Bringing Issues of Kashrut to Every Home

From the introduction of the new volume of “Peninei Halakha: Kashrut” Vol. II, “Food and the Kitchen” * In many ways, it was the most complex and complicated volume * The laws of kashrut should be clear to everyone, both in order to avoid frequent doubts, and because knowledge of Torah elevates man * Having merited the ‘Ingathering of the Exiles’, we are obligated to learn the customs of all ethnic groups and poskim, understand the common halakhic foundations, and bring the halakhic divisions closer together, while maintaining the different traditions * More about kashrut and hospitality: When hosted, should one be meticulous to keep the minhag of chalita for meat

The New Book

With the grace of God, last week the second volume of “Peninei Halakha: Kashrut – Food and the Kitchen”, came off the printing presses. Thus, I merited completing the three books dedicated to the laws of kashrut: Volume I – ‘Vegetation and Animals’, this volume, and another book on the “Laws of Shivi’it and Yovel”, which also includes many laws in the field of kashrut.

Here are some of the main points I wrote in the introduction of my new book:

“The mitzvah of kashrut elevates our eating, so that in addition to our body’s health, it purifies our soul as well. Usually, spiritual people tend to disregard eating, relating to it as an inferior, physical matter that hinders a person’s spiritual attainment, and thus, matters of food and eating are valueless to them. However, according to Judaism and Torah guidance – everything has importance, and the physical body also possesses holiness, and consequently, many mitzvot deal with managing the body, and eating. Moreover, a profound connection exists between the body and the soul, and any perfection of the body affects the soul. The main goal of the mitzvot of kashrut is to prepare and purify our foods, so that by way of them, we can connect to the Torah’s values. How fortunate we are, how goodly is our lot, and how pleasant is our fate, that God sanctified us in His mitzvot, and commanded us to elevate our eating to a level possessing emunah, kedusha, and bracha (faith, holiness, and blessing), through which we can fulfill our mission of Tikun Olam (perfection of the world) in the Kingdom of God.”

The Complexities of Kashrut Issues

“In many ways, this book was the most complex and complicated. It deals with the most common issues rabbis have encountered for generations, and consequently, numerous books have been written on it, as well as many responses. Also, there are numerous commentaries on the explanations of the Shulchan Aruch particularly on this subject. On almost every chapter of my new book, entire works have been written in recent generations. As with all the previous books in the ‘Peninei Halakha’ series, my intention was to define the foundations of the halakha well, so that the details branching out from them would be understood on their own, in a way there would be no need to elaborate on details and examples.”

Halakha Should Be Understandable to All

“The general rule guiding me is that Torah mitzvot should be understandable to all Jews in a way they can fulfill them without all types of doubts and always having to ask rabbis impractical questions. Because if people always have to ask about every detail, only a few will fulfill the halakha correctly. That being the case for the entire Torah, all the more so in a practical and everyday matter that affects every family and individual. Beyond that, Torah knowledge elevates and inspires every Jew, enabling him to implement his full talents in all areas of all his pursuits – for the glory of Torah, the Nation, and the Land. This is the reason God gave his Torah to the entire nation of Israel, so the words of Torah would be understood by all, and not just scholars. Only in this way can the Jewish nation fulfill its mission to reveal the word of God in the world, and be a blessing to all families of the earth.”

The Need to Delve into the Fundamentals

“In some areas I had to delve deeper into the fundamentals of the issues, either because reality has changed, or because sometimes the poskim of previous generations referred mainly to their local traditions and the opinions of their ethnic group, and less to the traditions and poskim of different communities and distant places. Today, having merited the ingathering of millions of Jews from the four corners of the world, and the different ethnic groups are marrying one another, it is our duty to learn the minhagim (customs) of all ethnic groups and poskim collectively, to understand the common halakhic foundation, and while carefully safeguarding the various traditions, endeavor to join together the halakhic branches, in the tradition of the Talmedei Chachamim (Sages) of Eretz Yisrael, who treat each other graciously when engaged in halakhic debates (Sanhedrin 24a).”

The Yeshiva Har Bracha Institute

“By the grace of God, over the years, significant Torah scholars have developed in Yeshiva Har Bracha, who understand how to clarify revealed tradition from its very foundation till the offshoots of all its branches in recent generations. It is a great privilege for me to thank my close partners in examination of the issues, led by Rabbi Maor Kayam shlita, head of the Yeshiva Har Bracha Institute, who accompanies me throughout the learning. Thanks to his special talent and diligence, together with his deep understanding of my approach of halakha and its writing, his assistance in solving the issues is enormous. As head of the institute, he has taught and mentored members of the institute – Rabbi Yair Weitz, Rabbi Ephraim Shachor, Rabbi Danny Keller, and a recent participant, Rabbi Aharon Friedman – so they can also help clarify the issues. From the very first chapter of the laws of kashrut, their great contribution is evident. Thanks to them, it was possible to encompass and clarify complex issues, taking into account all the hundreds of explanations and responses they dealt with, especially in the issues of shratzim (insects) and the kashering of utensils.”

The Contribution of the Residents of Har Bracha

“A special thanks to the residents of Har Bracha. Thanks to them, I encounter practical questions from all areas of kashrut. In addition, in the regular classes I give every Shabbat to both men and women, hundreds of participants have learned along with me all the issues of kashrut, have heard the questions and the ambiguities, and contributed important ideas and information. Even the residents’ fathers and mothers who visit the community and participate in classes contributed from their personal experience, and from traditions of their predecessors according to their various ethnic groups. Likewise, over the years, a number of scientists and specialists in various academic fields have emerged within the Yeshiva and its academic/Torah study program ‘Shiluvim’, who also contributed to the book.

Readers of Revivim

“I also gained knowledge from responses of readers of my newspaper column ‘Revivim’, especially the contributions of scholars in various fields of science, who added important information in understanding the issues and actuality.”

Here, I will add that sometimes thanks to readers’ comments and questions, I realized that the explanation I had written was misunderstood, that it created confusion between related halakhic areas in which perhaps was a mistake, or a proof that I thought was clear, was not to various Torah scholars. Thanks to all of this, I endeavored in the book to explain the halakha’s more accurately, and to base them on stronger foundations.

A Memorial for Tzuri Hartuv z”l

I further wrote in the introduction: “This book is dedicated to the elevation of the soul of my beloved cousin, Tzur Hartuv, who passed away suddenly in the darkness of the night of Tevet 5779 at the age of fifty-eight. He left behind his widow Yehudit and their five children. Tzuri, who was born in Bnei Brak and established his home in Efrat, was a graduate of Or Etzion Yeshivot, Merkaz HaRav, and Har Etzion. He was a dedicated employee in the insurance field, beloved by his friends, a community volunteer, set times for Torah study, and like his father, may he live a long life, served as the shaliach tzibbur (cantor) on Shabbatot and Yamim Nora’im. He was fond of Hasidic and Israeli music, played organ at weddings and poetry evenings, and pleased God through his voice and actions. Tzuri was the first to encourage me to write the laws of kashrut, emphasizing that the public at large, and even graduates of yeshivas, do not properly understand the complex issues of kashrut. Almost every time we met, and after each book was published, he mentioned that he was still waiting for hilchot kashrut. When the first volume was published, he said that indeed it was a start, but he was still waiting for a clarification of the main issues. To our dismay, now that the book has been published, all we can do is dedicate it to his memory. May his soul be bound up in the bond of life, and may he continue to serve as a shaliach tzibbur in his prayer, for his entire family and Israel.”

Being Meticulous about Chalita when Hosted

Q: I am a Sephardic Jewish woman, married to a Yemenite. From what I understand, for Yemenites, chalita (koshering by boiling) of meat is an actual halakha, and not a minhag or chumra (stringency). For that reason, as a Rabbi instructed us, we are careful about this even when we are guests. Can we act leniently and fry schnitzel in deep oil on a stove, or does it require chalita specifically? And is the chumra necessary even when we are guests?

A: Yemenites who are meticulous to perform chalita at home, do not have to be machmir about it when they are guests. I will briefly discuss the issue.

In the opinion of Rambam, Ra’ah, and Ritvah, melicha (salting) is only effective in extracting blood from the outer side of meat, but not from the inner parts. Therefore, after melicha of meat and rinsing, the salted meat must be scalded in boiling water, so that all blood remaining in it will be solidified in the meat and can no longer be secreted while cooking, for as long as the blood cannot be secreted, it is considered dam averim she’lo parash (non-excreted blood of limbs) which is not prohibited. And if chalita in boiling water was not performed on the meat, the red liquid that issues out of it on its own, or as a result of cutting the meat, is prohibited due to the prohibition of eating blood. And if the meat was cooked, since in cooking liquids are secreted from the meat and re-absorbed, the meat would be prohibited.

However, in the opinion of the vast majority of poskim, after meat has been salted properly, the red mohal (sap) secreted is permitted, because it is not considered blood, but rather “chamar basar” (meat wine). Therefore, after salting, the meat is permitted to be cooked, because all liquids secreted are kosher.

In practice, as guests, even those who are machmir should act leniently for two reasons. First, the machloket (controversy) concerns a law based on Divrei Chachamim (rabbinic ordinance) since blood that has been cooked is forbidden from Divrei Chachamim alone, and therefore, when the vast majority of poskim are lenient in a law d’Rabananbe’sha’at ha’tzorech (in times of need) one should rely upon them and act leniently. And certainly, when one is a guest, it is considered a sha’at ha’tzorech.

In addition, some poskim say that the obligation of chalita according to the opinion of Rambam is only when melicha was done to the meat for only eighteen minutes, but if the meat is put in salt for an hour as is customary today – all the blood is secreted or solidified in the meat, and even according to Rambam, it is unnecessary to perform chalita on the meat in boiling water afterwards (Aruch HaShulchan, Y.D. 69: 36-40). And although many have disagreed with this s’vora (logical argument), since the law is from Divrei Chachamim, even Yemenites accustomed to be machmir and perform chalita on meat, may rely on it in times of need. And there are some who rely on this l’chatchila (from the outset).

The General Attitude towards Chalita

It is worthwhile noting that most of the Badatz kashrut organizations are lenient in regards to chalita, but it would be appropriate for the mehadrin hechers to be machmir, seeing as chalita is one of the most important chumra’s in the halakha’s of kashrut.

In our yeshiva, I asked the cook to always perform chalita on meat, so that everyone would be included in the enhancement of the mitzvah according to method of Rambam, and the Yemenite minhag.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew. The article in Hebrew appears here: https://revivim.yhb.org.il/

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