Berman & Asbel, LLP

Welcome! Why "Legal Cholent?"

Welcome to my new blog called Legal Cholent.  Some of you may be wondering, what in the world is cholent?  Some of you may know what cholent is and be wondering what in the world does cholent have to do with law.

Well to start with, cholent is an ancient Jewish dish that is very much linked to law.  The Yiddish word "cholent" actually comes from two French words - "chaud" meaning hot and "lent" meaning slow - a dish cooked hot and slow.  Cholent is a slow-cooked stew and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of recipes for it.  Cholent, and its Middle Eastern counterparts Hamin and Dafeena, are a traditional dish for lunch on Saturdays - the Jewish Sabbath.  If you like slow-cooked chili or dishes made in slow-cookers or crock pots, you can thank the Jews for inventing this type of cooking.

Cholent actually is older than its name and this is where the connection to law comes in.  For over 2000 years, the Rabbis have been the interpreters and judges of Jewish law.  Jewish law is more than just the Torah - it also includes the enormous compilations of rules, interpretations and teachings known as the Babylonian Talmud and the Jerusalem Talmud and numerous later law codes which further compiled, interpreted and extended.  A major topic in Jewish law is the set of rules of what is and is not permitted to be done on the Sabbath.  One thing that cannot be done on the Sabbath is to cook.  Now if one took a very strict constructionist view of what is written in the Torah, one might think that come Saturday afternoon, all you could do is eat cold food.  However, the majority of the Rabbis held that this was not correct.  The Sabbath is supposed to be a joyful day and part of that joy is enjoying hot meals.  So how can one have a hot lunch on Saturday but not violate the rule against cooking on the Sabbath.  The solution was the dish that later became known in Central and Eastern Europe as cholent.   The key to it is that the food is set up and put on heat BEFORE the Sabbath begins and then it slowly heats up until the next day.  Because all the preparation is done before the Sabbath and then it is just left on its own, the prevailing view among the Rabbis was that this was permitted and thus Jewish families from ancient times to today have been able to enjoy a savory hot meal for Sabbath lunch.

So you see that cholent is very much related to law.  There is another reason of why I relate law to cholent.  My philosophy in practicing law is to work with clients to plan solutions and avoid as many problems as possible later.  This is a process that requires many ingredients including my discussions with my clients, my clients thinking and discussing with their spouse or family what are their goals, making use of available laws to help achieve those goals and, when necessary bringing in the expertise of professionals in other fields.   Good family legal planning is not just a matter of downloading a form and filling in some blanks once and being done.  Ideally, the relationship with the attorney lasts for years and plans are adjusted and improved in a long, ongoing process.  This long-term, multi-ingredient process has some resemblance to what goes into making a good cholent.  You pick a variety of good ingredients and set them to cook slowly.  You do not necessarily get the instant reward you get as when you stick something in the microwave but instead, with some patience, you get something much more delicious and satisfying.

So, that's why Legal Cholent.  In this space, I will share with you developments or ideas in law, my thoughts on what ought to be changed and maybe some other interesting thoughts I have too.

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