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 […]

Cooktop

If electric, choose coil type burners rather than heating elements embedded in a smooth glass surface.
If glass and electric, may present a problem of kashering for Pesach or if bought used. Check with your Rav.
If electric, may be a problem adjusting the temperature on Yom Tov.
If electric ignition, may be a problem with initiating a flame on Yom Tov.
Cooktops (gas or electric) may have a light or light bar that turns on when the burner is turned on. Some of these light bars also increase or decrease as the temperature setting is adjusted. Some cooktops may also have simmer lights that turn on and off as one enters or exits a very low setting.
Avoid electronic controls. After return of power from a power failure, these units will probably stay off. Avoid induction cooktops. They work well, but are not usable on Shabbos or Yom Tov.

12-hr Cutoff

Should have a way to […]

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 […]

Published Fall 2013

This past spring and summer, applicants from across the U.S., Mexico and Canada took advantage of an array of kashrus education opportunities hosted by STAR-K Kosher Certification in Baltimore, Maryland. In April and June, STAR-K administrators addressed the rabbinic alumni of Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (YU/RIETS) and Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, respectively, during their Yarchei Kallah. In July, STAR-K held back-to-back Foodservice Kashrus Training and Tenth Annual Kashrus Training Program seminars. Rabbi Dovid Yachnes, rav of the Orlando Torah Center, wrote a letter of appreciation that perhaps best sums up the impact made during all of these educational efforts. Commenting on these efforts, STAR-K President Avrom Pollak said, “STAR-K is always interested in supporting rabbonim and their communities around the country and the world, with accurate kashrus information and halachic resources, to further our mission of promoting kashrus and observance of halacha.”

Dear STAR-K,

Please allow me to share […]

Published Fall 2013

Kashrus has come a long way. Kashrus agencies ensure the highest standards of kashrus in factories and food establishments worldwide, by maintaining a staff of experts in halacha, and in food technology, equipment and ingredients. Consumers have been trained to know which products are acceptable and how to maintain a kosher kitchen l’mehadrin. Kashrus in shuls is usually overseen by the rav of the kehila.

However, one area of kashrus that has received little attention – even throughout the past several decades of unprecedented kashrus growth – is kashrus in our schools. These “heiligeh mekomos”, where tens of thousands of our “tinokos shel bais rabban” spend much of their time during the course of their formative years, deserve the same attention as factories, eating establishments, shuls and our homes.

It is difficult to address the needs of each school as every situation is different. The issues at a yeshiva with a full-service […]

Published Fall 2013

Everyone wants to emulate a winner. The world of food manufacturing and marketing is no exception. Whenever a new product reaches the marketplace, or a new business venture is successfully launched, rest assured that product or venture will be duplicated, cloned, or modified
immediately. One only needs to travel north of Baltimore to Pennsylvania Dutch country to see this in reality. Southern Pennsylvania is home to tens of snack food manufacturers, and is aptly dubbed “the snack food capital  of the United States.”

Snack foods have always been an integral part of the American diet and the American way of life. But, snack food modifications do not stand still. As our eating habits, tastes, and health awareness change, so have snack food styles. As production streamlines and technology becomes more innovative, snack food companies continuously modernize to keep up with the times. Of course, one dimension of the snack food industry that always remains constant is kashrus. No matter how […]

Q: Could you give me some guidelines as to when sheva brochos are recited?

A: When a chosson and kallah get married, sheva brochos are recited on three occasions: (i) under the chupah, (ii) at the end of the meal following the chupah, and (iii) at the end of subsequent meals that are made lekovod the chosson and kallah. It is this third category which is commonly known as sheva brochos. If the chosson and kallah have both been previously married, sheva brochos are recited only on the day of the wedding.1 If either the chosson or kallah has not been previously married, sheva brochos are recited on the seven days following the wedding, with the day of the wedding reckoned as the first of those seven days.2 If neither the chosson nor the kallah have previously been living an observant lifestyle (or if one of them has not been living […]

Published Spring 2013

Have you ever had a slice of p’tcha galarita – that spicy, globby stuff Bubby used to cook up? How did she manage to make it so thick?

Better yet, open a can of gefilte fish. Look at the stiff jell that comes as its broth. Why is it that when you cook your own gefilte fish, you do not get that solid jelly from your broth? Did you ever wonder why theirs is so thick and yours is not?

COLLAGEN may be the answer to this thickening question.

Collagen is a fibrous, insoluble protein that makes up a major portion of bone, skin and connective tissue. By cooking animal bones or adding fish bones to the broth of your gefilte fish, you will extract some of the collagen from the bones. This gives you the wobbly jelly in p’tcha or in the gefilte fish that comes in a can.

The most common form in which collagen is marketed is partially hydrolyzed state known commonly as gelatin. […]

For over nineteen hundred years the Jewish people have longed to return to Eretz Yisroel, the land of Israel. It is only in 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. Over 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 only be observed 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.

This article is an attempt to provide a review of some of the pertinent details of the mitzvah of shatnes, to educate consumers so that they avoid purchasing garments containing shatnes, and to dispel many of the myths about certain types of clothing and textiles that do or do not contain shatnes. We hope to reduce the all too frequent instances in which the joy one naturally experiences upon purchasing a new garment is diminished when shatnes is discovered.

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 are either connected to a central system or not. But one thing is clear; the system will only work if all the wires are intact, the switches 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. Just one frayed connection can invalidate the whole system.

Just as the Torah carefully directs us in the arena of kosher diet, what we can and cannot eat, how food may and may not be prepared, and what foods are considered required eating, similarly, the Torah provides us with a kosher dress code regarding the clothing we wear, what fabrics or combination thereof may or may not be used, how clothing should or should not be worn, and what styles of clothing are recommended. One of the Torah‘s great “how to” mitzvos is the mitzvah of tzitzis. The Torah instructs us to insert specially wound fringes onto the corners of any four cornered garments where the corners surround the wearer.

by Dr. Tzvi White, reviewed by Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, Star-K Rabbinic Administrator

Home ownership, the American dream. After moving in one hopes it doesn’t turn in to an American nightmare. So many things to take care of; so many things to consider. Utilities, the structure, the appliances – the list is seemingly endless. Dealing with normal home issues is hard enough, just think how many more issues have to be considered in a kosher compliant home. Kosher mezuzas on all entrances. Kosher appliances to make the kosher kitchen user friendly. No trees hanging over the backyard area where the sukkah is to be built. Moreover, does anyone realize that roofs, porches, balconies and landings have to be kosher as well? How do you make a porch kosher compliant? The answer – build a ma’akeh.

What is a ma’akeh?

[...] Read More

Rabbi Chaim Moshe Levy, a Mesivta rebbe in Lakewood, New Jersey, knew it was coming, yet he still felt unprepared.  In July, he received an overseas telephone call informing him that the time had come to take over the pulpit of his deceased father, Rabbi Daniel Levy, zt”l, as the Rav of I.R.G. (Khal Adas Yeshurun) in Zurich, Switzerland.

One of the many ways Klal Yisroel serves the Ribbono Shel Olam is through the performance of mizvos hateluyos ba’aretz, mitzvos that are dependent on land. Those who live in the land of Israel have many opportunities to fulfill these mitzvos. In chutz la’aretz, the mitzvah of hafrashas Challah is one of the only agricultural mitzvos that we are obligated to perform.1

Life is made up of a long chain of experiences. Some bitter, some sweet, some mundane, and some exciting. Let me share one with you. About ten years ago I had the good fortune to have an inspiring experience in Morocco, of all places. The purpose of my trip was to inspect various Star-K companies that exported olives and olive oil to the U.S. The inspiration came as a result of spending two days with the remnant of the once thriving ancient Jewish community of Meknes. Meknes was home to many Rabbanim, Geonim, and Tzadikim. The Ohr Hachaim HaKodosh, the great luminary who wrote the famous commentary on Chumash, was born in Meknes. The Jewish cemetery dates back 1200 years. Today barely two hundred families remain. The Rav of the small kehilla is a holy Jew by the name of Rabbi Chaim Kasous, who had served […]