A Practical Guide to the Laws of Kashrut


A Practical Guide to the Laws of Kashrut by Pinhas Cohen is a short and user-friendly guide which mainly deals with the technicalities of keeping kosher.

The book was written by Rabbi Pinchas Cohen, a faculty member at Yeshivat Har Etzion in Alon Shevut, Israel and is published by Koren Publishers in Jerusalem. His teachings are based on the classes he gave to foreign students at the Yeshiva.

A Practical Guide to the Laws of Kashrut is organised along clear topics:
– Meat and Milk
– Immersing Utensils
– How to Kasher a Kitchen
– Using Appliances in a Kosher Kitchen
– Insects in Food
– Gelatin
– Food of Non-Jews
– Glatt Kosher Meat
– Kashering Liver
– Kashrut of Eggs
– Separation of Challah
– Separation of Tithes

In addition there is a glossary at the end which provides definitions for most of the Hebrew terms used by the author. And footnotes are found at the bottom of each page for references and sources; a clever layout since notes at the end of a book often prove to be impractical.

The author provides guidelines that are both clear and comprehensive without ever getting wordy. When poskim differ, the author shares the various alternatives, including more lenient options when the latter are available within the boundaries of Halakhah. Moreoever he distinguishes between Sephardi and Ashkenazi minhagim when this is relevant.

The book does not deal with the very basics of kashrut but covers a range of questions that frequently arise in the home or to the modern traveller. Rabbi Pinchas Cohen also tackles more complex issues, some of which I know I’d find find useful to accommodate a more observant host.

A Practical Guide to the Laws of Kashrut by Rabbi Pinchas Cohen belongs to the Jewish bookshelf. This book is a perfect gift to the student who leaves home for the first time to go to college. It is also a very accessible guide for every day use or intelligible references.

Keeping Kosher in Italy


… and when traveling in general. Since I am currently in Italy I am using it as a concrete example.

If you are wealthy you can stay at kosher hotels and bed & breakfast and eat at kosher restaurants. This is the easiest way but it can be expensive and is restrictive in some countries where such places are rare.

This post is meant to help people staying in self-catering appartments. This perspective is based on my own understanding of kashrut and should be used as advice and guidelines not as an authorative view. Therefore feel free to disagree and check with more knowledgeable people if in doubt.

Here are a few tips:
– Forget about meat altogether for the length of your stay; things will be much easier. Some people pack more or less all the things – including tins of meat – they intend to eat when away but this might prove very heavy if you are flying and more complicated to manage once you’re actually there.
– Pack two pots; one big enough for boiling such items as rice and pasta and a smaller one for boiling eggs, warming up sauces and cooking vegetables. Take also a (parve) knife.
– When you get to your destination, visit a local store or supermarket for disposable plates and cutlery.
– Before you go, find the list of kosher authorized products.
– Read it! This is very important. First it will help you determine whether you need to pack other items. For instance, taking olive oil isn’t necessary as Carapelli, a great and widely available type of olive oil, is authorized. On the other hand you might wish to pack vinegar as no wine vinegars are allowed. Then knowing some names will help you recognize the products while shopping. Thus if you know the name of a brand of tuna fish and of mozarella you will save time once you are in the store.
– Make rice and pasta dishes. You can use plain tomato sauce and add your own ingredients such as tuna or vegetable). Prepare salad plates. Cook eggs (hard-boiled, omelets…). Eat plenty of fruit and yogurts. Keep in mind that all fresh bread is permitted; this is the same in France where legislation regarding bread is quite strict. This will prove useful when you want to eat a packed lunch.
– When you go out things are obviously more complex but there are still a few things you can do. Concerning tea and coffee: if it is served in a glass or duralex cup, there is room for leniency, based on the opinions that glass does not absorb.
In Keeping Kosher – Eating Out, Rabbi David Sperling writes:

It would therefore be preferable to use a disposable cup, or a glass. But if these options are unavailable, one can drink kosher tea or coffee from a regular cup (see Yechave Da’at, ibid., and also the Nodah Bi’Yehudah, Yoreh De’ah, 36).

In the same article, Rabbi David Sperling also deals with the issue of eating cold foods, something you might find useful if you wish to eat a salad in a non-kosher restaurant.

Feel free to add your own advice and ideas as they will undoubtedly be useful.