Tag Archives: Passover

Charoset

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photo courtesy of enwikipedia

This year Pesach begins on Monday night, April 10. There is a lot of preparation for Pesach- cleaning, shopping and preparing. Charoset is one of the fabulous unique flvours we have on that most special night.

Charoset (חרוסת) is a sweet brown paste generally made of fruits, nuts, wine and spices. The word Charoset is 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.

Image result for charoset

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 Ahkenazt 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 nuts, fruits, spices mentioned in the Song of Songs.

Below I have listed the fruits, nuts and spices mentioned in Shir haShirim (Song of Songs) with their sources- you can try your own recipe. I have also included a number of different charoset recipes from around the world, so try something new. If you want to send on YOUR charoset recipe it would be lovely to find out what you do.

Have a sweet and meaningful Pesach,

Laya

 

Ingredients for a Shir haShirim Charoset  (with sources 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.
  • 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

  • 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

 

Yemenite — food.com

  • 1cup slivered almonds
  • 12 cup dried apricots
  • 1cup figs dried quartered
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons  finely grated lime or lemon rind
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 -4 tablespoons sweet white wine
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds – optional

 

PERSIAN CHAROSET- HALEK    food.com

  • 1cup dates
  • 1cup shelled pistachios
  • 1cup almonds (shelled)
  • 1cup raisins
  • 1 each: apple, orange, banana-finely  chopped
  • seeds from 1 pomegranate
  • 1cup sweet wine
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1teaspoon black pepper 

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Shawarma to go

The Washington Haggadah,  1478,   by Yoel ben Simeon

When the Israelites were about to leave Egypt, God told them to take a lamb. He directed Moses that …”They shall eat it roasted over the fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs…” (Exodus 12:8)…God continued the instructions. “This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly;” (Exodus 12:11)

It occurred to me that as well as telling the story of the exodus from Egypt through the haggadah, we could commemorate the exodus in another way. Through our menu.

This year I have decided to make a shawarma style main course. It will be delicious, easy, fun, and maybe even instigate a different kind of discussion.

Chicken Shawarma

Ingredients (serves 8-10)

1  1/2 kilos  (3. 3 lbs)  deboned chicken breast or chicken thighs

3 onions, sliced

2 Tbsp olive oil

salt, pepper to taste

Marinade

1 Tbsp. chicken soup mix

3/4 c. olive oil

2 Tbsp curry powder

1 Tbsp. garam masala (or a mixture of cinnamon, cumin, coriander and pepper)

Method:

Slice the chicken into strips.

Make the marinade and pour over the chicken , letting it rest for at least 2 hours. It’s great if you can let it marinate longer- even overnight.

Fry the onions in a large frying pan. Add the marinated chicken and fry until the chicken is cooked through.

And that’s it! Super easy!

We’ll have a table full of hot sauce, “charif”, olives, pickles, coleslaw, and chopped cabbage to add to our “not-laffa” and shawarma.

Our vegetarians will get to tuck into marinated, sauteed portobello mushrooms, onions, and eggplant.

Have a good time at your seder, and if you try the shawarma recipe, let me know!

Chag kasher v’sameach,

Laya


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Pesach and the Hare Hunt

Havdalah, Barcelona Haggadah, 15th C. Spain

Pesach is coming. It will be here just a couple of weeks from now, beginning on Friday night, April 22, 2016. Those of us who live outside of Israel are expected to have two seders, the second one starting after Shabbat on Saturday night, April 23. On Saturday nights we Jews perform a beautiful ceremony called Havdalah- a ceremony that involves fire, wine, spices, and song. It gets a little  complicated when we observe a holiday on Saturday night that calls for the kiddush and the Havdalah ceremony too.

What is the right order of the prayers? Do we do the holiday kiddush first or say the Havdalah prayers first? When do we light the fire?There is a specific blessing recited on holidays in general (the שהחינו –  the she’he’chianu”). When is that said?

  Rabbah bar Nachmani  (c. 270 – c. 330 C.E.) taught that the correct order of the prayers was yayin (wine), kiddush, ner, (candle), havdalah, zeman (she’he’chianu). To make the order easier to remember Rabbah coined the acronym יקנהז (YaKNeHaZ).

In many of the early haggadot we see the word יקנהז written either immediately before or after the kiddush or havdalah prayers.

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This is from the Bird’s Head Haggadah, 1290 Southern Germany. The small letters in the centre of the page say, “When the first [night] is on the evening after Shabbat [do] the blessings use the acronym YaKNeHaZ”.

So there we see it written, all the way back 7 1/4 centuries ago.

Somewhere along the route of history someone realized that YaKNeHaZ sounds a lot like the German “jag den has”( pronounced like “yag den has) which means “hunt the hare”. An illustrator got the idea to illustrate the term with a hare hunt.

RABBIT, RUN: An image from a Haggadah written by the scribe Meir Jaffe in southern Germany, circa 1490. Southern Germany, c.1490

This seems to have started a trend, and many haggadot could be seen with hare hunts. Eventually there was an additional layer of interpretation put onto the imagery. The hare was associated with the Jew being hunted down by a hunter and his dogs. Below is a woodcut from the Prague haggadah of 1526.  The hunter and dogs are trapping the hares in a net.

But, don’t despair. The allusion was taken a step farther. In the woodcuts from the Augsburg Haggadah of 1534 there are two scenes of Jag den has. The first shows the hare being hotly pursued by dogs and a hunter. The hare runs into the net and seemingly will  be caught.

But look at what the artist did next-  our “wiley wabbits” -or smart hares- managed to slip under the fence while the hounds and hunter were kept at bay.

 

This was the next chapter in a long book of how Jews perceive their lot in the world. With the fear of anti-semitism around them, Jewish illustrators and artists used art and humour to play with words and make the most of a situation.When we speak of humour in Jewish art there is a great deal to be found in the border illustration of our historic manuscripts and books. I love this little section from the Barcelona Haggadah, showing a rabbit or hare keeping a dog in order, accepting the kiddush wine  from a formally attired cat or pig.
 Barcelona Haggadah, 14th C.

Hares, rabbits, dogs, and other animals -even dragons- appear liberally in Jewish and Christian medieval manuscripts. If you want a nice romp through whimsy look up some medieval manuscripts and you’ll see some great imagery.

The next time you wonder how to do kiddush and havdalah on a holiday remember “YaKNeHaZ”, the hare hunt, and smile. Share this blog with your friends and family at your seder table!

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Have a great week and Shabbat Shalom,

Laya

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Shabbat HaGadol


Shabbat hagadol sig

Over the last couple of months I have been perusing my haggadah collection and books about haggadot. It is fascinating to note the changes in illustration influenced by culture, politics, and artistic trends.

In medieval times a short section was added to the haggadah after the meal was finished. It begins with the Hebrew words “Shafoch Hamatcha”- a phrase  calling on Gd to pour His wrath on those people who do not know Him.  At a traditional seder the people attending stand up while the door is opened so Elijah (Eliahu) can enter and take a sip from his special cup of wine in the centre of the table. We children all used to watch the cup of wine very carefully to see how much disappeared- did Eliahu really come? As my father explained he could only drink a tiny, tiny bit because he had to visit EVERY Jewish house in the world that was hosting a seder.

But I digress. This text was added in the 11th Century after  the Crusades began.In early haggadot the first word of the phrase was decorated but it wasn’t until a couple of centuries later a special illustration was added.

In Prague, 1526 someone decided to illustrate it. A figure of the messiah is shown riding a donkey- a reference to salvation. This woodcut was quite small. it was just a small insert into a much larger page.   20150326_185202[1]

The woodcut was copied and reprinted into a number of different haggadah editions. In 1560 an artist in Mantua decided to  embellish the image. Not only do we have  whole landscape with Eliahu accompanying the Messiah, the whole layout is changed. The two figures and the landscape cover almost half the page. The title word is also very large and ornate. Just above the building (is that Jerusalem?) we see a tiny soldier in full uniform. He may be representing the enemy that does not acknowledge Gd.

This page is from the Washington haggadah, created in Northern Italy in 1478. Yoel ben Shimon was a prolific artist and scribe who created at least 8 haggadot in Italy and Germany.  His painting is delightful. It’s such a surprise to see the Messiah galloping through a town with a family riding behind him, holding on for dear life. They all seem to be wearing period dress with the father/ husband in a cloak and hood. The wife is wearing a lovely gown and hat and carrying a cup of wine As they pass a house a gentleman is in the doorway holding out a cup of wine- maybe for Eliahu. 20150326_214948[1]

The illustration on the right  is from a 15th century German haggadah. It is a sweet rendering. The man leading the horse may be Eliahu. The rider is wearing a crown, a regal red robe and he is the person blowing the shofar.The ribbons coming from the figures all have biblical verses referring to redemption and the coming of the Messiah.

I used the woodcut from Mantua, 1560 as the model for my Shabbat HaGadol painting. The haftarah reading is from Malachi 3:4 – 24. Verse 23 is read twice. It says, “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.” The reference to Elijah and the approach of Pesach made this a great “match”.

By the way- the Worms, Germany Haggadah of 1521, changed the reading somewhat. They substituted the original phrase with:

“Pour out Your love on the nations who have known You,
and on the kingdoms that call upon Your name.
For they have shown loving-kindness to the seed of Jacob,

This year take a look at the illustrations in your haggadah. They can be a lot of fun.

Have a Shabbat Shalom,

Laya

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Kedoshim

Kedoshim sig

Amos 9: 7-15

Amos (prophet) died c.745 BCE. He was a shepherd in Tekoa in Judea where he prophesied from 765 to 750 B.C.E.

We have just finished celebrating the memorable holiday of Pesach- that holiday devoted to remembering how God liberated us from slavery in ancient Egypt. It is fitting that we begin our post-Pesach readings with parshat “Kedoshim”. In “Kedoshim” God first reviews the ten commandments. He continues by telling b’nei Yisrael (the children of Israel) how He will punish them if they stray from the commandments.   The parsha ends with God telling the Israelites that they shall be holy- that God has set them apart from the other nations.

In our haftarah Amos tells the Jews that God treasures and judges all peoples. Amos tells them that the Jews are not the only nations that God has saved or punished. The Cush (Ethiopians), Philistines (Europeans) and Arameans (Asians) are all mentioned as having been saved from their captors. Amos continues by warning the Jews that they will be punished for their sins. Amos’ prophecy ends by foreseeing the time when God will “reestablish the fallen tabernacle of David”. He tells them that the children of Israel will plant vineyards and drink their wine, and the hills will wave with grain. The haftarah ends with the words, “And I will plant them on their soil, nevermore to be uprooted.”

What a wonderful phrase!

The image of the Jew in Israel among the orchards and the waving wheat inspired this haftarah’s image. I chose to model my painting on a photograph of a “chalutz” (pioneer) in the Jezreel Valley. The photograph, taken by Shmuel Joseph Zweig in 1946, is a perfect illustration- proof, even- of God’s promise to us, His people. We are back in Eretz Yisrael, our land, tilling the fields and surrounded by its bounty.

We are blessed to be witness to the realization of Amos’ prophecy. As we said at the seder, “Next year in Jerusalem.” And continuing with this haftarah’s conclusion, “Nevermore to be uprooted from the soil I have given them- said the Lord your God.”

If you click on the image at the top of the page it will enlarge. If you enjoyed this post share it with your friends and colleagues on Facebook, and share it with your students at school and your family around the table.

Have a wonderful Shabbat.

 

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Passover- Intermediate Shabbat

Pesach Shabbat sig

Ezekiel 37 : 1-14

Ezekiel- A prophet among the Israelites exiled to Babylon. He prophesied there from about 592 – 572 BCE.

Did you ever hear the gospel song, “Them bones, them bones, them dry bones…”? That gospel song was written based on this Shabbat’s haftarah.

Ezekiel the prophet recounts that he was lifted up by God and placed in the middle of a valley full of bones. Ezekiel and the Lord have a conversation in which God tells Ezekiel to prophesy over the bones and then God will fill them with the breath of life. That is indeed what happens. Ezekiel prophesies and he hears noise and rattling. The bones come together and become covered with sinew and flesh. Then breath comes from the four winds and the bodies rise up and live . God tells these resuscitated people that  He will put His spirit in them and they will live in their own land. The bones represent “the house of Israel” and when they are ready God will bring them back to Israel.  He says, “And I will put my spirit in you, and you shall live.”

The painting at the top of the page (if you click on it , it will enlarge) is based on a fresco painting from the Dura Europas Synagogue. It shows Ezekiel at the Valley of the Dry Bones, in time lapse illustration (is time lapse a new or an ancient concept?) being carried by the hand of God. The Eastern looking Ezekiel with flowing curly hair is wearing embroidered crimson robes and deep green trousers. All the hands, faces, and bones shown in the painting really illustrate the scene presented to Ezekiel the prophet.

The painting is one of many found in Dura Europas, Syria. It was a small trading city in eastern Syria near the Euphrates River. The ancient synagogue was completed around 244 BCE, and its walls were covered by incredible frescoes or tempera paintings that illustrated stories from the Torah, the Prophets, and other books of the bible. The paintings were discovered during archaeological excavations in 1932. 58 paintings were found, and it is believed that originally about 100 Biblical scenes were painted on the walls.

Doura Europos synagogue courtyard.jpg  

The frescoes are wonderful.  It’s always fascinating to see the depictions of biblical figures wearing clothing and using objects specific to an ancient time we aren’t familiar with.

This particular story is appropriate for a Passover reading. In the story of the Exodus the children of Israel walk through the desert and God takes them to their own land- the Land of Israel. In Ezekiel chapter 37 God tells the people whom He has revived that He will take them to the Land of Israel.

It makes one think of other such parallel stories from throughout our difficult Jewish history.

Back to “Them bones, them bones, them dry bones… If you like old gospel songs and good harmony check out some of the renditions on youtube.

And have a Happy Pesach.

Remember to share this post with your friends, relatives and students!

And have a Happy Pesach.ers.

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Shabbat HaGadol

 

Shabbat hagadol sig

Malachi 3:4 – 24

Prophet- Malachi is the last of the prophets. He is thought to have lived around 500 – 480 BCE after the construction of the Second Temple.

The Shabbat right before Pesach is called Shabbat HaGadol- The Great Sabbath. One interpretation is that “Moshiach”- the Messiah- will come on Passover, so this is the  Great Shabbat, the one before that great redemption.

Another idea is that the days leading up to the Exodus from Egypt were days of unusual and overwhelming preparation for the Israelites. Those preparations  not only affected sacrifices and food but defined faith and self identification. That concept holds true today. Those who choose to prepare for Pesach and change their diet and behaviours for an entire week are declaring their faith in the God of Israel and defining themselves as Jews.

The haftarah begins by recognizing the transgressions of the Jews. God, through Malachi, lists the sins committed by the Jews- theft, lying, cheating, adultery and more.  The Jews ask about certain accusations and God answers them. Throughout there is a path of forgiveness with the simile that as a man spares his son the Jews will be spared.

Verse 23 is read twice. It is the second last verse of this reading. “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.” That verse is read again at the very end of the portion. That phrase was the catalyst for the image I painted for this haftarah.

After the dinner we read the phrase “Pour out Thy wrath upon the nations that do not know you…” We open our door to allow Eliyahu (Elijah) into our home to drink some wine. In some haggadot there is a picture of Eliyahu riding a donkey and blowing a shofar- announcing the Messiah. There are some lovely woodcuts and paintings in haggadot from the 15th – 17th centuries.

 This woodcut is from a haggadah published in Prague, 1526.

I chose the image below for my illustration of Shabbat HaGadol. It is from Mantua, 1560.

Tayqu.jpg Other notable haggadah illustrations of Eliahou are from Germany, c. 1425 ; the Washington Haggadah from Italy, 1478; and one from Venice 1609.

The end of the haftarah is lovely. Malachi says, “…he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the childen, and the heart of the children to their fathers:”  It’s a beautiful idea. It makes me think of the 4 children in the haggadah. Whatever else is happening in their relationships,  at the Pesach seder they come back home to sit and discuss and debate with their family- those they love.

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