Jeremiah’s Story

A Contract of Sale by Laya Crust

This week we read two parshas- Behar and B’Hukkotai. Each parsha has a haftarah from the Book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah lived in Judea, prophesying from 626 BCE until the fall of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem in 587 BCE. He lived in difficult times which spanned the reigns of five kings and ended his life in Egypt.

Jeremiah - Wikipedia
Jeremiah by Michaelangelo, Sistine Chapel painting

The haftarah for Behar took place during Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem. When Jeremiah advised King Zedekiah to surrender to the Babylonians the king threw him into prison. While Jeremiah was in prison Gd told him that Jeremiah’s cousin would come and ask him to buy their family’s parcel of land. Although the country was under siege Jeremiah was to buy the property.

As foretold, his cousin Hanamel asked Jeremiah to buy his land. Jeremiah went to great efforts to make the transaction legal and formalized by witnesses. He weighed out the silver, wrote two bills of sale – one sealed and one unsealed, and carried out the sale in the prison courtyard. The documents were then stored in an earthenware jar for safekeeping. The sale was a symbol that the siege of Jerusalem would end and land would become valuable once more.

Jeremiah said, “For so said Gd, Master of Legions, Gd of Israel, ‘Houses, fields, and vineyards will yet be bought in this land.'” (Jeremiah 32:13)

A Tree by the Water by Laya Crust

Jeremiah constantly reminded the Jews to follow Gd’s laws and ethics. Buying a parcel of land when the country was under siege was an inspiring and selfless act, but he was still disliked by the population because of his constant warnings and negative messages. In the next haftarah, B’Hukkotai, Jeremiah told the nation that a person who is good will flourish. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose trust the Lord is. He will be like a tree planted by the waters… Its foliage will be lush and will not be anxious in the year of drought. And it will not cease from yielding fruit.”   (Jeremiah 17: 7,8)   

Jeremiah’s message ring true today. The world is in terrible disarray. There is a pandemic, economic crises, war, and natural disasters. Yet there is good being done, acts of kindness, and progress throughout the world (as well as the disasters). Let’s keep that in mind and do our little bit to improve the world around us.

Shabbat Shalom,

Laya

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Corrected Challah Recipe! (Challah and parashat Emor)

Priestly Vestments – by Laya Crust

This week’s parsha details what is expected of the Priests including ritual purity, marriages, funerals, and other duties. The prophet Ezekiel echoes much of the information in this week’s haftarah.

The Torah reading refers to ceremonial bread twice. For Shavuoth it says, “You shall bring from your settlements two loaves of bread as an elevation offering; each shall be made of two-tenths of choice flour, baked after leavening, as first fruits to HaShem.” (Leviticus 23:17) Later in the reading we read about twelve loaves of bread that were to be baked each week. “You shall take choice flour and bake of it twelve loaves, two-tenths of a measure for each loaf. Place them on the pure table before the LORD in two rows, six to a row…He shall arrange them before the LORD regularly every sabbath day—it is a commitment for all time on the part of the Israelites.” (Leviticus 24:5, 6, 8)

Sacred Vessels- Laya Crust (Golden vessels from the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, including the platform for the twelve loaves. Based on a medieval Spanish illumination from 1299 Perpignan, Aragon.)

As a Jewish woman who regularly bakes challah it was beautiful to read these texts and connect our modern weekly Shabbat practices with our biblical text. There are many recipes for challah, and there are interesting traditions about the shape of challahs for different holidays and celebrations like the “shissel challah” after Pesach, the “ladder challah”, the “hand challah” and more.

I’m including a classic challah recipe from Carole Cohen in Skokie, Illinois that you may enjoy.

Carole’s Challah ………………………………yield: 2 challahs

1 pckg. of yeast…………………………………..1 tablespoon sugar

3/4 cup warm water …………………………..1 tablespoon salad oil

5 cups flour ………………………………………..1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon salt ……………………………………~ 1/2 cups warm water

Soften the yeast in 3/4 cup warm water- it should start “bubbling”. Sift together dry ingredients. Add oil. Add softened yeast and beaten egg. Mix thoroughly, adding 11/2 cups of warm water for smoothe kneading. Knead well. Place in a bowl and cover with a tea towel. Let stand until it rises. Knead again. Cover, let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Divide dough in half. Then divide each ball into three pieces, roll into strips, and braid. Place on a large cookie sheet or pan (covered with parchment paper if desired) untill doubled in bulk. Just before baking, brush with diluted egg yolk. Sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds if desired. Bake at 350o F until golden brown, 45 minutes – 1 hour.

Below is a delightful youtube video. Einat ben Ari demonstrates different ways to braid decorative challahs.

Besides dealing with the sacrifices, cooking the offerings, and presenting the loaves, we read that Aaron the High Priest was responsible for the Tabernacle and for the ceremonial lighting of the lamps: “Aaron shall set them [the eternal light] up in the Tent of Meeting outside the curtain of the Pact [to burn] from evening to morning before the Lord regularly; it is a law for all time throughout the ages.” (Leviticus 24:3). On Friday nights we turn our home into a place honouring Gd and our traditions. We carry on, in our own small world, the sanctity of the Shabbat candles, the Shabbat bread, and Shabbat observance.

Have a safe, healthy, and relaxing Shabbat- with delicious challah.

and one more from “Jewlish”

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Emor and Challah

Priestly Vestments – by Laya Crust

This week’s parsha details what is expected of the Priests including ritual purity, marriages, funerals, and other duties. The prophet Ezekiel echoes much of the information in this week’s haftarah.

The Torah reading refers to ceremonial bread twice. For Shavuoth it says, “You shall bring from your settlements two loaves of bread as an elevation offering; each shall be made of two-tenths of choice flour, baked after leavening, as first fruits to HaShem.” (Leviticus 23:17) Later in the reading we read about twelve loaves of bread that were to be baked each week. “You shall take choice flour and bake of it twelve loaves, two-tenths of a measure for each loaf. Place them on the pure table before the LORD in two rows, six to a row…He shall arrange them before the LORD regularly every sabbath day—it is a commitment for all time on the part of the Israelites.” (Leviticus 24:5, 6, 8)

Sacred Vessels- Laya Crust (Golden vessels from the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, including the platform for the twelve loaves. Based on a medieval Spanish illumination from 1299 Perpignan, Aragon.)

As a Jewish woman who regularly bakes challah it was beautiful to read these texts and connect our modern weekly Shabbat practices with our biblical text. There are many recipes for challah, and there are interesting traditions about the shape of challahs for different holidays and celebrations like the “shissel challah” after Pesach, the “ladder challah”, the “hand challah” and more.

I’m including a classic challah recipe from Carole Cohen in Skokie, Illinois that you may enjoy.

Carole’s Challah ………………………………yield: 2 challahs

1 pckg. of yeast…………………………………..1 tablespoon sugar

3/4 cup warm water …………………………..1 tablespoon salad oil

5 cups flour ………………………………………..1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon salt ……………………………………~ 1/2 cups warm water

Soften the yeast in 3/4 cup warm water- it should start “bubbling”. Sift together dry ingredients. Add oil. Add softened yeast and beaten egg. Mix thoroughly, adding 11/2 cups of warm water for smoothe kneading. Knead well. Place in a bowl and cover with a tea towel. Let stand until it rises. Knead again. Cover, let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Divide dough in half. Then divide each ball into three pieces, roll into strips, and braid. Place on a large cookie sheet or pan (covered with parchment paper if desired) untill doubled in bulk. Just before baking, brush with diluted egg yolk. Sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds if desired. Bake at 350o F until golden brown, 45 minutes – 1 hour.

Below is a delightful youtube video. Einat ben Ari demonstrates different ways to braid decorative challahs.

Besides dealing with the sacrifices, cooking the offerings, and presenting the loaves, we read that Aaron the High Priest was responsible for the Tabernacle and for the ceremonial lighting of the lamps: “Aaron shall set them [the eternal light] up in the Tent of Meeting outside the curtain of the Pact [to burn] from evening to morning before the Lord regularly; it is a law for all time throughout the ages.” (Leviticus 24:3). On Friday nights we turn our home into a place honouring Gd and our traditions. We carry on, in our own small world, the sanctity of the Shabbat candles, the Shabbat bread, and Shabbat observance.

Have a safe, healthy, and relaxing Shabbat- with delicious challah.

and one more from “Jewlish”

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Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

This week we observed Yom haZikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut- [Israeli] Remembrance Day and [Israel] Independence Day.  These two days are modern observances, introduced to us with the founding of the State of Israel in 1948.

Future Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion announced the establishment of the State of Israel on the 5th of Iyar, which corresponded to May 14, 1948.


A
s soon as the fledgeling country Israel was established its neighbours declared war, hoping to annihilate it. Over six thousand young men and women died, defending their rights to a Jewish State.  Yom HaZikaron (Israeli Memorial Day) is observed the day before Israel Independence Day to honour and remember those who lost their lives defending the barely formed country.

When I looked at this week’s Torah portions I was struck by their names.

Acharei Mot by Laya Crust
Kedoshim sig
Kedoshim by Laya Crust

The names of these two neighbouring parshiot perfectly describe our two holidays.  אחרי מות “Acharei Mot” means “After the Death”, and קדושים “Kedoshim” means “Holinesses” – or “You Shall be Holy”. The titles given to the Torah readings remind us the sequence of events: the people who have died since 1948 defending Israel’s right to exist, and our responsibility to cultivate Israel, celebrate and experience Israel, and ultimately to live in Israel, our country.

The readings this week are lists and lists of laws dictated by Gd. Many of the rules are followed by the words “I am the Lord” or “I am the Lord your Gd”. Nestled among guidelines concerning ownership, business practice, sacrifices, sexual behaviour, and harvesting are laws concerning relationships. We read the command, “…you shall love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord your Gd.” (Leviticus 18:19) This is a command- not a suggestion.

In these bizarre and frightening times, in the days where the world is swept by Covid-19 this statement is deeply profound. Surrounded by people who may be infected, who are isolated, who are depressed, who have lost their jobs, or worse, who have lost loved ones, these words and this law is important to integrate into our minds and our lives. Gd is telling we cannot take care only of ourselves. We must not ignore those suffering around us. Gd is making the demand that “…you shall love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord your Gd.”

There is evidence of that happening. Health care workers, food producers, phone “buddies”, and volunteers.are loving their neighbours as themselves. Researchers are forging ahead trying to find a cure and are sharing their findings. Following Gd’s demand, we will pull through. If we remember the words now and after the pandemic has passed the world will be a better place.

May your week be safe, healthy, giving, and generous. Shabbat Shalom, Laya

Happy 72nd Birthday, Israel, and many many more!  

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yom_Hazikaron

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Halfway through the Torah

Flames of Division by Laya Crust

A couple of weeks ago we read parshat Shemini on Shabbat. It is an unexpected combination of two very different narratives, and the break between the two narratives occurs pretty much in the middle of the reading. Similarly, the parsha itself appears right in the centre of the Torah cycle. Coincidently we are experiencing an unprecedented break in the functioning of the world. I want to explore this dividing of text and experience.

In the first half of parsha Shemini we read about the sacrifices that Moses and Aaron offered to Gd. In the second half of the parsha we read about which animals are kosher (acceptable for Jews to eat) and which are treif (not acceptable for Jews to eat).

Aaron and his sons had spent weeks purifying and spiritually readying themselves to perform these important offerings. The sacrifices were accepted. Dramatically, Gd’s fire consumed the sacrificial remains and His flames ascended to the heavens.  In a moment of religious fervour Aaron’s sons Nadav and Avihu offered their own (unholy) fire to Gd. In anger, Gd sent down flames that killed the two men. It was a shocking and tragic incident.

Following this distressing event, the Israelites were told which animals were kosher and which were non-kosher. The two narratives are very different- one is a drama the other is a list of guidelines. Yet they are united by a phrase at the end of each of the 2 sections.

After Nadav and Avihu died Aaron and his sons were tasked with being able לְהבדיל בּין הקדשׁ ובין החֹל ובין הטמה ובין הטהור -to distinguish between holy and common, between impure and pure.

Later, when Israelites were told what they could eat and what they could not eat, we read: לְהבדיל בין הטמה ובין הטהור. They were “to separate between the impure and the pure”.

The phrases of separation are obviously very important, and fire is used in Torah as a means of separation. HaShem formed a pillar of fire to light the way of the nation of Israel, and to separate and protect them from their enemies as they traveled through the desert. We, ourselves, use Aish (fire) to separate Shabbat from the rest of the week. We light candles before Shabbat begins and at Havdalah when Shabbat ends. So, to restate, Aish or fire is used as a device to divide and separate.

Fire is mysterious, beautiful, and threatening. If flames come too close they are dangerous- destroying and killing what is in their path. It is a contrary force, and ambiguous one. We need fire for light, for warmth, and in historical times humans needed fire to protect them from wild beasts at night. And yet this protective force can suddenly, without warning, rage out of control.

Differentiating, “לְהבדיל”, creates awareness. That is a theme in this Torah reading. The list of acceptable and unacceptable animals makes us conscious of our dietary choices. The dire punishment of Nadav and Avihu remind us of the sacredness of HaShem’s commands and words. Boundaries create awareness. Without boundaries all things are equal. With limits, there is greater focus and the focus makes everything more precious.

The world is experiencing a time of separation. Due to the danger of COVID-19 we are forced to separate from others in order to keep ourselves and others safe. The separation allows us time to reflect on what is necessary and what is unnecessary. Let’s use this time wisely and make our lives and the world better.

Be safe, be well, be healthy and be kind.

Laya Crust

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More Haroset Recipes

Seder table- Sarajevo Haggadah

Pesach is rapidly approaching. Many people are concerned with house cleaning, buying new pots, and unpacking the Pesach dishes. I’m most concerned with haroset recipes. I love having a variety of flavours at my seder table and integrating traditions from other cultures. haroset is a tasty way of doing both.

The making, distributing, and eating of haroset is a feature in a number of historical haggadot- so I’m not the only person devoted to that detail of our seder. Even the Rambam (Moses Maimonides) had a recipe for the tasty treat.In his 11th century Mishneh Torah, Moses Maimonides gives one of the first written recipes for charoset in which it is said to look like clay mixed with straw: In the Mishneh Torah he instructed [crush] “dates, dried figs, or raisins and the like…add vinegar, and mix them with spices”. stringy spices would help the fruit and nut mixture have the texture of straw.

The following interesting bit of history is from Moment Magazine, The Sweet Story of Charoset, Spring 2009. “The clay interpretation saw its most extreme expression in 1862 when some 20 Jewish-American Union soldiers in an Ohio regiment put a brick on their Seder plate. One of them, Joseph Joel, recalled the experience in the March 30,1866, Jewish Messenger, a New York weekly. He writes that although stranded in the “wilds of West Virginia,” the men in his regiment were able to obtain matzos and Haggadahs and successfully foraged for a weed “whose bitterness…exceeded anything our forefathers enjoyed,” as well as lamb, chicken and eggs. But they could find no suitable ingredients for charoset. “So, we got a brick,” Joel wrote, “which rather hard to digest, reminded us, by looking at it, for what purposes it was intended.” “

Making Haroset – Bird’s Head Haggadah

The last time I posted, I included two recipes for haroset. This week I am including recipes from a variety of places. Maybe you’ll try something new.

Making Haroset – Nuremberg Haggadah
French Provencal Style 
(about 8 cups)

1 pound chestnuts
1 cup blanched almonds
2 medium tart apples, cored and chopped
1 cup pitted dates
1 cup dried figs
1 cup raisins
1 to 3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
wine vinegar

1. Cut an X in the shell of chestnuts. Place in boiling water and cook for 15 minutes. Drain. When able to handle, peel off shells.
2. Finely chop chestnuts and almonds. Add fruits and finely chop. Stir in enough wine vinegar to make a thick paste. Add ginger.

Source: Sefer Ha’Menuha, a work of the 13th century Provencal scholar, Rabbi Manoach, as cited in an article by Gil Marks in the Jewish Communications Network archives

Distributing Haroset – Sister Haggadah

Curacao Charoset Balls (Garosa)

14 pitted dates 10 pitted prunes

8 figs, stems removed

cup golden raisins cup cashew nuts lemon, unpeeled and cut in chunks

cup sweet red wine cup honey, or more as needed

2 tablespoons cinnamon to coat

Place dates, prunes, figs, raisins, nuts and lemon in food processor.

Chop coarsely.

Add the wine and cup honey. Process to chop finely.

Mixture should be moist but firm enough to shape. Add a little extra honey if needed.

Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Toss in cinnamon to coat. Cover and refrigerate until needed. Makes 25 to 30 balls. Note: If you prefer, the mixture can be spooned into a serving dish and dusted with cinnamon before serving.

Source: “Celebrating Passover with dishes of Curacao” Ethel Hofman and Myra Chanin PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER (on-line edition), 3/25/99

Italian Style

3 apples, sweet or tart
2 pears
2 cups sweet wine
1/3 cup (50 g) pine nuts
2/3 cup (50 g) ground almonds
1/2 lb (250 g) dates, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup (100 g) yellow raisins or sultanas
4 oz. (100 g) prunes, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar or * cup (125 ml) honey or to taste
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Peel and core the apples and pears and cut them in small pieces. Put all the ingredients into a pan together and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour, until the fruits are very soft, adding a little water if it becomes too dry.

Variations: Other possible additions: chopped lemon or candied orange peel, walnuts, pistachios, dried figs, orange or lemon juice, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.

Source: The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden

Israeli Style
(makes 10 side-dish servings)
2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
2 bananas, peeled and chopped
Juice and grated peel of 1/2 lemon
Juice and grated peel of 1/2 orange
15 dates, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup ground pistachios
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup sweet Passover wine
5 tablespoons matzo meal

In large bowl, combine apples, bananas, lemon juice and peel, orange juice and peel, dates and nuts; mix well. Add cinnamon, wine and matzo meal; blend thoroughly.
Source: “A Passover Seder With Israeli Flavor,” from the St. Louis Post Dispatch by Judy Zeidler

Surinam—Seven Fruit (Sephardic Style)
(makes 5 cups)

8 oz. unsweetened coconut
8 oz. chopped walnuts or grated almonds
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
8 oz. raisins
8 oz. dried apples
8 oz. dried prunes
8 oz. dried apricots
8 oz. dried pears
4 oz. cherry jam
sweet red wine

Combine everything except the jam and wine in a pot. Cover with water and simmer over low heat. Periodically, add small amounts of water to prevent sticking. Cook at least 90 minutes. When it is cohesive, stir in the jam and let stand until cool. Add enough sweet wine to be absorbed by the charoset and chill.

Source: The Jewish Holiday Kitchen by Joan Nathan

Enjoy your Pesach preparations.

Be healthy, be positive. All the best to you and yours. By the way, if you love haroset and all its history you will love the book “Haroset: A Taste of Jewish History” by Susan Weingarten.

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Charoset or Haroset

photo from Wikipedia

This year we are preoccupied with the covid-19 virus. Everyone is worried, careful, and wondering how long the anxiety will last. However, covid-19 virus notwithstanding, Pesach will begin on Wednesday night, April 8, 2020. In preparation for that day, I am thinking a lot about charoset. Charoset is one of the fabulous unique flavours we have on that most special night. Maybe it’s an escape, but at least it’s an innocent escape.

Charoset (חרוסת) is a sweet brown paste generally made of fruits, nuts, wine, and spices. The word Charoset may be from the word cheres- חרס, the Hebrew word for clay. The brown sticky spread is designed to remind us of the mortar that the enslaved Israelites used in ancient Egypt. There are many recipes from all over the world each delicious in its own right.

Ashkenazi charoset from Wikipedia

Ashkenazi Jews from eastern Europe tend to have a charoset made of chopped apples, chopped walnuts, cinnamon, sweet red wine and honey. Whether your family came from Russia, Poland, Romania or Hungary, they probably made it that way and that’s what you grew up eating at your seder table.

Mizrachi Jews – whose families come from the Middle East and North Africa Have many different recipes. It seems that each community made its own style of charoset, one that is very different from the Ashkenazi flavour.

Hardy apples walnuts are the main ingredients in the European version. Dates are a staple in the Arab world, and so they are found in nearly every Mizrachi recipe. The European version uses cinnamon as its spice. The Mizrachi flavours include ginger, cardamon, and nutmeg. The Eastern charoset recipes will use pistachios, almonds, pine nuts and/or hazelnuts in the mix.

Figs, cinnamon, cardamon, lemon, ginger –
perfect if there is a nut allergy

Each year I make a few different recipes for charoset. I do the traditional Ahkenazi flavour, a Mizrachi flavour, and my favourite- a Shir haShirim creation. Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs), is read on the Shabbat during Pesach. It is a very romantic love song which describes two lovers seeking  and longing for each other. (In traditional Judaism it is regarded as an allegory for God’s love toward the Jewish people.) Throughout this love poem there are numerous descriptions of nature. One of my favourite verses describes the scent of spices wafting on the soft breezes.  Rabbi Yitzchak Luria  from Tzfat, who lived in the 16th Century suggested making charoset from the nuts, fruits, and spices mentioned in the Song of Songs.

Over each of the next weeks leading up to Pesach I will include a recipe from another culture. Below I have listed the fruits, nuts and spices mentioned in Shir haShirim (Song of Songs) with their sources- you can create your own recipe. I have also included the traditional Ashkenazi recipe.If you want to send on YOUR charoset recipe it would be lovely to find out what you do.

Stay safe, and be healthy. This too shall pass. Have a good week and a good Shabbat, Laya

Ingredients for a Shir haShirim Charoset  (with quotations from the original text. )

  • APPLES 2:3  Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men.
  • APPLES 2:5  Feed me with dainties, refresh me with apples
  • FIGS 2:13  The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
  • POMEGRANATE  4:13  Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates     GRAPES 2:15  … our vineyards (grape vines) are in blossom.
  • WALNUTS  6:11  I went down into the walnut grove…
  • DATES 7:7   This thy stature is like to a palm-tree…
    ADDITION OF WINE 1:2   For thy love is better than wine.                       SPICES 4: 13, 14  henna with spikenard plants,  Spikenard and saffron, calamus and  cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spice

Traditional Ashkenazi Charoset

  • 3 medium apples- Canadians prefer macintosh (!) peeled, cored, and finely diced
  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup sweet red wine
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon honey

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Dvir, Devorah and Hamantaschen

Yahrzeit photo by Laya Crust

This has been an emotional week. My husband and I recently returned from Portugal where we witnessed the results of the forced conversions and Inquisiton against our people in the 16th century. Hearing about the torture and death that Jews faced in the time of the Portuguese Inquisition was horrifying. Witnessing the lack of historical Jewish culture and architecture was sobering. The Coversos (secret Jews) of Portugal held on to their traditions as much as they could. Secretly, covertly, they retained the laws and traditions they could practise without being caught.

Purim was a very important time for the secret Jews. They identified with the antisemitism Jews faced in Shushan because of Haman and his influence. Just as Queen Esther fasted for three days the Conversos would also fast for three days and meet secretly to hear the story of Esther saving her people. Some people took shifts for the three day fast and sometimes one person fasted the entire time.

The Portuguese women were the caretakers of the religion. They remembered certain prayers and over time adapted them or created new prayers. They carried on whatever they remembered of the holidays and led Passover observances. Esther the queen saved the Jews, and the women of the Converso communities saved whatever vestiges of their former religion they could.

I began this post with the words “It’s been an emotional week”. While we were in Portugal a beautiful little baby boy was born into our family. His brit milah and naming were on Adar 6 (Monday, March 2), just before my mother’s yahrzeit. A few hours after Dvir Yisrael was named I lit a candle in memory of Devorah z”l.

Dorothy and Joe Crust’s wedding day, 1945

My mother (aka Bobba Dobby- Dobby from her Hebrew name) was an exceptional woman. She spoke three languages fluently, headed volunteer organizations, produced a television program, and hosted dignitaries. Dorothy’s love for Judaism and tradition was transmitted to everyone she met. She had a wonderful way with words and taught with humour and stories. That love of words is an aspect of Dvir’s name.

Dvir Yisrael

The word “Dvir” is found in last week’s haftarah of Terumah. Dvir refers to the Holy of Holies- the innermost and holiest sanctuary in the temple to which the Kohen would enter only on Yom Kippur. The root of the word דביר is דבר which means word/speak. The Holy of Holies is named such because it is the source of the Word of Gd in the tangible world.

I hope Dvir will have his great-Bobba Dobby’s sense of humour, wisdom, and love of family. I hope that he will grow to Torah, chuppah, good deeds, and in that way make the world a better place as did Bobba Dobby and Esther the Queen. And may the world never again witness horrors like the Inquisition which the Conversos had to experience.

Photo of Hamantaschen from My Jewish Learning

Bonus Prize: Bobba Dobby’s Hamantasch recipe:

3 eggs 1 cup water

1 1/2 cups sugar 2 tsp baking powder

pinch salt 4 -5 cups of flour

Combine the first four ingredients, Add the flour, stirring it in, until the dough is soft but not sticky. It should roll out well on your rolling surface. Divide the dough in quarters. Roll one of the batches on a floured surface to almost 1/4 ” thick. Cut it into circles about 31/2″ in diameter. Place a spoonful of filling in the centre of each circle, pinch the three corners towards the middle. You can brush with beaten egg. Bake on a lightly floured baking pan at 350o for 30 minutes until golden brown.

Bobba Dobby’s Date Filling

3 full cups of pitted dates – cut them up first

1/4 cup sugar 1 1/2 cups water

lemon juice to taste grated rind of one lemon

Cook this on a medium heat or in a double boiler until it is like a thick jam.

Thanks for letting me share my week with you. Let me know if you try the hamantaschen. I hope you like them! later this week I will be posting about Shabbat Zachor. Best, Laya

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Shabbat Shira – it’s music

Halleluhu by Laya Crust

Parshat B’Shalach                        Haftarah: Judges 4: 4 – 5: 31

Music is magical. We can’t see it, touch it, smell it or taste it. We can hear it and magically it can transform our mood and take us to other places in our imagination. We all know about love songs (a billion), break-up songs (2 billion), songs of tribute (“Starry Night” about Vincent Van Gogh) and patriotic songs (“La Marseillaise”and “HaTikvah”). All our secrets can be unearthed (“Killing Me Softly”) and raw emotion can be exposed (Stravinsky’s compositions).

Music is a beautiful union of art, science, math, and imagination. I remember a friend of mine- a physicist- being amazed and unbelieving when I told him I loved music. “How is that possible? ” he asked. “You’re an artsy.” I was really surprised by that comment because I had always thought that music was art and emotion. That was when I found out that there is a close relationship between science and music.

Miriam’s Song by Laya Crust

Music is an integral part of joyous Judaism. In the Torah portion B’Shalach we read “The Song of the Sea”.  It is Moses’ song of praise to God that was sung after the Israelites safely crossed the Red (or Reed) Sea, and were saved from the angry Egyptian army. The women, led by the prophet Miriam, sang and danced and made music on their “tof”, a handheld drum. There is a beautiful painting of the women led by Miriam playing their drums in The Golden Haggadah, and another lovely rendition in The Sarajevo Haggadah.

Devorah the Prophetess by Laya Crust
(inspired by a painting from a 17th C. Judeo-Persian book)

This Bible reading describing the escape into the desert, across the sea, and the ultimate Song of the Sea is paired with an adventure story in the Book of Judges. Led by the prophet Devorah the Israelites won a battle against Sisera’s Army. A woman named Yael completed the defeat by killing Sisera. Devorah then sang a song of praise about the triumph and Yael’s conquest.

 When we are happy, when we are sad, when we want to remember or forget, when we want to meditate or pray, be left alone or celebrate with others we often turn to music. Because it is a comforting, joyous and spiritual medium the most beautiful parts of prayer are often paired with music. The painting at the top of the page shows biblical instruments mentioned in “psoukei d’zimra”, prayers we say in the morning.

On this Shabbat Shira, the Shabbat of Song, pay attention to the songs and music composed by Moses, Miriam, and the prophetess-judge Devorah. Enjoy the art, the sounds, and the music around you and have a Shabbat Shalom.

Laya

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Va’Eira, Brotherhood

Moses and Pharaoh by Laya Crust

This week’s Torah portion presents the first wave of plagues against Pharaoh and the Egyptians. At the beginning of the Torah reading Gd talks to Moses tracing His relationship back to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Gd points out to Moshe that He is more open to Moshe than He had been to his forefathers. This link between Moshe and Gd is allows Moshe to fully act as an agent of redemption and miracles.

There are parallels and contrasts between the Book of Genesis and the Book of Exodus. The most glaring contrast is the role of family in the two books. There are many stories of brothers and their relationships with each other.

Cain murders his brother Abel. Isaac is kept away from his half brother Ishmael. Jacob and Esau have a relationship founded on deceit.

The other story we all know is the jealousy of Jacob’s 10 sons toward his favourite child, Joseph.

At first they plan to kill Joseph but then soften their stance and merely sell him into slavery. Of course, slavery was probably a death sentence.

That is the family dynamic in the history of the fledgling Jewish nation. Abraham was selected to lead a new people who would follow Gd’s laws and ethics. The story we read in Va’Era, this week’s parsha, is about Abraham’s descendants enslaved in Egypt, but with a change in that family dynamic.

In the Book of Shemot we are introduced to Moshe, a man who risks everything to save his brethren. He is not jealous or arrogant and welcomes his brother Aaron as an equal. Aaron, three years older than Moshe, takes the lesser role, allowing his younger brother to lead the way. The two men accept Gd’s direction. Their partnership allows them to stand before the ruler of Egypt and free their brethren. Later Miriam, their sister, joins and becomes a leader in her own right.

It is a beautiful contrast to the painful relationships in the Book of Genesis. It is a lesson that if we act as caring partners, and work in cooperation for the good of the community/ city/ country/ world, we can make monumental changers for freedom and equality.

Shabbat Shalom,

Laya

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