Monthly Archives: November 2016


Jewish prayers to recite on Thanksgiving


(A) “Thanksgiving Day” “Gates of the House: The New Union Home Prayerbook”, p.79, CCAR, 1977, Ed. Chaim Stern.

(B) Some rabbis have proposed this order of tefilot: Page numbers are from “Siddur Sim Shalom” (Ed. Jules Harlow, 1985). Most of these readings can also be found in the Rabbinical Assembly’s “Weekday Prayer Book” (Ed. Gershon Hadas), the “Sabbath and Festival Prayer Book” (Ed. Morris Silverman.), “Siddur Hadash” (Ed. Sidney Greenberg) and the newer versions of Siddur Sim Shalom.

a) Pslam 100 (Mizmor L’Todah) [p.60]

b) Prayer for Thanksgiving. p.816. One version has verses from Psalms, Ben Sirah/Ecclesiasticus, Isaiah

c) “America: Founded on Biblical precepts”, p.821-823. Verses from the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and Biblical verses which inspired these documents.

d) Shulkan Orekh: The Thanksgiving meal

f) End with the traditional grace after meals (Birkat HaMazon)

Also see:

A Seder for Thanksgiving, by Reform Rabbi Phyllis Sommer
A Prayer for Thanksgiving By Rabbi Rick Jacobs (URJ)


Many in the right-wing Orthodox Jewish hold that there are theological and halakhic issues with Jews observing Thanksgiving as a holiday – as “observing a holiday” is a specific theological and halakhic issue within Judaism. This isn’t an issue of fundamentalists attacking secular culture; they are asking some deep questions about (a) what does it mean when the government asks us to observe a holiday, (b) especially one involving prayer, and (c) does accepting this annual celebration as obligatory become tantamount to adding a new holiday to the Jewish calendar?  The great majority of religious Jews in Modern Orthodoxy, Conservative Judaism and Reform Judaism accept Thanksgiving as valid and meaningful. An overview of the issue is here.

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin suggests that Jews should not say tachanun (penitential supplications) during Shacharit (morning prayers) on Thanksgiving.

Question: What would Jews celebrate Thanksgiving, as we give thanks every day in our prayers?

Answer: Jews have three separate Thanksgiving / harvest festivals in Judaism: Shavuot (feast of weeks), Sukkot (feast of tabernacles) and Pesach (Passover). The first Thanksgiving was actually based on Sukkot by the Pilgrims, who were very much influenced by the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible.)

Question: Why commemorate a holiday instituded by Pilgrims, as they were Protestant Christians, who neither shared our faith, nor shared our belief in religious and national freedom?

Answer: It is true that first Protestants that came here were not seeking a country in which to have religious freedom, but rather to have religious freedom for themselves only. All other religions, including all other forms of Christianity were anathema to them. Their thanksgiving was on July 8, 1630, and marked the first Thanksgiving of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. However – and this is not well known – this was only the beginning of an evolutionary process. That event is actually _not_ the Thanksgiving festival that we observe today.

Over a century later, the first issue of the First Continental Congress as they met at Carpenters Hall was “Can we open the business with prayer?” Despite their diversity of religions, after fierce debate, inspired by delegate Sam Adams, their first official act was prayer. The First Prayer Proclamation of 1775 asked the whole continent to set aside a day to pray and fast together. It had an electric effect, uniting the American people in spirit, a year before the Declaration of Independence.

The next act in the evolution of Thanksgiving was from the era of President George Washington. A few months after his inauguration, he issued “Presidential Proclamation Number One”, his Thanksgiving. He voiced his personal conviction that “it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God.” His last Thanksgiving in 1795 captures a nobility never exceeded by any president when he asks God to: “…impart all the blessing we posses, or ask for ourselves, to the whole family of mankind.”

Thanksgiving was celebrated by Americans for a number of years, but eventually fell into disuse. Then in 1863 president Abraham Lincoln wrote, “We have been recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven…we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown, but we have forgotten God.” He restored the neglected Presidential proclamations of prayer and thanksgiving during the tragic years of Civil War. “Intoxicated with unbroken success,” he wrote, “we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and reserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.” Lincoln issued the first Thanksgiving Proclamation in many years; since then every President has issued at least one a year. And it is _this_ which is the root of the modern Thanksgiving.

Some material quoted and adapted from the Thanksgiving Square homepage:


America’s Biblical Heritage

From Siddur Sim Shalom

We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The Constitution of the United States
Justice, justice shall you pursue,
That you may thrive in the land
Which Adonai your God gives you.
– Deuteronomy 16:20
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press or the right of the people to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
– The Bill of Rights
Proclaim liberty through the land for all of its inhabitants.
– Leviticus 25:10
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
– The Declaration of Independence
Have we not all one Creator? Has not one God created us?
– Malakhi 2:10
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in…to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.
Abraham Lincoln – Second Inaugural Address
They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation shall not lift sword against nation,
and they shall not again experience war.
People shall dwell under their own vines, under their own fig trees,
and no one shall make them afraid.
– Micah 4:3-4.
Siddur Sim Shalom for Weekdays

Whiskey articles

Merrimack Valley Whiskey Review Logo

Also see the main page Merrimack Valley Whiskey Review

What’s in Scottish, Irish and English whisky?”>Scottish, Irish and English/Welsh Whisky (from Cooper King Distillery)

Wheat whiskey:  Wheat whiskey has a mash bill of 51% or more wheat….Given the popularity of “wheater” bourbons like Pappy Van Winkle, Maker’s Mark and W.L. Weller, it is more than a little surprising that wheat whiskey hasn’t become a bigger thing…  What Happened To Wheat Whiskey Anyway?

Complete List of American Whiskey Distilleries & Brands: An attempt to catalog all current American whiskey distilleries and brands. The idea is that if you see a bottle of American whiskey on the shelf, you should be able to consult this list and figure out who makes and markets it.  Complete-list-of-american-whiskey

The Rational Way to Regard NDP Whiskeys: Non-distiller producer: Some producers make what they sell… Others buy aged whiskey in bulk from one of the distillers, bottle and market it. Those are NDPs. How should we regard these?  The Rational Way to Regard NDP Whiskeys

Rye Whiskeys Sourced from MGP ( Midwest Grain Products) ingredients In Lawrenceburg, Indiana.  Rye Whiskeys Sourced from MGP.

Mash bills, barrel char levels, and entry level proof for many whiskies and bourbons. From ModernThirst. Bourbon and Whiskey mash bills

How does your drinking measure up to the average in countries around the world?  BBC Booze calculator: What’s your drinking nationality?

Whiskey ID Abbreviation Glossary  Abbreviation-glossary

Bourbon acronyms from  Red, white and bourbon acronyms


Blind taste tests

No one believe that all whiskies (or wines) taste the same. They have different mash bills, yeast strains, barrel wood sources, and charring. The rickhouses have different environmental conditions. So whiskies certainly evolve varying flavors. But can we rely on experts to find out which are better? In test after test, we find that even experts don’t rate the “best” and rarest whiskies significantly higher than many common whiskies. Expectations overwhelm our experience. So what happens when we have blind taste tests?

Blind taste test of a 1964 Black Bowmore. What happens when you put what’s arguably the most legendary single malt into an otherwise unassuming, unhyped blind tasting? Not a whole lot… Any “legendary” whisky is good-to-excellent, but mind-blowing is impossible. Whisky can only get so good, and the rest is added in your head.  Blind Black Bowmore: A blind tasting of Scotch whiskey yields a great lesson

Feeling baffled when it comes to wine? Turns out the experts don’t know anything either. (And I bet the same is true for whiskey)  Adam Ruins Everything – Why Wine Snobs Are Faking It

How to run a blind taste testWhiskey with Wes: A blind taste test to reveal the best whiskey for the Grove

Blind Taste Test – Including Pappy Van Winkle’s 20 Year, Michter’s 10 Year, Blanton’s, Basil Hayden’s and Jefferson’s Small Batch Bourbon. Guess what happened?!  Taste Test: The (Cult-Like) Pappy Van Winkle’s 20-Year Reserve Bourbon

Wine-tasting: it’s junk science. Experiments have shown that people can’t tell plonk from grand cru. Now one US winemaker claims that even experts can’t judge wine accurately. What’s the science behind the taste?  Wine-tasting: it’s junk science

Judge Reliability at a major U.S. Wine Competition

“Wine judge performance at a major wine competition has been analyzed from 2005 to 2008 using replicate samples. Each panel of four expert judges received a flight of 30 wines imbedded with triplicate samples poured from the same bottle… About 10 percent of the judges were able to replicate their score within a single medal group. …only about half of the panels presented awards based solely on wine quality.“ – That’s literally no better than random guessing!
An Examination of Judge Reliability at a major U.S. Wine Competition, Robert T. Hodgson, June 2012, An Examination of Judge Reliability at a major U.S. Wine Competition

Do more expensive wines taste better?

“Individuals who are unaware of the price do not derive more enjoyment from more expensive wine. In a sample of more than 6,000 blind tastings, we find that the correlation between price and overall rating is small and negative… Our results indicate that both the prices of wines and wine recommendations by experts may be poor guides for non-expert wine consumers.” American Association of Wine Economosts, AAWE Working Paper, No. 16, April 2008, Do More Expensive wines taste better? Robin Goldstein et al


Craft Distilleries in New England

Ultimate Guide to New England’s 61 Distilleries Distilleries of New England



Is moderate drinking good for you? Or dangerous? Health and alcohol


Is it Whisky or Whiskey?

Contrary to what aficionados might say, “whiskey” and “whisky” are the same word. Sure, here in the USA whiskey is usually spelled with an “e”, and the same is true for Ireland. But not always – for instance,

Balcones Distilling (Texas), George Dickel (Tennessee), Jefferson’s, Maker’s Mark and Old Forester are popular American whisky – spelled without the “e”.

In Scotland and Canada, the spirit is usually spelled whisky, without the “e”, but again, this isn’t traditional : historical records clearly show that both spellings were used in both countries, until the mid 20th century.

For perhaps the final word, according to American law, whisk(e) is spelled without the (e)! Here are the actual rules from U.S. Federal law,  Title 27: Alcohol, Tobacco Products and Firearms, Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits §5.22 The standards of identity

(b) Class 2; whisky. “Whisky” is an alcoholic distillate from a fermented mash of grain produced at less than 190° proof in such manner that the distillate possesses the taste, aroma, and characteristics generally attributed to whisky, stored in oak containers…

(1)(i) “Bourbon whisky”, “rye whisky”, “wheat whisky”, “malt whisky”, or “rye malt whisky” is whisky produced at not exceeding 160° proof from a fermented mash of not less than 51 percent corn, rye, wheat, malted barley, or malted rye grain, respectively…

Spelling choices are purely arbitrary, and not fixed. Expert Chuck Cowdry debunks spelling myths in these articles:

Whiskey or Whisky? New York Times Buckles To Pressure From Scotch Snobs. Chuck Cowdry

Whiskey or Whisky? I’m No Lincoln II. Chuck Cowdry.


Whiskey & Jewish culture

Is all whiskey and Scotch kosher?

Kosher for Passover? Platte Valley 100% Straight Corn Whiskey

Jews and whiskey during prohibition



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Is all whiskey and Scotch kosher?

Interfaith Thanksgiving in the Merrimack Valley

Nashua, NH, Interfaith Council annual Thanksgiving service
Held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashua.  11/22/16, 7:30 pm

Reflections, prayers, readings, and music, with refreshments. An interfaith choir will provide music during the service.

Limited parking is available off Lemon Street and Grove Street. Additional parking is available in large Margarita’s parking lot across the street from the church. Park at the east end of the lot, beyond the Jersey barriers, as the restaurant may tow non-patrons parked nearer the restaurant.