But first, coffee!

Posted on April 9, 2018 by

A blog post by Deputy Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.

I am a big fan of coffee. I drink between 2 and 3 cups a day, and though I have had healthcare providers recommend that I cut back or cut it out, I have decided that the possible harm it is doing is outweighed by my enjoyment of it. I love the smell of coffee. I love the way that first taste burns my tongue ever-so-slightly. When I wake up, my first thought is “coffee.”

This deep appreciation for the hot, brewed beverage came to me in my adulthood. I was about 28 and working on my PhD at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago (I didn’t finish). I was studying for comprehensive exams and spending at least 10 hours a day in the Regenstein Library. I was reading endless pages of rabbinic arguments and arguments about the arguments and monographs about medieval Jewish philosophy. And I was spending a big chunk of my stipend at Ex Libris, the coffee shop in the basement of the library, or at the Divinity School coffee shop, on a beverage that was already very old, but was new to me.

I was in love. Coffee became my best friend in those days, as I struggled through medieval philosophy (which I loved) and Mishnaic legal arguments (which I decidedly did NOT love). Maybe because my love affair with coffee started while I was poring over Jewish texts (and one of my two favorite coffee houses claimed to be “where God drinks coffee”), there’s a lingering association in my mind between Jewish texts and my favorite warm beverage.

In fact, I recently decided I wanted to calligraph the Hebrew word “Halleluyah” (loosely translated, according to my rabbi, as “Yay, G-d!”) using coffee as my ink.

I also had a travel mug made for myself that inserts coffee (as commentary), into the famous passage from Mica 6:8: “Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before your G-d.”

(I’m thinking of having these mass produced for sale at Esther’s Place. Let me know in the comments if you’d be interested.)

A colleague and I have decided to celebrate warm beverages in Esther’s Place with a display of our many mug offerings. We’ll also support our celebration by participating in #MugShotMondays on the interwebs (which I am assured is a real thing that people do about their mugs).

In preparing for this endeavor, I decided to do a little research to support my internal association between Jewish texts and my love of coffee. I went looking for rabbinic sanction of my love. I found a book entitled Jews Welcome Coffee: Tradition and Innovation in Early Modern Germany by Robert Liberles (Brandeis, 2012). Liberles reviews all of the arguments for and against coffee, especially on Shabbat, but my favorite response was the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century understanding that without coffee, Jews “would be unable to enjoy the Sabbath properly.”

Whether you drink it on Shabbat, during the week, or, like me, drink it every day, and even if you (gulp) prefer tea, I encourage you to check out the mugs we have to offer in Esther’s Place, and to follow (or join in!) our #MugShotMonday social media campaign over the next several Mondays.

Our office keurig just doesn’t have the same sort of glamour as these vintage urns, does it? JMM 1998.47.36.6

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my mug is empty, and I need to remedy that.

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