Delicious, or: Unkosher

Sevenling (I drank)

A d’Verse quadrille

I drank an expensive bottle of red 
wine from Moldova. It was subtle; smooth;
unkosher.

Kosher wines must be produced exclusively 
by Sabbath-observant Jews; open bottles are rendered 
unkosher if even touched by gentiles; this feels to me like racism.

Such delicious wine.

d’Verse

The above sevenling is my take on d’Verse’s Quadrille challenge #125.

The quadrille is simply a poem of 44 words (excluding the title), and it can take any form. This week’s challenge was to use the word “wine” in a quadrille.


An elucidation

An enactment was put in place in Talmudic times to prevent Jews from consuming wine that had been used for idolatrous purposes. The religious prohibition was extended, such that even if a Jew knows that a particular gentile is not going to engage in idolatry, it is still prohibited to drink wine that was touched by them.

70 thoughts on “Delicious, or: Unkosher”

    1. Yes, it had a purpose. Personally, I feel that the purpose for this particular religious prohibition has lost its relevance today.

      That said, I didn’t go out of my way to find a non-kosher wine – it was a bottle that had been gifted to us.


      David

  1. Hearing me chortle from my corner, my wife had to ask, “What are you reading over there?”
    “The latest from David.”
    She knows, of course, of whom I speak. I have spoken of you often enough. I recited it for her. She pauses a moment, considers.
    “That is racism, isn’t it?”
    “Hmm,” I agree.
    “Then again,” she said, “it’s reverse racism.”
    “What do you mean?”
    “Well, someone who wanted to do a Jewish family ill might just walk up to their table and pick up their open bottle of kosher wine.”
    “Oh?”
    “And just ruin it.”
    And so does David, in abstentia, become one of our family, evoking discussions of racism and fine wine.

  2. The forbidden fruit, as it were!

    I understand where you’re coming from, but I would also say that everyone has a right to both share and preserve their culture as they see fit — and this is part of the purpose of dietary laws. As a gentile, no offense taken if my handling your wine makes it un-kosher. 🙂

    1. Aaron, thanks so much for sharing your perspective.

      I would also say that everyone has a right to both share and preserve their culture as they see fit

      Yes, I agree with this, but conservative traditions often tend to cling to ways that are irrelevant in the modern world and arguably unnecessary for preserving their respective cultures. That’s just my perspective. Some people would say I’m being heretical.


      David

      1. ‘Culture’ can be quite an elastic concept however. Different cultures might set different boundaries defining what counts as ‘culture’ and what falls outside it. Some cultures for example might insist that ‘culture’ can include assumed gender roles, say, or the rights parents regard themselves as having over their children. There are times when the phrase ‘In our culture…’ makes the hairs on the back of my neck stick up.

  3. An interesting observation David. The past stays around for generations along with culture and traditions. Sounds like you had a really good bottle!

    1. It was, indeed, a good bottle, Dwight. 🍷 No regrets, although it did feel strange to be knowingly drinking unkosher wine… I hadn’t done that for decades.


      David

  4. Shalom friend. If I may make a comment. From one Yid to another. For what it’s worth, although I do not recall the source, I learned of one reason for this custom. An opened bottle of wine that was handled by a gentile could have been poisoned. Of course, this must be going back at least several hundred years ago, perhaps, in Europe. So, if it was a reasonable precaution, based on an actual risk; then, at that time, it was a means to counter a potential anti-semitic act that could have a devastating consequence. Shalom, Tzvi

    1. Tzvi Feivel, that is so interesting. I had never heard that before. I agree 100% that this ruling was justified when it was issued. As for its modern relevance? Not so much.


      David

  5. I like this one. The break between “this feels to me like racism.” and “Such delicious wine.” – there is so much in that pause.

    Honestly, the kosher/unkosher wine bugs me for the same reason. I’m not a big enough wine drinker to be bothered by the practical observance, but the reason behind it bothers me.

    1. Yep, Deb, foods certified as kosher have symbols on the labels. And in countries where that is not the case, local rabbis produce lists of kosher food products for their communities so that people know what they can and cannot eat.


      David

  6. Is it, is it not
    A question as old as the hills by now

    In my community there are religious groups who won’t eat from my pots.

    No hatred has grown in this regard
    Only the odd chuckle and gossip that won’t stop

    Somehow we are all set apart.

    I love the wine in poetry…
    Blushes and hot flushes.

    1. I really do understand where it came from, and I really do think it was once justified… but the thing about “kosher” wine (unlike other kosher food products) is that there is NOTHING different about it, other than who produced it and who came into contact with it.


      David

      1. I’m sure there is an interesting history and a reason why the practice began, but it’s ok to question things which don’t seem to make sense anymore, I think!

    1. Yvonne, it’s an endless struggle for me to embrace my past with my eyes to the future. These sorts of decisions don’t come easily to me at all – I constantly feel the pulls of many different and legitimate values that are in tension with one another…

  7. As you probably know by now, I grew up pretty much outside religion. But these tensions are everywhere. Do you buy organic food because it’s grown more sustainably or locally grown food because it has less food miles? Do you spend your money on expensive electric cars because you think they’re better for your children’s future or do you put that money aside for them to have later? Do you spend two hours cooking an excellent nutritional meal for your family or is it better to spend at least one of those two hours playing with your kids?

  8. I have spent a lifetime rejecting “religious” rules, edicts and parameters. As a whole, they tend to be racist, sexist, homophobic, and hypocritical. Hundreds of religions, sects and cults. “Follow the rules in order to belong” are fighting words. As you can imagine, I had trouble adjusting to the military as well. My second marriage was to a Jewish girl, and my in-laws poisoned the marital pie.

    1. You know, Glenn, if I wasn’t so attached to the Jewish people, which I relate to as my people – as my family – I probably would never have taken an interest in religion either. But as I explained to my six-year-old just recently, I believe that our traditions are that which bind us – that which keep the Jewish people in existence… and I want to be a part of that, despite my conflicted thoughts and feelings.


      David

  9. So interesting, David. I didn’t know that about kosher wines.

    I feel a bond with centuries of tradition of my people (and persecution), but I suppose I honor them in my own way. 😀

  10. Thought-provoking piece for 44 words. From reading the informative comments, in my opinion, it feels like a custom that needs to be re-evaluated for our times. As we evolve to become a more unified humankind, then it might mean bending or ending some of these customs that tend to divide. Just my 2 cents.

  11. I always learn something new at dVerse. I had no idea that Kosher wine existed. And then, reading your comments, when you stop to think about it, how could it be made differently to make it Kosher…I mean how could the process be similar to what goes into other Kosher foods/meat/etc? Good writing and informative too!

    1. In Judaism there are lots of dietary laws, Lillian. Ingredients matter, combinations of ingredients matter, the implements and machines that we use matter, etc., etc. I don’t inherently have a problem with any of the above. The thing about kosher wine, in particular, is that the only thing that distinguishes it from unkosher wine is who made it and who came in contact with it. It has nothing to do with anything else – the ingredients and the processes are exactly the same otherwise.

      That bothers me.


      David

  12. I’ve been contemplating switching over to drinking kosher wine exclusively, but I also struggle with the reasoning, in addition to the practicalities (not to mention that, not being fully shomer Shabbat currently, by Talmudic reasoning I’m still firmly in the class of people kosher wine needs to be protected from…).

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