A Little Clarity – Halachic Questions via Text Message

photoDue to the space limitations of a text message, please note that it is particularly important to read carefully, pay close attention to the context of the question, and use the answers as a springboard for further study.

If you would like my phone number to submit questions, please leave a comment and I will send it to you.

Q: What is the purpose of chatzaras hashatz (the repetition of the amidah)?

A: According to Rabban Gamliel (quoted by the Gemara RH 34B) Chazaras Hashatz was originally set up so that people who were unable to read the prayers themselves (due to illiteracy) would be able to listen to the chazzan in order to fulfill their individual obligations of reciting shemoneh esrei. The Rambam explains in a teshuva that even if everyone in a congregation happens to know how to daven on their own we still have the repetition. That is because it was established as a standard shul procedure that would be done routinely in case someone needed it, just as many Ashkenazi shuls recite Kiddush every Friday night even though there are no guests that will be eating in the synagogue itself.

Q: Why were there Karbanot given on Shabbos?

A: Only karbanot that the Torah specifically requires be brought every single day or on Shabbos were actually offered on Shabbos but no other karbanot were. Apparently, they are more important than the Shabbos prohibitions.

Q:  There is now an etrog (possibly from Israel) and a very moldy lulav sitting in my living room. Am I allowed to throw out the lulav? And what can/should I do with the etrog?

A: Lulav: Dispose of respectfully in trash. Do the same with the esrog after it “rots” i.e. becomes inedible.

 Q: If i’m not sure if the esrog is from Israel, am i allowed to use it for something (dry it for besamim or use the peel for liqueur) or better to let it spoil and then toss?

A: Either way

Q:  Is the taboo regarding a mixture of meat and fish specific to eating it or cooking it? I.e. if one cooked meatballs that contained Worcestershire sauce (with anchovies in the ingredients) in a pyrex pan, what should be done with the pan?

A: The restriction of combining meat and fish is only with regard to eating them together, but it is permitted to cook them together and it does not affect the kosher status of the kitchen equipment. This can be confusing.  [It’s also worthwhile to point out that if the Worcestershire sauce is certified by the OU and it doesn’t say “fish” near the kosher symbol but just lists it in the ingredients it means that there is less than a 1 to 60 ratio of fish to other ingredients and according to most opinions that can be added to a meat dish with no concern.  And even if it does say “fish” next to the symbol it is possible that combined with the other ingredients there is still a permissible ratio and the food may be eaten (consult your LOR :)).]

Q: Does extra fancy whole grain rice need a hechsher?

A: All varieties of rice are assumed to be kosher even without supervision.

Q: What’s the kashrus situation with buying drinks in Starbucks and Dutch Bros.?

A: There are two types of stores regarding this question.  The first type is a coffee shop that does not cook any non-kosher food, e.g. a Starbucks kiosk in a grocery store.  In this type of shop the only concern is whether or not the ingredients that go into each drink are kosher which is relatively easy to clarify by asking or sometimes by checking online (kosherstarbucks.com).  The second type is a shop that also cooks non-kosher food – like a regular Starbucks brick and mortar shop and the above concern applies to these stores as well.  In these stores the kitchen equipment used for the non-kosher food can often be washed in hot water together with the equipment used to prepare the hot drinks.   Some authorities maintain that since there is a possibility of cross-contamination that could render all of the equipment non-kosher, it is advisable not to consume any hot drinks from these stores even when all of the ingredients are kosher.  Common custom in many communities (particularly those with no comparable kosher coffee shop options) is to follow other authorities that maintain that the concern for cross-contamination is sufficiently remote to render it irrelevant and to permit even hot drinks (as long as the ingredients are kosher).


Q: Why do some people use frozen broccoli without checking it for bugs?

A: It’s based on the idea that a something that is (A) certainly permitted on a biblical level and (B) only possibly prohibited on a rabbinic level, is permitted (unlike a possible biblical prohibition which is forbidden).  Broccoli poses a unique insect problem since it may not be possible to extricate all of the bugs that are entangled in the florets.  If broccoli is thoroughly washed (as all frozen broccoli is) the only insects left, if there are any, are impossible or nearly impossible to remove.  In this situation even the strictest opinions consider the vegetable and the insects sufficiently intermingled that nullification of the insects occurs on a biblical level (“A” above).  Rabbinically (Taz YD 100:1), nullification is prevented because of the rule of berya that says that any complete organic unit or organism (like a bug or limb of an animal) is not subject to the rule of nullification.  Since we don’t know for certain if there is an insect in the vegetable, some authorities argue that this is an only potentially forbidden rabbinic prohibition (“B” above) and therefore permitted.

Source: Rabbi Isaacs Blog

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