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 אמט ףוע, 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 (עבטה הנתשנ). However, it is considered an act of piety for one to verify that the egg one wishes to consume is, […]

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 […]

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 […]

Brochos for Breakfast

For the most updated Cereal List click here.
For the most updated printable Cereal List click here.

Published Winter 2012
Updated Winter 2019

STAR-K has researched breakfast cereals for the past 30 years and has published Brachos lists and halachic guidelines for these products based on the psak of Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita, STAR-K Rabbinic Administrator. It is with great pride that STAR-K has begun certification of the following three cereals distributed by Nestle in Israel: Cheerios, Fitness, and Crunch Cereals. The hashgacha is coordinated by our newly expanded Israel office. The products bear a STAR-K symbol and are pareve, bishul Yisroel, and yoshon. The brocha rishona on all three cereals is mezonos and the brocha achrona is al hamichya.