A Little Clarity – Halachic Questions via Text Message

photoDue to the space limitations of a text message, please note that it is particularly important to read carefully, pay close attention to the context of the question, and use the answers as a springboard for further study.

If you would like my phone number to submit questions, please leave a comment and I will send it to you.


Q: Are basil leaves that are pureed used for pesto the same as strawberries used in a smoothie? Are they ground to a point where we would consider them useable without checking?

A: Yes


Q: We haven’t used our China in over 8 yrs, it used to be used for dairy.  Would we be allowed to repurpose it for meat at this point or is it doomed to always be dairy?

A: China may only be kashered when there is a compelling reason not to buy new dishes.  In addition, normally the minhag is not to change something from dairy to meat or vice versa.  But in this case some hold that the glazing material is impervious to absorption and they don’t even have to be kashered before using with meat.  Therefore if there is a compelling reason to kasher them, it is OK to do so to change them to meat in this case.  For instructions on how to kasher them, see last week’s question here.


Q: Is there anything codified about pursuit of mitzvos that are far outside the realm of one’s usual existence? Is it encouraged to find mother birds? I know that one is not required to build rooftop fences if you don’t have a flat roof, but is there any merit in procuring a flat roof to build a fence?

A:   There is a subculture of people that seek out obscure mitzvos to fulfill.  I think the mainstream approach is to view fulfillment of obscure mitzvot as perhaps a useful and engaging educational tool based on their novelty but not part of our central mission.  This also perhaps relates to two differing philosophies of Judaism, the technocratic mitzvah centric mindset that sees fulfillment of a maximum number of ritual acts as a pivotal aspect of perfection as opposed to an intellect centric/rationalist approach that sees perfection as a function of depth of spirituality, understanding of Torah and character growth.


Q: How can I tell if a piece of fish actually has scales?

A: Scales easily detach from the skin when you scrape them with the edge of a knife against their grain (from the back of the fish towards the front).  Even when looking at a fish that is already descaled if it hasn’t been skinned its skin will have tell-tale sockets that demonstrate that it once had scales.


Q: Pareve ladle got used in a meat soup. What’s the status of the ladle now?

A: It only becomes a meat utensil if the soup was heated to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or above.  Otherwise it remains pareve.


Q: Actually got that wrong, it was used in a pareve soup in a meat pot.
A: It remains pareve even if the soup is above 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
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Filed under Halachic Issues, Kashruth, Text Message Halacha

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