlation […]

Kashrus in the Workplace

The new food trends that have been embraced by society at large have led to a similar preoccupation with food within corporate America. This development has obvious ramifications for the kosher consumer at the office. The following is a guide to dealing with kashrus issues in the workplace.1 While it is impossible to address all the kashrus issues that may arise, this article provides an overview. As with all halacha, when questions arise, one should consult his rav.

1) Eating in a Cafeteria Shared with Co-Workers Who Eat Non-Kosher – Food on a plate, may’iker hadin, may be eaten even when placed on a non-kosher clean table. The Baday Hashulchan2 notes that today, the general custom is to use a napkin (or a placemat or something of a similar nature) when eating on a non-kosher table, even if it is clean.3 Although, in many cases a “heker” is […]