There’s something special about a new year, a fresh start – like writing on the first page of a new notebook, or the first day of school, starting new and forgetting the old. This newness holds true to every New Year, but how much more so this year.

This is a Hakhel year, where, in the time of the Beis HaMikdash, we would gather together during Sukkos to hear the king read from the Torah and give us encouragement for the years ahead. Some people still have a custom to gather together in a year of Hakhel to share words of encouragement.

This year, the first year after shmitta, we begin the seven-year-cycle again. One would think that we only look ahead, never looking back, however in the kashrus industry and for the kashrus-minded consumer, the effects of shmitta still play a big part in what lies ahead. Like rollover minutes, produce and products with ingredients that were grown or harvested during shmitta roll over into the months and even years ahead and must be carefully monitored. Not only do we have to investigate how they were produced, but when they were planted and harvested. Were they processed and handled in accordance with the laws of shmitta?

A mere two weeks after the end of the shmitta year we are already faced with a question. Can I use an esrogshmitta year? Check out page 4 for an overview of the relevant facts and methods for using a shmitta esrog. At the OK, much effort is expended to ensure that ingredients coming from Israel are free from shmitta restrictions.

Another area where one must closely monitor the planting and harvesting of produce is Yoshon and Chodosh. Beginning on page 6, in his article “Going With the Grain: Chodosh in the Diaspora,” Rabbi Chanowitz takes you through the challenges and customs surrounding the interesting mitzvah of Yoshon.

Speaking of customs, Rabbi Zushe Blech, a guest contributor, enlightens us about the unique custom of dipping an apple into honey, as opposed to any other fruit. Later, read why we choose a pomegranate for our new fruit and what is so special about the pouring of water on the Mizb’each as opposed to wine. In this issue we’ve got you covered from your first sit-down dinner of the year, to a bite on the run in a Pop-up Sukkah.

K’siva v’chasima tovah l’shana tovah u’mesukah. May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a happy and sweet new year.

Rabbi Chaim Fogelman
Editor-in-Chief

Rabbi Chaim Fogelman is a member of the OK Kosher Vaad HaKashrus.