Published Winter 2016

It is written in our Torah, “Ubosor basodeh treifa lo socheilu” (Shmos 22:30), it is forbidden to eat treif meat.  While the expression “treif” (non-kosher) has become the universal connotation for food that is not kosher, in truth, the word treif specifically refers to an animal whose flesh was torn or ripped.  Technically speaking, if a kosher species of animal or fowl was attacked by a predator, the meat of the victim may be deemed treif.  However, the meat of an animal improperly kosher slaughtered is not treifah, it is called a neveila.  Technically, meat of a non-kosher animal species is the meat of a temeiah.  Yet, the term “treif” has found its way through the portals of the slaughterhouse, as well as the aisles of the non-kosher meat section of the supermarkets.  No matter what the name, all of these categories of meat are forbidden to be […]

Published Winter 2016

Keeping kosher does not preclude being a locavore,[1] but it definitely presents substantial challenges, particularly for omnivores. Barely a handful of communities in the world today still host facilities where kosher meat is processed from slaughter to salting, and sold from steak to salami, all within close proximity to a kosher consumer base. Like most items in the modern marketplace, it’s much more common to find beef and poultry products traveling vast distances from slaughterhouse to processor, and from distributor to retailer, before reaching the dinner table.

The Old Way
This very untraditional configuration has uprooted the once prominent communal fixtures of shochet and bodek (one who checks for abnormalities that render meat treifah). It’s also a complete departure from an extreme version of locavorism that was practiced in many pre-war European kehilos, which legislated bans on ‘sh’chutay chutz’, not allowing meat slaughtered in a different city to be […]

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 […]

Published Winter 2014

With a little forethought and planning, you can implement some helpful year-round money saving tips in anticipation of Pesach.

To assess your budget, ask yourself:-  What do I typically spend on groceries per month?

–  What did I spend for Pesach last year?

–  What are the specifics of this year’s Pesach plans?

–  Will I be eating meals at home or eating out?

–  Will I have more expenses because I am entertaining guests?

–  What can I afford this year?

–  How can I cut back on expenses a month or two prior to Pesach?

–  What can I live without?

Decide on your menu, taking into account where chol hamoed falls out on the calendar, as well as fleishig/milchig meals.  Be sure to make a list before you go shopping. Hopefully, you can refer to your post-Pesach notes from the previous year to remind you of your ever-changing Pesach needs.  These could include:

– Number of boxes of matzahmatzah meal, cake meal, and potato starch used

– Number of bottles of wine needed

– Popular brands

– Amount of milk used

– Amount of chicken used

– […]

Q:   When I say  Al Hamichya and make a mistake, I don’t know what to do.  Could you give me some guidelines?

A:    There are three places in the  brocha me’ein shalosh (colloquially known as  Al Hamichya) where the text changes, depending on what was eaten:

(1)    The  brocha starts with the words “ Boruch atah Hashem Elokeinu melech ha’olamal …”, followed by either “ hagefen  ve’al pri hagefen” if a person drank wine, “ ha’eitz  ve’al pri ha’eitz” if he ate fruit from the  shivas  haminim, “ hamichyeh  ve’al hakalkalah” if he ate food made from any of the five types of grain (wheat, barley, oats, rye, spelt), or a combination of these phrases if he ate or drank a combination of items.1

(2)    Further on in the  brocha , one says “…  ve’nodeh  lecha al ha’aretz ve’al …”, followed by either “ pri  hagofen”, “ ha’peyros”, “ hamichya”, or a combination of these phrases.

(3)    The  brocha concludes with the words “…  Boruch atah Hashem al …”, followed once again by either “ hagefen  ve’al pri hagefen”, “ ha’eitz  ve’al pri ha’eitz”, “ hamichya  ve’al hakalkalah”, […]

Published Winter 2014

A Fictional Account of a Factual Situation1

PicturesLarge industrial stove, oven, fryer, elegantly set ballroom with tables

Mendy enjoyed his job at Elegant Touch Catering (ETC). His primary responsibilities were in the office, but his sharp eye was noticed by Rabbi Ephraim Rubin, the caterer’s veteran mashgiach, who needed extra help with vegetable checking. Finding people with the skill and acumen to determine acceptability of leafy greens, especially in the pressurized environment of a commercial kitchen, was a challenge for Rabbi Rubin and he was eager to recruit Mendy as an assistant.

After two months of training, and hours squinting in the harsh glow of a light box covered by microfiber mesh cloth, Mendy became adept at detecting tiny translucent thrips and aphids hiding in the folds and crevices of romaine, kale, broccoli, dill, and parsley. Finally, the STAR-K  Kashrus Administrator overseeing foodservice establishments approved him as a vegetable checker. Eventually, Mendy finely honed his […]

Published Winter 2014


Hashem , in his ultimate kindness, has provided man with the keys to unlock some of nature’s most amazing secrets.  For centuries, a great secret has been revealed to man – the bubbling elixir known as beer.

Beer’s ingredients – water, barley, yeast and hops – bear no resemblance to the finished product.  These natural ingredients undergo a series of simple yet fascinating processes to convert them into one of the world’s most popular beverages.  It is not coincidental that alcoholic beverages have been given the distinctive appellation “spirits”, alluding to the fact that these beverages seem to magically emerge from these natural ingredients as if they have been assisted by spirits.  The four steps of beer making are malting, roasting, brewing and fermenting.

THE PROCESS :  The first step of beer making combined barley and water in a process […]

Published Spring 2014

Remember when making coffee meant putting a kettle on the stovetop and waiting until it whistles?  Today, electric heating has taken over the market in order to fill the need of having hot water on-demand.

Two of the popular types of electric hot water heaters on the U.S. market are the common aluminum urn with a plastic spout, and the relatively newer ‘pump pot’, which requires that you push down on the top plunger to pump out the water.

I. TEVILA

The Torah requires that utensils used for a meal be immersed in a mikva if they were in possession of an aino-Yehudi at any time.  The Talmud1 states that mechamei chamin, hot water kettles, also require tevila.  Rav Moshe Feinstein2 explains that there is a novelty in this ruling.  One can argue that a kettle requires no tevila at all.The kettle doesn’t perform any meal preparation function since heated water has not really changed; it is just water that is hot. The Talmud is teaching that hot water is considered changed; […]

 Published Spring 2014

Q:        I would like to send my young children to a backyard camp during the summer.  The camp is offering an ‘early-bird special’ if I register my children now.  If I wait until the summer to register, they will charge more.  Is there any ribbis issue with registering now and receiving the discount?

A:         Ribbis involves lending money to another Jew and charging interest.  Doing so may violate a Torah prohibition or a rabbinic prohibition, depending upon the situation.  If it is necessary to charge interest, the two parties may sign a document known as a “heter iska”, which converts the loan into a business investment, thereby avoiding the prohibition of ribbis.1  People are often unaware that a number of common transactions may violate the prohibition of ribbis.  Here are a couple of examples:

 

(1)   Reuven buys an item with Shimon’s credit card, and assures Shimon that he will pay the credit card bill.  However, Reuven forgets to pay the bill […]

Published Spring 2014

If anyone ever visited New Orleans, one of the must-see tourist highlights in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans, is a quaint Cajun wooden floor coffee shop known simply as Morning Call.  Morning Call is a café that sold one product only – a delightful, deep fried square doughnut that you smothered with heaps of confectioners’ sugar and enjoyed along with a delicious hot cup of French market coffee.  These square doughnuts are known as beignets (pronounced ben y’ays).  I don’t know if a beignet matches a fresh jelly-filled  sufgania , but beignets are a New Orleans favorite and Morning Call is still frying beignets.When I was a member of the New Orleans  Kollel  many years ago, Morning Call was certified kosher by the local congregational rabbi, and at that time there was no Kosher Cajun restaurant to go to for a kosher bite to eat.  The proprietor of Kosher Cajun was […]

Published Spring 2014
It is not uncommon for food manufacturers to call us with a keen interest in kosher certification without the the slightest idea what it takes to produce a kosher product.  What complicates matters is that they would like to have a kashrus tutorial capsulized into a telephone conversation.  Obviously, we can’t give a thorough kashrus course over the phone, but we can categorize practical kashrus into three main areas: ingredients, equipment, and process.Occasionally, there may be circumstances where both ingredients and equipment are 100% kosher.  Through a violation of a rabbinic ordinance, some foods or food products would be prohibited, while other food products undergoing the very same process would […]

Q: I have heard that someone who bakes loaves of bread with the intention of giving them to other people does not separate challah with a brocha. Can you explain the parameters of this halacha?

A: One is obligated to perform the mitzvah of separating challah when kneading dough which will be baked into bread. The amount of flour one must knead in order to be obligated in this mitzvah is an asiris ha’aifa, which is equivalent to the volume of 43⅕ beitzah.1 The exact volume of a beitzah is a matter of dispute. L’halacha, one should separate challah without a brocha when kneading 2.6 lbs. of flour, which on average is equivalent to 8⅔ cups of flour. According to Rav Chaim Noeh, one can separate challah with a brocha when kneading 3.675 lbs. or more of flour (on average, 12¼ cups). Many follow the opinion of the Chazon Ish, and […]

Published Summer 2014

One of the highlights of the week is the Shabbos seuda. The divrei Torah, zemiros, Shabbos delicacies, family and guests allow us to come closer to the Ribbono Shel Olam and recharge our ruchniyos and gashmiyos (spiritual and physical) batteries. Although a delicious bowl of chicken soup on Friday night and hot cholent during the daytime seuda enhance the Shabbos meals, one does not fulfill his obligation of “seudas Shabbos” with either of these items. What is necessary to fulfill one’s obligation for seudas Shabbos?

I. Seudas Shabbos

Men and women are obligated to eat three meals every Shabbos. Each “meal” must consist of bread.1 Chinuch-age children are also obligated. On Yom Tov, one2 is obligated to eat only two seudos as there is no obligation for a third meal.

Ideally, one should eat the volume of a “k’baytza v’yoser”3 from challos, matzos, rolls, bread or any Hamotzi product.4This volume is […]

Published Summer 2014
There was a story told about a very elderly Yid who was in the hospital with medical complications. The doctor came in with the patient’s test results and said, “Mr. Goldberg, your blood pressure is high and your cholesterol is high. You must change your diet. No more chopped liver; nothing cooked in chicken schmaltz.” Mr. Goldberg peeked out from under his blanket as his children were attending him, looked the doctor straight in the eye and said, “Vos vais a doctor vos a yid darf essen!”1

Although Judaism frowns upon a ‘Live to Eat’ mantra, eating does play a central role in the life of a Torah observant Jew. How can one observe Shabbos without Kiddush and Hamotzi? Who can observe a Pesach seder without matza? A Melava Malka, a Purim seuda, dipping an apple in the honey on Rosh Hashana – our calendar and our chagim […]

Published Fall 2014

Unquestionably, the one area of food ingredients that attests to the global nature of the food industry is the spice trade.  The Torah is replete with reference to the spice traders who carriedYosef to Egypt to the ketores, that was fundamental to the avoda in the Bais Hamikdash.  The spice commerce has thrived from the beginning of commercial trade.  New World exploration forged forward fueled with the hope of finding shorter spice routes to the Far East.  Centuries earlier, Marco Polo witnessed flourishing spice trade first hand, during his travels to the Orient. Spice empires thrived as the European powers deepened their trade with the Far East. Today, spice trading continues to prosper.  Spices hail from Albania to Zanzibar and arrive to these shores in many different forms as whole spices, spice extracts, oleoresins and essential oils. What are the kashrus issues facing this fascinating ancient/contemporary industry?  Have modern processing techniques simplified or complicated matters?
What are spices?  Are spices and herbs synonymous?
The term spice is […]

Published Fall 2014

For over nineteen hundred years, the Jewish people have longed to return to Eretz Yisroel, the Land of Israel.  It is only in the Land of Israel that we can realize our full potential as a nation; it is only in the Land of Israel 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 the Land of Israel.  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 mitzva challenges of all times is the fulfillment of the mitzva of Shmitta, the year of Sabbatical rest for the land of Israel.  The Midrash perceives this multifaceted mitzva as being so challenging and difficult that he who meets […]

 

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 […]

Q: When a person stays in a hotel for Shabbos, does he need to make an eruv chatzeiros to allow him to carry items in the hallways and lobby?

A: In order to answer this question, we need to review some of the basic halachos of eruv chatzeiros.

In the times of Chazal, it was common for private houses to be situated around the perimeter of a rectangular central courtyard, known as a chatzeir. The chatzeir was used by the members of these houses for chores, such as washing clothes and grinding grain. The Torah considers a chatzeir to be a reshus hayachid (a private domain) if it is surrounded on all sides by walls of the houses and one could, therefore, carry in the chatzeir on Shabbos. However, due to the fact that a chatzeir is less private than a house, the Rabonnon forbade carrying in a chatzeir unless the following […]