From the Desk - Kosher Scotch
Shalom Friends! I hope you're all well and keeping warm and safe! Holocaust Remembrance Day Please remember that tomorrow (Jan. 27th) is International Holocaust Remembrance Day on which the UN urges the world to remember victims of the Holocaust. One of the things we should consider on this day are those Holocaust survivors who are sick, impoverished and isolated who need our love and support. In Israel alone, there are 45,000 Holocaust survivors living in poverty. Those who wish to help to ensure that survivors live out their last years knowing that people care can find out more about this opportunity by clicking here. Mazel Tov! We are delighted to wish Mazel tov to Rabbi Heshy and Sarah Benshimon and their family on the birth of their new baby boy, a wonderful addition to the Benshimon and Beth Ora families! This morning, we had another simcha in the synagogue as we celebrated the Bar Mitzvah of Shlomo Petel. We wish a hearty Mazel tov to Shlomo and his family and look forward to continuing the celebration over Shabbat. Last Week at Beth Ora We enjoyed a wonderful Shabbat, last week at Beth Ora. We invited those children in the community who are celebrating their birthdays during the next month to come forward as the congregation sang them happy birthday. We will be doing this each month. Shortly after this, the new Beth Ora Youth Choir sang some wonderful pieces with Rabbi Heshy during Mussaf. A huge thank you to Rabbi Heshy and Eric Dym for their dedication to this project and, of course, to the choir stars: Jacob, Sarah, Chaya Sara, Emma, Dovid, Rachelli and Jonah for their hard work and wonderful spirit! The choir is always looking for new recruits so please do not hesitate to email Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org if your child is interested. In my sermon, I discussed how Moses was pained by the fact that the Hebrews could not be redeemed immediately and that is why he didn't want to go back to Egypt when Hashem asked him to. Often, in our own lives, we find it very difficult when we can't get all the desired results straight away. Because of this, we sometimes don't even try. You can find more about this idea here. This Week at Beth Ora As mentioned, this Shabbat we look forward to celebrating Shlomo's Bar Mitzvah. As you know, our congregation rents its chapel for services and full time Torah learning to Centre Moharane. On top of the income to our synagogue the presence of the students and members helps the dynamics of Beth Ora and the functioning of our services. On Sunday evening at 7:30 pm, they will present their annual fundraiser dinner. The dinner is a 5-star menu and open bar with an entertaining program. If you wish to attend or help the institution, please email Rabbi Shimon Elkeslassy at email@example.com. Looking Forward We are very excited for our next Kehillah (special community) Shabbat on February 11th. That Shabbat is known as Shabbat Shira (the Shabbat of song) and is also T"U B'Shvat (the New Year for Trees) so the theme will be song and fruit! We will also have special contributions from the Beth Ora Youth Choir and the Aleinu choir! There will also be a wonderful fruity Kiddush for T"U B'Shvat. We encourage as many of you as possible - even and especially if you don't always come to synagogue on Shabbat - to join us for this special event! In the meantime, we wish you all a Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami
What's the Deal with... Kosher Scotch? You may have heard that Beth Ora is organizing a scotch tasting evening. I was approached by the organizers who wanted to know if it was acceptable to serve and sell scotch which has been aged in sherry casks. On calling the Montreal Va'ad, I was informed that they follow the ruling of Rabbi Shlomo Miller of Toronto that such scotch is permitted. What are the issues here? In preparing this discussion, I benefited greatly from this website. The three ingredients of whisky are water, yeast and barley so one may have thought that there are no kashrut issues at all. The problem is that the whisky is matured in oak casks which have previously held some sort of beverage. The reason, by the way, that the cask must have previously held another beverage is in order that the taste of the oak does not totally overpower the taste of the whisky. About 90% of scotch is matured in casks that previously held bourbon (whiskey made in America) and a number of the remaining 10% are aged in casks that previously held sherry. An overwhelming majority of all scotches use a combination of bourbon and sherry casks. In other words, there has been some sherry casking involved in an overwhelming majority of scotch. And sherry (like all wine) requires Kashrut certification. There is also a recent trend in whisky called finishing. The whisky is removed from the original cask in which it was matured and transferred to a new cask that previously held another spirit. Based on all this, one could argue that the only whisky that you can drink is Laphroaig, Glenmorangie 10, Ardberg 10 and Glenlivet 12 as these are the only whiskies that guarantee that they do not use any sherry casks in maturing or finishing. Another wrinkle here is that distilleries (and the bottles of scotch) are not legally required to report that the whisky has been aged or finished in a sherry cask and they often do not do so. One more issue is that, historically, glycerine has sometimes been used as a smoothing agent in whisky, though some in the industry claim that glycerine is no longer used. So how come the va'ad is lenient? Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, the leading halachic authority toward the end of the 20th century, ruled that wine loses its status when it is diluted to a ratio of one to six (though one is not allowed to do this on purpose in order to make the wine Kosher). That means that there would only be a problem with the whisky if more than 16% wine in the whisky which is not the case. Rabbi Feinstein also argues that glycerine has no flavor and that there is no reason to forbid it. Remember to drink responsibly!