Congregation Beth El–Keser Israel

85 Harrison Street, New Haven, CT 06515-1724 | P: 203.389.2108 |

Our banner is based on BEKI’s stained glass, designed in 2008 by Cynthia Beth Rubin. For information on this and other of Cynthia’s work, go to: <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. Artisan Fabrication by JC Glass of Branford, CT

Food, Kosher, Kashrut, Kosher for Passover

Dear Rabbi,

I like to brush my teeth after every meal. Do I need separate toothbrushes for meat and dairy?

Signed, Choppers

Dear Compulsive Cavity Curber,

The rules of kashrut (keeping kosher) require the strict separation of meat and milk. To answer your question, we must ask two more. Do actual meat or dairy pieces remain in the toothbrush? Does the toothbrush take on the property of being a fleshig (meat) or milchig (dairy) utensil?

Meat stuck in your teeth retains the property of meat for a short time, as is suggested by the Good Book: “While the flesh was still between their teeth,” etc. (Numbers 11:33). Partly for that reason we are enjoined to wait a period of time after eating meat before eating dairy.

But after some time, the “food” in your mouth (and stuck on or between your teeth) ceases to be “food.” Who would eat it? If your toothbrush is used at that point, it is not really in contact with “meat” or “dairy” and thus, strictly speaking, you would not need to consider its kashrut status.

On the other hand, if you brush right after eating, the toothbrush could obtain actual particles of meat or dairy. That can be solved by rinsing your toothbrush after each use. Any remaining particles would be too small to be a kashrut problem.

If your toothbrush remains wet between uses, it could be in persistent contact with meat or dairy in a moist environment and thereby take on the property of “meat” or “dairy.” Even if the brush is not in contact with actual food, you might equate a toothbrush with an eating utensil or think of the particles on your teeth as being “like” food. So for “esthetic” reasons one might want to add the stringency of keeping separate toothbrushes. (Don’t even ask about a separate set of dentures.)

There is another basis for requiring a second toothbrush. According to Dr. Alan Gelbert, a prominent local dentist and past president of BEKI, “It is considered a good idea to have more than one brush so it can dry completely between uses, resulting in less transmission of bacteria.” Caring for one’s body is itself a religious obligation, as the Good Book says: “Only take good care of yourself, and guard your life diligently,” etc. (Deut. 4:9). To the extent that separate toothbrushes promote health, they would be required.

Indeed, the Torah was concerned with poor dental hygiene, as we read in Job 41:14: “Who can open the doors of his face? His teeth are terrible round about.” Failure to maintain dental hygiene may result in hearing your dentist quote the verse, “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:11).

Dear Rabbi,
I can’t stand it. Whenever I come for food at a Bar Mitzva or Bat Mitzva or Wedding I have to stand in a long line. Can’t you do something about it?
Signed, Tired of waiting in long lines.

Dear Tired,

Simply tell the people to stand closer together. Then the line will be shorter.

Dear Rabbi,

How early can we make our house kosher for Pesah? Can we eat kosher for Pesah foods on our Pesah dishes before Pesah?

Signed, Early Bird

Dear Early Bird,

You can make your kitchen kosher for Pesah anytime you want. You can even keep it kosher for Pesah all year if you want. Just don’t eat matza in the couple of weeks before Pesah.


Dear Rabbi,

Can somebody married to a non-Jew sell their hametz [leavening] to them on Passover?

Signed, All in the family

Dear All,

No. Since under civil law spouses have some form of joint or co-ownership, one should not try to sell one’s hametz to a non-Jewish spouse. One should not try to sell one’s hametz to a non-Jewish business partner for the same reason. The best way to sell hametz is to grant power of attorney to an “authorized dealer” such as Rabbi Tilsen to sell your hametz for you. That way you can be sure that the law is strictly observed and the sale is valid.


Dear Rabbi,

Can Hametz be sold by email?


Dear yitsi@,

The selling of Hametz before Pesah (or any other time you might want to sell it) can be done under the rules civil law, which for such commercial purposes is recognized by Halakha (Jewish law) as binding and enforcable before a Beit Din (Rabbinic Court) under the traditional doctrine of dina de-malkhuta dina, “the law of the government is the law” (see Talmud Gittin 10b, Nedarim 28a, Baba Qama 113a, et al.). Since apparently email and fax are valid vehicles for such transactions under civil law, they could be used for the selling of Hametz.


Dear Rabbi,

I have a perplexing question concerning the Kashrut of yogurt — which I had always assumed would be dairy by nature. A certain brand, Yoplait, uses Kosher gelatin. Is Kosher gelatin the same product I think it is (i.e, derived from a Kosher animal)? And so is Yoplait a mixture of dairy and (kosher!) meat? What is the story?

Signed, Kosher consumer

Dear Kosher,

Kosher gelatin is sometimes made from fish parts, and thus parve, although I would be surprised if this were the case with the gelatin used in Yoplait. Most kashrut agencies permit gelatin derived from kosher animals on the basis of “devar hadash” — that is, the material is so highly processed that it no longer is recognizable as the original substance, but rather has become a “devar hadash,” a “new substance.” Gelatin would thus be parve. In my view, this particular application of the “devar hadash” principle is a problem, since in the public’s eye gelatin is always viewed as an animal-derived product. The BEKI kitchen does not permit the use of any animal-derived gelatins. And the last time I looked, Yoplait had a plain “K” symbol, which is not an acceptable indication of rabbinic supervision. This product would not be accepted for use in the BEKI kitchen.


Dear Rabbi,

Quick question: Kids want a cat. Is kitty required to keep kosher?

Signed, Kitty Query

Dear Cat Kashrut Questioner,

Cats can keep kosher but are not required to. Keep the cat chow out of the kitchen. Cats (or, more correctly, cat owners) must observe the restriction against possessing or eating hametz (leavened food) on Pesah (Passover) but they (the cats) do not have to eat matza.


Dear Rabbi…

Can green beans be eaten at the seder?
Signed, Sick of Matza Brei.

Dear Sick,

You can eat the beans, but only if you bring a note from your mother.

The Torah forbids Jews from eating or possessing hametz during Passover. Hametz is defined as any product made from or having as an ingredient wheat, rye, spelt, oats, and barley unless specially prepared as “kosher for Pesah.” This means that corn, rice, garlic, peas and, yes, Green Beans, are absolutely not hametz.

But in most Ashkenazic communities it has been the custom to refrain from certain foods besides hametz during Pesah. These proscribed foods are referred to as “kitniyot,” often translated as “legumes and other small things.” Rabbinic discussions record some twenty-five different reasons for not eating kitniyot, and the list of proscribed items varies from place to place. Depending on where your family came from, green beans may or may not be considered kitniyot.

While most pisqei halakha — determinations of Jewish Law — are made by your rabbi, this one is made by Mom. If it is the custom of your family not to eat Green Beans on Passover, then don’t eat them.

But if your family does eat green beans on Passover — if you are Sephardic, or if you are a Jew by Choice, or if your family eats green beans on Passover for any other reason — then by all means eat the beans.

While maintaining the proscription on eating kitniyot, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly (Conservative) has ruled that green beans are permitted on Pesah.

Even if you don’t eat green beans, it is permitted to eat on the dishes of someone who does eat them on Pesah. Beans and other kitniyot are not hametz. If someone hands you the beans, just pass them over to the next person.



Dear Rabbi,

Can Lactaid and orange juice be used on Passover even though the container is not marked “Kosher for Passover”?

Signed, Concerned for Colon Comfort

Dear Colon Comfort,

Many simple products such as Lactaid or orange juice, that normally do not contain hametz but are not packaged specifically for Passover, may be used on Passover if purchased before the holiday. On the morning before Passover, we perform the ceremony of biur hametz and bittul hametz (nullification of leaven), which provides a legal cover for the possibility of any contamination. Similarly, a small amount of hametz contained in a non-hametz item before Passover is considered nullified due to its insignificant proportion. These covers are not available for items produced or acquired during the festival, so the items must be produced and acquired before mid-morning Erev Pesah when the hametz is nullified.


Dear Rabbi,

How clean is clean for Passover? I have spent two weeks cleaning, but no matter how much I clean, I can never be sure all the hametz is gone.

Signed, Compulsive Kitchen Cleaner

Dear Compulsive,

Pharaoh freed the slaves. This means that Pesah is supposed to be a happy holiday. Joy on the festival is a halakhic (legal) requirement. As the Good Book says, “You shall rejoice on your festivals.” Clean is not the same as kosher, although they are related concepts. If you put in two to three times your normal weekly effort into cleaning (assuming you do clean regularly), then it is time to say dayenu (enough). Any hidden crumbs of hametz are sold and nullified, relieving you of liability. The process of kashering your kitchen, if done diligently, also relieves you of any liability. Happy Pesah!



Dear Rabbi,

The following notice appeared as a “special alert” in Kashrus Magazine (March 2004 p. 7): “Manischewitz Chocolate Coins (‘OU-Pareve’) bear the words: ‘In G-d We Trust.’ A number of leading rabbonim have Paskened that one may not eat them nor throw away the chocolate and wrappers, if they too have those words. Consult your rabbi.”

So rabbi, I am consulting you. What should I do if we have those coins?

In R-bbi We Trust

Dear Trust,

Our halakha (law) holds that there are five basic Hebrew names of the Almighty that are so sacred that they may not be treated casually or erased. Among those are the tetragramaton, the four-letter name beginning with yud, which is unpronounced and is usually replaced by “Adonai” (“my Lord”) when reading or praying aloud, and is sometimes replaced with “HaShem” (“The Name”). It is sometimes symbolized as a hei apostrophe or as a double yud in Hebrew.

Another sacred name is the Hebrew equivalent of “Allah” and its variations. This name begins with the letters alef lamed and ends with a consonantal hei, or, in the most common variations, ends with the im or enu suffix. This name is most often translated as “God.” It is the generic name used to describe both God and false gods (as in, “You shall have no other gods before me”).

Some people wish to transfer that sanctity to the common English word “God” (hence, “G-d”). Although there is no basis for this in law, who am I to stand in the way of popular or personal piety. If you have such coins, especially if the chocolate is still there, and especially if it is milk chocolate, please bring them to my office and I will dispose of them properly. If the chocolate is already gone, and you have only the foil wrappers, recycle them.







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