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Tosaphists and Taboo: A Review of Haym Soloveitchik's “Yeinam

  • Elliott Horowitz (a1)

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Among the stranger assertions made by Werner Sombart in The Jews and Modern Capitalism was that “it can be proved with great certainty that the Jew's freedom from the evil effects of alcohol (as also from syphilis) is due to his religion.” Yet, the Jewish religion, unlike Islam, never prohibited alcohol per se, and even when “kosher” wine—untouched by gentiles—was in short supply, beer or more potent beverages could be found by those so inclined. More to the point is S. D. Goitein's trenchant remark in the final (and posthumously published) volume of his A Mediterranean Society that “the proverbial sobriety of East European immigrants to the United States should not be taken as inherent to the genes of the race.” Although Maimonides in his Guide memorably described “gatherings with a view to drinking intoxicants” as “more shameful than gatherings of naked people . . . who excrete in daylight sitting together,” he was clearly speaking there more as philosopher than halakhist. In the medieval “Geniza society” in which he lived, as we learn from Goitein, all “important matters, such as sending a son overseas or promising a bequest, would be arranged at a drinking bout.”

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Tosaphists and Taboo: A Review of Haym Soloveitchik's “Yeinam

  • Elliott Horowitz (a1)

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