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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.

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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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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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