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Judaism & The Art of Espresso Machine Maintenance

About 250 years ago, way before Starbucks reinvented coffee as the drink of the age, my parents bought me a Pavoni espresso machine for my thirtieth birthday.

I have that machine to this day. I love it. It has more chrome on it than a Chevy Impala. The Pavoni is the Harley-Davidson of coffee machines. It’s built to tolerances of about plus or minus half an inch, which makes it incredibly easy to service and repair - just get the parts somewhere near each other and it’ll work.

Many times I have thought about replacing this twenty-nine-year-old tank with one of the modern microprocessor-controlled beauties I’ve seen around. The last time was a couple of months ago, when I de-scaled it. When I’d finished de-scaling it , the coffee tasted dreadful.

It took me a good few days to realize that I’d used the wrong kind of vinegar to clean it out. During the couple of days that its “head was on the block” I went through something that I can only describe as withdrawal symptoms (and not from the coffee - I used instant in the meantime.)

Here was this old warhorse whose guts I knew, which I had managed to repair more than once, about to be replaced by a machine that would be impossible for me to do more than—make coffee. If - and more probably - when it broke down, I would have to take it to a repair center where doubtless they would tell me it would be far cheaper to buy a new one.

Repair is a dying art.

Apart from any nostalgia of which I may be guilty (nostalgia tends to increase in proportion to the number of years over which you have to nostalge), repairing something gives us a sense of achievement that merely producing our credit card fails to do by miles.

But I think there’s a deeper reason here as well.

The world was made to be fixed.

When G-d created the world, He didn’t create it as a complete and finished entity, rather He created a single point - a rock that sits on a small hill about 3/4 of a mile from where I’m writing this called the Temple Mount in Jerusalem - and the rest of the Universe expanded from there. At a certain point He said the Hebrew word, “Dai!”, which means “Enough!”

In other words, the potential for more exists in this world, but G-d intended that the world should be left lacking, incomplete, and that Mankind would have the opportunity - and the obligation - to bring it to its completion.

The world can be - and needs to be - fixed.

One of the ways this latent motivation emerges is in the ecology movement.

Judaism has always recognized that Mankind has the ability to build the world or to destroy it. In fact, ecology has always been a fundamental part of Jewish thought. However, there exists a deeper side to ecology than is generally understood.

Judaism’s concept of ecology is that when we do a mitzvah, one of G-d’s commandments—be it the simplest action, by kindness, by prayer, we elevate not just ourselves but the world’s eco-system as well.

My desire to fix that espresso machine is none other than my aspiration to fix the world - masquerading as a cup of coffee.


get the podcast here—> Judaism and The Art of Espresso Machine Maintenance

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Comments icon February 4, 2010


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