Monthly Archives: June 2017

Sephardic Jewish views in the modern era

THE LEADERSHIP AND TRADITION OF SEPHARDIC SAGES IN THE MODERN ERA

Note: This article uses the term Sephardi colloquially; in this context it is inclusive of the three major Jewish ethnic groups distinct from Ashkenazi Judaism, namely Sephardic, Mizrachi and Maghrebi Judaism.

by Rabbi Yitzchak Chouraqu

Hamerkaz, Fall 2014

Sephardic culture throughout the ages developed in concurrence with general culture, thus continuing the tradition of the Golden Age of Spain, in which the internal Jewish world recognized the wider world without losing its own uniqueness.
The Sephardic Sages of recent generations were aware of current events and
changes in the world around them. This is especially true in more recent years,
since modernism in its European version arrived in the Eastern lands.

The Sephardic reaction to the changes of the new age was quite different from the Ashkenazic response. On the one hand, the educational model of the Sephardic sages approved of general studies, and even considered them as worthy endeavors in addition to a Jewish education; and in the spirit of this approach, the Sephardic sages did not withdraw from modern society in the way that some Ashkenazic Orthodox elements did. On the other hand, with the deepening of European rule in Muslim countries, the pull towards secular culture was in opposition to tradition.

Yet interestingly, the response of the Sages to protect the community’s traditions was not to develop the model of strict, isolationist Orthodoxy. Instead, they emphasized the principles that strengthen faith — especially those that have guarded Jewish identity and communal unity — all with the goal of keeping the members of the community connected to the Jewish world as much as possible.

What characterizes the legal/interpretive methods of the Sephardic sages as it relates to halakha (Jewish Law)?

One of the characteristic principles of the Sephardic sages is the way they determine
halakha. Sephardic Sages utilize the basic legal principle known in rabbinic language as kohah dehetra adif – the power of the lenient path is the preferred. This principle praises the greatness of the Hakham (wise sage) who delves deeply into an issue and finds a lenient halakhic solution.

Knowledge of life experience often accompanies and guides halakhic decision-making, together with a realistic viewpoint, according to which a harsh position would apply to only a small part of the public. In the view of Sephardic Judaism, the responsibility of the Hakham is to the whole community, to all of the Jewish people, perhaps for all future generations. Therefore it would not be responsible to set an excessively stringent standard of halakha that would cause a great portion of the community to be lost if they cannot abide by it.

Deciding halakha stringently does not reflect the greatness of a Hakham, and many times it attests to some theoretical educational theories taught in yeshivot, or to an outright fear of deciding the halakha. Such concerns prevent the Hakham from choosing the lenient path over the stricter one. Harsh halakhic decisions and the desire to accommodate all opinions have caused an accumulation of stringencies that makes it difficult for a later posek (Rabbinical decider) to weigh, maneuver, and navigate the halakhic process in the directions needed for a specific case that comes before him. Thus, fear of God pushes aside the true dynamic force of halakha.

Thus, between the strict and the liberal positions, the Sephardic Sages established a third path in which their great humility before God and their commitment to serve God brought them to adopt original halakhic stances in order to deal with new situations, without fearing lenient decisions, rulings or originality in the halakhic process.

Rabbi Yitzhak Chouraqui is the Director of MERHAV, the Joint Rabbinic
Leadership program of Memizrach Shemesh and the SEC. He also serves as
the Rabbi of Yad Ramah Synagogue in Jerusalem

Hamerkaz-2014 full issue (PDF)

Opioids, pain control and suicide

I want to say a perhaps untimely word on being – on occasion – pro- proper medical use of opioids. Although there is a raging, deadly opioid crisis in the USA, it is due to a huge misuse of science and medicine, but not due to medicine itself.
 
The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, the official halakhic body of Conservative Judaism, published a teshuva on suicide and assisted suicide in the summer 1998 issue of “Conservative Judaism” Vol. L, No.4. The authors hold that there are cases – for instance some cancers, where we do need to proscribe very strong pain killing drugs.
 
The CJLS teshuva notes that suicide is forbidden by Jewish law: this includes assisted suicide. Yet there’s a trend of Americans and Europeans who are asking their friends/family to help kill themselves. As the Conservative teshuva points out, many people get sick, often with terminal illnesses, but most people don’t try and commit suicide. So why do some people ask for this? If we can find out, we should remove these reasons, so people don’t want to do this.
 
The author of the teshuva, Elliot Dorff, note that “those who commit suicide and those who aid others in doing so act out of a plethora of motives. Some of these reasons are less than noble, involving, for example, children’s desires to see Mom or Dad die with dispatch so as not to squander their inheritance on “futile” health care, or the desire of insurance companies to spend as little money as possible on the terminally ill.”
 
Some patients want to die because they are pain, but Rabbi Dorff points out that the proper response to pain is better pain control.
 
There is a new crisis in medical care of elderly and terminally ill patients : Many doctors are keeping such patients in perpetual, constant pain by refusing to grant them adequate pain killers. Some do this out of ignorance, others because they claim they want to avoid any possibility of the patient becoming a “drug addict”. Others claims that a good patient will grin-and-bear-it with the least amount of pain medication possible. The CJLS teshuva states that such reasoning is “bizarre”, and cruel. With today’s medications, there is no reason for people to be in perpetual torture.
 
The teshuva outlines theological reasons why Judaism is opposed to suicide. Another section discusses the social and economic forces that conspire to drive many people to this decision. Most importantly, the teshuva investigates the psychological reasons for the hopelessness felt by some patients.
 
It points out that “Physicians or others asked to assist in dying should recognize that people contemplating suicide are often alone, without anyone taking an interest in their continued living. Rather than assist the patient in dying, the proper response to such circumstances is to provide the patient with a group of people who clearly and repeatedly reaffirm their interest in the pateint’s continued life.”
 
“Requests to die, then, must be evaluated in the terms of degree of social support the patient has, for such requests are often withdrawn as soon as someone shows an interest in the patient staying alive. In this age of individualism and broken and scattered families, and in the antiseptic environment of hospitals where dying people usually find themselves, the mitzvah of visting the sick (bikkur Holim) becomes all the more crucial in sustaining the will to live”
 
None of this, of course, is to downplay the serious opiate crisis in the united states. It has affected even those close to me. I know that the producers of opiate drugs have engaged in unethical, possibly criminal activity, in pushing these drugs to doctors for the past 30 years, and doctors themselves pushed these drugs unwisely, helping create the current deadly crisis. So I just am noting that there is a legitimate medical role for such drugs, under clearly defined circumstances.
 
 
See
 
Elliot N. Dorff, “Assisted Suicide” YD 345.1997a
Statement on Assisted Suicide YD 345.1997b

Recreational sports and exercise on Shabbat

May one exercise or play recreational sports on Shabbat?

If so, what kinds of sports and exercise are compatible with Shabbat observance and what kinds are not?

May one pay golf on Shabbat ?

These practical and philosophical questions are discussed in RECREATIONAL SPORTS AND EXERCISE ON SHABBAT
Oreh Hayyim 301:2, by Rabbi Jonathan Lubliner

This is a responsa accepted by the CJLS (Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly)

The religious imperative of oneg Shabbat (enjoyment of the Sabbath) and the duty to differentiate the Seventh Day by refraining from activities associated with the work week — even when they do not violate per se any prohibition of the Torah — first finds expression in the book of Isaiah:
If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your affairs on My holy day; if you call the sabbath “delight,” the Lord’s holy day “honored”; And if you honor it and go not your ways nor look to your affairs, nor strike bargains — Then you can seek the favor of the Lord. I will set you astride the heights of the earth, and let you enjoy the heritage of your father Jacob — for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
-Isaiah 58:13-14
The Hasidic master, Rabbi Ya’akov Yitzhak of Przysucha, once observed, “It is almost impossible not to desecrate Shabbat in some minor way, unless one were bound hand and foot. Yet this would offer no solution since it would prevent oneg Shabbat.”
There has always been a dialectical tension between the commandment to enjoy Shabbat while consciously avoiding activities associated with the workaday world. It is this polarity which furnishes the matrix of our discussion in the following pages.
Notwithstanding that the character of specific recreational activities ipso facto render them incompatible with Shabbat observance, many kinds of physical exercise do not entail actual violations of Shabbat law. Indeed, one could credibly argue that
certain types of athletics fall within the rubric of oneg Shabbat; their enjoyable character
enhances rather than detracts from the joy of the day. It remains an open question, however, whether or not such activities compromise the rabbinic concept of shevut, i.e., behaviors to be avoided because they are not in the spirit of the Day of Rest (mishum uvdin d’hol) or because they may lead to actual violations of Shabbat (mishum gezerah).2
To answer the above questions requires an examination of the halakhic literature both
broadly and narrowly. A global understanding of the concepts of oneg Shabbat and shevut as they have evolved through time will afford us the critical context in which to locate generally the permissibility of exercise on Shabbat. At the same time, given the intrinsic differences between various types of athletic activities, it may well be that some are entirely permissible, while others are highly problematic. Accordingly, this teshuvah will explore the larger issues of oneg and its relationship with shevut. A series of separate responsa will follow, each focusing on a different type of recreational activity and its permissibility on Shabbat. Given the common practice of washing after exercise, the final responsum will deal with the halakhic issues of bathing on Shabbat

Whiskey reviews page 7

Also see Main page: Merrimack Valley Whiskey Blog

Hochstadter’s Slow & Low Rock and Rye

The Cooper Spirits Co., 84 Proof, No age statement.
Price? Cheap as heck, $20 for 750 ml. $12 for 375 ml.

A modern release of a classic American cocktail:

“Rock and Rye was once believed to be a cure-all for the common cold. So famous were the phlegm-fighting qualities of the drink in days gone by that children used to be given rock-and-rye-flavored cough drops at the first sign of hacking and whooping. Now the drink is being revived by bartenders who see it as a cure for the common cocktail…. Rock and Rye held on to its reputation as a cure-all well into the 20th century. No. 434 in “The American Credo,” George Jean Nathan and H.L. Mencken’s biting 1920 catalog of things Americans believed in, was “That rock-and-rye will cure a cold.” At a 1952 conference of the Common Cold Foundation, a prominent Johns Hopkins virologist, Dr. Thomas G. Ward, was asked what medicine could do against the stubborn rhinovirus. “Personally, my favorite treatment is old Maryland Rock and Rye,” he replied.
A Cocktail for What Ails You, Eric Felten, June 2009, Wall Street Journal

Made with: straight rye whiskey (a blend, based around a 6 year old), Pennsylvania honey, air-dried navel oranges from Florida, Angostura-style cocktail bitters, and rock candy.

Nose : honey, bitters (perhaps a hint of cloves?)

Palate: citrus, honey, bitters, and the rye is just beneath. Very sweet – but not “well aged whiskey with hints of barrel carmelization” sweet, but “we added some rock candy” sweet.

Best served over a lot of ice: this classic cocktail is a bit heavy on the flavors to drink straight. The ice cools and cuts it, to turn it into a pleasant, classic cocktail.  If you’re used to drinking regular (unflavored) whiskey, this might seem too flavored, but in that case just cut it 50-50 with a favorite whiskey, and it might then magically match your palate.

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Bowman Brothers Pioneer Spirit, Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey

A. Smith Bowman Distillery/Sazerac, made in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
90 proof, no age statement.  MSRP: $33, in NH for $29.99.

Bowman Brothers Virginia Bourbon

First, a bit of history from the company website:

John, Abraham, Joseph and Isaac Bowman were Virginia militia officers in the American Revolutionary War. In 1779, they led thirty pioneer families to Madison County, Kentucky and established Bowman’s Station. Later, the brothers helped establish and settle Fayette County. They were legends, admired and respected by fellow settlers for their courage and bravery. This hand-crafted bourbon whiskey is a tribute to these four heroic Bowman Brothers.”
A. Smith Bowman.com

Here’s a new one for you: A. Smith Bowman doesn’t make their own whiskey  yet they also are not a NDP.  Instead, they purchase whitedog – unaged whiskey distillate – from Buffalo Trace. Buffalo Trace makes the mash bill, ferments it, distills it twice, and then A. Smith Bowman gives it a 3rd distillation at their Virginia facility with an Irish style copper pot still. Bowman ages it in new, oak, charred barrels (reportedly 6 to 7 years, although I’m still trying to pin this down.) Easy enough for them to do, as both they and Buffalo Trace are owned by the same parent corporation (Sazerac.) Many reviewers say that this Buffalo Trace’s #2 mashbill, the one used for Elmer T. Lee and Blanton’s.

Nose – oak, floral,a hint of tobacco,

Palate -a beautiful round mouth-feel, although not quite as thick as Michter’s bourbon. Notes of toffee (or is that mocha?) and toasted oak. Drier than some of the relatively sweet bourbons that I generally enjoy, yet less dry than dry wines. This stands out as one of the better whiskeys that I have tried – and that says something. Normally I’m wowed by notes of toffee (Michter’s Bourbon) or if it’s finished in a wine cask, such as Angel’s Envy bourbon. Yet this is a straight, classic, oaky bourbon that I’m digging, which tastes miles away from Jack Daniels, Jim Beam. This is something special. Several people have noted that this tastes like the more famous Elmer T Lee (Buffalo Trace), but alas I haven’t had a chance to sample that bourbon yet.

For more details I can point you to this article on A. Smith Bowman and their whiskeys: American Whiskey, Yes, Virginia, there is a Gentleman, Linda and John Lipman

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Glendalough double barrel Irish whiskey

What do we know about the contents? They state ” distilled in a Coffey still from a mash bill of Irish malted barley and corn. It spends three and a half years in American oak first-fill Bourbon barrels before being finished for six months in Spanish Oloroso sherry casks. ” This is a new distillery, and as I understand they are using sourced whiskey for this product – which is perfectly fine. After coming out of the sherry casks, it is brought down to 42% ABV with local Wicklow Mountain water.

Sells for around $30, but one can find it on sale for cheaper.

Nose: fruit, floral – perhaps a hint of cherry.

Flavor: Moderately sweet, creamy, a hint of bourbon or toffee notes. This finished whiskey reminds me of Angel’s Envy Port finished bourbon – but that is $50, and I can find this for $22 to $28 in Massachusetts. This is an amazing value.

Glendalough Double Barrel Irish

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Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Bourbon

$30 in New Hampshire, from Wild Turkey Distillery

Aged 10 years in virgin American oak casks , #4 char.

Mash bill: Uncertain, but I’ve read 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% barley.

Visited the Cheesecake Factory, and perused their whiskey list. Found Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Bourbon, which I’ve heard a lot of talk about over the past couple of months, so I thought that I’d give it a try. This is supposed to be a big step up from their baseline, “bottom shelf” Wild Turkey 81 Proof. That Wild Turkey was a favorite of Hunter S. Thompson, famed gonzo journalist.  So, how is the 10 year old?

Color: Deep caramel

Nose: A delicious experience, some vanilla, butterscotch, and pepper.

Palate: Rich mouthfeel. Delicious and warm on the front palate: molasses, oak, and then a bit of crisp green apple! But an astringent taste going back that almost overwhelmed the initial sensation. I drank this slowly, over a half hour , and the rough landing past the back palate was consistent: alcohol, pepper, something oddly organic. Definitely going to try this again sometime, but based on this first experience I’m not planning on a buying a bottle at this time.

Russell's Reserve 10 Year

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What are finished whiskies?

Finishing is the procedure that some whiskeys undergo whereby the spirit is matured in a cask of a particular origin and then spends time in a cask of different origin (generally 6 months to 2 years.) Typically, the first cask is an American oak cask formerly used to mature bourbon. The second cask may be one that has been used to mature some sort of fortified wine.

In the United States, finished whiskeys are legally classified as a Distilled Spirit Specialty, although that term doesn’t appear on whiskey bottle labels.  The formal definition is “any class and/or type of distilled spirits that contain or are treated with flavoring and/or coloring materials and/or nonstandard blending or treating materials or processes.”, in this case the flavoring simply being wine left in the wood of the second cask –  TTB (U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau)

There is a debate in some sectors of the whiskey world of whether a finished whiskey counts as a true/straight whiskey, or whether it is a flavored product. However, if one were to consider it a flavored product, then all Scotch would have to re-defined as flavored whiskey, because all Scotch is aged in already used in a barrel that has already held bourbon. (Bourbon, in contrast, may only be aged in new oak.)

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Jefferson’s Reserve Pritchard Hill Cabernet Cask Finished

90.2 Proof,  Finished in French Oak casks that had held Cabernet Sauvignon

I recently tried a terrific bourbon, Angel’s Envy, finished in port wine barrels, so I was very excited to see this finished bourbon available for tasting at a Total Wine location in Massachusetts. If Jefferson’s could also create something wonderful, then perhaps I’d have found two new favorites within a month (something which has not happened yet.)

The nose was gentle, a bit sweet, but that’s not always indicative of the taste. So let’s see…. and….. WINE?!  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this finished whiskey didn’t taste much like a finished whiskey – it tasted more like the Cabernet Sauvignon itself. I do understand the appeal of this, for some people.  But to me, this didn’t taste like a whiskey – it tasted like a whiskey-wine cocktail, which just wasn’t what I was looking for.

Finishing, in of itself, is a useful technique. For example, Angel’s Envy did pick up some of the port wine flavor, but only subtly altered the whiskey, without overpowering it.  My advice to Jefferson’s would be to continue their experiments in finished whiskies, but cut the amount of finishing time in half. Finally, the price is ridiculous. Regular Jefferson’s Very Small Batch Bourbon is $31, but this was $70, an unjustifiable price for the few months of extra aging, even for someone who really did enjoy the result.

Jefferson's Reserve Pritchard Hill Cabernet.jpg

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West Cork Blended Irish Whiskey: Bourbon Cask

($22) 80 proof. No age statement (3+ years.) . 75% grain Irish whiskey & 25% malt Irish whiskey. Matured in first fill bourbon casks. Simple, straightforward, and yes, it developed some bourbon characteristics. Mild, spicy, hint of toffee note. I liked this!

West Cork Black Reserve (Limited Reserve)

86 proof.  No age statement (3+ years.) Aged in lightly toasted, charred #4 bourbon first fill casks. Color is golden amber.  Smoky but not peaty. More of a traditional Irish whiskey – which is great for other Irish whiskey fans – but I actually preferred the cheaper Bourbon Cask (above.)

West Cork Blended Irish Whiskey

124 proof. 33% malt and 66% grain whisky. Matured in ex-bourbon casks.  Oak brown color.  Too strong for tastes – I’d need to water this back down to 90 proof to make it drinkable. But hey, to each his own.

West Cork Irish Whiskey

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Is there a kosher for Pesach (פֶּסַח, Passover) whiskey? Until now the answer has been negative. In the Jewish faith, one does not drink whiskey on Passover, as whiskey is a grain product, and Passover rules forbid consuming any products made from chametz (חָמֵץ ) : chametz is any food product made from wheat, spelt, barley, and rye (*) that is either leavened – or even left moist long enough to theoretically become leavened on it’s own. But it now appears as if we have our first justifiably kosher for Passover whiskey, Platte Valley 100% Straight Corn Whiskey. (*) Most Ashkenazi rabbis also add oats to this list, but adding this grain is controversial.

Kosher for Passover Corn Whiskey

corn-whiskey-passover

Also see Jews and whiskey during prohibition

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A plethora of new Irish whiskey reviews!

Glendalough Poutin Sherry Cask; Glendalough Double Barrel; Glendalough Single Malt, aged 7 years; Glendalough Single Malt, aged 13 years; and Glendalough Poitin
Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey-regular; Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey- aged 12 years
Flaming Leprechaun Irish Whiskey; Jameson Irish Whiskey; and Jameson Caskmates; and Jameson Black Barrel; Bushmills Black Bush Irish Whiskey. Middleton Very Rare, Green Spot, Redbreast Aged 12 Years, Redbreast Lustau Edition, Power’s John Lane Release

Irish whiskey reviews

Glendalough

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Michter’s US*1 Small Batch Original Bourbon Whiskey

I’ve heard good things about Michter’s, but local restaurants didn’t have any on hand for me to sample. This motivated me to travel to Saloon, at Davis Square (Somerville, MA) modeled after a prohibition-era speakeasy.

It’s hard to spot – you have look for the doorway next to the Davis Square Theatre, which takes you downstairs. The “sign” is just the light in front. matthew-j-lee-boston-globe-staff

This pic by Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

Entering, I found myself back in time in a charming speakeasy, dark wood paneling, leather chairs, with a decent sized bar, and more cozy areas to sit at tables with friends.

The manager and bartender were knowledgeable and friendly, and they had well over 100 varieties of whiskey, rye, bourbon and scotch to sample.

saloon-somerville

Before reviewing it, let’s ask – what is Michter’s? The original Michter’s was made at Bomberger’s Distillery, from the 1950’s, until the 1980’s.  That original spirit is no longer available.  In the 1990’s Chatham Imports bought the name.

michters-at-saloon-somervilleChatham has begun distilling its own whiskey in Kentucky, but they haven’t released bourbon from their new distillery yet. So this Michter’s Small Batch has been sourced from some other major producer, making it an NDP product.

Chatham notes that they made an arrangement with a major, undisclosed, distillery in Kentucky to use to make their spirit for them, while Chatham was building it’s new distillery.  Chatham is currently aging large amount of it’s own whiskey and bourbon, which is not yet on the market.

However, they aren’t like other NDPs: Other NDPs just quietly buy some other companies whiskey and rebottle it, at a higher price. Chatham instead specified a mashbill and yeast strain, and had this whiskey made to to their specifications (Michter’s); they then aged it in their own warehouse, in air-dryed wood barrels, toasted as well as charred etc, and then bottled it. They state that the new bourbon they are distilling themselves has the same mash bill and yeast strain, and will age in the same type barrels, so they promise that their own new bourbon will eventually be the same as the one we are drinking today.

Their current US*1 bourbon is 91.4 proof. NAS (no age statement) but their website states that it is around 8 years old; it’s common to mention this on the website, but not the bottle, so as to have flexibility: it may contains blends of 6 year old, 7, 8 or older whiskies. The “small batch” is explained as being “typically composed of no more than two dozen barrels.”

Color: Amber. Nose: slightly dark, fruit. Taste:  Wow, this has a round mouth feel, full & flavorful. Thick body, caramel on the front palate. A bit sweet. Nothing floral or citrus like Four Roses, this is a totally different type of bourbon.  So full that it stands up to having a couple of ice cubes in it. Has a pleasantly long finish. This bourbon is a winner, and one I’ll soon be trying again.

Further reading: Michter’s Distillery Joe Magliocco Talks About Doubling Capacity to 1,000,000 Gallons and This Louisville distillery is doubling capacity — one year after opening

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Contents

Main page: Merrimack Valley Whiskey Blog
Rum reviews
Page 6 whiskey reviews
Page 5 Irish whiskey special
Page 4 whiskey reviews
Page 3 Flavored whiskies, other spirits
Page 2 whiskey reviews
Page 1 whiskey reviews
Useful articles on whiskey 
Is all whiskey and Scotch kosher? 

Neil Gillman “On Knowing God”

One of the preeminent Jewish theologians of the 20th century is Rabbi Neil Gillman

Rabbi Neil Gillman On Knowing God

“What does it mean to experience God?  It would seem that we do not see/experience God as we see/experience an apple…. But is the difference between seeing God and seeing an apple an intrinsic difference?  That is, do we require a dual epistemology, one for knowing natural objects and another for knowing God?  Or is there one basic way for humans to experience, and hence, to acquire knowledge of everything?”

“I claim that a single epistemology is sufficient.  To substantiate that claim, I begin by suggesting three possible analogies for the epistemological process involved in knowing God: seeing the New York Knick’s passing game, seeing an ego, and seeing a quark [a sub-atomic particle, which all protons and neutrons are made of].”

“In each of these instances, what we see is a patterned activity.  in the first, seeing a passing game is different from seeing Patrick Ewing.  We clearly see Ewing as we see an apple; we know what he looks like or we identify him by the name and number on his shirt.  But seeing the passing game involves seeing an in-between activity, a patterned relationship in which the ball is moved back and forth between five players.  A passing game is never static, never immobile; it is intrinsically dynamic….But it is perfectly clear that we do see a passing game, and then pass judgements on its quality: sharp, ragged, sloppy, etc….(all, it should be noted, metaphors)…there is a passing game out there; it is not an invention of basketball coaches and players.”

“Similarly, to see an ego is not see an apple.  An ego is not an entity which we can see if we dig deep enough into a human being…To see an ego is to see one specific, complex, pattern of human behavior, that dimension of the person’s behavior which reveals stability and balance.  Here too the frame is limited: the individual human being and his/her life experience.  Here again the experience is interactional: the psychologist and I see the same behavior, but the former brings forth a wealth of professional training and experience…that enables him to see what I can’t see.”

“To the question “Did Freud discover the ego or invent it?” the answer is clearly both.  Freud discovered the pattern, at least partially because he was looking for it and knew what to look for.  But then he identified it, gave it a name, and fitted it into his broader psychodynamic theory (or myth).  But Freud discovered the ego because it was out there to be discovered.  The ego itself is not a fiction….”

“Finally, seeing a quark.  Again, seeing a quark is not like seeing an apple.  But a trained nuclear physicist brings his interpretive structure (theory or myth) to look at the computer print out of the activity that took place in his super-collider and then claims to see a quark.  I look at the same print-out and see a chaotic mass of numbers; he sees a quark.  Or, what he interprets what he sees as a quark, or he sees through the print-out to the “invisible” quark.  Again, the experience is interactional;  without the theoretical structure, the physicist would be like me, seeing nothing of significance….Does the physicist invent the quark or discover it?  Again the answer is both:  he discovers the pattern, but because his theory provides him with a name and a way to identify it when it is there, he can then see the quark.  But the quark pattern is out there to be discovered; it is not a fictitious creation of the physicist.”

“Seeing God is like seeing any of these patterns, probably most like seeing an ego, in the sense that God is a pattern of activity that is “in” history and nature, as an ego is “in” a person…Again the experience is interactional: the believer brings his interpretive structure (the Torah’s religious myth) to his seeing, and see the pattern that we call God.  Do we discover God or do we invent God?  Both.  We discover the patterns and then identify them, name them, and the names our are inventions, just as we invent the names ‘ego’ and ‘quark’.  But if the patterns are discoverable, they are out there to be discovered.”

-> from “On Knowing God”, Conservative Judaism, Volume LI, No.2, Winter 1999.

Gillman writes :

My Seminary education had successfully subverted any literalist understanding of the central Jewish revelational event as described in Exodus 19-20. I was taught that the Torah was a composite document, edited around the 5th century C.E., borrowing from the literature of the surrounding ancient Near Eastern cultures. That “critical” approach to the study of the Bible also questioned the historicity of the biblical narratives, including the Exodus from Egypt and the revelation at Sinai. The evidence for these conclusions struck me as persuasive.

In addition, I had begun to question the very possibility of any human attempt to capture God’s nature or activity in literal terms. I could no longer believe that God literally “descends” on Sinai or “speaks” the words of Torah. If God were truly God, then God could not literally “speak.”

But then what was Torah? Whence its sanctity? Its authority? More broadly, what was the epistemological status of any theological claim? Finally, as a rabbi, how could I justify teaching and advocating the bulk of Jewish practice which, I continued to believe, remained central to any authentic understanding of Judaism? It was in this context that I reverted to the notion of myth.

To this day, my use of the term troubles many of my students. The main problem is that, in American parlance, a myth is synonymous with a fiction, a fairy tale, or worse, a lie – as in the common practice of contrasting “the myth” with “the facts” or “the reality.” That conventional use of the term haunts me whenever I use it.

When I teach “revelation,” I provide my students with a wide range of options, including the traditionalist literal understanding of the issue, along with the more liberal positions from the writings of Heschel, Kaplan, Buber, and Rosensweig. I also teach my own position – that the biblical account of the event at Sinai should be understood as myth. This is what I mean by the term….

The Problematics of Myth, Sh’ma (Sh’ma website)

The Problematics of Myth, Sh’ma (BJPA website)

Drinking and health

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No doubt that it is safe for most people to drink small amounts of alcohol on a regular basis, and have moderate amounts of alcohol, more occasionally. But how much is a safe amount?

Alcoholism and other substance abuse issues certainly run in families, and people who know about this in their own family are wisely advised to avoid alcohol, or keenly monitor their drinking patterns. Some families have a history of certain diseases which alcohol can exacerbate, so the same caution is due here as well.  But what about people without high risk factors? For years medical studies have shown some small benefits of drinking wine, a few other studies showed small benefits from small amounts of any kind of alcohol. And we all know of family members or community members who had a drink every day, and lived well past 100.

For any person, too much alcohol at once can affect the brain, as such
(source of image unknown; corrections requested)

Alcohol and Brain

But a growing number of studies are showing that that for many people, there are increased health risks at lower levels of alcohol consumption that once thought. For instance:

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Moderate alcohol consumption as risk factor for adverse brain outcomes and cognitive decline: longitudinal cohort study

Moderate alcohol consumption as risk factor for adverse brain outcomes and cognitive decline, BMJ June 2017

Higher alcohol consumption over the 30 year follow-up was associated with increased odds of hippocampal atrophy in a dose dependent fashion. While those consuming over 30 units a week were at the highest risk compared with abstainers, even those drinking moderately (14-21 units/week) had three times the odds of right sided hippocampal atrophy. There was no protective effect of light drinking (1-<7 units/week) over abstinence. Higher alcohol use was also associated with differences in corpus callosum microstructure and faster decline in lexical fluency. No association was found with cross sectional cognitive performance or longitudinal changes in semantic fluency or word recall…. Alcohol consumption, even at moderate levels, is associated with adverse brain outcomes including hippocampal atrophy. These results support the recent reduction in alcohol guidance in the UK and question the current limits recommended in the US.

When reading such studies, we first ask, what is a “unit” of alcohol? In the UK we find this definition:

1 unit of alcohol = 10 millilitres (8 grams) of pure alcohol.

Typical drinks may contain 1–3 units of alcohol.

A ten ounce beer (300 ml) at 3.5% ABV contains about one unit;

A medium glass (175 ml) of 12% ABV wine has two units of alcohol

A small glass (50 ml) of sherry or port (20% ABV) contains about one unit.

Most whisky is 40% ABV.
In England, a single pub measure (25 ml) of whisky contains one unit.

A typical American miniature bottle is 50 ml -> 2 units.

A typical American pour at a bar is 2 ounces -> 60 ml -> 2.4 units

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Possible health benefits of moderate whiskey consumption

http://coolmaterial.com/food-drink/health-benefits-whiskey/

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/alcohol-full-story/

moderate alcohol usage and increased antioxidant intake decrease the risk of coronary heart disease.

Odds of dementia are lower among adults who consumed moderate alcohol, rather than none at all

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Contents

Main page: Merrimack Valley Whiskey Blog
Rum reviews
Page 6 whiskey reviews
Page 5 Irish whiskey special
Page 4 whiskey reviews
Page 3 Flavored whiskies, other spirits
Page 2 whiskey reviews
Page 1 whiskey reviews
Useful articles on whiskey 
Is all whiskey and Scotch kosher?