Sunday, August 5, 2007

Wine and Talmud

-Originally posted Sunday, April 8, 2007

So, as was already pointed out, it's Passover. (It lasts seven days.) At the seder (Passover dinner) I went to on Monday, we had the typical Manischewitz (really sweet) wine, but also a "semi-sweet" (it wasn't really) brand of wine called "Rashi." I thought this was a little strange, considering the fact that Rashi is mostly remembered as the most respected commentator on the Torah and the Talmud. He lived from 1040 to 1105, mostly in Troyes, France. His real name was Shlomo--the name by which he is remembered is an acronym of Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rabbi Solomon son of Isaac). Rashi is one of those people who, being important enough in Jewish tradition and having lived long enough ago, has several legends attached to his name. The only one I know is about his birth: His parents wanted a child but could not have one. His father was very poor, but one day found a precious jewel. He took it to the jeweler, but it was worth too much for the jeweler to afford. The emperor (or king, or bishop, or whatever) heard about the stone and sent a messenger to Rashi's father to say he wanted to buy it to put on the head of his idol (or on his cross, or whatever). During the journey by boat to see the emperor, there was a great storm and Rashi's father pretended to lose the stone in the sea. When he returned home, a man was at his house and told him that he would be rewarded for not giving the jewel to an idol worshipper. Soon his wife had a son, and they named him Solomon.

Kind of a nice story, but it still doesn't explain why he would have a wine named after him. I looked at the "Rashi" label website, which says Rashi is remembered for his scholarship "as well as for his extraordinary winemaking ability. The pristine vineyards used in the Middle Ages by Rashi have served as models for today's Rashi wine vineyards located in the winemaking heartlands of Italy and New York State." They offer a full line of Kosher wines. Elsewhere I read his father was a winemaker.

But now that I think about it, the Rashi connection is not nearly as ridiculous as some of those that inspired the name of other wines I've had. Some examples: "The Long Paddock" Sauvignon Blanc (Australian agricultural history) or "Big Tattoo" Riesling/Pinot Blanc (tattoo artist-wine importer brother duo commemorate mother's death from cancer).

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