Soul Nutrition – Acharon Shel Pesach

posted by March 2021


We don’t find any other Yom Tov which has a special name denoting the last day – there’s no Acharon shel Sukkos or Acharon shel Shavuos.

The prophet Yirmiyahu says, “Therefore, behold, days are coming, says the L-rd, when it will no longer be said, As the L-rd lives who brought Israel up from the land of Egypt.” (Yirmiyahu 16:14)

We call the final day of Pesach “acharon” (the last) because we demonstrate our faith that this Pesach will be the last Pesach in exile. When Moshiach comes, we won’t celebrate Pesach as we do now, which is why we refer specifically to the last day as the Final Day of Pesach.

Remembering Rabbi Leizer Teitelbaum, OB”M

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By Rabbi Hershel Krinsky, OK Senior Rabbinic Coordinator
When I came to learn in the Central Lubavitch Yeshiva at 770 Eastern Parkway in the summer of 5729 (1969), Reb Leizer had already been there a few years (he was a few years older than me). Two things that I saw right away were:
1) He never wasted any time. He was always learning.
2) He wasn’t a “snob” with his nose in the air. He was very friendly to us new, younger bochurim.

I had the zechus to dorm in the same apartment with him for a year. After Seder Chassidus finished at night, Rabbi Teitelbaum went right back to the apartment and learned Gemara every night with his cousin, Reb Sholom
Ber Levine (the Chief Librarian of the Rebbe’s library). I was told that they eventually finished Shas with Tosafos.

Rabbi Teitelbaum emulated both of these qualities for the remainder of his life, as witnessed by all here at the OK. Whether it was to a client, a rabbi from another agency, or his co-workers here in the office, Rabbi Teitelbaum always knew how to say things with kindness and respect, and everything he said was backed up by Shulchan Oruch & Poskim.

By Rabbi Yitzchok Ort, longtime Field Representative for OK Kosher
I knew Rabbi Teitelbaum for many, many years. We worked on many projects together – some easy, and some very difficult. Reb Leizer always understood the issues and was ready to resolve them without compromising on Halacha. He always gave me guidance on how to deal with the issue and work with the client in a way that engendered
cooperation. Rabbi Teitelbaum will always be remembered for the kind way he treated others. Yehi zichro boruch.

The History of Mechiras Chometz

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The sale of chometz before Pesach is a common occurrence, practiced by Jews all over the world, but it didn’t start that way. The first sale of chometz was a regular sale1, where a Jewish man sold his chometz to a non-Jew, just like any other product, but perhaps for a cheaper price to make it more attractive. After the sale was completed, the non-Jew became the owner of the chometz and it did not revert to the Jew after Pesach.

There was a case where a Jew sold his chometz to a non-Jew with the understanding that it would be returned after Pesach. The Tosefta2 brings a case where the Jew needed to sell his chometz because he was on a ship in the middle of the sea during Pesach, but it seems that it was not done l’chatchila.

Since the times of the Rishonim, it has become a common practice to sell one’s chometz and expect to buy it back after Pesach. Though this is the Halacha3, codified in Shulchan Oruch, it is important to note that there are Rishonim who maintain that chometz can only be sold when there is no other viable solution4, as in the case of the ship in the above mentioned Tosefta.

In addition to the change in the sale’s intention, there has also been a change in the payment for the chometz. Where previously the non-Jew paid the full value of the chometz, the Terumas HaDeshen5 rules that the price does not have to be the real value of the chometz, it can even be sold for a token amount.

In the early 1600s, there was a significant change in the Polish-Jewish economy, which affected the Jewish community to a great extent. As a result, many Jews started producing and selling grain alcohols, which caused a new issue for Pesach. Until then, even when chometz was sold for a token payment, the chometz was removed from the Jew’s house until after Pesach. Needless to say, it was not very practical to do this with big warehouses of alcohol, which is meant to be stored for a long time in large quantities.

Following this, the Bach6 ruled that the chometz could be sold to a non-Jew, even if it never left the premises of the Jew, as long as the Jew also sold the room where the chometz was located. This was a major turning point in the practice of selling chometz and brought another element to the sale – selling through a contract – because some poskim require a contract when selling real estate. Examples of such contracts date back to the Noda B’Yehuda.

In Shulchan Oruch HaRav, there are two reasons as to why a contract of sale is required:
The Russian law at that time stated that, unlike the sale of cattle, when alcohol was sold but not handed over right away, a contract was required. Having a contract for the sale of chometz makes the sale a true legal sale.7
Since the Bach stated that the room where the chometz is stored must also be “sold”, the Shulchan Oruch HaRav says that one should make a contract when selling real estate (the Bach does not require a contract).8

As mentioned, the price that the non-Jew pays for the chometz can even be a token value. This can be an issue when the chometz is of great value; perhaps the non-Jew will refuse to give it back. To tackle this issue, a different approach was taken. The chometz would be sold at or above market value, but the non-Jew would only pay a token amount at the time of the sale and the rest would be placed upon him as a debt. That way, if the non-Jew decided to keep the chometz, he would have to pay the full contracted price.

The Shulchan Oruch HaRav rules that this method of sale is acceptable as long as the non-Jew has a guarantor (ערב קבלן) who promises to pay the balance instead of the non-Jewish buyer. The Shluchan Oruch HaRav quotes the Gedolei HaRishonim who were worried that leaving the balance connected to the original sale as a debt could damage the integrity of the sale. [Other Poskim allow it as long as the balance is separated from the sale as a new loan.]

There are very few ways in which a non-Jew can make a proper kinyan to finalize a purchase. The main way is that the non-Jew pulls or hauls away the item in question – משיכה. Since the Bach ruled that the non-Jew does not have to physically remove the chometz from the Jew’s property, it is important to remove any possible questions about the validity of the sale, so one should do as many methods of making a kinyan as possible:
Kinyan Kesef: The non-Jew pays for the chometz with money (down payment).
Kinyan Shtar: The transaction is recorded in a legal contract signed by the parties.
Kinyan Chalifin: An exchange (barter) of property, whereby the non-Jew hands over an object of his (i.e. his pen), upon which the chometz is transferred into his ownership.
Kinyan Chatzer: First, the non-Jew acquires real estate from the Jew. By dint of the chometz resting in his property, the chometz transfers as well.
Tekias Kaf (handshake) – a world-wide accepted gesture of purchase.9
Kinyan Odisa: a verbal affirmation signaling the completion of the transaction.
Handing over the key to the location of the chometz.
Kinyan Agav: Selling the chometz along with some real estate.

As we can see, one has to know all the intricacies of the law to be able to properly sell his chometz to a non-Jew. Indeed, the complexities of the laws have caused many mistakes and confusion for people who have sold their chometz privately. To prevent this, it has become a common practice for a prominent Torah figure (usually the Rav of the community) to sell the chometz for the entire town, so there will be no Halachic issues.

There are two ways for the Rav to sell the chometz for the entire community:
The Rav purchases the chometz from the townspeople and sells it to the non-Jew.

The Rav does not actually purchase the chometz, rather he serves as the middleman and a “messenger” (שליח) of the townspeople to sell their chometz to a non-Jew.

The common practice today is that the Rav becomes a “ מורשה ” – he receives an authorization (similar to a power of attorney) to sell the chometz to a non-Jew as in the second format where the Rav doesn’t actually purchase the chometz from each person individually, but is serving a messenger.

In the merit of our careful attention to fulfilling the prohibition against owning chometz on Pesach, may we be zoche to experience the Geulah Sheleimah this Pesach and celebrate in Yerushalayim with Moshiach.

  1. ריש פ”ב פסחים ושם דף י”ג א.
  2. פסחים ב’, ו’
  3. שו”ע תמ”ח סעיף ג’
  4. ריטב”א פסחים דף כ”א
  5. תשובה ק”כ
  6. סימן תמ”ח
  7. סדר מכירת חמץ
  8. שו”ע הרב תמ”ח, י”ב
  9. סיטומתא

Pesach Oils

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The Lubavitcher Rebbe writes1 about oil as it compares to the Jewish people in Exile. Like oil, the Jewish people have undergone crushing challenges that brought out inner greatness. Like oil, the Jewish people have spread out across the world and disseminated the wellsprings of the Torah wherever we have gone. Just as oil remains apart from other liquids, the Jewish people retain our unique character and traditions, remaining true to Torah and mitzvos. And finally, the Jewish people rise above the mundane, elevating even worldly pursuits, like the oil that rises to the top of all other liquids. Even in the difficult Golus of Mitzrayim, the Jewish people remained true to these properties, which led to our salvation as Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim and chose us to be His Nation.

When it comes to Passover certified food items, the fewer steps involved in the production, the lesser the chance of Pesach related challenges. This is true both commercially and in home-based settings.

For those Sefardim with the custom of eating kitniyot on Pesach, the following oils can potentially be used when certified for Pesach “l’ochlei kitniyot” by a reliable hechsher: canola, soybean, sunflower, peanut2, and corn. Canola, soybean, and sunflower oils may be problematic even though they are derived from kitniyot sources because there is a possibility that they have been grown in fields that also grow wheat on a rotating basis. These oils require a reliable hechsher for Passover kitniyot use. A reliable kashrus agency knows to check the gluten level of the crude oil as part of the process in determining whether or not it can be approved l’ochlei kitniyot.

It is not enough to ascertain that the source of the oil is kosher l’Pesach; the production process, from start to finish, needs to conform to Pesach requirements.

In general, edible oils are derived from fruits, vegetables, plants, flowers, or nuts, and generally via one of two methods – pressing or refining. Refined oils, in their original form, are called crude and they undergo a multi-step process to remove any impurities before they reach your grocer’s shelves. Since refinery equipment is very difficult to clean, the certifying agency must ensure that the equipment is acceptable for Pesach use at every step along the way. Very often, refined oils for Pesach are done on a production basis, which means that special runs are made for kosher l’Pesach oils.

DEGUMMING – improves edibility and storage, and enables the neutralization step in the refining process
NEUTRALIZATION – alkaline agents are added so that the fatty acids in the oil will bind to them and create a soap-like substance, which can then be removed
BLEACHING – agents are added to help remove color
DEODORIZATION – live steam is added under vacuum conditions to help remove any undesirable flavors and odors

When it comes to food production, if the product is made on a dedicated line it is easier to certify kosher. For example, palm oil is suitable for Pesach use (with a reliable hechsher) even though it is refined because it is typically produced on dedicated equipment along with a very basic ingredient that is suitable for Pesach.

Pressed oils, as the term implies, are derived from a straightforward process that involves squeezing the source to extract the oil, which can be done cold or using heat extraction. After the oil is extracted, it is filtered to remove impurities and debris. From a quality perspective, the cold process helps preserve the original properties of the oil’s source. Since cold pressing is a straightforward process that does not involve the use of other ingredients and/or shared processes with other non-Pesach products, as long as the source is not chometz or kitniyot, cold-pressed oils are ideal for Pesach use. In addition, because these oils contain only a single ingredient, they can often be certified for Pesach year-round. Some examples are extra virgin olive oil, pistachio oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil.

The most commonly used oils for Pesach are cottonseed3, grapeseed, olive, walnut, avocado, coconut, and palm. This year, we can add OK-P-certified pistachio oil, a newly released product by Setton International, to the list.

Due to the limited choice of ingredients for Pesach, one of the biggest challenges we face in the kitchen is creating tasty and nutritious meals with ingredients that conform to family customs. We are lucky to have an abundance of Kosher for Passover products available in our stores, but they are often variations of the same base products. Even when something new hits the market for Pesach, it is often just another version or application of a product already on the shelves. Therefore, when a truly new and unique kosher for Pesach product enters the market, it is a cause for excitement.

Already well known for its high-quality pistachios, nuts, and dried fruit, Setton International recently launched a kosher for Pesach pistachio oil, just in time for this year’s Pesach season. Now, for the first time, kosher consumers can avail themselves of this unique new product which is already on track to becoming a household staple, not only for Pesach but for year-round use as well.

While there are many kosher for Pesach oils on the market, pistachio oil is unique. Some of the kosher l’Pesach oils you are most likely familiar with are cottonseed, walnut, olive, avocado, and grapeseed. Due to the stringencies associated with Pesach, many people prefer oils that are minimally processed, and while some of these oils are cold-pressed and, therefore, more mehudar in terms of processing, others are hot expelled in a more detailed process, making them less desirable options. Also, nut-based oils that are kosher for Pesach are typically distilled (another level of processing) to remove the aromas and flavors attributed to the nuts from which they are made.

The Setton family has gone to great lengths to ensure a top-quality product that is produced following the most stringent Pesach standards. To start, Setton Farms produces its pistachio oil using only raw, unprocessed premium pistachios from their farms in California’s Central Valley. Produced on dedicated equipment, the oil is handcrafted in small batches to ensure freshness, quality, and consistency. It is light green, has an attractive aroma, and the well-balanced flavor doesn’t overpower the food in which it’s used. The pistachio oil has a low smoke point, making it ideal for use in cold applications such as dressings, dips, salads, and as a finishing oil.

In terms of health benefits, pistachios are known to be a complete protein food high in antioxidants and a natural source of Vitamins A, B6, E, as well as Omega 6 and 9. Due to the minimal processing of the pistachios, pistachio oil retains many health benefits associated with pistachios because you are truly getting only raw pistachios, in oil form.

In conclusion, may we be zocheh to live elevated lives and, like oil, rise to the top in our avodas Hashem and in our quest to bring Moshiach.

KITNIYOT is a loshon hakodesh word meaning legumes; however, when used in connection with Pesach, it also includes foods such as rice, corn, and millet, as well as seeds such as kimmel, mustard and sesame. Ashkenazim and some Sephardim are prohibited from consuming kitniyot on Pesach based on rabbinic rulings which originated in Europe over 700 years ago.

The two main reasons for these rulings are because kitniyot and the five grains closely resemble each other when they grow in the fields, and also because kitniyot can be prepared in a way that resembles food made from the five grains which are prohibited on Pesach in any form other than matzah specially prepared for Pesach. There is also a concern in some cases that kitniyot crops can be rotated with chometz crops in the same field, and this would be problematic for Pesach.

1. Igros Kodesh, Volume 2, page 279.
2. The minhag is to consider this oil kitniyot (see Igros Moshe Orach Chaim, vol. 3, Teshuva 63).
3. The Minchas Yitzchak (Vol. 3, page 240 and Vol. 4, page 248) holds that cottonseed oil should not be consumed on Pesach.

Remembering Mrs. Thelma Levy

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On her yahrzeit, 22 Adar

Those of us who work at OK Kosher feel that we are part of the OK Family. The matriarch of this family was Mrs. Thelma Levy, A”H. I had the privilege of working at OK Kosher for the last several years that Mrs. Levy worked. Mrs. Levy was a sharp administrator, and so dedicated to her work in the organization. She was aware of all of the policies and constantly strived to make sure that everything was organized.

When I started my work at OK Kosher, Mrs. Levy was still using a typewriter for correspondence. However, she embraced new technologies and began using her computer as that became the new way of operating. She would ask for help from the younger staff members but she was not afraid to try out this new way that was foreign to so many people in her generation. She had a love of life and productivity.

Mrs. Levy was so proud of what OK Kosher has accomplished. She was an educated woman with a knack for business who worked side by side with her son and grandchildren in growing OK Kosher. Mrs. Levy’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren were a tremendous source of nachas for her. Every time we got together, she would make sure to tell me about the latest simcha that she was able to attend and proudly tell about the birth or marriage of her many grandchildren.

Mrs. Levy treated the staff that she worked with like family. I fondly called her Savta, just like her grandchildren. Once she stopped coming into the office regularly, we did not see her as often. Yet, whenever there was an event and she was present, she always showed such interest in how I was doing and how my work was doing. I will always remember the example she set. I was fortunate to know this regal woman.

Kosher Medicine Lists

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Today, numerous lists of over the counter (OTC) and prescription medicines are still published every year, claiming to state whether or not the various medicines contain any chometz or kitniyos, and their acceptability for Pesach use. These lists of prescription medicines include many that are prescribed for serious conditions such as heart ailments, low blood sugar, etc.

Therefore, I would like to take another look at the preparation and use of these lists from two perspectives. First, how authentic and accurate are these lists? And, secondly, should they be publicized at all?

As a kashrus agency, one of our main tasks is to continually review and verify ingredient lists for the products we certify. Obtaining accurate ingredient lists and keeping them updated can be a complicated process and is not simply a matter of a letter or phone call requesting information. For example, when a new company applies to the OK for certification, we first request that they send us a complete ingredient list. The company may not initially understand or want to understand, what is required, and it can then take some time for OK rabbis and staff to work with the applicant to submit the information. Once the company successfully submits an ingredient list, two additional steps are required before the products can be certified. First, a specific formula, or recipe, including all ingredients and the manufacturing process, must be submitted for each product. These formulae, when entered into our computer database system, may reveal discrepancies with the original ingredient list, or suppliers that do not have acceptable kosher certification. Formula submittal is a crucial tool for monitoring which ingredients are used in the production of certified products. In fact, in the course of a formula review before certification, I personally discovered a company that was using a non-kosher ingredient, which they had not told us about.

After the ingredients and formulas have been reviewed, rabbis regularly visit the facility to verify the accuracy of all the information we received. Even after all of the work and checking described above, a Rabbi will often note that the submitted ingredient list was incomplete.

Verifying ingredient lists does not pertain only to new companies seeking certification. The mashgiach who regularly inspects a facility must ensure that our ingredient lists are accurate and that kosher ingredients are correctly warehoused. On occasion, unacceptable ingredients are brought into a facility; constant vigilance is necessary to ensure that only approved ingredients ever reach the production floor. At one facility with thousands of ingredients, the mashgiach performs a daily inventory of newly arrived ingredients. Sometimes he has to reject incoming ingredients because they do not meet acceptance criteria.

The companies discussed so far have signed a contract with the OK and are cooperating with us; nonetheless, mistakes and discrepancies occur. Only through constant monitoring can we be sure that ALL ingredients used in the production of kosher products, and especially kosher-for-Pesach products, are acceptable.

How do the publishers of the “Kosher-for-Pesach” lists get their information – especially from companies that have no certification at all? Generally, a clerical worker with little or no kashrus expertise will write or call the company asking for information. With no system in place to follow up and verify the information received, it is ludicrous to assume that the information is accurate. Additionally, the months of preparation required to compile so much information and get the lists ready for publication guarantees that the information will be outdated by the time it reaches the consumer.

Even if the information was correct on the day it was received, companies may change suppliers for a host of reasons, and they have no obligation to inform the list publishers of these changes. Perhaps they once used a certain starch that was not chometzdik as a binder. Later they found a new supplier of the starch at a better price, and the new one is chometzdik. Or, as commonly happens, the acceptable ingredient is no longer available and the manufacturer is forced to find an alternative.

There is a commonly held view that if someone writes to a company claiming a food allergy to a specific ingredient, the company will give true information. Although companies will respond to such queries, they will not necessarily reveal the whole truth and therefore cannot be relied upon. Recently, a Jewish website claimed that a certain liqueur produced in France was Kosher. This claim was made after a rabbi sent an email to the manufacturer stating that the writer is allergic to grapes and would like to know if there is any grape alcohol in their product. The writer claimed that the company did not realize he was asking about a kosher issue, merely an allergy concern. The response of the company stated that there was no grape alcohol in their product and so the rabbi assumed it to be kosher.

There are two issues with such a claim:
• Allergists will tell you that alcohol made from grapes, lactose, wheat, etc. will not affect a person allergic to the base material from which the alcohol is made. Therefore companies will assume that this won’t affect the consumer and may not reveal this information.
• Although the rabbi assumed the company did not know he was asking a kosher question, the email address had the word rabbi in it, as well as the name of his Jewish organization!

Another misconception is that the kosher status of a product can be determined by checking the ingredients listed on a company’s website. Based on the company’s reply to his email and the ingredient list posted on the company website, the rabbi concluded that the liqueur was kosher.

What a churban! Can we give a hechsher to a product simply by writing a letter and checking the company’s website?! A very popular “Pesach List” produced in the New York area has, for years, printed erroneous information about a certain drink that is certified by the OK. Each year, this list claims that the product is only kitniyos, and can therefore be used in certain situations on Pesach, when, in fact, the product is chometzdik! Attempts to contact the compiler have been ignored, and each year this horrifyingly incorrect information is reprinted. Clearly, a G-d fearing Jew cannot rely on these lists of medications and other products that are supposedly acceptable for Pesach.

Should these lists be publicized at all? Besides all of the serious issues raised above regarding the accuracy of the lists, it is the position of the OK that decisions regarding the permissibility of medicines on Pesach, especially prescription medicines, can only be made by a competent Rav on a case-by-case basis.

Anyone with a heart condition or other serious illness must consult with his doctor about the need to take his medication on Pesach. He should then explain all the details to his Rav, who can then decide what to do according to halacha. Publicizing that certain medications are, or might be, chometzdik will only cause people to be machmir on themselves when they should not. Some years ago at a rabbinical meeting in Europe, Rabbi Bakshi Doron, the Chief Rabbi of Israel at that time, told of a young man he knew who had refrained from taking a certain medication during Pesach because
there was a chashash chometz (possibility of chometz). Rabbi Doron stated, “I have just come from his funeral.”

A similar story was written by Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer Stern of Israel, a prominent Dayan in the Bais Din of Rabbi Wosner, where someone did not take needed medication during Pesach because of a chashash chometz and passed away.

The publications of Pesach lists, especially concerning medications, can easily do more harm than good. How can anyone take such a responsibility in good conscience? So, before Pesach, call your doctor about any medications you are taking, consult your Rav, and let them make a joint decision that takes your health and halacha into account.

Wishing you a healthy and kosher Pesach.

What I Learned From Rabbi Levy, OB”M

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Remembering Rabbi Levy on his Yahrzeit, 22 Nissan

Rabbi Shlomo Weinfeld, Chairman, OK Executive Kashrus Vaad
“How to be strong about kashrus without compromise, to love all people, how to explain kosher requirements in a way that anyone can understand, and to be a baal tzedakah v’chessed.”

Rabbi Chaim Fogelman, OK Executive Kashrus Vaad
“When certifying a facility, you can uphold high standards, but you must be consistent; if you’re nice about it, you will prevail. Always hear all sides to a story. How to travel and live on the road without compromising even on a hiddur mitzvah. You can learn something from everyone. Oh, and the value of a good cup of coffee.”

Rabbi Kalman Weinfeld, OK Executive Kashrus Vaad
“Rabbi Levy taught me to never stop learning. Even at the age of 70, he still came back from inspections with new insights and lessons.”

Rabbi Sholom Ber Hendel, OK Executive Kashrus Vaad and Executive Rabbinic Coordinator
“Rabbi Levy truly embodied the motto ‘Kashrus Without Compromise.’ He approached kosher certification with this value and taught us all to do the same. I also learned a valuable leadership lesson from him. Though he had the final say, he assigned responsibilities and guided each of us to use our qualified judgment in making decisions.”

Rabbi Hershel Krinsky, Senior Rabbinic Coordinator
“Rabbi Levy taught me to hold strong when you know you are right.”

Rabbi Yitzchak Hanoka, Senior Rabbinic Coordinator
“Rabbi Levy taught by example the importance of being thorough, and understanding processes and systemization with regards to kashrus. He was also the embodiment of utilizing one’s ability and talent to spread goodness in the world.”

Rabbi Shimon Lasker, Rabbinic Coordinator
“When you give a hechsher, kashrus has to be on your mind all the time. When you go to sleep and when you wake up, you’re always thinking about kashrus. There is nothing you shouldn’t do to ensure kashrus – even looking through the garbage at a facility. I even witnessed Rabbi Levy do that.”

Rabbi Eli Lando, Executive Manager
“I’ve learned a lot from Rabbi Levy, OB”M; however, if I needed to highlight one specific thing, it would be his unshakable values. He always followed through on his principles.”

Rabbi Levi Marmulszteyn, Rabbinic Manager
“Do what is right, not what is convenient. Act instead of reacting. Details matter. When in doubt about anything, reexamine core principles.”

Rabbi Elisha Rubin, Rabbinic Coordinator
“You really can live a life of kashrus without compromise. He never let the fear of the consequences cause him to bend his values.”

Rabbi Aaron Weiss, Rabbinic Coordinator
“I personally was involved and witnessed many situations where Rabbi Levy was ready, without any hesitation, to give up large accounts for the integrity of kashrus. His יראת שמים, discipline, and מדת האמת continue to inspire me every day in every decision that I’m faced with.”

Rabbi Shlomo Klein, Rabbinic Coordinator
“I accompanied Rabbi Levy, OB”M, when he visited Los Angeles area facilities. I saw a master at כבדהו וחדשהו – with the utmost respect and friendliness he insisted on independently verifying every minute detail in the plant.”

Rabbi Yakov Teichman, Rabbinic Coordinator
“Do what’s right ע”פ תורה and שכל הישר and not just to follow the leader blindly.”

Rabbi Levi Y. Schapiro, Rabbinic Coordinator
“I learned from Rabbi Levy, to treat everyone with respect, hold strong to your (Torah) principles, and never to waste time; every free moment he had was always with a Sefer.”

Rabbi Sholom Ber Lepkivker, Rabbinic Coordinator
“Kashrus of the highest quality without cutting corners. A policy is a policy and cannot be changed even if you can find a loophole.”

Rabbi Yoni Rappaport, Rabbinic Coordinator
“Humility – Regardless of his position and stature he was approachable and regularly approached others. Management – Trusted his employees that they could execute what was required without micro-managing. Discipline – Never wavered from his spiritual and physical regiment. Regardless of which time zone he was in he made time for learning and always took care of his health. Principle – In all aspects of life, especially in kashrus, he stood his ground and didn’t deviate from his principles.”

Rabbi Yeshaya Prizant, Rabbinic Coordinator
“As the Mishna in Pirkei Avos 2:4 advises, Rabbi Levy, OB”M, always made decisions based on kashrus, never based on personal gain.”

Rabbi Avraham Rapoport, Rabbinic Coordinator
“Rabbi Levy showed me that you can lead a large organization and still manage your day and not be managed by it. He was involved in countless discussions and decisions every day and still found the time for כיבוד אם, intensive learning, and spiritual growth.”

Rabbi Ouriel Serfaty, Rabbinic Coordinator
“Don’t take everything you see and hear in the factory as the last word; look for where the issues might be.”

Rabbi Yankel Wilschanski, Key Accounts Manager
“His caring for his fellow Yid and employees was one of a kind. He always had a kind word to say. He is sorely missed by all.”

Rabbi Yisroel Selwyn, Legal Coordinator/Senior Account Manager
“In my role negotiating contracts, I learned that when you stand your ground in the name of kashrus, you will have siyata dishmaya. Even when your opponent seems formidable, a position based on principles will always prevail.”

Mono- and Diglycerides

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Mono- and diglycerides (of fatty acids) are the most common emulsifiers used in food manufacturing. Mono- and diglycerides can attach to both oil and water and are used to combine them in products, such as margarine, ice cream, mayonnaise, salad dressings, and low-cost cooking spray.

Many other products that use both oil and water, that would separate without the addition of an emulsifier, can use mono- and diglycerides. A classic example is peanut butter. Natural peanut butter does not contain an emulsifier, so the peanut oil naturally rises to the top. By adding an emulsifier, as is done with most peanut butter, the oil remains fully incorporated in the peanut butter.

Another popular use is in baked goods; the mono- and diglycerides improve the gluten bond in the dough so it can rise higher and increase the volume and softness. Another advantage is that the combinations of mono- and diglycerides with the starch in the food slows the natural hardening of the starch, extending the freshness and the softness of the product.

Vegetable oils and animal fats both have the same chemical makeup, with triglycerides as the main component. The name itself describes the makeup. The backbone is glycerin and there are three chains of fatty acids attached to the glycerin. As the name suggests, monoglycerides have one fatty chain and diglycerides have two. The mono- and diglycerides are both naturally present in different oils, but in low levels that are not sufficient for industrial production.

The triglycerides are reacted with glycerin and a catalyst in a reactor at high temperature (over 200℃/392℉) to break and reform the fatty acid chain from triglycerides into mono and diglycerides with the desired characteristics. The outcome of this process is a mixture of mono-, di- and triglycerides.

The mono- and diglycerides are separated and purified through distillation and then further processed according to the desired texture and end-use application.

Mono- and diglycerides are a highly kosher sensitive ingredient, because the main ingredients, triglycerides and glycerin1, can be derived from animal fat or processed, stored, or transported on the same equipment as animal fat. Any product containing mono- and diglycerides should only be purchased with reliable kosher certification.

  1. See more about the kashrus of glycerin in the Fall 2015 issue of the Kosher Spirit.

Meet the OK Executive Kashrus Vaad

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Acharon Shel Pesach 5781 will mark the yahrzeit of Rabbi Don Yoel Levy, OB”M. During his 40 years of leadership, Rabbi Levy took the OK to great heights, and the standards he established are the guiding principles of our organization, now and into the future. With incredible foresight, Rabbi Levy spent years appointing rabbinic and laypeople to all key areas of responsibility within the OK. The Executive Kashrus Vaad (Rabbinical Council) has been in the role of maintaining and further developing the kashrus standards of the OK for the past year. Kosher Spirit has asked Rabbi Eli Lando, OK Kosher Executive Manager, to sit down with the Vaad for a panel discussion to be shared with you, the Kosher Spirit readers.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, ztz”l, describes a unique aspect of Acharon Shel Pesach that we don’t find with any other day of Pesach. The first two days of Pesach consist of one day that is Yom Tov in both Eretz Yisroel and the Diaspora, and a second day which is Chol HaMoed in Eretz Yisroel and Yom Tov in the Diaspora. By contrast, Acharon Shel Pesach is essentially a regular chol day for Eretz Yisroel that is completely transformed into a Yom Tov for the diaspora. According to the directives of the Baal Shem Tov and the Chassidic teachings, this special day is focused on and represents a foretaste of Moshiach and the coming Geula. Rabbi Levy completed his shlichus in this world during the time of Seudas Moshiach, on this special day of Acharon Shel Pesach. Rabbi Levy’s constant approach was to add kedushah over chol in all areas of life. Continuing in his footsteps, I’d like to introduce the Executive Kashrus Vaad to our readers.

RABBI SHLOMO WEINFELD is the Chairman of the Executive Kashrus Vaad. He is a musmach of the late Chief Rabbi of Montreal, Rabbi Yitzchok HaCohen Hendel, OB”M, Rav Dovid Refael Banon shlit”a, and Rav Chaim Shlomo Cohen, shlit”a.

RABBI CHAIM FOGELMAN is the Director of Communications and Education – and the spirit behind Kosher Spirit. He is a musmach of Rabbi Yisroel Piekarski, OB”M, and Rabbi Zalman Labkowski, shlit”a, trained in shechita under Rabbi Yisroel Shimon Kalmenson, OB”M, and received official Kabbola from Rabbi Pinchas Hirshprung, OB”M, and Rabbi Yitzchok Yehudah Yeruslavksi, shlit”a.

RABBI KALMAN WEINFELD is the Vaad Poskim Liaison and Director of Food Service certifications and Rav of Beis Eliezer Yitzchok Shul. He is a musmach of Rav Moshe Halberstam, OB”M, of the Eida HaChareidis, as well as the Nitra Rav, Rav Menachem Meir Weissmandl, shlit”a, and Rabbonei Chabad in Israel.

RABBI SHOLOM BER HENDEL is the Executive Rabbinic Coordinator of the OK. He is a musmach of Rav Avrohom Tzvi Wosner, shlit”a, and Rav Yeruslavski, shlit”a, and trained at the OK under Rabbi Dovid Steigman, OB”M.

REL: Please share with our readers a highlight of your relationship with Rabbi Levy.
RSW: I’ve known Rabbi Levy my entire life, as he was my uncle. My relationship with him goes deeper than our kashrus work together. While I studied in New York, I spent much time in his home. During this time, I couldn’t help but notice that Rabbi Levy had a very strict schedule. He would awaken in the early hours of the morning to prepare shiurim and get ready for his day at the OK. I learned a derech – an approach – of how a Rav, a leader, should conduct himself. Rabbi Levy was a giant of a leader in kashrus, yet he cared for people on a very personal level.

RCF: As Rabbi Levy’s son-in-law, he and I had a unique relationship. I worked alongside him for the last 28 years. Rabbi Levy had a tremendous amount of emunah and bitachon in his day-to-day life. He used to tell me, “We must do all that we can do to do things right and with Hashem’s help, we will succeed.”

RKW: On a personal level, I have a lot of memories with Rabbi Levy [also RKW’s uncle – Editor]. I always noticed his sensitivity towards other people’s needs. As the Rav of his shul Beis Eliezer Yitzchak, Rabbi Levy took care of his kehilla as well as any guests in a very personal way. His chesed was a quality that was known around the world, as he provided for the needs of many people and projects that came to his doorstep.

RSBH: I worked under Rabbi Levy for over ten years. As a general picture of the way he approached kashrus, I’ll share this. Rabbi Levy had an incredible amount of Yiras Shomayim and he felt a huge achrayus for the products we certify. Professionally, he was always demanding in the area of standards, and emphasized growth and improvement to kashrus. On a personal level, he was an incredibly caring man, and his kind nature shone through in his approach as a leader.

REL: What are the functions and responsibilities of the Vaad, and what types of decisions do you make?
RSW: The Vaad was established as the rabbinic body responsible for governing the kashrus standards on behalf of the OK. Rabbi Don Yoel Levy, OB”M, and his father, Rabbi Berel Levy, OB”M, devoted their life’s shlichus to establishing and developing the ~’s high standards. They became legendary in the world of kashrus for raising the bar across other agencies as well. The Vaad is now fortunate to have inherited the wealth of experience and documented procedures they left behind. This is in addition to a large and capable staff of full-time, in-house Rabbinic Coordinators, and hundreds of mashgichim worldwide, who carry out these standards in their work. The Vaad is structured to support and lead these rabbinic efforts. Each member of the Vaad has specific areas of responsibility, and we work together in creating policy and addressing the higher-level questions and decisions that come up. The OK works in a very organized way.

RCF: The Vaad functions like a presidential cabinet; the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Together, the Vaad members have decades of kashrus experience. The advantage of working together is that we are always collaborating on issues that arise on a daily basis. We consult with our external Poskim for review, with the idea that a third party is completely objective. This was the way Rabbi Levy made decisions, and we follow suit.

The Vaad, Boruch Hashem, works very well together. The members of the Vaad don’t just see kashrus as their day job; like Rabbi Levy, this is our collective mission in life. Rabbi Levy demanded a lot from the people who worked with him, but never anything that he didn’t demand from himself. That’s an important point. Anyone who worked under Rabbi Levy learned that we have to do the right thing, not the easy thing! On the verse “Hashem Nitzav Be’Adas Keil” Chazal says that Hashem is with the Dayanim at the time of judgment and we see Hashem’s Hand in everything that we do.

REL: The OK is making great strides and enhancing many of our internal systems. Each member of the Vaad has his area of expertise, and you truly run like a well-oiled machine. What does working together mean to you?
RSW: There is a clear division of responsibilities. The Vaad works together in that each one knows his focus, yet we make all decisions as a group. Underlying it all, we have one goal in mind: to ensure that every product we certify meets the OK’s kashrus standards and is kosher without compromise.

RCF: Chassidus certainly explains it. A person needs to know both his strengths and his shortcomings. Each person brings his specialty to the table and we are all focused on the same goal of enhancing kashrus worldwide.

RKW: I would say Perek 32 in Tanya says it – you know you have one mission. We are truly involved in a shlichus together. The siyata d’shmaya that Rabbi Levy had, and the brochos from the Rebbe, are continuing stronger than ever in this Vaad.

RSBH: I agree. It’s Hashem’s help and having one common goal. Our mission is to enhance kashrus and expand kashrus worldwide.

RCF: The siyata d’shmaya is not just luck. We do our hishtadlus and make a keili, then the outcome is up to Hashem. We try our very best to make sure we are fulfilling our mission and, Boruch Hashem, we have been blessed with siyata d’shmaya. It should continue, b’ezras Hashem.

REL: What is the procedure for shaalos to the Poskim?
RKW: If I have a question from a Rabbinic Coordinator or Vaad member, I take it to one of our Poskim. First, I spend due time with the Rabbinic Coordinator or another relevant party, to fully understand the matter on both the Halachic and practical sides. Only then do I go and speak to the Posek. After discussing the issue thoroughly, and getting the answers, I write up the teshuva and ask the Posek for corrections and comments so that we have each answer accurately detailed in writing.

REL: What do you feel makes a reliable kosher agency?
RSBH: A reliable kashrus agency is one that has trustworthy, well-trained mashgichim, good reporting systems in place, and uses those systems properly. The agency needs to be fully on top of the raw materials going into each product. Most importantly, however, what defines a good agency is that the inevitable, human mistakes are not pushed under the rug. If something happens, the issue is carefully reviewed and dealt with. It’s a matter of transparency as well. Good Rabbinic Coordinators, with years of experience, who are experts in their field address any questions that come their way. The OK employs a large team of great talmidei chachamim who have vast experience in all aspects of Halacha and related kashrus systems as well as the practical understanding that comes from years of visiting production facilities.

RCF: Good intentions, high standards, and transparency are all part of creating a reliable hechsher. A good hechsher must also have the manpower and mechanisms to enforce the high standards and implement the required policies.

REL: What is the Vaad’s relationship with Mashgichim?
RCF: The Vaad is here to support mashgichim and to give them the tools to be the best eyes and ears on the ground. For about 20 years, we’ve held an annual, international OK Mashgichim Conference (held virtually this year over 3 days). This is an opportunity for us to present new information, enriching presentations, and catch up personally with every mashgiach. It’s an event that we all look forward to, and a form of professional growth and development. We are also in the final stages of authoring our Mashgiach Manual, with the help of our Rabbinic Manager, Rabbi Levi Marmulszteyn and HQ Mashgiach Liaison, Rabbi Sruly Karasik, who is constant contact with our mashgichim.

REL: Can you share some concrete examples of questions or topics the Vaad has addressed over the past months?
RSBH: One topic of consideration is the discussion of kosher certification of keilim concerning their requirements of tevila. We are also in the midst of research on lab-grown meat, which is a relatively new development in the world of food production. The main question is regarding whether it’s kosher and, further, whether it’s halachically meat or pareve. Finally, the OK can proudly say that we have continued to make all Initial Inspection Visits for new companies in person, despite the pandemic. This means we ended up turning away companies that would not accommodate an in-person rabbinic visit.

REL: What’s on the agenda for the coming years?
RSW: Of course, our primary goal is to continue upholding the OK standard of kashrus without compromise. Rabbi Chaim Fogelman has mentioned that he devotes much of his time and effort to kashrus education. There is currently a great need for this. For instance, there are certain types of products that many people believe pose no kosher concern. However, this is due to a lack of awareness. We are planning to create resources and programs for educating the public on important kashrus topics. In my role as Chairman of the Vaad, I plan to collectively work with my peers on the Vaad to ensure that the OK retains and grows our rabbinical staff and devotes time and effort to researching new developments so that we’ll always be prepared for the constant innovations in the industry.

REL: Pesach is the Yom Tov that we all focus intrinsically on the kashrus as well as the simcha. Kosher is at its core. We would like to wish the Chavrei HaVaad and our readers a kosher and freilichen Pesach. We at the OK will continue devoting ourselves to making kosher products available to the consumer with adherence to the highest level of kosher. May we merit to see Moshiach Tzidkeinu right away and unite with all our loved ones, including Rabbi Levy.