Whiskey Reviews page 4

Another page of archived reviews! See the newest reviews here at Bob’s whiskey review blog

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Old Weller Antique Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey

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Today I am pleased to review Old Weller Antique, distilled at the Buffalo Trace Distillery, in Kentucky, this is perhaps the oldest continuously operating distillery in the United States. Owned by the Sazerac Company. Aged for 7 years, sold at 107 proof, this bourbon comes from the same distillery, barrels, warehouse, and mash bill as the famed and elusive Pappy Old Rip Van Winkle, which sells for hundreds of dollars on the secondary market! Thus, Old Weller Antique is a great value as it is commonly sold for under $25. I picked up mine at Kappy’s, in Medford, MA, which was noted as a store chosen, single barrel selection.

Appearance: dark auburn color. Nose – caramel, perhaps a hint of orange?
Palate – this is one full and rich bourbon. Almost fruity, perhaps a hint of vanilla. You can taste the oak. Smooth & easy to drink, with very little burn. And I am sensing a sweetness that I don’t get with a lot of whiskeys, which I am attributing this to being a wheater (a bourbon where wheat is the second largest grain in the mash bill, after corn.) Definitely going to pick up another bottle of this fine product.

The following spirits are produced by Buffalo Trace Distillery. Old Weller Antique – known to bourbon aficionados simply as OWA – is included under W. L. Weller , all of which are wheated Bourbons. The four versions of W. L. Weller are

W. L. Weller Special Reserve, 90 proof.
Old Weller Antique, 107 proof, which is what I am reviewing today.
W. L. Weller 12 Year, 90 proof.
William LaRue Weller (proof varies year-to-year)

buffalo-trace-distilery

“Buffalo Trace Distillery.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 11 Nov. 2016

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Spirit of Boston New World Tripel
Spirit of Boston Thirteenth Hour
Spirit of Boston Merry Maker Gingerbread Stout

I was fortunate to have a tasting at Kappy’s Fine Wine & Spirits – Route 1 (Malden, Mass.) They offered me a chance to sample three new whiskeys… well, whiskey-related spirits, from Boston Harbor Distillery. This is the Spirit of Boston – Limited Release, a set of three whiskey-related spirits based on the mash bill of ” distilled from three distinct Samuel Adams beers – New World Tripel, Thirteenth Hour, and Merry Maker Gingerbread Stout.” This set of three 375 ml whiskies has a list price of $120. To reveal my bias, I’m not a fan of beer – never found one that I enjoyed. A bit ironic, since I am a whiskey drinker, and whiskey may be considered a highly distilled (and then aged) beer. So although none of these three whiskies struck me as terrific, a fan of these styles of beer may enjoy them very much.

“It’s not whiskey because it’s flavored, but it’s not a flavored whiskey…we don’t even know what to call it,” says Couchot of the holiday spirits that have been distilled from three Sam Adams craft brews. Hence the name “whiskies” in quotation marks.”Bevspot: Holiday Gift Spotlight: Boston Harbor Distillery

13th Hour Stout, the one that tasted most like a traditional whiskey, has a wheat, beer-like finish. Based on the mashbill of Samuel Adams’s “Latitude 48 Deconstructed IPA – Hallertau Mittelfrueh” You can read here more about Hallertauer Mittelfrüh Hops.

New World Belgian Tripel, too spicy for my tastes, perhaps from the hops. The mash bill includes what Samuel Adams calls “Kosmic Mother Funk”, which means that it is “fermented with multiple micro-organisms including Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus and other wild critters found in the environment of our Barrel Room.” Samuel Adams: Kosmic Mother Funk, Grand Cru.

Merrymaker Gingerbread Stout, floral, gingerbread notes. Interesting, and I would like to try this again. The mash bill includes oats, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and ginger, and East Kent Golding Hops.

Chilledmagazine article on this product
Boston Harbor Distillery: Spirit of Boston
You Can Now Drink Whiskey at the Boston Harbor Distillery – BostInno Streetwise

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The backs of the bottles provide details.

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What is Scotch whisky?

By law, any whiskey made in Scotland – usually spelled whiksy– must follow certain rules; these rules demand that the product be labeled as “Scotch”; it is illegal to produce whiskey made in Scotland that doesn’t conform to the definition of Scotch. Scotch must be made and labelled according to the rules stated below. It must be aged in oak casks for no less than three years, and have an ABV less than 94.8%. No whiskey may be labeled Scotch unless it was completely made in Scotland.

Scotch Whisky Association: Scotch Whisky Categories

Single, Malt Scotch Whisky
A Scotch whisky distilled at a single distillery (i) from water and malted barley without the addition of any other cereals, and (ii) by batch distillation in pot stills. From 23 November 2012, Single Malt Scotch Whisky must be bottled in Scotland.
100% malted barley only. Many people think of this as the classic Scotch.

Single, Grain Scotch Whisky
A Scotch Whisky distilled at a single distillery (i) from water and malted barley with or without whole grains of other malted or unmalted cereals, and (ii) which does not comply with the definition of Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
So this is not just malted barley! The mash bill may include any of the following: un-malted barley, wheat (this is the most common non-barley grain used in Scotch), and it could even include corn, rye, triticale or spelt. However, this would generally contain at least 5% malted barley, to begin the chemical process of saccharification [producing fermentable sugars.] One could also use malted corn or rye, but process is more complicated.

Blended Scotch Whisky
A blend of one or more Single Malt Scotch Whiskies WITH one or more Single Grain Scotch Whiskies.
So this would have to include a whiskey with a mash bill of something other than malted barley.

Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
A blend of Single Malt Scotch Whiskies, which have been distilled at more than one distillery.
The mash bill thus would consist of malted barley only.

Blended Grain Scotch Whisky
A blend of Single Grain Scotch Whiskies, which have been distilled at more than one distillery.
In this case, all of the source scotches had ingredients other than just barley. In fact, the sources could contain almost no barley, and be an almost pure rye, corn or wheat base scotch, although that would be rare indeed to find.

Definitions from http://www.scotch-whisky.org.uk/understanding-scotch/scotch-whisky-categories/

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New Year’s eve 2016/17

Macallan 12, Double Cask
Dewar’s White Label, Blended Scotch Whisky
Bushmill’s Black Bush Irish Whisky

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Dewar’s: Pale yellow color. 80 proof. I have no idea how this has become the number one selling Scotch in the USA. This is the third time I’ve tried Dewar’s blended Scotch whiskey, White Label. Just doesn’t appeal to my tastes. I’m not getting much in the way of pleasant flavor. It’s just shockingly sweet. Whatever complexity others may taste, I’m not getting it after this acrid sugary blast.

Black Bush, a blend of whiskies from 7 to 11 years old. 80 proof. Aged in Oloroso Sherry casks, and in ex-bourbon casks. Distilled in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. The Old Bushmills Distillery is now owned by Jose Cuervo. A far better drink that Dewar’s, and it has an audience, but I’m not a fan. Gentle sherry nose. A thin palette, although you can definitely taste the sherry influence.

The Macallan 12 Year. 86 proof. Mash bill 100% malted barley. The distillery is in Craigellachie, Moray, northeast Scotland. Macallan Distillers L is owned by the Edrington Group. Aged in oak sherry casks from Jerez, Spain. Color: Copper/Amber. Nose: Sherry, amaretto. Palate: Sweet, sherry, plums, has a round mouthfeel. Definitely some smokiness, although this isn’t a peated whiskey. By far, my favorite of the three whiskies that I tried this evening.

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Blanton’s single barrel bourbon whiskey

From the Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, Kentucky. Launched in 1984 by distiller Elmer T. Lee. Perhaps the first single barrel bourbon product. Thanks for introducing me to this, Albert. This is the real deal!

Color: Reddish amber.
Palate: Full and smooth, sweet, with tones of caramel and orange.
Mash bill: Corn, rye and malted barley.
Aged approximately 9 years, no age statement, in American white oak barrels, #4 char.

Blanton’s is a single barrel bourbon, which means each bottle has spirit from only one particular aging barrel – no mixing. Update December 2016 – I just tried Blanton’s again for the first time in almost a year. I was impressed at how much more I liked it this time. I did enjoy it last time, but this time it almost seemed to have a series of honey-like notes. It wasn’t the gold, or the straight from the barrel, or anything special. Just your standard Blanton’s. Amazed at how smooth it was. I guess that’s what a year of tasting various types of whiskeys can do to you. Really open your palate to the amazing array of flavors that can be discovered within.

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Chanukah Sameakh! חנוכה שמח

I built a whiskey-bottle-menorah 🙂

Chanukah is a Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar. Known as the Festival of Lights, it is observed by the kindling of a nine-branched menorah (called a Chanukiah), one additional light on each night of the holiday, progressing to eight on the final night. The extra light, with which the others are lit, is called a shamash (שמש‎‎, “attendant”). The ancient menorahs were made with wicks in olive oil; today some menorahs are still oil based, but most use candles. Other Hanukkah festivities include playing dreidel and eating oil-based foods such as doughnuts and latkes. (- adapted from the Wikipedia article.)

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Old Forester Signature 100

This is a hell of a good straight bourbon whiskey- and a steal at just $22. Old Forester Signature 100 was recommended to me by one of the guys who works at one of the New Hampshire state liquor stores. Some history:

It is officially the longest running Bourbon on the market today (approximately 144 years as of 2015), and was the first bourbon sold exclusively in sealed bottles. It was first bottled and marketed in 1870 by the former pharmaceutical salesman turned bourbon-merchant George Garvin Brown – the founder of the Brown-Forman Corporation (whose descendants still manage the company). During the Prohibition period from 1920 to 1933, it was one of only 10 brands authorized for lawful production (for medicinal purposes).
Old Forester. (2016, November 6). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia

Mash Bill: 72% Corn, 18% Rye, 10% Barley Malt. No age statement; as a straight bourbon it’s been aged at least 2 years in new charred oak barrels, but likely four or more years older. Warm, powerful, at 100 proof it packs a wallop, so I prefer to have it with a few ice cubes. After it sits for a minute, the ice melts, the proof lowers, and then the flavors come out. Has some decadent chocolate or coffee notes, oak and vanilla notes to it.

Would be great to get a chance to compare this with the recent special release, Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, 2015 – but that runs well over $200, and the reviews for it don’t appear spectacularly better than this $22 bottle. I wonder if bourbons that cost ten times as much are truly three times better? Or perhaps they are just slightly different, and I’m quite happy with this one!

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My bar this December 2016

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Winchester bourbon whiskey
Winchester rye whiskey
Black Powder Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Jim Beam Black Extra Aged

Sitting down to compare these samples I picked up at Total Wine. Two come from Terressentia Corporation, a distillery in North Charleston, South Carolina. They have created a buzz with their so-called TerrePURE technology. According to their website they specialize “in contract production of distilled spirits. We produce spirits for large retail chains, individual brand owners, and other distilleries or exporters.” Instead of aging whiskey, they use chemistry to accelerate chemical reactions, would normally would in whiskey over a period of years.

The Winchester bourbon whiskey tastes young, but not terrible. The label says aged a minimum of 6 months in New Oak. Produced and bottled by TerrePURE Spirits. For something so young it’s surprisingly not terrible. The Winchester rye whiskey has the same description, and a completely different flavor. It tastes young, thin, and is markedly inferior to its bourbon whiskey cousin. Compared to a good rye whiskey like Pendleton 1910 or Knob Creek Rye, I’m afraid that the Winchester Rye isn’t very good. In fact, if I may be so blunt, it’s absolutely terrible.

Black Powder Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey – There were some decent reviews of this on the TotalWines website, and often I agree with crowd-sourced reviews more than professional ones, so I took a chance on this. But who makes it? The bottle says LeVecke, but their website vaguely says that it “develops, bottles and markets products in each spirit segment for any corporate brand product line-up.” Translation: They buy generic whiskey, and bottle it under other names. The result, for this label? No great nose, no great impression on the front or rear palette. Utterly forgettable. I sipped it slowly over ten minutes, and dumped the other half of the 50 ml bottle down the drain.

Jim Beam Black Extra Aged – 86 proof, aged in white oak charred barrels. A step-up in product from Jim Beam base product, white label. No age statement. I believe that their original black label was aged 8 years, but this product has since dropped it’s age statement. Chuck Cowdery estimates that the product, which has now lost its age statement, is still likely to be between 4 to 9 years old.

When tasting this, I compared it to Knob Creek, aged 9 years, and Weller Special Reserve. This Jim Beam Black Extra Aged had far less of a nose than the other two bourbons, and it wasn’t especially appealing. Nothing wrong, just not much there. The taste was thin and easy on the front palette, but on the back palette it was rougher, less pleasant. In contrast, Knob Creek (also a Jim Beam product) was a completely different animal! A full, rich sweet nose, fuller on the front palette, and far more pleasantly flavorful on the back palette. Better than both was Weller Special Reserve (reviewed earlier in this blog.)

winchester-terrepure

Is it even possible to make good whiskey quickly, without aging, though chemistry? The idea is anathema to most of the whiskey-drinking world, but I did find some good articles on the topic:

https://bottomofthebarrelbourbon.com/2015/04/10/better-aging-through-chemistry/

Rapid-Aging Whiskey Technology: GAME CHANGER OR GIMMICK? by Jake Emen –

https://redwhiteandbourbon.com/2015/06/23/the-fallacy-of-instant-bourbon-part-i-the-claims/

https://redwhiteandbourbon.com/2015/07/03/the-fallacy-of-instant-bourbon-part-ii-the-science/

Long Term Changes In Whiskey Maturation

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Four Roses Small Batch
Four Roses Yellow Label

A friend and I traveled to Codex, a 1920’s style speakeasy in Nashua, NH, to enjoy the city’s annual Winter Holiday Stroll and cocktails in style. Here I tried Four Roses Small batch. The origin of Four Roses is unclear. Some accounts credit Rufus Mathewson Rose, post Civil War, but the Four Roses web

site now credits a Paul Jones, Jr, who trademarked the name in 1888. In 1910 Four Roses was produced at the distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. Seagram purchased this brand in 1943. The brand went through a period of highs and lows, with dramatically changing mash bills and recipes. A series of ownership changes in the 2000’s led to the distillery being purchased by the Kirin Brewery Company of Japan. Under their leadership, Four Roses began producing a variety of highly regarded, straight bourbon whiskeys, one of which we’re reviewing today.

So what is in Four Roses Small Batch? The mashbill is a mix of four recipes used by Four Roses: OBSO, OBSK, OESK, OESO. The OB batches have 60% Corn, 35% Rye, 5% Malted Barley, and the OE batches have 75% Corn, 20% Rye, 5% Malted Barley. They’re aged in new charred oak casks. 90 proof. No age statement – I looked at other reviews, and some stated that Four Roses Small Batch is about 8 years old. Details on the Four Roses recipes may be found here.

Nose: A light fruit sensation, almost flowery. Palate: Much greater than one might expect from the nose! Light the front palette, a hint of citrus, an almost apple-like tartness. Refreshing. A bit of caramel and oak develops on the back palette. A delicious, lingering finish. Now I definitely want to compare this to the “bottom shelf” version, Four Roses Yellow Label Straight Bourbon, as well as to the more upscale single barrel selections.

Here’s another informative review on this fine whiskey (sure, I link to other blogs, why not?) The Casks.com Four-roses-yellow-label

Four Roses Yellow Label

Much more affordable than the Small Batch, Yellow Label is the base version of the Four Roses bourbon family, and it’s surprisingly excellent. My 750 ml bottle was just $15! It’s not quite as refined as the small batch, perhaps a tad less smooth, and a bit lower in proof – but this is a fine drink that I have shared with friends, all of whom enjoyed it very much. Very glad I purchased this bottle. I enjoyed this even more than other somewhat more expensive whiskeys, like Knob Creek (which in of itself is a good product.)

Age: No age statement, but other reviewers, based on their research peg it as being around 6 years old. The mashbill is a mix of 8 to 10 recipes used by Four Roses, with corn, rye, and malted barley. They’re aged in new charred oak casks. 80 proof.

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photo from http://www.facebook.com/pg/fourrosesbourbon/photos/

So where did we do this evening’s tasting? At the Codex BAR, a 1920s-Inspired Speakeasy Bar in Nashua, New Hampshire.

[During the Prohibition] Speakeasies popped up in every city across America…. Codex isn’t an ordinary bar, it’s a speakeasy. Inspired by the Prohibition Era, this bar is hidden. And by hidden I mean it’s disguised as a used bookstore on Elm Street… This storefront, however, is not the actual entrance… To get in, you’ll have to go down the side alley and find the unmarked door… Once you enter the “bookstore” you’re presented with a large bookcase and an apparent dead end…. take another look at the books. One of them is actually a secret lever! Pull the right book on the shelf, and you’ll be granted entrance through a secret door into the bar…. Read on: New England Today: Codex speakeasy

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Wild Turkey 101 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Distillery is Austin-Niochols in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. Age: A blend of 6 to 8 year old bourbons. I’ve read that the mash bill is 75/13/12 corn/rye/barley. 50 Proof. Appearance – Light maple syrup color. Palate: Much better than the Canadian Club that I had previously; this bourbon has a toasty kind of quality, black peppery and rye spices. Rougher around the edges than the Knob Creek or Woodford Reserve. A bit strong for me to drink straight, I’d use this as a mixer or in cooking (heresy, I know!)

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Contents

Whiskey blog: Main page and new reviews

Page 5, Irish whiskey special

Page 3: Blended and flavored whiskies, other spirits, and even wine.

Page 2, 2016

Page 1, 2016.

Useful articles on whiskey

Is all whiskey and Scotch kosher?

Mamzer

A mamzer (ממזר‎‎) is a person born from certain relationships forbidden by Jewish law. The common English translation is “bastard”, which has some similarities to a mamzer, but it is not the same as “illegitimacy.” Jewish law does not consider a child illegitimate if the mother happens to have been unmarried. As such, to avoid confusion we do not use “bastard” as a translation. We simply use the Hebrew word.

A mamzer is a person born out of adultery by a married Jewish woman and a Jewish man who is not her husband, or a person born out of incest.

Mamzer status is not synonymous with illegitimacy, since it does not include children whose mothers were unmarried.

Biblical origin

A mamzer (ממזר‎‎) shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD.
— Deuteronomy 23:2

Understanding of this term in rabbinical Judaism

A mamzer is the offspring of a biblically forbidden union (Yevamot 4, Mishnah 13: “כל שחיבין עליו כרת בידי שמים”. – Circa 200 CE

According to the Shulchan Aruch, a mamzer can only be produced by two Jews (Shulchan Aruch, “Even haEzer” 4:19). Circa 1560’s CE

A child born of a married woman’s adultery is a mamzer. The child of a single woman and a man she could lawfully have married is not a mamzer (Shulchan Aruch E. H. 4.) It is irrelevant if the man is married or not.

If one of the parents is not Jewish then the child can’t be a mamzer.

In order to make certain that almost no child would have the status of mamzer, the rabbis canonized legal fictions that prevented the term from being used in many cases, for instance:

A child born within 12 months of a woman’s most recent meeting with her husband is presumed to be legitimate (Shulkhan Arukh 4:14)

Any child born to a married woman, even if she is known to have been unfaithful, is nonetheless halakhically presumed to be her husband’s (Shulchan Aruch, “Even haEzer” 4:15)

In the last century, much of the Orthodox Jewish community has made significant, and some would say harmful, changes to Jewish law on this issue. People being educated in Orthodox yeshivas are no longer even taught the wide array of traditional views on the subject, and students graduating even as rabbis are unaware that halakha has a “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy on this subject: It is literally forbidden to ask if someone is a mamzer.

The concept of mamzerim was discussed in the Rabin Mishna Study Group: Daily Mishnah Study in the climate of Masorti (Conservative) Judaism. Rabin Mishnah Study Group, by Rabbi Simchah Roth.

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Mamzer: A person who was born of parents who were prohibited from marrying each other by Torah law. For this reason translations such as “bastard” and “illegitimate” are misleading. In western law a bastard is a person whose parents did not happen to be married at the time of his birth. A Mamzer [or Mamzeret] is a person whose parents were prohibited by Torah law from marrying at the time of her conception; the parents could not have married even if they had wanted to. The main cause of mamzerut is adultery by the woman.

The non-adulterous union of a Kohen with a woman otherwise prohibited to him, does not cause mamzerut. (Many Conservative rabbis today consider the restrictions on the marriageability of a Kohen to be obsolete, and they have substantial halakhic reasons to support their opinion. In any case, this has nothing to do with mamzerut.)

Halakhically speaking, the ‘mamzer’ suffers no disabilities except one: a ‘mamzer’ can only marry a ‘mamzeret’ (and vice-versa) and their descendents will be ‘mamzerim’ in perpetuum! This is such a terrible situation for a human being to find himself in that not only Conservative rabbis, but all decent-minded rabbis, make every effort to obviate the situation. This cannot be done, halakhically, by erasing the status as if it did not exist; the best approach has always been to find some valid reason why the person is not, in fact, a ‘mamzer’ as at first thought.

Halakhic solutions which get rid of the problem:

Solution #1

Rabbi Tarfon says that Mamzerim can become rehabilitated. How? If a Mamzer marries a Canaanite servant-woman [shifchah kena’anit] the offspring will be a Canaanite servant [Eved kena’ani]. If he grants the servant manumission his son has become a free man. Rabbi Eliezer says that he is but a Canaanite servant who is also a mamzer! (His suggestion was feasible only in his time.
Rabbi Tarfon says that a mamzer can become rehabilitated. The Hebrew word that I have translated thus is “litaher”, which really means “can become purified” or “purged” – of
the taint of mamzerut. We learned at the end of the previous mishnah that the offspring of both the Canaanite servant and the mamzer take their status from the mother.
[Unlike Jewish servants, under Torah law non-Jews held in service to Jews are partially “Jewish” and can regain their freedom only by manumission. The status of the Eved Kena’ani and the Shifchah Kena’anit was amply discussed on RMSG between 16th November and 5th December.]

Rabbi Tarfon’s idea is that if a free Jewish man who is also a mamzer takes a gentile woman as his Canaanite servant and has a child by her, the child is automatically also a Canaanite servant. The father, who is also the master, has the right to grant his slave-son his freedom at any time. The son, upon being manumitted, becomes a fully-fledged Jew and can marry any Jewish woman he chooses! I suppose that in Rabbi Tarfon’s time this was ‘neat’. I wonder whether anyone noticed that it only solved half the problem: a mamzeret could not ‘pull the same stunt’ by marrying an Eved Kena’ani, since her offspring would take her status. Rabbi Tarfon’s elder contemporary, Rabbi Eliezer, denies the feasibility of the halakhic ‘trick’.

The Gemara [Kiddushin 69a] discusses whether Rabbi Tarfon’s proposal is acceptable ‘a priori’ – as a valid halakhic procedure in all cases. The final conclusion is that this is the case and that the halakhah is according to Rabbi Tarfon (and not according to Rabbi Eliezer).

Something to think about: All lines of descent from antiquity are suspect…Given the long tumultuous history of the Jews, there were many periods when records of personal status were not kept accurately, and certainly not universally from community to community. People of mamzer ancestry definitely married within the general Jewish community without the community realizing it.

In fact, in Temple times no Kohen was permitted to officiate in the Bet Mikdash unless he had a certified pedigree lodged in the Temple secretariat. All others who claimed to be kohanim (let’s say because their father told them so) but could not bring authorized proof of their status, were still considered to be priests, but could not officiate as such. This is the status of ALL kohanim today.

Question: Hmm, might this not this mean that we are all mamzerim?

No! In Western jurisprudence there is a basic ‘presumption’ – that all people are innocent of wrongdoing, and even those accused of a crime benefit from this presumption until it has been conclusively proven to be untenable in a duly constituted court of law. This is what we call the ‘presumption of innocence’.

In halakhah there is a similar presumption as regards personal status: “kol Yehudi be-chezkat kasher” – every Jew is presumed to be of unblemished pedigree unless there are solid and factual reasons for denying him or her the benefit of that presumption.

Cf. Rambam Issurei Biah 19:17; Tur Even ha-Ezer 2, Bet Yossef Even ha-Eezer 2:2:a, Shulchan Aruk ibid.

Solution #2

Another “cure” for mamzerut is “assimilation” – and it is the obvious solution for our own times. This matter is deliberated in the Gemara, Talmud Bavli, Kiddushin 71a, as part of the discussion on the first mishnah of Chapter Four. The Jews of Babylon were of the opinion that the Jews in Eretz-Israel were not as meticulous as they should have been concerning the ‘kashrut’ of families suspected of not having a pure Jewish pedigree. Rabbi Yochanan, probably the most influential and most prestigious of the Amoraim of Eretz-Israel (he died around the end of the third century C.E.) virtually admits the accusation … “but what can I do about such a family, seeing that some of the most illustrious people of our age have assimilated into it?” The Gemara explains that Rabbi Yochanan is of the opinion that “once a family [of impure pedigree] has become assimilated [into the fabric of Jewish society] – it is assimilated [and accepted]”.

This opinion became accepted halakhah! Rambam [Maimonides] codifies as follows:

“If an impure element mixes in the pedigree of a family, and this fact is not generally known, ‘once it has assimilated, it has assimilated. Anyone who knows of this is *forbidden* to publish the information, but must let the family continue in its presumption of unblemished pedigree.”

Solution #3

We must also recall the famous dictum of Rabbi Yehoshu’a ben Levi [Kiddushin 71a, top] that “money purifies mamzerim” [“kessef metaher mamzerim”].

Rashi interprets this extraordinary statement as follows: when mamzerim become affluent, other people cease to be concerned with the blemish on their pedigree! Another interpretation from the Middle Ages links the Hebrew word “kessef” with the same root in Aramaic which also means “to blanch with shame”: if mamzerim are ashamed of their status and ‘keep it quiet’ they will soon assimilate and the status will disappear.

Solution #4

Most rabbis would keep no records of presumed mamzerut, would do their best to prove that the person was not a mamzer (as did Goren), and the mamzer would do well to move to an area where he/she was not known, so that they could eventually assimilate into the general community, as we have previously discussed. If the matter is not known it will not be a problem.

The possibilities that exist for modern mamzerim who are _aware_ of their halakhic status are:

(1) to refrain from procreation altogether so as to prevent this “curse” falling upon a new generation;

(2) to brazenly ignore the halakhah altogether;

(3) to procreate with a life-partner “without benefit of clergy” (i.e. without Chuppah and Kiddushin);

(4) to reside in an area where their relative anonymity can be maintained and their halakhic status is unknown, to choose a life-partner and to procreate with that life-partner after Chuppah and Kiddushin have been performed.

I do not believe that as Conservative rabbis we have the power to demand option #(1), so I do not see the point in discussing its ethical aspects. We cannot condone option #(2). So we have to choose between options (3) and (4). I know which option I would prefer. [ #4 ]

Related articles

Morality, Halakha and the Jewish Tradition

Whiskey Reviews page 3

Here are reviews on flavored whiskies, American “blended whiskies” (which are not technically true whiskies) and other spirits and wines. The main page for whiskey reviews is here: Bob’s whiskey review blog

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Miglianico Montupoli Montepulciano

This red wine is from the wine growing regions of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

Montepulciano is a red wine grape variety grown widely in central Italy, most notably its eastern Abruzzo, Marche and Molise regions. The variety was named after the Tuscan parish of Montepulciano, but, confusingly, is not used in the famous wines produced there. – wine-searcher.com: Montepulciano.

This wine had a surprisingly strong berry flavor, yet with almost no sweetness. Not what I expected from a dry wine; very nice.

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1/22/16 Alcaeus: Ancient Oak Cellars

I’m not a wine connoisseur, and especially not a fan of dry wines. Still, I like to try new things – who knows when you’ll have a great experience, and discover something new? So when I had the opportunity to try this at Kappy’s Fine Wine & Spirits in Medford, MA, I was happy to explore. This is a Cabernet Franc, one of the major black grape varieties. One doesn’t generally see it on its own; it is usually part of a blend. They are generally lighter than a Cabernet Sauvignon. This expression is from a family winery in Santa Rosa, California – Sonoma County. It certainly had a pleasant, subtle, fruity nose. But I ended up tasting the tannins more than anything else. That’s not a knock – I’m upfront about my ignorance of the topic. Someone who likes Cab Francs might love this. Just not my thing.

Ancient Oak Cellars.com

alcaeus-ancient-oak-cellars

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Red Shot Cinnamon Flavored Whisky

Canadian Whiskey with Natural Cinnamon Flavor, 30% ABV/60 proof.

What can I say? This ain’t whiskey – it’s a whiskey-based cocktail, more of a liquor, where the predominant – dare I say only – flavor is sweet, sweet cinnamon. If that’s your thing, this has it in spades, and it’s cheap. Probably designed to make college kids drunk, it’s sure not a sipping whiskey.

For an in-depth comparison of five similar products, see BLOWING UP FIREBALL: Cinnamon Whiskey Review Round Up

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Black Velvet Toasted Caramel Flavored Whisky

Well it’s shockingly sweet, more like a flavored liqueur than whiskey. Sure, I’m used to detecting a hint of caramel or toffee, which may occur at small level in straight whisky. So for me to taste added caramel flavoring – well that overwhelmed my spirits pallet. This has the intensity of sweetness and caramel flavor that I would associate with an actual piece of caramel candy. Still, this is a flavored whisky by design, so it’s not fair to compare this to straight whiskey. For people who like flavored liqueurs, that would probably be a good choice. Yet although I occasionally enjoy a sweet drink, such as a frozen strawberry daiquiri, I just can’t see myself coming back to this.

Pictured here with one of my father’s, זיכרונו לברכה, Frank Sinatra albums

black-velvet-toasted-caramel

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Jim Beam Apple

Apple Liqueur Infused With Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Introduced in 2015.
James B. Beam Distilling Co., Clermont, KY, Beam Suntory. 70 proof. No age statement.

jim-beam-apple

Right off the bat, this isn’t whiskey – it’s a cocktail including whiskey and “flavored liqueur, which probably has a base of vodka, rum, or some distilled neutral spirit, along with flavorings. So if you are looking for a good scotch or whiskey to casually to sip, this ain’t it. This is a simple, very sweet, apple tart drink to have at a party with friends. And the flavor is decent – if this is the kind of experience that you’re looking for, then job well done!  Like most flavored liquors, I do wish that they cut the sweetness by half – most drinks Americans enjoy are heavily over sweetened. But that being said, the flavor is pleasant, and since it’s lower proof than most whiskey, one can perhaps drink a bit more of it, if the occasion allows.

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Taking a break from whiskey. Was doing a bit of wood-working for a holiday art project – when it’s done, you’ll see it 😉 Working on the project with my daughter, at my friend Joe’s house. Greatest guy.  While there he introduced me to B and B Dom , made by Benedictine. 86 proof, made in France, aged for 2 years in oak barrels. It is a drier liqueur than Benedictine. Their label states “Benedictine’s own bottled B and B unites the delicate finesse of Benedictine and dryness of fine Cognac brandy.” Benedictine itself is a herbal liqueur composed of 27 plants and spices. Super sweet a little bit like desert wine. After a year of tasting whiskies, I’m not used to this level of sugar, lol.

Had some high hopes for the Romana Sambuca, Italy, 42 percent ABV. It’s an Italian anise-flavoured, colorless, liqueur. Flavored with anise, elderberries, sugar, and a “secret natural flavor formula”, whatever the heck that is! I haven’t had anything like this in over 10 years! Reminds me of some old fashioned Italian pastries I had growing up, near East Boston.

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10/20/16 Rebel Yell root beer whiskey

Mediocre whiskey mixed with flat, mediocre, watered-down root beer. But at least there’s the unexpected disgusting plasticy taste to sneak up and surprise you. This is 99 cents I’ll always regret wasting :-p

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Contents

Whiskey blog: Main page and new reviews

Page 5, Irish whiskey special

Page 4, whiskey reviews

Page 3: Blended and flavored whiskies, other spirits, and even wine.

Page 2, whiskey reviews

Page 1, whiskey reviews

Useful articles on whiskey

Is all whiskey and Scotch kosher?

Is all milk kosher?

Judaism offers ways to make every area of life kadosh/קדוש, holy. We do this by creating sanctifications/distinctions for eating (kosher vs treif), days of the week (Shabbat vs other days), and other areas. However, over the milennia, practices on this subject have increased in stringency, especially in the last 300 years. In the last generation, some leaders within Orthodoxy and Conservative/Masorti Judaism have taken a new look at assumptions about what it means to be “strictly kosher”. Many things observant Jews assume to be binding and traditional, are really not quite so.

Many observant Jews use only Cholov Yisroel (Hebrew: חלב ישראל‎‎) milk and dairy products. These are products that have been under constant rabbinical supervision from milking to bottling, to make sure that it is not adulterated with the milk of a non-kosher animal.

Today this is not a practical concern in the USA or most western countries; As such, most Modern Orthodox rabbis, and all Conservative rabbis, have ruled that FDA supervision is sufficient to be considered automatically kosher.

Is there such a thing as “Cholov Yisrael” cheese? (that is, cheese where a Jew watched over the whole production process to ensure that a gentile did not substitute a non-kosher animals milk into the ingredients)

Considering that the Talmud tells us that only milk of a kosher animal curdles , and that it is echoed by the Rambam (Maachalot Asurot 3:12) and Tosfos, we are on safe ground when we note that this is just another way that some kashrut agencies attempt to get more money for an item that need not be “Cholov Yisroel”.

Isn’t rennet an issue? Irvin Branwein writes:

A respectable and acknowledged body of Jewish legal opinion permits all hard cheeses made with rennet. Rabbenu Tam (b. 1100) grandson of Rashi, halakhic authority and leading luminary of the Franco-German, tosafist tradition, has written: “We have never found a proper reason to forbid the cheese of the gentiles and moreover, the Sages of Narbonne have permitted them.” [Talmud, Avodah Zarah, 35a, s.v. Hadda Qa-tanna]

More recently, orthodox, religious authorities have cited the Arukh Hashulhan in their lenient decisions on cheeses made with rennet. [Rabbis Hankin and Graubart, in HaPardes, Iyyar, 5722, page 9, and E’iduth L’Israel, pp.173-176, responsa, Havallim Bane’immim, Y.D. 23]

– Changing the Halakha, Irvin Branwein, Judaism, Issue No. 200, Volume 50, Number 4, Fall 2001

Our list of Kashrut articles. Halakhic, Traditional, Non-fundamentalist

Reincarnation and pseudoscience

A few rabbis have been trying to tie together kabbalah, “scientific proof of reincarnation”, “scientific proof of the afterlife”, etc, like this one here.

alon-anava-planet-x

Rabbi Alon Anava, a proponent of educating people about the potential threat of Nibiru, said last week that the dwarf star some believe is poised to destroy two-thirds of the world’s population in anticipation of the End of Days is the cause of recent extreme weather events. End of Days blogger Menachem Robinson told Breaking Israel News that Nibiru will “make its closest approach” to earth within the next few weeks. Following a recent lecture about the arrival of Moshiach (Messiah), Rabbi Anava ascribed the dramatic uptick in monsoons, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes and other extreme weather events to the approach of Nibiru…. According to Rabbi Anava, Nibiru is merely one End of Days scenario that God could potentially implement. “It’s one of the surprises Hashem (God) can pull out of His pocket. It might not do anything. There are clear prophecies talking about rocks of fire, but any bad prophecy can be reversed. HaKadosh Baruch Hu (The Holy One, Blessed Be He) prepared it. “You know how HaKadosh Baruch Hu did the flood in the time of Noach (Noah)?” Rabbi Anava asked his audience. “He moved one of the planets a little bit. That caused the flood to happen.

https://www.breakingisraelnews.com/75707/cataclysmic-star-nibiru-causing-extreme-weather-events-rabbi/#y3BtqurSkJgy3she.99

There is zero scientific proof of reincarnation of the afterlife. The smarter fundamentalist preachers know this, but believe that it is valid to lie in order to gain new adherents. The less smart ones… actually believe their own claims.

Kabbalah itself is problematic, but we see here what happens when they tie pseudo-science with Kabbalah – they end up aligning themselves with conspiracy theorists, about all sorts of topics.

When you see a preacher (of any faith) talk about “scientific proof” which doesn’t exist, that’s a red flag.

Here are some articles examining holes in the claims that reincarnation and the afterlife were scientifically proven.

Ian Stevenson: The Skeptic’s Dictionary
http://skepdic.com/stevenson.html

Also Book Review of “Children who remember previous lives, A question of reincarnation”
http://www.skepticreport.com/sr/?p=482

Smilodon’s Retreat: Analysis of claims about reincarnation
http://www.skepticink.com/smilodonsretreat/2014/01/18/reincarnation/

Rupture and Reconstruction

Page of Talmud

Rupture and Reconstruction: The Transformation of Contemporary Orthodoxy

Published in Tradition, Vol. 28, No. 4 (Summer 1994).

The author asserts that contemporary Orthodox Jewish religion and practice has undergone a major and profound change in nature during his lifetime. Where observance of Jewish law was once organic and transmitted through family tradition as much as by text and rabbinic literature, it has now become disconnected from family practice and connected only to the written word, the author explains. He explores the contours, sources and implications of this shift as pertains to Jewish (especially Orthodox Jewish) culture, philosophy, spirituality, education and relationship to the surrounding world.

Introduction:

This essay is an attempt to understand the developments that have occurred within my lifetime in the community in which I live. The orthodoxy in which I, and other people my age, were raised scarcely exists anymore. This change is often described as “the swing to the Right.” In one sense, this is an accurate description. Many practices, especially the new rigor in religious observance now current among the younger modern orthodox community, did indeed originate in what is called “the Right.”

Yet, in another sense, the description seems a misnomer. A generation ago, two things primarily separated Modern Orthodoxy from, what was then called, “ultra-Orthodoxy” or “the Right.” First, the attitude to Western culture, that is, secular education; second, the relation to political nationalism, i.e. Zionism and the state of Israel. Little, however, has changed in these areas. Modern Orthodoxy still attends college, albeit with somewhat less enthusiasm than before, and is more strongly Zionist than ever. The “ultra-orthodox,” or what is now called the “haredi” camp is still opposed to higher secular education, though the form that the opposition now takes has local nuance.

In Israel, the opposition remains total; in America, the utility, even the necessity of a college degree is conceded by most, and various arrangements are made to enable many haredi youths to obtain it. However, the value of a secular education, of Western culture generally, is still denigrated. And the haredi camp remains strongly anti-Zionist, at the very least, emotionally distant and unidentified with the Zionist enterprise. The ideological differences over the posture towards modernity remain on the whole unabated, in theory certainly, in practice generally.

Yet so much has changed, and irrecognizably so. Most of the fundamental changes, however, have been across the board. What had been a stringency peculiar to the “Right” in 1960, a “Lakewood or Bnei Brak humra,” as—to take an example that we shall later discuss shiurim (minimal requisite quantities), had become, in the 1990’s, a widespread practice in modern orthodox circles, and among its younger members, an axiomatic one.

The phenomena were, indeed, most advanced among the haredim and were to be found there in a more intensive form. However, most of these developments swiftly manifested themselves among their co-religionists to their left. The time gap between developments in the haredi world and the emerging modern orthodox one was some fifteen years, at most. It seemed to me to that what had changed radically was the very texture of religious life and the entire religious atmosphere.

the full article is here http://www.lookstein.org/links/orthodoxy.htm

Rabbi Haym Soloveitchik teaches Jewish history and thought in the Bernard Revel Graduate School and Stern College for Woman at Yeshiva University

Does kosher food really need a hechsher

Two sources:

The first is from Elie Avitan:

Food can be kosher according to Halacha, even without rabbinic certification. And so can converts. All Jews before 1911 ate food without a hechsher, and until a few years ago there was never even a concept of a conversion counsel that “vetted” converts. Rather, our ancestors made sure that food was kosher according to Halachic standards by looking into the ingredients and preparation methods, and Halachically observant rabbis trusted other Halachically observant rabbis when it came to conversions they sanctioned.

Now, many people will argue “What could be wrong with more supervision, wouldn’t we rather be safe than sorry?” I think true Halacha would argue back: Being unnecessarily stringent on kosher supervision leads to serious financial and communal strains, and being unnecessarily stringent on conversions leads to serious emotional suffering – issues the Torah seems to be particularly concerned with. So indeed, it is better to be safe than sorry, by avoiding supervision where Halacha doesn’t demand it.

No one is fully trustworthy, ever. However, Halacha says: eid echad ne’eman. Therefore, I have to treat anyone who would be a kosher eid. Whether you are accepting this fact or not, you are making an assumption that everything is a “safeik Kashrus problem” unless it has supervision. But such an assumption is not based in Halacha. Like it says in the Mishna in Yadayim, 4:3, the person who wants to be strict above the law needs to bring a proof.

אמר רבי ישמעאל: אלעזר בן
עזריה, עליך ראיה ללמד, שאתה
מחמיר–שכל המחמיר, עליו הראיה
ללמד

See the Tiferes Yisroel on that Mishna who says: “Everything that doesn’t have a known reason to prohibit it, “mutar hu bli ta’am”, because the Torah didn’t come to tell us what is permitted, but rather to tell us the things that are prohibited.”

As I know how things “work” in the frum world, I keep mainstream Orthodox customs at home (like having two sets of all utensils, dishes and pots and only buying food with a hechsher) but when it comes to speaking the truth about these issues I am not bound by communal norms, but rather by truth. And I haven’t yet found a universally accepted Halachic reason to justify needing supervision on commercial food products besides for meat, wine and hard cheese. (For things which are debatable like gelatin or beetle juice (lol), people who want to be strict can know to beware, but there is no reason to ‘protect’ the average kosher consumer from something which was permitted by great chachamim like R Chaim Ozer Grozinsky, Rav Zvi Pesach Frank and R Ovadia Yosef).

Again, if people only want to eat food with a hechsher and are willing to pay for it than fine, but the problem is that people who don’t want to limit themselves to the strictest, most limiting opinions get trapped being labeled “conservadox” or “not really frum” if they follow normative Halachic standards and not contemporary “Orthodox” standards.

Elie Avitan studied at Yeshivat Reishit/Yeshivat Bais Yisroel/Yeshivat Mir. He served as educational program director at Midwest NCSY, and as the Asst. campus director at the Jewish Experience of Madison.

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The following was written by Rabbi Marc Shapiro for the website Kashrut.org, a website run by Rabbi A. Abadi. Explanatory notes have been added in brackets.

Rav Henkin, who together with R. Moshe Feinstein was the leading halakhic authority in the U.S. in the 1950’s and 1960’s, is quoted as saying that the entire basis for the existence of the kashrut organizations is the view of [Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet, 1235–1310, known as the Rashba, רשב״א . What did he mean by this?

There is a machloket rishonim [dispute among the Rishonim, ראשונים, leading rabbis during the 11th to 15th centuries] and the Rashba holds that if a non-Jew, in the normal process of making a food product, adds some non-kosher element, even a very small percentage, then it is not batel [nullified, by being mixed in a much larger volume of permitted food.] Bittul [nullification] only works when it falls in by accident. This view is known by those who study Yoreh Deah since it is quoted in the Beit Yosef.

If you look at any of the standard Yoreh Deah [a section of the Shulkhan Arukh] books you will find, however, that the halakhah is not in accordance with this Rashba. Rather, any time the goy puts a small amount of treif [non-kosher food] into the food it is batel [annulled by the larger volume], even if it is intentional on his part.

[The next section references the Noda Biyehudah, נודע ביהודה, “Known in Judah”. This is a book of responsa, answers to questions on Jewish law, by Rabbi Yechezkel ben Yehuda Landau (1713 – 1793).]

There is a famous Noda Biyehudah that discusses this at length. See Mahadura Tinyana, Yoreh Deah no. 56 where he permits a drink that was produced using treif meat in the production but the amount of meat was very small and could not be tasted. He states that it is permissible. There is a Rama who has a teshuvah and states similarly. (I am sure if you describe the Noda Biyehudah’s case to people, even learned ones, and say that there is a contemporary rabbi who permits this, they will mockingly refer to him as a Conservative or Reform rabbi since in their mind no “real” rabbi who knows halakhah could ever permit something that has non-kosher meat in it!)

So now we can understand R. Henkin’s comment. If you go to the kashrut organizations’ websites and speak to them they will tell you that you need the hashgachah because sometimes the runs are not properly cleaned between kosher and non-kosher or milk and meat and some slight amounts of the objectionable ingredient might remain (yet here even rashba will agree that it’s not a problem!), or they tell you about release agents or that small amounts of ingredients are not listed on the label, etc. etc.

The Rashba indeed holds that these last cases are problematic, but the halakhah is not in accordance with the Rashba. The hashgachot have raised the bar and are now operating at a chumra level here as well as in other areas. But the average person has no idea about any of this and has never even heard about the concept of bittul. Even if you explain the concept of bittul to him, his response will be: “OK maybe this is the strict halakhah, but I’m not starving so why should I eat something that we had to rely on bittul for. A person who cares about kashrut won’t eat something that has even the smallest amount of treif.” Since people haven’t been educated about the halakhot, they assume that bittul is a kula to be used in emergency situations, and it is not their fault that they believe this, since this is the view that the kashrut organization hold and publicize.

There is a good article waiting to be written about how in the last thirty years we went from halakhah to chumra when it comes to food issues.

Rabbi Marc Shapiro, 11/11/2003

http://www.kashrut.org/forum/viewpost.asp?mid=4915&highlight=rashba

Marc Shapiro holds the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Chair in Judaic Studies at the University of Scranton and is the author of various books and articles on Jewish history, philosophy, and theology. He received his BA at Brandeis University and his PhD at Harvard University, where he was the last PhD student of Professor Isadore Twersky. He received rabbinical ordination from Rabbi Ephraim Greenblatt. Shapiro’s father is Edward S. Shapiro who has published books on American history and American Jewish history. Shapiro’s writings often challenge the bounds of the conventional Orthodox understanding of Judaism using academic methodology while adhering to Modern Orthodox sensibilities. His books Between the Yeshiva World and Modern Orthodoxy (a biography of Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg) and The Limits of Orthodox Theology (a study of the disputes over Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles of Faith) were both National Jewish Book Award finalists. In 2015 he published Changing the Immutable: How Orthodox Judaism Rewrites Its History, which documents the phenomenon of internal censorship in Orthodoxy.
Marc B. Shapiro. (2016, December 15). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia