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Halacha comes to answer three very big questions:
1- How can we- small, finite beings- approach the infinite and transcendent Creator of all and pursue a relationship with him?

2- How can we take the values we stand for and make them concrete and habitual?

3- How can we partner with God in the world?

By rights, it does not make sense that we can approach God; yet, Jewish Law allows us to bridge that gap and express our constant relationship with Him. Likewise, our laws, practices, and traditions make ephemeral ideas into something very real. We do not merely stand for charity- we give it. We do not just hold Israel in our hearts- we face it when we pray. We do not just feel sad when we mourn- we take off our shoes and sit low. In truth, turning values into behaviors is what allows us to partner with God in improving ourselves and the world. We stand for kindness and gentility, human dignity and moral excellence, the value of family and friendship, and much more.

We make these values real when we express them in our rituals and eating is no exception. We note that God graciously gives us life and sustenance when we make a blessing, we make our meals holy when we discuss important and Torah matters, and we live with gratitude whenever we make blessing after meals. Likewise, food brings us together, strengthens our communal bonds, and our ability to refrain from eating certain foods may help us refrain quickly resorting to anger and other destructive impulses that sometimes threaten to overwhelm us.

We would never, God forbid, look negatively upon another person if they do not follow Jewish law to the letter or to the same degree that we might. However, we require a way to join together, share meals, and much more together. The guide below is designed to answer common questions surrounding food and kashrut and so that every member of our broader community can feel comfortable breaking bread with another. May this endeavor- like all of our others- bring us closer to the One above and help us partner with Him in building the world. 

THE DOS AND DON'TS OF RE-HEATING ON SHABBAT: Important Standards of Shabbat Food Preparation for the United Orthodox Synagogues Community

Prohibitions regarding cooking or heating food on Shabbat are based on the Torah prohibitions of not cooking and not using fire on Shabbat and the rabbinic extensions of these laws.

When you invite people to your home, take upon yourself a responsibility to feed those guests food that they are halachically allowed to eat. In addition to making sure the food you serve is itself kosher according to community standards of kashruth, there are shabbat community standards which you need to observe regarding that food. Food that is cooked on Shabbat, or even heated incorrectly on Shabbat, is prohibited to be eaten.

  • Do Not put any uncooked food or beverage on a hot burner, in a heated oven, in a crock pot that is on or in a heated urn on Shabbat itself. 
  • Do Not heat any liquids on Shabbat: Water or even fully cooked soup or stew - anything that can be poured out - needs to be put on the heat (in an urn, crock pot, or on the stove) and left there, BEFORE Shabbat.
  • Do Not reheat even solid food that has cooled down by putting it right on the stove or in the oven. This will render it prohibited to be eaten on Shabbat (for you and your guests). You can reheat cold, solid, pre-cooked food by adhering to any one of the following procedures:

1. Put it on a warming tray ("plata" in Hebrew) which cannot be adjusted (tape the knob if there is one) and is not designed to cook (just to warm).

2. Put it on a "k'deira blech" or a "non-blech" which is a pan of water covered by another pan (not just a plain sheet of metal which is called a "blech”).

3. Put it in a warming drawer or cupboard, which is designed just to warm, not to cook.

"So, what does the blech (metal sheet over the stove) that I grew up with allow me to do?" A simple blech only allows you to return hot food (solid or liquid) which you removed from the stove (and had in mind to return to the stove) back to the stove - while the food remains hot. A blech does not allow you to reheat food once it has cooled down. Without a blech, once you remove food from a stove (even a glass covered stove) you cannot even return it to the stove. A "k'deira blech" — meaning a pan of water covered by another blech (the equivalent of a double boiler) allows you to return cold solid pre-cooked food to the stove.

  • Do ask the Rabbi if you have any questions about these procedures for re-heating. Food on the k'deira/non-blech can be covered with a towel, and it will reheat evenly. REMEMBER: Only solid food which has already been cooked can be reheated. Liquids or uncooked food cannot.
  • Do eat hot food on Shabbat, if you can. It is a misguided Kara'ite custom to eat only cold food (unless that is what you like). 
  • Do keep food in a crock pot or on the stove or in the oven overnight, but…
  • Do make sure that any food you serve is at least one-half cooked before Shabbat starts (18 minutes after candle lighting). For example, if you are making cholent, make sure you put it in with enough hours to make it minimally edible (hard, chewy, but edible) before Shabbat. If cholent takes five hours to be ready to be served (even if normally it is served after 12 hours…), the rabbis estimated one half of that would allow it to be minimally edible, meaning that you have to give it 2 ½ hours to cook before Shabbat starts.
  • Do not stir food in the crock pot or on a heated stove once Shabbat comes in, at the very least until it is fully cooked. It is preferable to remove the ceramic insert of the crock pot before transferring the contents to a serving dish. (Please note: Adding water to the cholent is a complicated matter and should not be done without consulting a rabbi)
  • Do feel free to offer your guests tea or coffee; however, since brewing tea or coffee may be considered cooking, please follow the following special Shabbat procedures (these can be ignored on Yom Tov):
    • You may use instant coffee or tea or essence that is made before Shabbat by putting several tea bags in a cup of hot water, or you may make tea (or coffee) by the most common technique:
    • "K'li sh'lishi" (tertiary vessel) tea: Make sure that the tea bag is immersed into a cup of water that has been twice transferred from the urn or kettle. For example, hot water is poured from the urn (primary vessel) into a teapot or carafe (secondary vessel) and from there to each person's cup (tertiary vessel). Once it is in their cup, they can then put in the tea bag without any fear of cooking.
  • Do not be scared or intimidated! These laws are meant to be doable, and if you make a mistake, that is exactly what the rules were designed for: to protect the basic Torah laws of not cooking and not using fire on Shabbat. Please speak to the Rabbi if you have any questions, doubts or issues regarding any of these standards. They are meant to enhance your Shabbat, not to diminish it. From our home to your home, with wishes for peace and unity.

This guide was created by Rabbi Asher Lopatin. It was reviewed and updated for the UOS community.


Dear friend,

In an effort to continue to create a community standard of kashruth, where we can all eat in each other's homes and enjoy each other's hospitality, United Orthodox Synagogues is happy to provide this link to an updated list of approved labels which signify reliable kashruth supervision. I am confident that any product bought from the enclosed list of labels is unquestionably kosher and adheres to our community's standards of kashruth.

What makes a supervision unreliable?

There can be several problems, which can make even a great and pious Torah scholar a poor supervisor. First, the supervisor might rely on certain leniencies within the law (or assumptions) which the Orthodox community of today has chosen (based on the halachic process) not to rely on. Sometimes our standards of observance change - we are all growing in how we keep mitzvot, and the supervising authority needs to keep up with the accepted halacha of today, not just what was deemed okay many years ago. Other issues can be that the supervisor is not careful enough on the lines that he is in charge of - not purposely giving hashgacha to a non-kosher product, but, again, not meeting the standards we have come to expect.

 What about labels which are not on the list?

 There are some labels that are not on the list, but which are still fully reliable. If you come across one of these labels and have any questions, please feel free to give Rabbi Sprung a call or email him at

Products from Israel: Products from Israel, under rabbinical supervision, are reliable. However, you must make sure the product does not contain gelatin (even "kosher" gelatin). The rabbinate in Israel accepts a different standard regarding gelatin than we do in America. If you live in Israel you should feel free to follow their ruling. But in Houston, we need to follow the standards that the Orthodox community has accepted here in the Diaspora. Currently that standard is to not allow gelatin-type products, except fish gelatin. All the labels on this list will use only kosher gelatin. At Passover time, especially, beware of marshmallows or any chewy candies from Israel, which might contain gelatin.

Cheese and dairy products: Please remember that all cheeses and cheese-based products need reliable supervision, even cheese which is 100% vegetarian. Sometimes, you may be surprised to find products with cheese in them or grape juice which are under reliable supervision, and even though they are not a "Jewish" company, they are perfectly acceptable. Creams can be made with whey that is halachically considered cheese and may contain stabilizers which are not kosher. So even if they have no extra ingredients listed, fresh creams, half-and-half and even milk and Lactaid should all have supervision. However, since the possibility of non-kosher ingredients in these wholly natural cow products is remote, you can rely on any supervision (except for a plain “k”) for these products. Butter, cream cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, and yogurt, however, all need reliable supervision. Creamers with additives and flavorings also need reliable supervision. If you want to be strict about the law of "Chalav Yisra'el" (milk watched by Jews), you need to buy milk which specifically says "Chalav Yisra'el."

Grape products: Wine, grape juice and any product with grape juice or grape flavoring, including unspecified "fruit juices," need to be reliably certified as kosher. Fresh whole grapes are kosher. Only wine that is MEVUSHAL (flash heated or pasteurized) may be served. Almost all American kosher wine is Mevushal (Kedem, Baron Herzog, Weinstock - except when noted), but many of the Israeli wines (especially Galil, Golan and Yarden ) are not. In order to make your table as inclusive and comfortable as possible for all people, please look for the word MEVUSHAL on the back label of the kosher wine you buy.

Best's Kosher and Hebrew National: Best's Kosher and Hebrew National meats don’t meet community standards. Best's Kosher relies on lenience regarding the lungs of the animals it processes that are below the Orthodox community standards. Hebrew National has problems with the credibility of its supervision. Both are not up to the standard that the community should be keeping.

Fruit juices: Except for grape juice, which always needs reliable supervision, other fruit juices which are 100% pure - orange, apple, pineapple, grapefruit, etc. - with no added natural or artificial flavorings or added "fruit juice" listed in the ingredients, do not need supervision. Tomato juice always needs reliable supervision.

Other Beverages: Please be careful to look for supervision on any juices that have added fruit flavorings in them. Please use this link to determine if colas and other drinks are kosher. All whiskies and unflavored spirits (vodka, gin, Scotch, bourbon, etc.) which are not grape derived are kosher. Unflavored beers do not require supervision. New Zealand beers may be dairy. Liqueurs require reliable supervision except for Amaretto Disaronno, and Peter Cherry Herring, which are both kosher without a kosher sign.

The Plain K: Merely having the letter "k" on a product does not mean it is kosher. However, there are products that bear a "k" which really stands for a reliable supervision. Some examples include Kellogg's cereal (and other products) with a "k, '' Tabasco sauce and Starbucks Frappuccino. Otherwise, you simply have to know which "k"s you can rely on and which you cannot.

Fresh fish: It is acceptable to buy the fish from a regular store as long as the following conditions are met:

  1. Make sure the fish is a kosher fish.
  2. Make sure you can identify this fish 100% as kosher either by seeing its scales or because it is red or pink in color.
  3. Ask that the fish be cut on a new piece of paper.
  4. If you cannot have them use a knife that you bring, try to have them wash off their knife before they cut your fish. Make sure you wash the fish thoroughly when you get home. Since nothing hot touched the fish, washing them off will clean off any treif that might have touched them.

If possible, when you return home, you should gently scrape the cut part of the fish with a knife.

Kosher Pots and Pans

Now that I have made sure to only purchase Kosher foods from reliably kosher sources, how do I make sure that I can prepare food at home to share with a friend? 

First, make sure that any metal or glass dishes, pots, pans, and utensils used to prepare or serve food were dipped in the Mikveh ("toveled"). Items that are partially metal or glass should be dipped in the Mikveh. Plastic, Wood, Ceramic, and stone items need not be immersed in the Mikvah. 

Second, make sure that any utensils used to prepare or serve food have been used for kosher products exclusively. A pot, pan, or dish that was used to prepare or serve non-kosher foods or milk as well as meat needs to be kashered, just like we prepare pots and pans for Pesach. Ceramic utensils cannot be kashered. However, most things can. Contact Rabbi Sprung for advice on particular items. 

Food that was cooked, prepared, or served in or on a non-kosher pot, pan, or dish may not be kosher, subject to the complex laws of ta'aruvot, mixtures between permissible and impermissible items. Contact Rabbi Sprung if kosher food was accidentally prepared in or served on a non-kosher pot or pan.

Disposable tins can be an easy solution to otherwise difficult problems in ensuring kosher pots and pans as they have never been used and do not require immersion in the Mikveh. 

Smachot and Serving Others at Home

Smachot: Please note when having events and smachot in private venues at which food is served to guests, (not including private homes), it is strongly recommended that the event be supervised by the Houston Kashruth Association (HKA). This ensures that the Kashruth standards of our community will be observed and that all members of the community will be comfortable participating in the event. 

These standards are designed to unite our community members— to enable us to feel comfortable in any house we go to- and to draw us close to hashem. The detailed laws of kashruth can be- if we work for it- a way to sanctify each of our meals, no matter hte occasion. By working together to adhere to these halachic community standards, everyone in our community will feel comfortable and accepted and we will have elevated every moment- big or small- punctuated with food.

Click here to see a list of Kosher groceries, restaurants, caterers, hotels and HKA-certified stores and please email Rabbi Sprung if you have any questions.


Rabbi Yitzchak Sprung

Tue, May 28 2024 20 Iyyar 5784