Title: Hilchos Kashrus: The Inside Story, From Gemara to Halacha
Rabbi Dov Birnbaum with Rabbi Gavriel Brett
In the kashrus world, there is a growing concern that kosher consumers turn off their minds when they shop and cook, relying heavily on their elementary knowledge (at best) to guide their performance of this foundational mitzvah. To combat this tendency, Rabbi Dov Birnbaum with Rabbi Gavriel Brett present the Jewish world with Hilchos Kashrus: The Inside Story, From Gemara to Halacha. The laws governing kosher are daunting enough that mastering them can earn a person semicha, a professional rabbinic license. Rabbi Birnbaum writes in his foreword that another purpose of this work is “to expose people to the words of our Sages in the original, thereby allowing them to acquire the Torah for themselves.” From inferences in the Torah, discussions in the Talmud, and decisions made over the last two millennia of halachic literature, the sources quoted in this book point the way toward proper observance of these laws.
The feature that most immediately grabs the reader’s attention is the presentation of the sources. The authors do not just bring sources as footnotes or endnotes – rather, they meticulously focus on the sources. From the Talmud and the early halachists, each original source is quoted in large, clear type, with nekudos (vowel signs). They are quoted in chronological and logical order. Each is translated and explained. Then, the authors illustrate practical applications of a given situation with concise, relevant scenarios. Each chapter has a clear introduction and is divided into well-organized sections.
In discussing the kashering of utensils, after a short introduction, Rabbis Birnbaum and Brett begin by quoting the verses in the Torah (Bamidbar 31:22-3) in which Elazar haKohen commands the Israelite soldiers to purge and purify their Midianite spoils of war. They then quote and explain various Talmudic passages (Pesachim 30b, Avodah Zarah 75b-76a), Talmudic commentators (Rashba), halachists (Beis Yosef and his Shulchan Aruch), and several realistic situations wherein these sources can be put into practice. These include how to kasher a kitchen sink in which a non-kosher utensil was inadvertently washed. Or how to kasher a microwave.
From the sources to the practical application, each chapter in Kashrus: The Inside Story promotes the fundamental idea that knowledge of the relevant source material can improve the halachic observance of every Jew. Masterfully and clearly written by two genuine Torah scholars, this book belongs on the shelves of every rav, mashgiach, student, and household.