Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday's Musings on Sports - Can Anyone Keep Their Hands to Themselves

Unless you have been living under a rock, you could not have missed the explosion of domestic violence related cases in football this year. It started during the pre-season when NFL President Roger Goodell announced that Baltimore Ravens' RB Ray Rice would be suspended two games in connection with a domestic violence related prosecution in New Jersey. At the time, little was known publicly about the underlying facts, as the only information leaked was a video showing Rice dragging his then girlfriend out of an elevator.

Although Rice had already entered a pre-trial diversion program which was intended to address first time offenders, there were more than a few who criticized the punishment as being too lenient, especially in comparison with punishments being meted out for substance abuse and or drunk driving incidents. 

Soon after the two game suspension was announced, Goodell made a mea culpa and admitted that he had been too soft by only assessing a two game suspension. As such, in late August, the NFL announced a policy for dealing with domestic violence offenses - a six game suspension for the first offense and a lifetime ban for a repeat offender.

Goodell's new policy, however well intentioned, was unable to protect him from the fallout when a tabloid website released the video of what happened in that elevator, Once the public saw that Rice had struck his then girlfriend and knocked her unconscious, the NFL came under pressure and the league changed Rice's punishment to an indefinite suspension.

The lawyer in me wondered how the NFL could change the punishment when the underlying facts were unchanged. After all, Rice had entered the pre-trial intervention program and had made a disclosure to the NFL as to the nature of his act. If the NFL had deemed that the act was only worthy of a two game suspension, how could they alter the punishment?

Adding to my feelings of unease with the NFL decision was the heartfelt statement made by Rice's now wife as to how hurt she was by the release of the video of the assault in the elevator. While the public clamored for a more severe punishment, the victim had made her peace with the man who struck her and the two were now married. Instead of putting the incident behind them, the NFL now wanted to punish Rice again and bring the story back to the forefront. Could anyone actually believe that the NFL's action was anything more than damage control?

While all of this was percolating, other stories of domestic violence began to emerge. Pro Bowl Defensive End Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers had been allowed to play in week one of the NFL season, even though he had been convicted of domestic violence. Similarly, San Francisco 49er Ray McDonald was not going to be suspended even though he too had been charged with a domestic violence crime. And then news broke late Friday that All Pro running back Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings had been indicted for striking his four year old child with a switch (I have learned this is a tree branch).

All of these incidents incurring within a short period of time can cause one to wonder about this professional sport where athletes get paid for violent behavior. Out of the four major professional sports, there is nothing with more violence than football and maybe questions need to be asked as to whether these athletes can draw the line between aggression on the playing field and aggressive behavior towards their spouses and children.

Although the Monday post is usually devoted to a link between sports and a Torah thought, I find it difficult to make a connection this evening. The Torah does not condone violence towards one's spouse. Even as it relates to discipline of children, there are strict parameters and there are even rules as to the age of the child being subject to discipline. I will leave it with this - I can recall a shiur from R' Mansour where he recounted that a certain Rav hit his child in order to teach him that the child's behavior was wrong. When striking the child, the Rav said to him, "I am not doing this because I am angry." But I think to myself, while a child may need a potch to teach him a lesson, how can anyone justify striking their spouse?

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday Night Suds - Samuel Adams Honey Queen


This week's Sunday Night Suds looks at Samuel Adams Honey Queen, an excellent choice for a Rosh Hashanah table.

This past Shabbos we had very special guests for lunch so I opened the bottle of Honey Queen that I had been saving since I picked it up earlier this summer. I had never seen the Honey Queen sold individually, so when I saw it at DiCicco's of Brewster, I plunked down my $7 and put it away for a pre-Rosh Hashanah Shabbos. As we were joined by homebrewer expert Dan R of kosherhomebrew.blogspot.com (check out his kosher home brew instruction video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaeWCLTT_3M) I knew that this was the perfect time to serve the Honey Queen.

As you can see from the picture above, the Honey Queen is classified as a Braggot. I had never hear of a Braggot but the experts at BA explain that:

The Braggot is quite an old drink, there is a mentioned in Chaucer, Canterbury Tales in the late 1300’s, and there are earlier references dating even further back to the 12th century in Ireland. Braggot is simply made by blending spices and herbs with mead and beer, to produce a strong concoction with uncommon flavors. Many taverns would make this blend right at the bar though brewers would also blend them as well. 

There should be a balance between the honey character and malt flavor with the hop bitterness not overpowering the sweetness yet should be noticeable. Today’s Braggot may or may not be spiced.

The Samuel  Adams Honey Queen did not have any hop character, but the sweetness was not overpowering and had some interesting notes from the chamomile and other spices. We enjoyed the Honey Queen between the fish and main course, rather than with a particular dish. I would not recommend pairing this with any savory dish, but if you are looking for something to have with the apples and honey or new fruit on Rosh Hashanah, this would be a good choice.

The Samuel Adams Honey Queen is under the Kosher Supervision of the Star-K. Like many other Samuel Adams brews, this bottle does not have the Star-K certification mark on the label. To see the LOC for Samuel Adams which certifies this beer as kosher click here - http://www.star-k.org/loc/LetterOfCertification_PEFQZ4N3.pdf.

To see what the experts on Beer Advocate think about this brew, please follow this link -http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/35/92899.

As always, please remember to drink responsibly and to never waste good beer unless there is no designated driver. If you've tried this beer or any others which have been reviewed on the kosher beers site, please feel free to post your comments (anonymous comments are acceptable).

If you have seen this post being carried on another site, please feel free to click www.kosherbeers.blogspot.com to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Ki Savo

The following is a brief summary of some of the thoughts said over by R' Frand on the parsha this evening. I have attempted to reproduce these vorts to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

Parshas Ki Savo contains two declarations which were made upon the completion of a mitzva. The first declaration is the Mikra Bikkurim which is said by the person who brings his first fruits to the Beis Hamikdash. As part of the Mikra Bikkurim, the Torah states that the person must call out (V'Anisa V'Amarta). Rashi (quoting the Gemara in Sotah) states that there is an obligation to say this with a full voice.

The second declaration relates to the obligation of Ma'aser and is recited by the farmer who confesses that he has given all of his tithes (Viduy Ma'aser).

R' Frand observed that there is a simple explanation for the difference between the two declarations as the Mikra Bikkurim is praise to Hashem for all that he has given us, while the Viduy Ma'aser is merely a recitation of what the individual has done.

R' Frand quoted R' Shlomo Kluger who tied this to the davening on the Yamim Noraim. All year long, a person says his Shemoneh Esreh quietly, but on the Yamim Noraim, a person can say the Shemoneh Esreh aloud if he chooses. The simple explanation given is that all year long a person did not generally daven with a siddur, so if his neighbors says his Shemoneh Esreh aloud there is a danger that he will get confused. However, on the Yamim Noraim when a person generally prays from a machzor, there is less concern as to being confused by the loud prayers of another.

R' Kluger remarked that the reason for the ability to pray louder might also tie back to the difference between Ma'aser and Bikkurim. All year long a person prays for his personal needs and therefore prays quietly. However, on the Yamin Noraim the Shemoneh Esreh is all about Hashem and His glory, so there is no reason to say these prayers quietly.

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunday Night Suds - Josephs Brau Heller Bock


This week's Sunday Night Suds looks at Joseph's Brau Heller Bock.

After a number of years without producing new kosher varieties of Joseph's Brau (aka Trader Joe's beer) it seems that there are finally a few new beers in the pipeline. Besides the Heller Bock which is being reviewed in this column, there is a new kosher hard apple cider (Henry Hotspur Hard Pressed Cider) and a few more on the way.

The Heller Bock is a Mailbock/Helles Bock which is defined by the experts at BA as:

The Maibock style of beer tends to be lighter in color than other Bock beers and often has a significant hop character with a noticeable alcohol around the same as a traditional Bock. Maibocks are customarily served in the spring and are oftentimes interrelated with spring festivals and celebrations more often in the month of May.

Its been a while since I went beer shopping at Trader Joe's, so I am not certain how long the Heller Bock has been available there. I am relatively certain that I was there in late spring and I don't recall seeing the Joseph's Brau Heller Bock on the shelves, but it could just have been the store that I was in.

The Joseph's Brau Heller Bock poured a rich copper with significant foam and lacing which remained on the glass for more than 1/2 an hour. The beer itself tastes like a bock with no significant hop character. As beer goes, its rather not obtrusive and more sweet malt than anything else.

Joseph's Brau Heller Bock is under the Kosher Supervision of the Va'ad of Detroit and there is a tiny Va'ad Hakashrus symbol on the back of the bottle. Please keep in mind that not every Trader Joe's brew is under kosher supervision, so check the label or search my site for the link to the latest list of beers under kosher supervision.

To see what the experts at Beer Advocate think about this beer, click this link http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/10707/108016 .

As always, please remember to drink responsibly and to never waste good beer unless there is no designated driver.If you've tried this beer or any others which have been reviewed on the kosher beers site, please feel free to post your comments (anonymous comments are acceptable).

Finally, if you have seen this post being carried on another site, please feel free to click www.kosherbeers.blogspot.com to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Ki Seitzei

The following is a brief summary of some of the thoughts said over by R' Frand on the parsha this evening. I have attempted to reproduce these vorts to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

In Devarim 23:4-7, the Torah mentions that the offspring of Ammon and Moab are not allowed to convert and marry into Israel. The Torah explains that the reason for the prohibition is that Ammon and Moab did not provide bread and water for the Jews while they were travelling in the desert. The Torah next states that the prohibition also applies because they (Moab) hired Bilaam to curse the Jews.

R' Frand asked - why is the concept of the failure to provide food and water mentioned along with the hiring of Bilaam? He drew the analogy of someone who robs a bank and parks the getaway car in a no parking zone. When the bank robber is arrested and indicted, is he charged with armed robbery and parking in a no parking zone? The parking violation is an afterthought. Why does the failure to give bread and water get mentioned with the hiring of Bilaam?

R' Frand answered by quoting R' Twersky who cited a series of mishnayos in Pirkei Avos (2:8-9) wherein R' Yochanan Ben Zakkai drew together his five students and asked them to identify the five top attributes which a person should have. The suggestions were - have a good eye, or good friends or good neighbors or the ability to see the future or having a good heart. R' Yochanan then asked the students what are bad qualities that a person should run from. Each of them said the opposite - bad eye, bad friends, etc. However R' Shimon who had said that the good quality was seeing the future, answered that the bad trait was to borrow money and not pay back.

Why is the trend broken --- R' Shimon's concepts were not opposites? R' Twersky answered that a person who sees the future is one who recognizes that when someone does good for you, you need to appreciate their goodness. If a person borrows money and does not repay it, he will start on the downward spiral because he rejects the goodness that others have done for him. The one who does not repay when he has the ability to do so can turn on his parents, spouse or society, because he has no cognizance of what was done for him.

This is why Ammon and Moab's prohibition of joining the Jewish people mentions both the food and water and Bilaam. These tribes had an obligation to recognize the good that was done for them by Avraham who saved their ancestor - Lot. Even though Avraham's act allowed them to be born, they were unwilling to sell the Jews water and bread in the desert. And because they were unable to recognize the good that was done for them by refusing to sell the bread and water, they continued down the negative track towards the Jews as they hired Bilaam to curse the Jews.

[Although R' Frand ended the vort at this point, I would like to add a thought that occurred to me. Perhaps this is also the reason that a Ben Sorrer U'Moreh (aka the rebellious son) is put to death. Earlier in the parsha it states that he is killed because he stole from his parents to buy meat and wine. The gemara asks - why is he killed before he has committed a capitol offense? The gemara answers that he is killed at this stage because he will commit more serious crimes and now he has not yet done so. I wonder if this is another recognition of the rejection of good - since the rebellious son does not recognize the good done for him by his parents, there is a clear and present danger that he will become a sociopath and do worse towards others].

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day 2014 Kosher Beers List

As a community service, Kosher Beers publishes a list twice a year of the beers which are known to be certified kosher. The list will be updated periodically until the next edition (Purim 2015). For the Labor Day 2014 edition, I will again be using scribd to upload and maintain list. All newly added beers are in bold.