Sunday, April 27, 2014

Our sedarim with an old-fashioned Orthodox rabbi

Not only am I quite late in writing about our sedarim, but I'm sitting here shaking my fist at my computer, too--the nice photo of our  kashered-for-Pesach renovated kitchen that was supposed to accompany this post won't be found on my blog until this recalcitrant contraption decides to start recognizing my smartphone again.  :(  (New software download needed, once I figure out which software.)

In the interim, let me tell you how delighted I was with the way the Orthodox rabbi led both sedarim that we attended at his synagogue in our neighborhood.  When I call him an old-fashioned Orthodox rabbi, what I mean, in this case, is that he doesn't follow the current trend of being as machmir (strict) as possible in interpreting the requirements of the seder.  For openers, almost all of the bottles on the tables were bottles of kosher grape juice, not wine.  Why on earth some folks in the Orthodox community insist that only wine is acceptable for the four cups drunk at the seder is beyond my comprehension, since we say the same b'rachah/blessing over both wine and grape juice.  The last time I actually drank four cups of wine at a seder, I got drunk as a skunk, and I've refused to drink wine ever since--how on earth is one supposed to "tze l'mad/go and study" when one can hardly think straight?  The seder is supposed to be a serious religious ritual and study session, not a frat party!  In addition, the rabbi had everyone make the b'rachah on pieces of matzah that were actually literally "k'zayit"-sized, that is, the size of a flattened olive, as opposed to something like a sheet and a half of matzah, and he didn't get too fussy about how we were supposed to eat it, either.  Nor did he insist that we eat more than a mouth-burning taste of raw horseradish.

I continue to be of the opinion that the seder is supposed to be a study opportunity, not a torture session or a ritual that requires one to make oneself ill.  For many people, myself included, drinking wine simply isn't healthy.  For many people, eating one and a third square matzot isn't healthy, either.  And eating 7 fl. oz. of pure grated horseradish would probably put me in the hospital.


Blogger jeff said...

If you actually got off the blog and met real live Orthodox people (and rabbis) you'd learn that most of your conceptions of orthodox people are false. I don't know a single rabbi that insists you use wine rather than grape juice. In fact, if one is a lightweight and gets drunk easily, one is prohibited from drinking too much wine. This is a seder, not a Purim seudah. Moreover, if wine causes any kind of health problems, it should be avoided. That's the kind of thing almost any Orthodox rabbi you asked would tell you. Certainly, any modern orthodox rabbi.

We have both wine and grape juice. I happen to enjoy a nice Cab, so I drink wine, but if I find myself getting a headache or a bit tipsy, I'll switch to grape juice.

The shiurim are a different story, but many rabbis point out that the volume of an olive or an egg isn't that big. It gets popularized by the interwebz and a few people, but for the most part, many rabbis have sane amounts of matzah as shiurim.

I just think you need to get out of the blogosphere and meet real Orthodox Jews. The few you know aren't necessarily representative of anyone else.

Mon Apr 28, 11:19:00 AM 2014  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

" I don't know a single rabbi that insists you use wine rather than grape juice."

Good. What I've heard has come from Orthodox non-rabbi co-workers.

" . . . for the most part, many rabbis have sane amounts of matzah as shiurim."

I'm certainly happy to know that.

" . . . you need to get out of the blogosphere and meet real Orthodox Jews."

Jeff, the ironic truth is that I've met more Orthodox Jews through blogging--and that includes meeting some Ortho J-bloggers in person--than through any "real-life" activities. I don't know whether it's just denominational barriers getting in the way, or whether I'm just not engaging in the same activities and/or going to the same places.

Mon Apr 28, 06:09:00 PM 2014  
Anonymous Miami Al said...

Nah, you have no idea who you've met that's Orthodox, who isn't. The only people you identify as Orthodox are people that are otherwise crazy, because they are blogging, or dressing some part that identifies them for you.

You have no idea who is Orthodox, and who isn't. The Gemara lists that for Pesach, wine should be "the color of wine" which is generally interpreted as red wine. So red wine is preferred, but smaller quantities can be used, and non-alcoholic red wine (i.e. grape juice) can certainly be substituted for the others.

For those that are machmir on the red wine, they'll choose a smaller glass, to "majority" fill, and "majority drink." You'll note that 51% filled, and 51% consumed is about 26%, so four cups of wine at 26% of a cup is really 104% of a cup of wine, spaced out across 4 hours.

For those that want to drink wine, but can't really handle that much red wine, a mixture of 5/6 grape juice and 1/6 red wine would certainly be considered 100% wine by halacha as well.

I don't approve of the tendency of Rabbis to in private advise one way, but public be stringent, but that seems to be the way of things in the Internet era.

However, you've probably met more Orthodox Jews than you realize. BTW: the really flaming ones you meet everywhere that want to talk to you as "representatives of Orthodoxy" are probably new BTs that are preaching, not representative.

The Orthodox bashing is extremely tiresome, and made me stop reading your blog. Share your thoughts and challenges. Don't comment on things you don't understand.

Tue Apr 29, 01:57:00 PM 2014  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Miami Al, you're probably right about me not knowing who's Orthodox and who's not.

And apparently, I'm not the best judge of what's considered Orthodox-bashing. That isn't my intent. I've always tried to write a civil blog. I'm sorry that I don't always succeed.

Tue Apr 29, 05:50:00 PM 2014  
Anonymous Woodrow/Conservadox said...

I actually had the opposite problem with my (Orthodox but probably less observant than us) relatives. Because they are so used to doing everything for the children, they only set out grape juice. Now I realize that's perfectly fine for children and for people who have health issues with wine, but I don't see any reason why that should be the norm among grownups.

Fortunately, I know their house well enough to rummage around on my own and dig out some wine.

Sat May 03, 10:50:00 PM 2014  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Woodrow, would that I had your problem. :)

Tue May 06, 12:25:00 AM 2014  
Anonymous Miami Al said...

FFB Orthodox Jews also drink that abomination of sweet wine, which is predominately sweet and bubbly, and therefore neither suitable for Pesach NOR human consumption… :)

The trend towards grape juice only is often a cost and quality issue. Orthodox Jews don't drink wine outside of Yom Tov/Shabbat all that much (and then, really only Shabbat night and both Yom Tov meals, choosing liquor for Shabbat day), so opening bottles and leaving them means letting the wine go bad, since few of them will have a glass with Saturday evening dinner.

Indeed, the fact that Shomer Shabbos Jews rarely eat a real dinner on Saturday (usually a perfunctory meal as Seudah Shlishit, or something simple as Malava Malka) also means that a bottle of wine opened for Shabbat dinner will go bad, because they won't drink it for lunch, Saturday dinner, or Sunday dinner either.

While the secular world has adopted inexpensive wine for regular consumption (the plethora of < $10 bottles attests), there is a lack of kosher "table wines" which results in more reliance on grape juice.

But given the lack of affordable, quality kosher wines, I'm not shocked that Orthodox culture has adopted grape juice for Kiddush, and beer/liquor for consumption, it fits the economic model, even if it results in somewhat silly behavior on Passover as not putting out a bottle of wine.

Also, if you drink 4 full cups of wine, that's roughly one bottle/person/seder, which is a lot of wine to consume and a costly indulgence if you drink "decent" wines in the $15-$25 range.

In my neighborhood, if you invite a childless couple to a meal, they'll bring a bottle of wine which is happily opened. If none of your guests bring a bottle, you generally put out liquor to drink and grape juice for kiddush. It's not a rabbinic ruling, it's just the evolution of alcohol consumption in 21st Century American Orthodoxy.

Bringing a bottle of wine as a hostess gift is an American secular custom, and when it slides into Orthodoxy, it's embraced, but otherwise, wine consumption is ironically limited, largely because of the lack of partial bottles.

The worst of all worlds is inviting your non-frum family for events, because they bring that nasty "concord grape" grape that sits around. :)

I remember conversing with the manager of the local liquor store, who stocks a nice kosher wine selection. Passover and Rosh Hashana time, he gets an influx of people asking for the "nose up" kosher wines, he brings them to the nice selection, and they routinely ask for the "square bottles" so he brings them to where he stocks those. He NEVER sells those to his local Orthodox customers, but their relatives routinely pick it up to bring.

It's part of the weird cultural thing where non-kosher Jews are emotionally invested in believing that kosher food is "disgusting," while sustaining a market for disgusting kosher food/wine which is sold primarily to non-kosher Jews attending a meal in a kosher home.

Wed May 07, 01:07:00 PM 2014  

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