Columns - 2008


    by Doug Brook
    Deep South Jewish Voice columnist

    It's the most wonderful time of the year. (A Jew wrote it, why can't we repurpose it?)

    It's the time of year where milk in every refrigerator wonders how, having been half of the land of milk and honey, it got replaced on this most significant of holidays by apples.

    Was it a milk and meat issue? Short expiration dates? A better publicist?

    You might think this to be a trivial question, until you realize that an outright war continues today. The latest is in the media, where continues the fight over which ad campaign is more recognized worldwide: "Got milk?" or Apple.

    The bottom line is, if you keep your milk and apples on the same shelf, the consequences are your own. You've been warned.

    This year's High Holy Days provide a rare recurrence of Yomtober, a year in which both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur occur in the month of October.

    Of course, this is not a full Yomtober because Rosh Hashanah starts on the final day of September. Because the Reform movement celebrates only one day of Rosh Hashanah, they don't get to celebrate Yomtober this year.

    Which is too bad, because they'll miss the traditional worldwide festivities marking this rare event, the Germanic Jewish ritual known as Yomtoberfest. More beer for the rest of us.

    The original intention of Yomtoberfest is unclear. Depending on the Talmudic source, Yomtoberfest's critical role in the Days of Atonement is to:

    • Drink until you have nothing to atone for on Yom Kippur.
    • Drink until you have something to atone for on Yom Kippur.
    • Drink until you can't tell the difference between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
    • Drink until you can't tell the difference between Rosh Hashanah and a fork.

    Of course, all of these opinions are documented in the recently discovered, long-lost Mishnah tractate Bava Gump.

    The gradual translation of Bava Gump is brought to you by our friends at He'Brew, the Chosen Beer who, once they hear of Bava Gump, after drinking enough of their own product will no doubt retroactively sponsor this massive undertaking.

    Yomtoberfest began quite humbly as a Rabbinic compromise when the High Holy Days fell too close to Oktoberfest. The Jews of Germany did not want to miss out on Oktoberfest.

    The rabbis were concerned that Oktoberfest occurring immediately after Yom Kippur ensured Jews throughout the land would incur the need to atone almost instantly after being written in the Book of Life. Concerned that the Book was still open for time zones farther west, they codified Yomtoberfest just in case.

    Through the centuries, a little research reveals many significant events have occurred in these rare years of Yomtoberfest. Unfortunately this column has not done that research.

    If you or someone you know is aware of any of these events, please contact this column via the publication you read it in. Provide the year, the event, and an explanation of what you do for a living that allows you the time to figure out which years Yomtoberfest has occurred in, let alone to research what happened on those dates in those years. We want that career.

    But after several hours of preparatory indulgence for this year's local Yomtoberfest, we speculate as to one of the many notorious events from a Yomtoberfest of yore.

    Several of you still in high school have heard of the Beer Hall Putsch, the fortunately failed German coup of November 1923. What's less well known is that a month earlier the Yomtoberfest rites led to a more benign but equally unsuccessful movement at a Munich beer hall, where sixty-three inebriated Jews ran at the wall and attempted the Beer Hall Push.

    Of course, the later holidays that always fall in October have their part in Yomtober. Sukkot allegedly commemorates the temporary shelters the Israelites used in the Sinai. But thanks to Yomtoberfest, the sukkah serves as the place where men are forced by their wives to sleep until they're sober.

    And on Simchat Torah we begin the Torah again from the beginning for all the people who drank so much at Yomtoberfest that they don't remember it anymore.

    So this year raise a stein with a Stein to celebrate Yomtober at a Yomtoberfest near you. Don't forget to tip your mohel.

    Doug Brook is a writer in Silicon Valley who is a longtime advocate of Yomtoberfest. Without Yomtoberfest, he'd have nothing to atone for in those years. For more information, past columns, other writings, and more, visit

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.