By Margie Pensak
When Mesivta Ne’imus HaTorah Menahel Rabbi Laib Schulman approached STAR-K Kosher Certification about teaching a few of his students some Kashrus basics, the non-profit agency was eager to comply. Rather than start off with something as simple as what is behind a kosher symbol or basic kitchen kashrus rules, STAR-K Kashrus Administrator Rabbi Mayer Kurcfeld went with his gut feeling—literally and figuratively—planning a memorable once-in-a-lifetime presentation. He wowed the boys at STAR-K’s Baltimore offices, on January 4, with his three different-sized chalafim (shechting knives), two cow lungs, and a cow’s hoof!
In addition to demonstrating the chalaf sharpness test on a student’s nail and explaining which knife is used for which type of animal, Rabbi Kurcfeld discussed the five basic halachos of shechita, mentioning the types of animals that need to be schechted. He also reviewed the split hoof and fish scale kosher criteria, the difference between a neveila and a treifa, and how to check the lungs to see if it is glatt kosher or treif.
As Rabbi Kurcfeld noted, “Nowhere in the Torah are the rules of shechita mentioned. It simply says: ‘Shecht the animal the way I commanded you’. This is one of the sources of Torah shel baal peh; you just have to believe in the Talmud with its details.
“Shechita is one of the most vital parts of Kashrus and it has a lot of mesorah to it; you cannot learn it in a book,” continues Rabbi Kurcfeld. “I wanted the boys to know that everything they were seeing had been passed down from my Rebbi and he learned it from his Rebbi, all the way back to Moshe Rabbeinu. Hopefully, the concept of accepting and trusting your Rebbi in everything he teaches will have a ripple effect in all their other learning.”
Neimus Hatorah’s mission is to help their talmidim successfully move forward as productive and functioning members of society. After attending a morning shiur, the post-high school students can avail themselves of a Maryland- funded career counseling and jobs training program, along with an array of presentations and workshops on a variety of practical topics. In addition to picking up important knowledge and life skills, the program is designed to broaden their horizons and to present them with possible career opportunities, such as in Kashrus.
The field trip to STAR-K was part of a series of presentations scheduled for the mesivta. Future topics, which will be covered by other STAR-K Kashrus Administrators, include: hashgacha in restaurants, the challenges of hashgacha, and how to read kosher labels.
“Although it was a very small group of boys, their Rosh Yeshiva felt they would benefit so we were pleased to arrange the classes,” remarks STAR-K Kashrus Administrator Rabbi Zvi Goldberg, coordinator of many of the agency’s educational programs. “Rabbi Kurcfeld really went all out for them. It is part of our achrayis to Klal Yisroel and our ongoing commitment to teach about Kashrus as much as possible.”
“We are very excited about these presentations, which we feel will be extremely beneficial to the participants,” says Rabbi Ari Soloff, Executive Director of Mesivta Ne’imus HaTorah.
“As an internationally recognized leader in the industry, STAR-K is a great resource for any type of education in the field of Kashrus,” adds Rabbi Schulman.
In participant Meir Goldfeder’s own words, “I really enjoyed our session with Rabbi Kurcfeld. “A hands-on lesson about the simanim of kosher animals and the shechita process really expanded my understanding of this important topic. I look forward to our next visit.”
The video of Rabbi Kurcfeld’s presentation is available for viewing on STAR-K’s website, www.star-k.org.