Thursday, August 11, 2005

Koffehouse kabbalah

When I was a kid in sleep-away camp they used to have a 'Cocoa Club', which was an inducement for the kids to get up early before davening to learn. Since the morning air in the mountains is chilly, we could chill with our mishnayos and cocoa while other kids in camp still slept. (ahh, fond memories.... :)

This very interesting post by Chakira called to my attention an article called 'Coffee, coffeehouses, and the nocturnal rituals of early modern Jewry' by Elliott S. Horowitz (AJS Review 14,1 (1989) 17-46.) The premise: Kabbalistic midnight rituals, such as tikkun chatzos or tikkun leil shavuos came to be in each place that it did with the introduction of coffee. The use of coffee as a stimulant might have encouraged the mystics of Tzefat to focus on all-night and late-night rituals because they couldn't sleep anyway. Horowitz demonstrates that such midnight rituals happened where and when coffee became available; in Tzefat in the mid-16th century. In Italy, in the early 17th century, and in Germany in the 18th century.

summary of Friedman's article

What's the point? Nothing. It takes nothing away from tikkunei chatzos or leil shavuos. But it is an interesting correlation.

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