Global Brands Team Up with  STAR-K in Israel

Recognizing
the high demand for popular brand name food imports with a Mehadrin hashgacha
in Israel was the impetus three years ago for opening our STAR-K Israel office.
We felt uniquely qualified to begin working with Israel’s largest food
distributors due to our reputation of always maintaining a high degree of
professionalism, our food technology expertise, and worldwide presence in the
global marketplace.

STAR-K
was fortunate in teaming up with Rabbi Ahron Haskel who, with his many years of
experience, accepted our offer to become director of STAR-K Israel[1].
Along with his keen understanding of the intricacies of the Israeli food market
and the high regard that both kashrus professionals and food distributors have
for Rav Haskel, he was the perfect choice for this newest STAR-K venture.
Distributors such as Israel Beer Breweries Ltd (IBBL)/Coca-Cola, Osem/Nestlé, Strauss,
and Tnuva were equally pleased with the new opportunities to import Mehadrin
products for the Israeli public.

Something to Drink To!

STAR-K
has also been very active in providing the […]

From the STAR-K BMG Chabura: First Aide – Addressing the Halachic Challenges of Domestic and Special Needs Aides in the Home

Many
families find themselves caring for aging parents or a special needs child and require
additional assistance. Hiring a live-in, an aide, or full-time cleaning help who
is an aino Yehudi can create many real halachic concerns. Here
are some of the issues we address in this article:

Basar Shenis’aleim
Min Ha’ayin
: Meat which has been left out of the watch of a Yehudi.Yichud Keilim and Bishul
Akum
: Kosher utensils which have been left unattended with an aino
Yehudi and their change in status when used by an aino Yehudi.Stam Yeinum: Wine which may
have been handled by an aino Yehudi in a way that would forbid a Yehudi
from drinking it.Yichud: If a Jewish
man or woman is left alone with a person of the opposite gender.

Basar Shenis’aleim Min Ha’ayin

The Gemara addresses a concern called basar shenis’aleim min ha’ayin about a bird that may have switched a piece of kosher meat which was not being watched with a non-kosher […]

Sushi: The Birth of a Yiddishe Meichel

Our numerous sojourns through Galus not
only defined and influenced the minhagim emerging from those foreign
lands, but also infused our cuisine with bursts of ethnic diversity –  pierogi and cholopshkes from
Poland, couscous and harira from Morocco, goulash and strudel from Austro-Hungary,
and gravlax from Scandinavia. Our seudos feature dips from around the
world – schug from Yemen, hummus from the Levant, guacamole from Mexico,
and matbucha from Morocco. As our migration advanced to the shores of the goldene
medina, kosher restaurants sprang up that offered consumers a bevy of
ethnic choices, from Chinese won ton soup and Italian calzones to Persian
kebabs and Lebanese shawarma.

The latest entry to that diverse menu is the
proliferation of sushi – a traditional dish from Japan – that has been wildly
embraced by Jewish communities everywhere and is now nearly as popular as apple
pie (or potato kugel). It has found a place of prominence in virtually every
kosher restaurant, wedding smorgasbord, and even […]

Bedikas Chometz Guidelines

Before Pesach, a person is obligated to perform bedikas chometz, a search of his house and possessions, to ensure that he does not own any chometz. The bedika should be conducted at the beginning of the night of the 14th of Nissan, immediately after tzeis hakochavim.1 If he did not do so, the bedika can be done all night. Bedi’eved, if he did not perform the bedika that night he should do it on the day of the 14th of Nissan.2

If he will not be home on the night of the 14th of Nissan, he should appoint another adult to perform the bedika on his behalf.3 If he leaves his house within thirty days of Pesach, and is not planning to return and conduct a bedika or have someone else perform a bedika for him, then he should do […]

Navigating the Challenges: Shemita 5782

For over
nineteen hundred years, the Jewish people have longed to return to Eretz Yisroel.
It is only in Eretz Yisroel that we can realize our full potential as a nation.
It is only in Eretz Yisroel that the Torah’s blueprint for life can be
completely fulfilled.

For the
millennia, the most important dimension of this longing was the yearning to
once again be able to fulfill the mitzvos hatluyos ba’aretz (agricultural
laws), the commandments that can be observed only in Eretz Yisroel. With Hashem’s
help, many of us in this past generation have realized part of this two
thousand year old dream. Yet, this realization has presented us with new
challenges.

Without a
doubt, one of the greatest mitzvah challenges of all times is the fulfillment
of the mitzvah of Shemita, the year of Sabbatical rest for the Land of
Israel. The Midrash perceives this multifaceted commandment as being so
challenging and difficult that he who meets the challenge of Shemita in
all its details […]

Kosher Consumer Misconsumptions

STAR-K’s
consumer Kosher Hotline is constantly abuzz with kashrus inquiries. Close to
5000 consumer calls were logged between Purim and Pesach 5781 alone. Questions
range from product information to complex kitchen shailos, from reliable
kosher airline caterers to wines whose kosher certification symbols are so
small you need a high-powered magnifying glass to read the rav hamachshir’s
name.

Even
with all the available information, consumers still get confused or make incorrect
assumptions that could lead to severe halachic consequences. The following
examples of kosher consumer misconceptions are based on real Kosher Hotline
inquiries. Hopefully, this article will help clarify some common errors.

Misconception 1: Putting an oven into Sabbath Mode allows
one to cook on Shabbos.

Chas v’shalom! The Sabbath Mode does not allow one to cook on Shabbos. The
Sabbath Mode makes a modern oven halachically compliant so that it may be used on
Shabbos and Yom Tov. The purpose of the Sabbath Mode was to address new
technological and computerized features that have created issues […]

Optical ‘Allusions’: Avoiding Maris Ayin

Making a Good Impression

The kohen tasked with removing funds from the treasury of
the Bais Hamikdash needed to go to great lengths to avoid any suspicion of
stealing: he could not wear hemmed clothing, or even tefillin, lest he hide a
coin in them. He was required to speak the entire time so that he could not hide
any coins in his mouth. When he exited the treasury, his hair was combed to
ensure that he did not squirrel away any money in his curls! The Mishnah
explains that these measures were necessary, as there is a Torah obligation to
avoid suspicion: “…v’hiyisem neki’im meHashem u’meYisroel, … and you
shall be innocent before Hashem and before Israel.”[1]

Activities that give an impression of transgressing Halacha must
be avoided, even if they are intrinsically permitted. This area of Halacha is
known as maris ayin and chashad, the appearance of transgressing
an issur.[2]
Interestingly, Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, writes that this only extends
to […]

Delivery and Ride Apps – Halachically App-roved?

With the advent of the latest apps, a
whole new world of halachic scenarios has arisen.[1] These
include shailos about using food delivery services, working
for a food delivery or ride app, and even calling and using a ride service. These
various situations will be addressed here.[2]

Ordering from Meal Delivery Apps

Meal delivery apps like Uber Eats,
Grubhub, DoorDash and Postmates have seen tremendous growth over the last few
years. For our discussion, we will use Uber Eats as our example, but the concerns
raised apply to the comparable apps.

A customer orders from a restaurant that
has contracted with Uber Eats. When it is ready, an Uber Eats driver picks it
up from the restaurant and delivers it to the customer. Here are some points to
consider when ordering from a kosher restaurant:

Is the food properly sealed?

Delivered food must be properly sealed.[3]  Many restaurants do not seal take-out food, unless the restaurant itself
arranges the delivery or sealing is […]

A Traveler’s Guide to Tefilas Haderech

During the past year and a half, STAR-K mashgichim
continued to conduct inspections in the United States and abroad in a manner
deemed safe for them and factory personnel. STAR-K is very thankful for their
tremendous mesiras nefesh to ensure that our certified products maintained
the highest level of kashrus, even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. Still,
many consumers who frequently travel stayed home. With great siyata d’Shmaya,
an effective vaccine was developed that has allowed us to resume our busy
travel schedules and to once again recite Tefilas Haderech on a regular
basis. Let us examine the halachos of this beautiful tefilla.[1]

The Tefilla

Tefilas Haderech is based on the Gemara in Brachos (29b-30a), with some minor variations, depending upon one’s nusach.  The Gemara says it is recited in loshon rabim (plural; e.g., shetolicheinu, etc.).[2]  When returning the same the day, the words v’sachzireinu l’shalom are added after l’chaim, ul’simcha, ul’shalom.[3]

The bracha is […]

Insights from the Institute: Stable Manners: The Basics of Tzaar Baalei Chayim

The prohibition to gratuitously cause pain to an animal is known as tzaar baalei chayim. The Gemara presents a debate as to whether this is a Torah or a Rabbinic obligation.1 Most Rishonim pasken that it is forbidden mideoraissa,2 although some Rishonim pasken that it only prohibited midrabonon.3 The Nimukei Yosef suggests that the Torah forbids one to cause an animal significant pain, and the rabonnon extended this and forbade causing less substantial pain as well.4

There is some uncertainty as to the view of the Rambam. The Kesef Mishna states that the Rambam considers tzaar baalei chayim to be a Torah command,5 whereas the Ohr Sameach opines that the Rambam regards it to be a Rabbinic prohibition.6 The Netziv offers a unique resolution of the Rambam’s position. He suggests that the Rambam paskens that it is asur mideoraissa to cause […]

הנה לא ינום ולא ישן שומר חלב ישראל The Chaliva Mashgiach Neither Slumbers nor Sleeps!

10:00 AM, 6:00 PM, 2:00 AM, 10:00 AM, 6:00 PM, 2:00 AM – a virtual ‘dairy-go-round’ on an actual carousel for 1700 satisfied participants, seven days a week, 365 days a year. This scenario bears no resemblance to my Mother’s, ע”ה, family cow that she milked in the shtetl about 90 years ago. What do both scenarios have in common? Both produce Cholov Yisroel milk but, oh, how times have changed! There is so much more that must meet the keen eye of a contemporary Cholov Yisroel mashgiach.

When I grew up in Washington, D.C., Cholov Yisroel was a totally unknown term, an unknown entity, and certainly an unknown milk bottle in the refrigerator. But times have changed. Today, Cholov Yisroel is a burgeoning industry, ranging from ice cream novelties to energy bars. However, some things never change. Whether you are milking the […]

On The Tip of Your Tongue

“If there is any doubt, ask!” is a mantra that behooves any pulpit rabbi to convey to his kehila regarding kitchen mix-up issues. This is especially true concerning those shailos that involve the erroneous use of uncertified products whose only kashrus concern is that it contains mysterious “natural and artificial flavors”. However, all too often the food is thrown into the garbage before a shaila is asked. Surprising to most, when consumers in this predicament call into the STAR-K hotline, more often than not we can be the bearer of good news.

Before I delve into why, let me share a watershed story that will carry us to the essence of the matter

Where Is The Beef?

In April, 2001, a high profile article entitled, “Where’s the Beef? It Is In Your Fries!” appeared in India West, a popular newspaper and internet site for the North American Indian […]

Dessert: A Real Bracha!

You are at a חתונה and all of a sudden they roll in the Viennese tables full of cakes, chocolates, ice cream, melons and bread. You are not sure whether or not you should recite a ברכה ראשונה over any of these desserts. The question is equally applicable in your own home whether on Shabbos or any given day of the week: Do I or don’t I need to recite a ברכה over dessert?

The Shulchan Aruch1 states that when one eats bread, all foods which are eaten together with the bread are פטור (exempt) from a ברכה because they are secondary to the bread. Therefore, the ברכה recited over the bread covers any other food that is eaten, as well.

On the other hand, since a dessert is eaten to end the meal with a sweet taste, it is entirely different since the intention is not to eat it as […]

A Matter of Public Interest

“Oh, you need a loan to buy a new car? Check out Penn-Atlantic Credit Union. They’re practically giving money away!”

With interest rates of less than half of what is typically offered by a conventional bank, credit unions are a practical and popular choice for many consumers. Credit unions can give these low rates because they are non-profit and cooperatively owned. In order to borrow from a credit union, you must first be a member; every member is a partial owner, with both a financial stake and a vote in how it is run. This arrangement, however, presents a serious halachic concern: ribbis, the Torah prohibition against borrowing and lending of money with interest.

In truth, there is a similar ribbis concern in many bank loans. Mutual savings banks are structured similarly to credit unions; each depositor is a partial owner. The bank essentially acts as a shadchan between the many owners […]

Navigating the Pizza Paradox: Pas or Pas Nisht

If you ask any out-of-town kiruv professional involved in outreach, “What are the two most important community ‘must-haves’ needed to attract baalei teshuvah or create growth in a particular Jewish community?”, nine times out of ten the answer you will get is 1) an eruv and 2) a kosher pizza shop! I can bear witness to this fact. At the beginning of my tenure as executive director of the Vaad Hoer of St. Louis 35 years ago, I sent out a questionnaire to the frum kehilos and the community at large asking what they think would enhance the St. Louis frum community. Believe it or not, the overwhelming response was a kosher pizza shop. Soon thereafter, a kosher pizza shop opened. Subsequently, two community eruvim were also built.

Similarly, over 40 years ago in my shul in Birmingham, Alabama, where the community was too small to support either a kosher pizza […]

Mashke Yisroel: Liquor L’Mehadrin Comes of Age: A Behind-The-Scenes interview with Star-K Israel’s Director of Kashrus, Rav Aharon Haskel

It is an understatement to say that we as a global society are going through unprecedented times. Due to Covid-19, the word ‘unprecedented’ has taken on new and far-reaching connotations.  On the lighter side, in the relatively new world of kashrus in the liquor industry, ‘unprecedented’ has become an appropriate term.  In general, the world of alcohol has always been shrouded in mystery.  However, during  the past 25 years, there has been a genuine movement towards greater transparency, and kosher research/analysis has made great strides in revealing the underpinnings of  the alluring world of kosher wine and spirits. With the realization that there is significant value in kosher certification, many companies have sought to become certified.  As is the case with any company seeking kosher certification, the company must now reveal their ingredients and processes to their kosher certifier. All information is kept confidential under ‘lock and key’ in the […]

A Glimpse into the System: Kosher Certification of Industrial Food

Since antediluvian times, when Tuval Kayin began fashioning metal implements (Breishis 4:22), developments in how items were manufactured progressed gradually with only incremental changes. About two-and-a-half centuries ago, with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, that trajectory was rapidly accelerated.1 Since then, continual technological advances have dramatically transformed manufacturing, to the point that modern methods barely resemble antiquated techniques. Food production is no exception.

Unless one was wealthy enough to enjoy spices transported over the Silk Road, pre-industrial food was locally sourced and made with familiar utensils. In stark contrast, much of what we eat today, whether the food itself or its sub-components (which are not necessarily disclosed on ingredient panels), is processed in distant factories on specialized equipment concealed from public view. Technicians wearing lab coats in laboratories serve as part of the contemporary food supply chain alongside the more traditional growers and pickers in the fields. Industrial methods are […]

Insights from the Institute: Halachos Pertaining to Covid-19

2020 will be remembered for a long time to come as the year of the Covid-19 pandemic. These unusual circumstances have given rise to some unusual halachic questions. It is my fervent hope that everything will have returned to ‘normal’ by the time that you read this, and the lasting legacy will be the chiddushei Torah and piskei halachah that were generated as a result of this event. Below are some examples.

Q: If there are two adjacent houses with decks, with five men on one deck and another five men on the other deck, can they join together to form a minyan?

A: A gathering of ten men is needed in order for their davening to be considered tefilah b’tzibur. Once ten men have joined together to form a minyan, anyone else who is able to see them and participates is considered part of the minyan, and his davening is considered […]

Now You See It, Now You Don’t: A Kosher View of Refined Edible Oils

“שמן תורק שמך“ (Shir Hashirim Rabah 1:3) …”Your name is flowing like fine oil”. Shir Hashirim Rabah makes the following insightful observation.  Shlomo Hamelech compares Bnei Yisroel to fine oil. Just as fine oil is extracted from its source through crushing and squeezing, so do the innate qualities of Bnei Yisroel emerge as a result of our collective challenges and travails. Similarly, just as oil serves as a glowing source of radiance that fills a room with shining light, so does Bnei Yisroel serve as a light to other nations through their stellar performance of Torah and mitzvos.

Oil is an incredibly remarkable and versatile product of Hashem’s creations and is not limited to olives, the quintessential source of shemen. Oil is found in a plethora of sources, and the means of oil extraction are varied.  Moreover, there are remarkable halachic ramifications with various oil extractions.  Let’s explore the wondrous world of […]

GETTING INTO HOT WATER: Urns & Pump Pots in Halacha: Shabbos & Yom Tov<sup>1</sup>

Electric urns greatly enhance our oneg Shabbos and Yom Tov by allowing us to effortlessly enjoy hot drinks. However, the technological advances that permit us to use urns on demand come along with a host of halachic considerations that must be carefully reviewed.

A summary of the various halachic considerations in the usage of electric urns, pump pots and commercial urns are addressed in this article. An urn is a heater that lets the water out through gravity using a lever at the bottom of the urn. A pump pot uses a pump at the top to force the water out. In this article, the term urn is used generically to refer to a pump pot, as well (except as noted in the section about the water level tube).

Keep in mind that there are many different types of devices, and not every situation is applicable to all of them.

Heating, Adding and […]

Keep the Fire Burning Creatively

1-איז דרך טוב שידבק בה האדם … רבי שמעון אומר הרואה את הנולד – What is a wise life course of action? Rabbi Shimon says it is seeing the consequences of one’s actions. Our Chachomim, with their keen insight into human nature and the consequences of one’s actions, realized that safeguards have to be instituted in order to keep the קדושה and טהרה of כלל ישראל intact.

 2 גדולה לגימה שמקרבת את הרחוקים there is nothing more effective to draw hearts closer (i.e., relationships) than a “geshmak” meal. לגימה is probably the most potent tool that kiruv professionals have in their kiruv arsenal. The “לגימה” factor is part and parcel of human nature and socialization. Unfortunately, we have seen how potentially dangerous “innocent” socialization can create serious pitfalls. As a precaution against unnecessary socialization, our חכמים3 have instructed that certain בושח foods served at important functions must be monitored by a יהודי […]

Sous-Vide Cookers on Shabbos

Some pronounce it ‘sue vee’, while others pronounce it ‘sue veed’. Either way, it is a French phrase which translates to “vacuum”. It is a method of cooking that was first described by the inventor Sir Benjamin Thompson, aka Count Rumford, who is also credited with the invention of thermal underwear. The techniques of modern sous-vide cooking were perfected in the 1970s and have become increasingly popular over the past twenty years. Sous-vide is a method of cooking in which food is vacuum-sealed in a plastic pouch and cooked in a bath of water at an accurately controlled temperature. The water is typically held at 125° – 175°F, which is considerably cooler than standard cooking temperatures in an oven. While the vacuum packing is achieved by removing any excess air, the food will not float but rather sink and be completely submerged underwater.

There are a number of benefits to sous-vide […]

Spotlight on Eggs

Jews have been eating eggs for thousands of years. How many of us have ever wondered whether the eggs we bought at the local grocer came from a Kosher bird? The Shulchan Aruch1 states that only eggs which are pointy on one side and round on the other side can be considered Kosher. If, however, both sides are round or both sides are pointy it would be a siman (an indication) of an עוף טמא, a non-Kosher bird.

The above noted siman does not make the egg itself Kosher, rather it is a way to indicate that the egg comes from a Kosher bird. Today, we can find chicken eggs which are round on both sides; consequently, the siman as stipulated by Chazal may have changed in our generation (נשתנה הטבע). However, it is considered an act of piety for one to verify that the egg one wishes to consume […]

Signed, Sealed and Delivered: The Requirements for Chosmos on our Foods

One of the popular services that STAR-K offers to worldwide Jewry is our availability to find answers to shailos on almost any topic. When a phone call comes in, our Kashrus Administrators often have little clue as to what they will need to address. Some answers end up being straightforward, some are complex and some need to be creative.

I was faced with the latter situation over a year ago when a woman called. She said that her husband’s company had brought him a ready-to-eat meal, “Grilled Cutlets and Salad”, in a plastic container from a kosher certified store. However, after it was presented to her husband, since no one had thought to request seals on the container, my phone rang.

“It’s not that important, but is there any way my husband would be allowed to eat this food?” the woman asked. Immediately, I emailed a colleague who asked me to send […]

Medicine on Shabbos: Questions and Answers from Rav Moshe Heinemann, Shlit”a

In the times of Chazal, people would grind up medicine as needed. Grinding is forbidden on Shabbos; therefore, Chazal enacted a gezeira that a person should not take medicine on Shabbos for a minor ailment. Even though it is not common nowadays for a consumer to crush his own medicine, the gezeira remains in full force. In general, it is forbidden for a person with a minor ailment to do anything on Shabbos which an observer would realize is being done for refuah. I asked Rav Heinemann, shlit”a, twenty questions regarding treating minor ailments on Shabbos. Below are the questions and his answers. Following that, I have added source material for those who wish to further understand these pesakim.

Q1: How bad does a headache or an allergy such as hay fever need to be in order to take medicine on Shabbos?

A person is generally not allowed to take medicine on […]

Undercover: The Halachos of Schach

When our הרות speaks about the Festival of סוכות it states,חג הסוכות תעשה לך באספך מגרנך ומיקבך”,1″ “The סוכות holiday should be observed at the time that you harvest your grain and your wine,” during the fall.  Our חכמים have taught us that this קוספ has another interpretation.  The סוכה, in which we dwell during this חג , should be made from the unused parts of the harvested grain and wine, namely the stalks of grain and twigs of the vine.  These are the items that should be used for the סכך, the covering, which is placed on top of the סוכה instead of a permanent roof.

Our rabbis have further taught that this directive, פסולת גורן ויקב, includes other items that are similar to stalks and twigs that are no longer attached to the ground and cannot become ritually impure, טמא.  Unfinished wood slats, corn stalks, and palm branches are […]

A Time and Place for Almost Everything

Introduction:
Years ago, on a transatlantic flight, I had an interesting exchange with another passenger sitting across the aisle. He was traveling with his family, and they were obviously very European. Out of curiosity he asked, “What do American children eat for breakfast?” I responded, “All varieties of cold cereal;” that is the anchor of the All American breakfast. He reacted with a tone of disdain, “That is what we would feed animals!” I countered, “So, what do you serve your children?” “Porridge!” was the reply. Porridge, I said to myself. That’s the staple of the Three Bears!

Of course, every country has their own breakfast menu and what one culture might consider to be an elegant repast would not pass muster in a different district or region. In fact, the laws of בישול עכו”ם reflect these differences of זמן and מקום, time and place. What qualifies as עולה על שלחן […]

Kosher Dining at Yale University Hillel Newly Certified by STAR-K Kosher Certification

As a proud native New Havener, I was overjoyed when I found out that Yale University’s kosher kitchen would be certified by STAR-K Kosher Certification; I couldn’t wait to try it out, as I recently did, on my annual Elul trip to my hometown.

Yale University’s kosher kitchen has come a long way since it first opened to serve weeknight dinners to its graduate students in the fall of 1959. It was housed in the Young Israel synagogue, a 25-minute walk from the university’s downtown New Haven, Connecticut, campus. Most recently, reinventing itself as a STAR-K Kosher-certified facility in the Lindenbaum Kosher Kitchen located at the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life, it functions seamlessly in the middle of the campus as part of the Yale University Dining System.

Since 1999, STAR-K Kashrus Administrator Rabbi Mayer Kurcfeld has been engineering and overseeing the agency’s many certified on-campus facilities, custom-designing those which were […]

Undercover: The Halachos of Schach

Published 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.

Slurpee Confidential

Editor’s Note: The STAR-K Slurpee List is a compilation of flavors certified by an array of reliable kashrus certification agencies. Optimally, either the individual 7-11 store should be kosher certified or the consumer should check the kashrus of the syrup himself by checking the back of the machine. Many stores have been known to allow this. If neither option is available, this article will address the halachic basis for relying on The Slurpee List at any 7-11 store located in the United States.

One of the ways we mark the change of seasons is by eating and drinking the foods we associate with that particular time of year. The Rambam advises in Hilchos Deos1 that one adjust his menu with the seasons, eating warm spicy foods in the winter and cool, less seasoned ones during the warmer months: hot hearty soup (or microwaved leftover cholent!) on a cold winter night, […]