The joy, the planning, the anticipation, the expense — there is a lot that goes into a Yiddishe simcha. Be it a chasuna, Bar Mitzvah, or bris – every significant life cycle event is extra special, and the baalei simcha want to ensure that their guests have a good time.  Central to that goal is a delicious seudas mitzvah.  Endless hours of planning are spent making sure everything is perfect, from the decor to the menu. Is the same effort expended regarding the kashrus level of the event? If the simcha is being catered, does the caterer have reliable kosher certification?  As catering costs have risen, consumers have opted to cater their own simchas.  This article will attempt to address some key issues that one should consider when self- catering an event.

The Kiddush

Pre-planning your Kiddush is the best strategy to guarantee that the simcha will encounter a minimum amount of […]

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 […]

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 drink a beverage […]

With his inimitable sense of humor, STAR-K Director of Supervision Rabbi Eliyahu Shuman opened his speech joking that it was hashgacha that his seudas preida was being held on Parshas Beshalach. After the laughter diminished, he explained why the decision to retire was so difficult for him.

“For 42 years, I was zoche to work with Rav Heinemann, be in the daled amos of the Rav, and be able to be misabek b’afar raglov; that’s not something you want to retire from.” explained Rabbi Shuman. “It’s also hard because we’re not an organization—we’re family. In these 42 years, we’ve become a unit and we work so beautifully together. It is like a wheel with the Rav in the center, and all of us are the spokes trying to be mekayam the requirements and the divrei haRav. When you’re family, it’s hard to leave.”

In closing, Rabbi Shuman shared, “I want to devote […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 is 40 inches according […]

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 […]

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 pin […]

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 is clear that one must […]

Q: What are the halachos regarding eating or cooking meat and fish together?

A: Chazal tell us that it is unhealthy to eat meat and fish together, meat which was cooked with fish, or fish which was cooked with meat.1 The Magen Avrohom suggests the possibility that people are no longer sensitive to the combination of meat and fish, and that eating this is no longer unhealthy.2 However, common practice is to avoid eating meat and fish together and not rely on the Magen Avrohom.3 Regarding this halacha, chicken has the same status as meat.4
If a person ate fish and would like to eat meat, or if he ate meat and would like to eat fish, he is required to take certain actions. The Shulchan Aruch states that he must wash his hands, but according to the Rema it is not Ashkenzai practice to do so.5 He must cleanse his palate […]

Feathers are flying in Eretz Yisroel, as the Poskim debate the kosher status of the Braekel chicken. Rav Moshe Shaul Klein, shlit”a, a leading member of the Beis Din of Rav Shmuel Wosner, zt”l, feels that its kashrus is superior to that of other chickens. However, Rav Moshe Sternbuch, shlit”a, feels that its kashrus is inferior. The rest of us are left confused. How can a chicken be “more kosher” or “less kosher”, and how could respected Poskim take such contradictory positions? In order to answer these questions, we need to familiarize ourselves with the halachos of kosher birds.
The Torah1 lists the various species of non-kosher birds. The Gemara2 states that the Torah chose to list the non-kosher species, rather than the kosher ones, because the non-kosher list is shorter. In other words, there are a greater number of kosher than non-kosher species. However, the Gemara3 also tells us […]

The STAR-K office and its Institute of Halacha receive hundreds of inquiries from STAR-K mashgichim, businessmen and tourists traveling to all corners of the globe. The most common questions relate to kashrus information. However, more common than ever are shaalos related to davening and other halachic issues impacted by changing time zones while in transit. There are excellent websites1 that project the times for sunrise, sunset, and other halachic zmanim for aircraft passengers. A basic understanding of the halachos that relate to these times and the metzios2 enhances the use of these powerful tools, which is analogous to how we can increase the usefulness of a GPS by possessing a basic knowledge of the route one must drive.

I. What Happens In-Flight?
As is well known, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. In the summer, the days are longer (earlier sunrise, later sunset), and in the […]

The hallowed cornerstone of kashrus. בחלב אמו אל תבשל, Do not eat a goat in the milk of its mother. The Torah repeats this prohibition השע אל תוצמ three times,1 instructing us that we must not eat, cook or derive benefit from a combination of milk and meat. To distance ourselves from an inadvertent mistake, safeguards have been instituted and implemented by Chazal to preserve the integrity of the essential מצות לא עשה.
To this end, every kosher kitchen has two separate sets of pots, pans, cutlery and dishes. Similarly, if two people are eating together at the same table, one eating meat and the other eating dairy, the Shulchan Aruch instructs us to make a distinguishing separation between the two friends to avoid an inadvertent nibble.2 Moreover, the Shulchan Aruch also instructs us to wait after eating meat before eating dairy or drinking milk.3 There are a number of […]

Q: I made some dough in order to bake bread and separated challah. When I wasn’t looking, someone inadvertently took that piece of separated challah and added it back into the rest of the dough. Now that the dough and challah are all mixed together, how should I proceed?

A: Before we discuss how to proceed, let us clarify one point. The word “challah” has two meanings. It is used as the name of a bread which is braided, baked and commonly eaten at Shabbos meals. It is also used to describe a small piece of dough that was separated from a larger batch of dough in order to fulfill the halachic obligation of hafrashas challah. We are using the word “challah” in that second sense.

Let us discuss the case where challah was mixed with dough and can no longer be recognized. If the batch of dough that the challah fell […]

Chocolate, the king of confections, continues to grow in popularity. Chocolate is surely nature’s sweetest combination of fruit and vegetable, sugar and cocoa beans. Kosher chocolate is a delicious study of technology and halachah. Let’s explore the intoxicating world of chocolate.

Over the years, chocolate manufacturing has continued to grow, both domestically and internationally. Chocolate connoisseurship has reached new heights. Believe it or not, the most expensive chocolate today costs in excess of $90 a pound. The chocoholic delights at the sight of Belgian truffles, French bonbons, Swiss chocolate and other chocolate bars that abound. Most major chocolate manufacturers in the U.S. have reliable kosher certification. Some specialty chocolate manufacturers are kosher certified, as well. Cholov Yisroel chocolate in particular has recently seen unprecedented growth. Today, a Cholov Yisroel consumer can feast on a Cholov Yisroel chocolate equivalent without having to compromise on taste or quality.

Chocolate raw ingredients make a long […]

The Fundamental Question

Should someone be stigmatized because he has a conflict of interest? Apparently, the mainstream media feels this way and ethics review boards often highlight this as a red flag. People are not the only ones who are challenged by this issue. Organizations whose trust and authority hinge on an image of integrity must deal with perceived conflicts of interest, both on the corporate level and with regard to individual employees.

Food certification agencies, whether they oversee kosher, organic, non-GMO, gluten-free or a host of other popular standards1 must all face the inevitable question: How do they ensure that compliance judgements are based on whether the client is meeting its regulatory requirements, without regard to financial considerations?

Government bodies, such as USDA, FDA and health departments largely avoid this question – on the corporate level – because they are funded independently of the businesses they certify.2 Individual inspectors are screened […]

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 […]

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, sole reason. […]

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 […]

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 between the […]

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 required4 when individuals […]

Q: Do potato chips need to be bishul Yisroel (cooked by a Jew)?

A: The Shulchan Aruch states that there is a rabbinic obligation that food be cooked through bishul Yisroel if both of the following conditions are met: (i) The food is generally not eaten raw, and (ii) The cooked food is something that would be served at a shulchan melochim – a king’s table.1 Since we are no longer ruled by royalty, we cannot observe what is served at a king’s table. The modern-day equivalent to a king’s meal is an elegant meal, such as that served at a wedding.2  This second condition is met whether the food is served at a shulchan melochim as part of the main course or as the dessert. In either case, if the food is generally not eaten raw it needs to be bishul Yisroel.3

The Aruch Hashulchan proposes that potatoes are peasant food and are not […]

INTRODUCTION
Eretz Yisroel has the unique privilege of being the recipient of the Ribono Shel Olam’s brochos throughout the year. Its agricultural industry continues to grow and flourish. Some consumer products imported from Eretz Yisroel, such as Jaffa oranges and grapefruits, are very well known to the American marketplace while other products including clementines, carrots, red peppers, jams, jellies, tomatoes, olives, and pickled products are not as familiar. Finally, there are a host of industrial products like orange oil, lemon oil and parsley that provide a steady supply of raw materials.

Besides all the general consumer kashrus concerns regarding ingredients, processing and certification, there are additional kashrus requirements that apply to foods grown and produced in Eretz Yisroel. For instance, one must be sure that terumos and ma’asros have been properly separated before consumption. Furthermore, one needs to ensure that the fruits do not come from trees that violate the conditions […]

Someone gives you a choice between two items, seemingly identical. Their only difference is that one is dark and dull, the other is bright and shiny. Which one would you choose? A tarnished penny or a gleaming one? The odds favor the latter. Food stylists and advertisers know this well. Look at any magazine spread and see how the careful lighting adds to the appeal of ordinary foods. There is probably no food item that better epitomizes the concept of a ‘shiny’ food than candy. Think glossy lollipops, satiny Mike and Ikes, gleaming M&M’s . . .

Candy manufacturers value eye appeal and they do get their candy to shine. How do they do it? What do they use to achieve their goal? In the industrial world, it is called shellac and in the candy
community it is known as confectioner’s glaze. What is confectioner’s glaze? Where does it
originate? How is […]

If one had to choose a single word to describe an olive, it would be ‘versatile’. Olive oil was used daily to light the Menorah in the Bais Hamikdosh. Our first introduction to olive oil was the Shemen Hamishcha, an infused olive oil with a unique blend of spices used to anoint melachim, kohanim and klei haMikdash. Moreover, the yonah (dove) brought back an olive branch to Noach in the ark, and our baseline halachic measurement for eating something significant is a “k’zayis”, the size of an olive.1 The Gemara in Brochos tells us that if one sees an olive in a dream, it is a sign of peace; if one sees an olive branch, it is a sign of Torah scholarship.
There is an opinion in the Midrash that the fruit of the Eitz Hadaas, Tree of Knowledge, was from an olive tree. Additionally, Asher (one of Yaakov Avinu’s […]

How much must one eat to recite a brocha acharona? How much bread must one eat to fulfill one’s obligation of seudas Shabbos?
Although Chazal chose to describe measurements in terms of commonly used items or foods such as a k’zayis (olive) and a k’beitzah (egg), the size of a standard size egg 1800 years ago may have been larger than today’s egg. Similarly, there are many varieties of olives, and we are uncertain as to which one is used for the k’zayis measure. Therefore, shiurim must be defined in contemporary terms.1 The following is based on the psak of Rabbi Moshe Heinemann shlit”a.
I. K’zayis Measurement2 – 1.27 fl. oz. (38 ml) – If one eats a k’zayis3 of bread, he must recite birchas hamazon.4 Similarly, if one eats a k’zayis of any other food a brocha acharona must be recited.5
Our testing indicates that this is the approximate […]

Olive oil – the liquid gold of the ancients – was touted for its nutritional, medicinal, and cosmetic value. As a fuel, olive oil illuminated the home; as a food ingredient, it was a feast to the palate. Olive oil production is one of the world’s oldest industries which has not changed much over the millennia.
Numerous olive oil brochures of the Mediterranean coastal region proudly claim that the olive oil industry dates back to over 5,000 years. This is demonstrated by the discovery of a 5,000 year old olive oil earthenware vessel in Turkey. Shemen zayis, as mentioned in the Torah, is one of the seven special species of Eretz Yisroel. The Torah requires the purest of pure olive oil, shemen zayis zach, to light the Menorah. Olive oil was an integral part of the service in the Bais Hamikdash. The olive branch is considered a symbol of peace […]

Myth #1: Every oven that has a Sabbath mode is certified by STAR-K.
Fact: An oven that has a Sabbath mode may or may not be certified by STAR-K. In fact, the same company may manufacture some ovens which have a STAR-K certified Sabbath mode and other ovens with a Sabbath mode which do not have any certification at all. One can verify an oven is STAR-K certified by consulting the oven’s manual, calling us (410-484-4110), or looking at the list on STAR-K’s website (www.star-k.org/appliances).
Reason: STAR-K does not own the copyright to the term “Sabbath mode” and cannot prevent a company from using those words.

Myth #2: A person who does not intend to raise or lower the oven temperature may use any oven on Shabbos and Yom Tov, and there is no reason to use an oven which has a STAR-K Sabbath mode.
Fact: When using an oven on […]