22 June 2012

Some Personal Reflections on my Recent Cocktail-Making Videos Project

Working on speaking to the camera without fillers
       Last week, I made, uploaded, and linked to the last set of videos as part of a recent project I began less than two months ago.  The project, 30 Days of 30 Drinks by a 30-Year Old, consisted of six weeks of making five drinks each week, while recording them into videos and uploading them to YouTube.  I am certainly glad I engaged in this project, as it yielded a few benefits: it forced me to experience and to learn how to make new drinks [that I might not have otherwise tried], it was a good exercise and practice of my video performance (which has been years since I first did something similar to this project, in my half-year of weekly vlogging), and it was nice to hear encouraging, positive, and enthused/amused feedback throughout the project (and even afterwards).

Pouring while keeping eye contact with the camera
          Throughout the project, I consistently had to figure out when I was making the drinks/videos and would have to schedule them in, but that would be about several nights a week.  I actually got into regularly asking myself "Which drink am I making and when will it be?"  And perhaps as time goes by, I will have that query out of my head, but I'm still used to thinking about which drink should I be making?  One drawback I experienced during the project that seemed relatively new to me was that there would be days that I not only had no interest in partaking of alcohol, but that I would have a particular disinterest in having any. But, I still made the drinks/videos (it did help that a few times, people at our house would drink a cocktail I made on days I didn't want to drink).  Now that the project is over, I am looking forward to the next few weeks where I will be at a dry camp (there may be a night or two where I go out with other staff members for drinks, but I know that I won't be drinking much), as I am hoping my liver returns to its normal, happy self and I can detox for a bit.

Trying a Daiquiri for the first time

        I am glad that I started and finished the project for myself, especially, as I mentioned initially, as it was a creative outlet for myself.  Two lessons I learned from my earlier vlogging experience was 1) realizing how annoying and off-putting filler words/phrases were (and seeking to eradicate them from my speech (certainly on my videos, but also in real life)); and 2) eye contact is so important!  While in my previous video project I just spoke to the camera, in this project, I had to pour, mix, stir, etc., as well, which made those two lessons more difficult to incorporate.  I had to remember what my ingredients were and what the process was, making it imperative to know precisely what was going to be taking place so I knew with certainty what I was going to be saying.  Also, tying to pour liquids into a not-so-large area can be tough to get in while focussing on the camera (but doable, one just has to work on one's peripheral vision...).  I can say with an unimaginable amount of being totally impressed by people who regularly talk on tv without fumbling or fillers as well as people who can just speak with great comfort at the cameras - it is a great talent to have. I should know because I tried and I don't think I have [at this moment in time (but given training, it could be a different story)] the skills to be hosting a television show. (Also watching The Next Food Network Star with my wife, I certainly realize that it is harder to go in front of a camera with little experience than perhaps most people (Don't trust me? Try it yourself.).)

       I hope to continue to honing my avocation of mixing cocktails after I return in a few weeks and hope that I have a better grasp on this social skills set.

21 June 2012

Historical Study of the Mishnah, Briefly

Although I usually post quotes I find interesting on my Tumblr page, I wanted to make an exception for this quote about the study of the Mishnah.  It comes from Amram Tropper's article "The State of Mishnah Studies", which was published two years ago.*
The Mishnah was redacted in Galilee around the year 200 CE,1 a redaction traditionally ascribed to R. Judah haNasi. 2 After redaction, this compilation of tannaitic law quickly became a central literary composition for the amora'im of late antiquity who pored over and interpreted it in their study halls and in the Palestinian and Babylonian Talmuds. 3 In time, the Babylonian Talmud replaced the Mishnah at the heart of rabbinic Judaism, and, even today, traditional Jews tend to interpret the Mishnah through the lens of the Babylonian Talmud. Even though the Mishnah never regained its pride of place in the life of the Jewish people, already in the Middle Ages, the Mishnah re-emerged as the object of intense study and commentaries (see Sussman 1981). In the twelfth century, for example, Maimonides penned a commentary to the entire Mishnah that omits the lengthy talmudic discussions and, in some cases, even diverges from the Babylonian Talmud's interpretation of the Mishnah (see Kapah 1963-1968). Foreshadowed by some medieval and early modern precedents such as Maimonides' commentary, the modern critical study of the Mishnah seeks to interpret the Mishnah in and for itself, without recourse to the interpretations of the Talmuds. This critical approach came into its own in the nineteenth century and has continued to flourish and evolve throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first (see C. Gafni, dissertation 2005). 
 Here are the footnotes from the above section:
1. Some additional materials were apparently incorporated into the Mishnah even after redaction as the text maintained a certain measure of fluidity for some time. See J. N. Epstein (2000: 946-979); Stemberger (1996: 133-134). It bears noting that Avot may have been redacted somewhat later than the rest of the Mishnah, though its precise date of redaction is still disputed. 
2. The "unselfconscious attribution of mishnaic decisions" to R. Judah haNasi in the Talmuds (Stemberger 1996: 133) strongly suggests that he was responsible for the Mishnah. See also Oppenheimer (2007: 156-159). 
3. The purpose of the Mishnah is debated and it has been viewed as a collection of sources, a law code and a teaching manual (see Stemberger 1996: 135-138). For a new take on the Mishnah as a teaching manual, see Alexander (2006). 
*Amram Tropper, "The State of Mishnah Studies," Rabbinic Texts and the History of Late-Roman Palestine, ed. Martin Goodman & Philip Alexander (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 94.

19 June 2012

Spending the Next Few Weeks at BBYO's ILTC as a Judaic Educator

Teaching last year at ILTC 2011
Tonight, I am flying eastward to head to B'nai B'rith Perlman Camp for my second straight summer serving as a Judaic educator for BBYO's International Leadership Training Conference (ILTC).  ILTC is, according to the BBYO website, 
International Leadership Training Conference allows teens to explore the skills that a regional/council leader need in order to affect change within AZA/BBG and across the world. This program is designed for teens that are or aspire to be council, regional and international leaders. Participants return home with strengthened leadership skills, and ideas and tools to implement in their region. Come build character and identity, and begin a life-long relationship with BBYO, AZA and BBG.
Although this year's ILTC will be my second straight as a Judaic educator, it will be my sixth time at ILTC.  After having enjoyed ILTC as a participant in 1998 (my first ever BBYO international program*), I then returned as a madrikh (essentially, cabin staff, but this position does a lot of random tasks, as well) for the ILTCs of 2002, 2003, and 2004.**  I've always enjoyed the BBYO-focus of ILTC, as well as on leadership, which is a concept that I've enjoyed (at least discussing).  But another element, of course, that has intrigued me at ILTC is the Jewish element, which I will be engaging with once again....

* I also attended International Conventions of 1998, 1999, and 2000, as well as the 1999 Kallah (all of which were at BBPC).  
** I also staffed the 2002 and 2003 Kallahs, as well as two CLTCs in 2004.

17 June 2012

A Reflection on My Use of the Term "Jewish"

Considering my usage of "Jewish" as that relating to Judaism
For some reason, the question arose recently on my mind regarding how people use the term "Jewish" and to what it refers.  With a quick online search, a common and simple definition, such as that offered by Dictionary.com appears: "of, pertaining to, or characteristic of the Jews or Judaism". 
      For some reason, "Jewish" to me is that relating to or deriving from Judaism.  That sounds simple enough, except that would exclude, for instance, social history of Jews, which I would not describe as Jewish social history.  Thus, following this line of nomenclature, books that are part of Judaism are Jewish books, but books generally written by Jews are not inherently Jewish books. 
      I imagine this line of thinking has been in my mind since my time both in Ohr Somayach and Yeshiva University, although this doesn't diminish its truth to me in my use of such parlance when it comes to employing the term "Jewish".  Perhaps a term could be used - that isn't the term "Jewish" - when it comes to [my] describing that which is related or coming from Jews (e.g. cultural creations of Jews or demographics of Jews), so I am open to hearing suggestions.

15 June 2012

Not Translating Responsa?

Recently, while re-reading Rabbi Adam Mintz' article, "The Talmud in Translation", I noticed that he cited a responsum from Rabbi Moses Feinstein forbidding the translation of his responsa (אגרות משה, יורה דעה ג:צא).  I was curious about this responsum, so I decided to check it out.  It was actually a pretty small responsum, but it seems he had some major issues with such translations: 
     1) The first issue was that you need to annotate whichever translations (but that could be fixed).
     2) A more serious matter was that there would be errors and other elements that could cause errors.
However, the biggest issue of concern to him was, as I put it in my not-so-good translation of this responsum,
And to quote actual responsa, as well, this is plainly a major shortcoming to give decisions on Jewish law to regular people who are not learned scholars that they may come to compare one thing to another thing....
It is rather curious to see that he thought it was dangerous to allow regular folks to have access to translations of his responsa....

14 June 2012

30 Days of 30 Drinks by a 30-Year Old Project Update: Week Six [Rum Week]

Holding a Blue Hawaii (yes, I know it looks green...)
The last week of my 30 Days of 30 Drinks by a 30-Year Old project finished off with Rum Week.  I'm not such a rum-loving person, but I thought there were enough rum drinks out there and rum fans, so I decided that rum drinks would be the last week of my project.  For some reason, aside from the Daiquiri, the rum drinks tended to throw in a bunch of fruit juices, of which I wasn't so fond, but I guess that's the way rum rolls....  Nevertheless, I was surprised by how good the Mai Tai was - that was definitely my favorite drink of the week.
Being surprisingly impressed by my first Mai Tai
     So, here are the last five drinks of my project:
Day 26: Daiquiri
Day 28: Mai Tai
Day 29: Hurricane
Day 30: Blue Hawaii
Now that the project's over, I'm hoping to write a follow-up post about some reflections....  In any event, enjoy your rum!

08 June 2012

30 Days of 30 Drinks by a 30-Year Old Project Update: Week Five [Whiskey Week]

Holding the Canadian Cocktail, my favorite of the week
Although I've done plenty of whiskey drinks in my 30 Days of 30 Drinks by a 30-Year Old project thus far (for earlier videos: week four, part two ("Mint Week Mini Week"); week four, part one; week three ("Gin Week"); week two; and week one), I wanted to just do one week for perhaps my favorite spirit (I easily could've done two if not three weeks for whiskeys...).  The first two drinks' base spirit was Canadian Whisky, the Brain Duster used Rye Whisky, the Emerald involved Irish Whiskey, and the Whiskey Sour used Bourbon Whiskey.  If you were looking for Scotch, I did make the Rob Roy (which is like the Emerald) a few weeks ago.  So here are this week's drinks:

Day 21: Canadian and Campari (1:02)
Day 22: Canadian Cocktail (1:14)
Day 23: Brain Duster (1:04)
Day 24: Emerald (0:59)
Day 25: Whiskey Sour (1:10)
How you might feel when imbibing the Brain Duster
Although I enjoyed the Canadian and Campari, the Canadian Cocktail was my favorite of the week.  The Brain Duster is very powerful and you'll need to be careful with drinking that.  The Emerald is like the Rob Roy or Manhattan (just different whiskies and bitters), and the Whiskey Sour is just a great Bourbon drink - one of the ones that really got me in to Bourbon.

04 June 2012

"Talmud Torah Kenegged Kulam": What Is תלמוד תורה כנגד?

Considering תלמוד תורה כנגד כולם
The first mishnah in tractate Peah curiously begins with a duo of non-prescriptive/halakhic statements, the second of which is the following:
ואלו דברים שאדם אוכל מפירותיהן בעולם הזה, והקרן קיימת לו לעולם הבא--כיבוד אב ואם, וגמילות חסדים, והבאת שלום בין אדם לחברו; ותלמוד תורה כנגד כולם
And these things that a person eats of their fruits in this world, and the principle remains for the world to come: honoring mother and father, kindness-giving, and bringing peace between a person and one's fellow; and the study of Torah is equivalent to all of these.
     It is an obvious matter that when a pronoun mentions "them" as a part of a listing, it refers to other elements in said listing.  Thus, in mPeah 1:1, the study of Torah (talmud Torah) is equivalent to honoring one's parents, acting on kindness-giving, and bringing peace between people.  
     For some reason, I've often heard that this phrasing of "תלמוד תורה כנגד כולם" is not meant merely in direct reference with the rest of the sentence, but also with all other interpersonal positive commandments.  Moreover, there are those who go beyond seeing תלמוד תורה as having the same weight as all other interpersonal commandments, but as all other commandments in Judaism.  It's a strange couple of leaps from the context of interpersonal commandments in the mishnah, but, for some reason, it keeps getting mentioned this way and not the way the framers of the Mishnah intended it.

03 June 2012

The Image of God Problem for Same-Sex "Marriage"

A phrase that I see used in many different Jewish pieces, I come across a phrase that I truly think is way too-overused (and perhaps in not so appropriate contexts, as well), that of "image of God", which is a translation of צלם אלהים (tzelem Elohim).  This phrase comes from Genesis 1:27, wherein it says (English translation): "And God created the person in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."  There are a lot of different ways of using, taking, and understanding this verse (e.g. check out the rabbinic statements relating to this in the beginning of Genesis Rabbah), which could be explored at a different time....
     However, as the current Kulturkampf continues regarding those who would like to expand marriage to also include people who are of the same sex as each other, when reading about same-sex "marriage" these days - at least in Jewish contexts - I often come across, in one way or another a mention or perhaps even an argument involving the phrase "image of God".  What seems amusing to me, though, is that the "image of God" is both male and female, as presented in Genesis.  If people using this term truly valued the "image of God", this would logically lead one to not only privilege heteronormativity, but also entirely devalue people of the same sex coming together in any way, as the "image of God" necessitates two people of opposite sexes.  
     Basically, I am urging people when speaking, tweeting, blogging, writing, etc. their opinions about this topic to seriously consider what "image of God" means before deploying it....

01 June 2012

Mint Week Mini Week: 30 Days of 30 Drinks Project - Week Four (Part 2)

Adding mint sprigs as garnish for the Mint Julep
Having had Shavuos this week and going to Las Vegas last week, both this week's and last week's amount of videos of my 30 Days of 30 Drinks by a 30-Year Old project were smaller, each consisting of three drinks/videos (thus, "mini-weeks"). This week's mini-week is themed around drinks incorporating mint, thus Mint Week Mini Week. (I used mint from plants growing in my backyard, which was economical, but by the last drink, I had very few mint left....) 
The Mint Julep is one of the mintiest drinks out there
     For Mint Week Mini Week, I started off with a nice, summer classic, the mojito. The second day was a drink I found simply by googling mint drinks and it ended up by being a pleasant surprise. The last day was a Southern classic and one of the drinks that turned me on to Bourbon whiskey. Also, making this last drink involved so much mint, I nearly exhausted my mint plants! 
     Here they are: 
          Day 18 - Mojito 
          Day 19 - Leninade 
          Day 20 - Mint Julep 
     Hope you enjoy watching!
For previous weeks: Week One, Week Two, Week Three