Thursday, June 01, 2006

Coffee and Shavuos

Fascinating! I can forward the pdf I received upon request.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Coffee and Shavuot; an article by Prof. Elliott Horowitz
Date: Thu, 1 Jun 2006 01:35:15 -0400
From: Menachem Butler

Dear All:

In honor of the upcoming holiday of Shavuot -- one of the two nights a year when Jews traditionally have the custom to stay up all night studying Torah -- I am sending the attached article (PDF), by Prof. Elliott Horowitz of Bar Ilan University, entitled "Coffee, Coffeehouses, and the Nocturnal Rituals of Early Modern Jewry," which appeared in The AJS Review 14:1 (1989), pages 17-46. Prof. Horowitz is the co-editor of the prestigious Jewish Quarterly Review (JQR; N.S.) and his recent book "Reckless Rites: Purim and the Legacy of Jewish Violence" was published by Princeton University Press (March 2006).

See specifically where he notes:

The widening popularity of coffee in eighteenth-century Italy seems to have breathed new life into the observance not only of Tikkun Hazot, but also of the Shavuot and Hoshana Rabbah vigils.... it may be noted that only in the [eighteenth] century, as coffee entered the fabric of everyday life in Italy, did mass-market editions of the readings for these two nights roll regularly off the presses. No less than eight editions of the Tikkun for Hoshana Rabbah appeared in Italy between 1729 and 1785, and in Venice alone no less than five editions of readings for Shavuot night were published between 1730 and 1767. These editions, moreover, were explicitly intended for use by those remaining awake all night, and contained prayers to be recited at the successful conclusion of the sleepless vigil. If coffee was in these years an integral part of the observance in Worms, its role could hardly have been less central in a city such as Venice, where the beverage was first introduced to Europe, and which, in the mid-eighteenth century, boasted some 200 coffeehouses, including some in its ghetto.

The vigils of Shavuot and Hoshana Rabbah, previously limited in their appeal and relatively brief in duration, came to be widely observed as all-night affairs. This was due more to the availability of coffee than to the habit of frequenting coffeehouses, but the vogue achieved by the midnight rite of Tikkun Hazot would seem to have been equally linked to the latter. [p. 43-44]

Chag Matan Torateinu Sameach!,


  1. Wild.

    But then why was tikun chatzos viewed by the Aruch haShulchan as a practice some people had? The notion of it being an "integral part" of the Lithuanian Jewish experience -- and possibly even Eastern Europe even a century and a half later seems unlikely. Well after that region's fascination with strong teas (e.g. Russian Caravan blends) and coffee.


  3. Sounds interesting!

    Could you send me the pdf?

    - Ron C.

  4. Could you send me the pdf.