Published Fall 2015

I. INTRODUCTION

The mitzvah of shmitta poses many challenges for those who live in Eretz Yisrael. The main challenge, of course, is for the farmers. However, the consumer has his challenges, as well. It is always preferable to purchase produce from stores that have reliable kosher certification to ensure that there are no halachic problems. If there is no such store available, one must be certain not to transgress the laws of shmitta in the purchase, consumption, or interaction with shmitta produce. These are the different categories of halachos that one has to take into consideration:

1. Sfichin

2. Kedushas shevi’is

3. Schora (doing business) with shevi’is produce

4. Dmei shevi’is (shevi’is money)

II. THE POST-SHMITTA ISSUE

The laws of sfichin refer to a rabbinic prohibition of eating produce that started to grow during the shmitta year, [1] i.e., the plant started to grow from Rosh Hashanah תשע״ה until תשע״ו. This is the opinion of […]

Published Fall 2015

As many consumers are aware, there has been a shortage of Kosher-certified iceberg lettuce on the market over the last few months. Many people have been wondering why this shortage suddenly happened this year and when it will end. While it is true that iceberg lettuce is generally easier to clean and check than romaine, it still poses some of its own unique challenges. To clarify this issue, it is important to understand some background about how iceberg lettuce is grown, harvested and processed.

HOW ICEBERG GROWS

Iceberg lettuce initially grows open, just like romaine, during the first few weeks of its development, before cupping over and closing up. Once it cups, all of the newer leaves grow inside the closed head. If the time period when it was open was subjected to high levels of insect pressure, insects could crawl inside the open head and become trapped once the […]

Published Fall 2015

It has been called nature’s candy and is a sweet source of nutrition whose popularity is on the rise.  Commensurate with its growing popularity is its demand.  In today’s global economy, the dried fruit trade literally spans the entire globe – apples from China, prunes from Bulgaria, figs from the Middle East, dates from Tunisia, raisins from South America, and of course apples, peaches, plums, raisins, figs, and dates from the good old U.S.A.  Naturally, this growth presents a whole new set of challenges to kashrus agencies.  How do they send a mashgiach to supervise date productions in Pakistan, raisin productions in Iran, or plum productions in Bulgaria?  Let’s learn about this popular healthy snack alternative.

 

The Process

Fruit is dried through a process known as dehydrating, which removes enough moisture from the fruit to retard the growth of bacteria and mold while retaining the great taste and nutrients of […]

 

Q:   It has become common for businesses and stores to have security video cameras which monitor the foot traffic in front of their properties. Similarly, many apartment buildings have video cameras which record anything that enters or exits the building. Is a Jew allowed to walk in front of such a video camera on Shabbos? Can a Jew operate a video camera knowing that other Jews will walk in front of it on Shabbos?

A:    In order to answer this question, we need to address four issues.

(1)  The video camera may be connected to a monitor that displays the recorded image.  May a person walk in front of a video camera on  Shabbos if it will cause his image to be displayed on a monitor? 

One of the forbidden  melachos on  Shabbos is  kesiva, writing.  Drawing a picture is also considered to be  kesiva  mideoraissa (writing which is forbidden by the  […]

Published Winter 2015

 The STAR-K certifies tens of thousands of products manufactured across the globe. There are well over a million ingredients and products certified by hundreds of kashrus  agencies worldwide. The following example may provide an idea of how many products are kosher certified.One million different products that are in containers measuring 6 inches in diameter lined up side by side (with no space between them) would stretch from Manhattan to Philadelphia. Since there are considerably more than a million kosher certified products, and industrial products are often sold in wider containers (e.g., 55 gallon drums), this line of products would most likely continue all the way to Baltimore. Furthermore, every kosher certified item (i.e., every container of every kosher product certified by every reliable  kashrus  agency) would easily stretch from the earth to the moon.To certify all of these products,  kashrus  agencies must adequately communicate with companies and  mashgichim  […]

Published Winter 2015

For time immemorial, our sojourns throughout galus, the Diaspora, have not only defined and influenced the minhagim, laws and customs, emerging from those foreign lands, they have also rejuvenated our Jewish cuisine with a burst of ethnic diversity –  holopshkes (stuffed cabbage),borsht, and falafel, to name a few.  As our migration advanced to the shores of the ‘goldine medina’, a whole new ‘Yiddishe’ repertoire of American delicacies was bestowed upon us.  Who among us didn’t grow up with Sunday  morning whitefish, bagels, and lox?  Not long after, there emerged a proliferation of pizza shops in practically every Jewish neighborhood and community. The most recent food trend that has been introduced to the Jewish palate is Sushi.

Sushi, that unique combination of rice, rice vinegar, raw fish, and vegetables rolled in black seaweed sheets called ‘nori’ has found its place of prominence in virtually every kosher restaurant, smorgasbord and pizza shop.  Furthermore, we are fortunate in […]


Published Spring 2015

The  Torah  forbids a Jew to own  chometz  on  Pesach .  In order to dissuade people from owning  chometz  on  Pesach , there is a rabbinic injunction not to eat or benefit after  Pesach from  chometz  which was owned by a Jew during  Pesach .  Such  chometz  is known as chometz  sheovar olov haPesach , and it remains forbidden permanently.1

For this reason, one should not buy  chometz  from a Jewish-owned store immediately after Pesach , unless the owner sold all  chometz  that he owned before  Pesach  to a non-Jew for the duration of  Pesach , and did not acquire any further  chometz  during  Pesach .  The laws of mechiras   chometz  (selling  chometz  to a gentile for  Pesach ) are complex, therefore the sale must be made by a competent rabbi or  kashrus  authority.

If a Jewish-owned store did not sell its  chometz […]

Published Spring 2015
The Land of Israel follows a unique seven year cycle.   For the first six years, fruits and vegetables grown there are tithed.1  The seventh year is  Shmitta , the sabbatical year, which has its own set of special laws.  These laws mainly affect those living in Israel, but also those living in the Diaspora if they are in possession of Israeli-grown produce.2

For the tithing of the first six years, the  Torah 3 sets an end date for the process called Biur  Ma’aser .   Biur  Ma’aser  includes a number of components, which are still applicable today:

Biur  Ma’aser

Any untithed produce ( tevel )  in one’s possession must be tithed by  Erev  Pesach 4of the fourth and seventh years of the  Shmitta  cycle.5
Ma’aser Shaini  is the second tithe separated on produce harvested in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th years of the Sabbatical cycle.  In the times of the  Beis  Hamikdash , this […]

Published Spring 2015

One of  Moshe Rabbeinu ’s first directives from the  Ribono Shel Olam  was that the Korban Pesach  had to be  tzli aish , no compromise – not boiled, not cooked, not raw – but grilled on the open flame.  This was  B’nei Yisroel ’s honest to goodness first barbecue! “ Maase Avos Siman L’Vanim .”  Grilling has taken on a life of its own.  As the weather warms, and once again  we are ready to enjoy the outdoors there are many dos and don’ts that the savvy kosher griller should keep in mind before throwing that delicious rib steak onto the coals.

Kashering  a Non-Kosher Grill

As unlikely as it sounds, there are times when the occasion arises where a non-kosher grill requires kosherization.  This method is impractical for a barbecue pit in the park. However, in the event that one needs to  kasher  a non-kosher grill, below are the steps […]

Published Spring 2015

In these turbulent times, many people have installed alarm systems in their homes which give them a sense of security.  There are various types of burglar alarms which may or may not beconnected to a central system, and it is clear that the system will work only if all is intact, the component codes are set in the right sequence, and the unit is in working order.  It is a good idea to test it every now and then to make sure the system is in proper operating condition.  All it takes is one faulty connection to negate the whole system.

Our feeling of security should come from the recognition that we have a protector in heaven, rather than relying entirely on some mechanical device devised by man.  The Ribbono Shel Olam watches over our homes if we do His will. The mezuzah attached to our doorpost is our protection.  It is a direct link […]

Published Summer 2015

For general guidelines regarding the laws of tevilas keilim, ,click here

UTENSIL
TEVILAH

Aluminum pan, disposable
Tevilah without a brocha if intended to be used only once; tevilah with a brocha if intended to be used more than once.[1]

Aluminum pan,non-disposable
Tevilah with a brocha[2]

Apple corer (metal)
Tevilah with a brocha

Baking/Cookie sheet
Tevilah with a brocha

Barbeque grill
Racks require tevilah with a brocha, other components do not require tevilah.

Blech
No tevilah

Blender /Mixer
Glass or metal bowl, metal blades and other attachments require tevilah with abrocha, other components do not require tevilah.  Handheld immersion blender requires tevilah with a brocha.

Bottle (metal or glass)
Tevilah with a brocha.  If bought filled with food and subsequently emptied by a Jew, does not require tevilah.[3]

Brush (grill, egg yolk, pastry)
No tevilah

Cake plate (metal or glass)
Plate needs tevilah with a brocha, cake plate cover does not require tevilah.

Can (metal or glass)
Tevilah with a brocha.  If bought filled with food and subsequently emptied by a Jew, does not require tevilah.[3]

Can opener
No tevilah

Cast iron pot
Tevilah with a brocha

Ceramic knife
Tevilah without a brocha

Challah board
Metal board, or glass top on wooden board, requires tevilah with a brocha.  Wood board with a plastic top does not require tevilah.

Cheese slicer (metal)
Tevilah with a brocha

China (glazed)
Tevilah without a brocha[4]

Coffee grinder
No tevilah

Coffee maker (electric)
Does not require tevilah if it will break if toveled, otherwise requires tevilah with […]

Published Summer 2015

TYPICAL RESTAURANT SCENE #1: “Ma, I’m going to grab something to eat before supper.”  “Fine, but don’t make yourself fleishig.  We’re having milchigs tonight.”  “No problem.  I’ll just get an order of fries from Kosher Burger!”
Was that a fatal supper flaw or not?  Possibly, but it is not uncommon for afleishig restaurant to cook their french fries or onion rings in the same fryer that is used for chicken.  If that is the case, the fries are 100% fleishig and the little boy is cooked!  One would have to wait the required amount of time before eating a dairy meal.[1]

This is not the only pareve pitfall for an unassuming kosher consumer. There are many other factors to be aware of when dining at a fleishig restaurant.  Just as a fryer can be used for both meat and pareve products, so can the knives that are used to cut salad vegetables.  Also, frying pans used between cutlets and vegetables, or ovens that cook any number of meat and pareve food items interchangeably, would […]

Published Summer 2015

The scene is ever so common in Jewish homes.  A delicious meal is served and followed by mayim  achronim .  Then one of the participants of the  mezuman  proclaims, “ Rabosai mir vellin bentchen ”[1] (Gentlemen, let us recite  Birchas Hamazon ), and everyone present responds.[2]

The basic  halachos  are well known.  If three men who have reached the age of  Bar Mitzvah [3]eat bread[4] together, they form a “ mezuman. ”[5] One of them, known as the “ mezamein ” is the leader.[6]  If there are ten men, “ Elokeinu ” is added[7] by the  mezamein  between the words “ Nevoraych ” and “ She’ochalnu ”, and by the rest of the group between “ Baruch ” and “ She’achalnu ”.

The  Mishna  at the beginning of the seventh  perek  of  Brochos [8] tells us Rule #1 about a mezuman .  The food must be kosher.  The  Mishna  lists examples of questionable and prohibited food and explains that […]