The questions below were answered by Rabbi Gavriel Price, rabbinic coordinator and ingredient specialist; and Rabbi Eli Gersten, rabbinic coordinator and halachic recorder. The responses were reviewed by Rabbi Yaakov Luban, OU Kosher executive rabbinic coordinator. Rabbi Moshe Zywica, OU Kosher executive rabbinic coordinator, supervises the OU Consumer Relations Department.
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There is a long-established minhag (custom) on Rosh Hashana night to dip an apple in honey (Shulchan Oruch OC: 583,3). What is the source of this custom to eat an apple dipped in honey?
The Gemara (Keritut 6a) relates that it is customary to eat foods that have positive symbolism on Rosh Hashana. We eat these foods and recite a prayer expressing our hope that we will be blessed in the coming year. The Maharil further explains our custom to eat an apple dipped in honey thus; “When the Torah relates the ‘fragrance of the field’ (Bereishit 27:27) that Yitzchak noted when blessing Yaakov, this fragrance was the fragrance of apple orchards (according to many midrashim, this occurred on Rosh Hashana [Biur HaGra]), and apple orchards have kabbalistic significance.”
Q: Isn’t there a rule that what comes from a non-kosher animal is non-kosher? Since a bee is non-kosher, how can honey be kosher?
A: The Gemara (Bechorot 7b explaining Vayikra 11:21) offers two explanations: One is that the bee processes the nectar that it stores and converts to honey, but the honey does not actually come from the bee itself. The other is that there is an inference that consumption of bee honey is permitted.
Q: Standard retail honey is filtered and refined. Can I use unfiltered honey for Rosh Hashanah, or must I be concerned about bee particles that may have remained?
A: Clear unfiltered honey typically undergoes some rudimentary refining steps, and most likely any bee particles will have been removed. As such, it is acceptable for use without further filtration. Nonetheless, since the honey is translucent, if you spot any particles, they should be removed. Particles can be removed on Yom Tov. On Shabbat, to avoid the issur of borer (prohibition of separating), some honey must be removed with the particle. If the honey is opaque, it most likely has not been filtered or refined at all. Opaque honey should be filtered before use. Filtering should be performed before Yom Tov or Shabbat.
Q: I have heard rumors that honey may be adulterated. Do I have to be concerned about this?
A: Although there are reports of adulteration in honey, the reports have not been substantiated. Furthermore, the alleged adulterants, even if present, are kosher sweeteners. For Pesach, one should look for Passover certified honey.
Q: Can I use honey from a honeycomb on Rosh Hashana?
A: Yes, honey may be used directly from a honeycomb. Since removing honey from a honeycomb involves the issur of mifarek (prohibition of extraction), one should crush the honeycomb before Yom Tov or Shabbat (Mishnah Berurah, 321, 48).
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PAT YISRAEL DURING ASERET YIMEI TESHUVA
(TEN DAYS OF REPENTANCE)
The Shulchan Oruch writes that it is preferable to only eat Pat Yisrael during the Aseret Yimei Teshuva (Ten Days of Repentance), even if one does not do so the rest of the year (O.C. 603). Some are careful to eat Pat Yisrael exclusively on Shabbat and Yom Tov as well (Mishna Berurah 242:6).
Q: Which items are considered pat (bread-like items) with respect to this minhag (custom)?
A: The minhag applies to breads, cakes, pies, pretzels and crackers. (In technical terms, it applies to all pat habo bikosnin. (For an in-depth explanation of pat habo bikosnin, see the following article http://oukosher.org/blog/consumer-kosher/the-mezonos-roll-is-it-a-piece-of-cake/)
Q: What about breakfast cereals? Must they be Pat Yisrael?
A: Wheat flake cereals are not considered pat. There are differing opinions as to whether Cheerios is considered pat. The OU poskim do not consider it pat, because of the size of the individual pieces and the manner in which it is made.
Q: Would a non-Pat Yisrael bagel that was toasted by a Jew now be considered pat Yisrael? And what is the status of a pat Yisrael bagel that was toasted by a non-Jew?
A: Once the bagel is fully baked by a non-Jew, it can no longer become Pat Yisrael. Toasting the bagel is not considered a completion of the baking. However, if the bagel was not completely baked (i.e. slightly raw or very light in color) then the completion of the baking by the Yisrael would render the bagel Pat Yisrael. In the reverse situation, a bagel baked by a Jew is considered Pat Yisrael once the bagel is edible, even if not fully baked. A Pat Yisrael bagel does not lose its status even if a non-Jew finishes the baking or toasts the bagel.
Q: Do pie shells need to be Pat Yisrael?
A: Yes. A pie shell fits into the category of “pat ha’bah b’kisnin” (refer to OUKosher.com article mentioned above for a definition of this term) and therefore should also be Pat Yisrael. However, if one purchases pie shells that are not fully baked, then they will become Pat Yisrael when one completes the baking. One should not use non-Pat Yisrael graham crackers to make their own pie shells.
Q: What about bread crumbs? Do they need to be Pat Yisrael?
A: Yes, bread crumbs should be Pat Yisrael as well. There were poskim who were lenient regarding bread crumbs that are used for deep frying. This is because frying is a different process than baking and the deep frying is viewed as the completion of the bread crumb preparation (see Teshuvat Avnei Nezer Y.D. 100). Since this is a matter of dispute, unless there is a pressing need, Pat Yisrael bread crumbs should be used.