Approximately twenty-five years ago shortly before “Pesach” 5738 Mr. A. J. Levin, a vice president of the Orthodox Jewish Council, began publishing Kashrus Kurrents. In that first issue, printed on the familiar yellow paper with the blue Kashrus Kurrents logo, it was deemed necessary to advise the Baltimore community that they cannot rely on labels or advertisements that merely states ‘Kosher for Passover’. From that same issue we learned that the fledgling Star-K organization had just inaugurated its kosher hot-line whereby one could get accurate kashrus information Monday through Thursday between the hours of 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

A most welcome and popular feature was a list of items that did not require special Passover certification. Included were specific brands of sugar and cocoa as well as a number of commonly used over the counter medications. Compiling the list required substantial research by volunteers […]

Common Leafy Vegetables that Require Inspection

Bibb Lettuce
Bok Choy
Boston Lettuce
Cabbage
Collards
Endive
Escarole
Iceberg Lettuce
Kale
Mustard Leaves
Red Leaf Lettuce
Romaine Lettuce
Spinach Greens

One of two methods may be used:

A. Leaf by Leaf Inspection:
1. Separate leaves.
2. Soak in water.
3. Make a complete, leaf by leaf inspection.
4. Wash off any insects prior to using.

B. Chazaka Check for Large Volumes of Leafy Vegetables:
1. Throw out outer leaves.
2. Separate leaves of three heads of the vegetable.
3. Do NOT wash leaves.
4. Check the three heads leaf by leaf.
5. If one bug is found in the test heads, all the produce in the consignment must be checked leaf by leaf.
6. If no bugs are found, the rest of the shipment does not require checking and may be used after pulling off the outer […]

(All answers are based on the psak of Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita, Star-K Rabbinic Administrator.)

Q: What type of aged cheese requires one to wait six hours before eating meat?

A: Generally speaking, aging of cheese is an ongoing process, which occurs when the bacteria found in cheese breaks down the lactose (the milk sugar), creating lactic acid, thereby changing the physical property of the cheese, giving it a sharper flavor.

A good example of this aging process would be if someone were to leave a wedge of Muenster cheese in a nice warm environment until the cheese becomes “tangy.” The housewife would call it spoiled; a cheese maven would call it flavorful. Historically, flavorful cheese took about six months to age. The longer the cheese aged the harder it became. In Italy today, one can find some […]

In the last issue of Kashrus Kurrents the following appeared in “Hot Off the Hotline:”

Q: On Shabbos does an observant Jew have to close a website that is selling products online?

A: Yes. As in the case of a regular business transaction, no electronic business transactions may be made on Shabbos or Yom Tov on a website belonging to a shomer Shabbos businessman. The web site may remain open for informational purposes, if the shopping cart on the website is shut down. The time Shabbos or Yom Tov begins is determined by the entrepreneur’s geographic location.

[...] Read More

This article is a further clarification to the Hot off the Hotline question…

Q: On Shabbos does an observant Jew have to close a website that is selling products online?

Based on information that the Star-K received from two credit card companies, Rav Heinemann had answered that since purchases are accomplished by entering a credit card number, whereby the bank immediately transfers funds from the purchaser’s account to that of the vendor, web commerce would be prohibited on Shabbos.

However, many of our Kashrus Kurrents readers informed us that this information is erroneous regarding weekend transactions. After much research to further clarify this issue, Hot off the Hotline is presenting the corrected version of how credit card business is transacted generally, and specifically how it is […]

Amongst the number of recent eye opening events that have impacted the Jewish community, a discovery was made last May regarding the halachic status of New York tap water. The New York kosher consumer was shaken by the fact that New York tap water, which had the reputation of being one of the most pure, clean, and natural water available, contains unwelcome visitors called copepods that are visible to the human eye. In spite of that fact that this was a New York discovery, the Star-K hotline in Baltimore was abuzz with inquiries of “Can we drink the water?!” This is the Star-K response regarding copepods in drinking water based on discussions with Rav Moshe Heinemann Shlit”a, Star-K Rabbinical Administrator.

Q: What are copepods?

A: Copepods, also known as “insects of the sea,” are crustaceans that are found wherever water is found. […]

How can you learn to deal with the challenges of supervising a first-class hotel’s kosher kitchen which is next to its non-kosher kitchen? Where does one find the opportunity to tour a flavor plant to better understand the kosher manufacturing process? Who will train you to find the less obvious thrips and aphids when checking a restaurant’s vegetables? What will give you the preparation to administer – or perhaps, pioneer – a communal kosher certification agency?

Star-K Kosher Certification recently provided the platform for these unique learning opportunities and more. In its new complimentary certificate program, Star-K’s Kashrus Training Program allowed Kollel yungerleit of Yeshivas Ner Yisrael to experience the field of kosher supervision first hand. Held July 12-16, at Star-K’s offices in Baltimore, Maryland, the five day intensive seminar was limited to 25 students who have studied Yorah Deah.

Ner Yisrael Kollel fellow Moshe Schuchman’s sentiments regarding […]

Periodically, Star-K distributes “Kashrus Konnections”, a compilation of policies meant for the kashrus professional. Some items may be of interest to consumers as well. Below are some of the topics addressed in past issues. To sign up to receive the publication via e-mail, send a blank e-mail to konnections-subscribe@star-k.org.

I am going to a Star-K restaurant over Chol Hamoed Sukkos. Will I have to take the food out or will there be a sukkah on the premises?

Star-K policy is that eateries must have a sukkah available for customers on Sukkos. (It is important to note that due to the kedusha of a sukkah, a garbage can may not be put inside.)


If an electric coil on a range-top does not get red-hot, may it still be kashered?

Yes, it may be kashered as long as it gets to libun kal (550°F). Any residue […]

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. […]

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 (work versus […]

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 […]