The 2-day Jewish Biblical Festival of Shavuot (shuh-VOO-oht) commemorates the day when G-d gave the Jewish people the Torah (the Five Books of Moses) following Moses’ descent from Mount Sinai. This year, Shavuot will occur from sundown, Thursday, May 28 through sundown, Saturday, May 30 on the civil calendar.
Shavuot (Lev. 21:15-16, 21) occurs each year 7 weeks from the second Seder of the Jewish Biblical Festival of Passover. This explains the name “Shavuot” — which is Hebrew for weeks. If you count from one day earlier, from the first Seder of the Festival of Passover, there are 50 days, or as it’s known in Greek — Pentecost, meaning the fiftieth day. (Pentecost is what Christians call their celebration 50 days after Easter Sunday that commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and the followers of Jesus of Nazareth on that day. Pentecost is also called “Whitsun” or “WhitSunday” in the UK and other English-speaking areas.)
The Shavuot synagogue service includes the reading of the Book of Ruth and the “Akadamot”. The Book of Ruth is the story of Ruth, a Moabite woman, who voluntarily chose Judaism and because of her kindness, became the great-grandmother of King David (and for Christians, the ancestor of Jesus of Nazareth), and who is said to have been born on and died on Shavuot. The other book that is read is the “Akdamot”, written in Aramaic by Rabbi Meir ben Isaac of Worms, Germany in the eleventh century C.E., which describes what it will be like during the days of the “Moshiach” (Messiah).
The custom is to eat dairy foods on Shavuot because once the Torah (the Five Books of Moses) was given at Sinai, all methods of killing the animal, other than by “shechitah”, ritually-approved slaughter, were prohibited. Since animals could not be ritually slaughtered on Shabbat (Sabbath), and the Torah was given on Shabbat, on that day the Jews at Sinai had to eat dairy.
Ashkenazic (central and eastern European Jewry) fare includes a variety of dairy dishes including blintzes (fried, filled crepes), noodle or rice kugels (puddings), knishes (filled pastries), kreplach (filled pasta), priogen (filled pastry turnovers), vegetable salads with sour cream, kaesekuchen (cheesecake), strudel, schnecken (yeast pastries), rugelach (cream cheese cookies), kuchen (coffee cakes) and fluden (layered pastry).
Sephardim (Spanish, Portuguese, North African, Balkan, Greek and Turkish Jewry) serve such dishes as borekas (pastry turnovers), ojaldres (phyllo turnovers), calsones (filled pasta), esfongus (spinach-cheese nests), mengedarrah (lentils with rice) topped with yogurt, yogurt salads, sutlach (rice flour pudding), ruz ib assal (honey and milk rice pudding) and biscochos Har Sinai (mounded cookies representing Mt. Sinai).
A fairly newer custom begun in the U.S. by Reform Jewry, and adopted by Conservative Judaism as well, is to hold religious school graduation exercises on Shavuot. More traditional Orthodox communities begin a child’s formal Jewish education on Shavuot.
Chag Sameach (KHAG sah-MEHY-ahkh = A Joyous Holiday)!
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The 8-day (7 days in Israel) Jewish Biblical Festival of Pesach (PEH-sahkh, PAY-sahkh = Passover), named for the ‘passing over’ of the Angel of Death that slew the first born sons of the Egyptians, celebrates the liberation of the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt and the beginning of the Israelite, now Jewish people, and has been continuously celebrated for more than 3,300 years. According to Biblical chronology, the Exodus from Egypt took place 890 years before the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians in 421 BCE, or in 1310 BCE, during the reign of the Pharaoh Adikam (not, as generally believed, and as portrayed in the movie “The Ten Commandments”, during the reign of Ramses II).
As commanded by the Almighty at Sinai (Ex. 12:14-20, 13:1-10 and Lev. 23:4-8), the 8-day Festival of Pesach begins on the 15th day of Nissan and ends on the 22nd day of Nissan (that’s the Babylonian ‘Nissan’, not the Japanese ‘Nissan’), which this year, this will be from sundown, Saturday, April 19 to sundown, Sunday, April 27 on the civil calendar.
As the only major Jewish celebration completely centered on the home and not in the synagogue, Passover is marked by special dietary restrictions, mainly the prohibition against using any grain or leavened product, other than matzoh (unleavened bread made from flour and water and baked for 18 minutes), and ritualized meals (Seders) that follow a specified order as written down in the Haggadah (huh-GAH-duh, the guide book for the Seder service that contains blessings, questions and answers, the story of the Exodus, and songs) on the first two evenings.
A favorite Passover breakfast treat is matzoh brei, French toast made with matzoh:
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The one-day rabbinic Jewish Festival of Purim (PU-rim, PAWR-im), a very merry celebration of the events in the Megillah (m’-GILL-uh) Hadassah (Book of Esther), begins at sundown on Thursday, March 20 on the civil calendar, and with its costumes, noisemakers, food baskets, hamantashen cookies, a festive meal and carnivals, Purim is a favorite Jewish holiday for children and adults alike, especially for those with a great thirst because Purim requires more alcohol consumption than does St. Paddy’s Day.
Ashkenazi (Central and Eastern European) Jews eat hamantaschen (HAH-men-TAH-shen), tri-cornered fruit-filled cookies in reminiscence that the Persian Prime Minister, the evil Haman, was supposed to have worn a tri-cornered hat.
Photo by Ariela at Baking & Books
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Chanukah (KHAH-nik-uh; KHAH-noo-kah) recalls the struggle for religious freedom and commemorates the Rededication of the Temple following the victory of the Jews over the Seleucid Greeks in the year 165 B.C.E. Chanukah means Rededication.
The 8-day rabbinic Jewish Festival of Chanukah always begins on the 25th day of Kislev and, depending on whether Kislev has 29 or 30 days, ends on either the 3rd or 2nd day of Tevet. This year, Kislev has 29 days and thus this year Chanukah will end on the 3rd day of Tevet. (On the civil calendar, this year Chanukah begins at sundown on Tuesday, December 4 and ends at sundown on Wednesday, December 12.)
According to tradition: a single portion of oil, used to light the 7-branch Temple Menorah (the symbol of the Jewish faith), that was to last only one night, lasted eight nights. In commemoration, the 8-branch Chanukah menorah is lit, increasing the number of candles lit each night, until on the eighth and last night, 8 candles are lit. In many American households, red, white and blue candles are set aside for use on the final night.
Continuing the theme of the “miracle” of the oil, the custom is to eat foods fried in oil on Chanukah. Latkes, fried potato pancakes, is typical to almost every American Jewish household of Ashkenazic (central and eastern European) descent. Jews of Sephardic (Spanish and Portuguese) descent favor sufganiyot, fried jelly doughnuts.
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Rosh Hashanah is approaching very fast. It is traditional to serve pomegranate for Rosh Hashanah.
Why pomegranate? Well, on the second day of Rosh Hashanah we are commanded to eat of new fruit that we have not yet eaten this season. As pomegranates are harvested in the Fall, this is often the fruit of choice. More symbolically, our tradition teaches us that a pomegranate has 613 seeds. Similarly, there are 613 mitzvos we are commanded to perform in our holy scriptures.
Anyway, Fessenjan is a Persian Walnut Stew. Although this recipe uses duck, you can use chicken. The procedure will be different, as will the taste. However, it will still be good.
My recipe has been modified from one given to me by a member of the Jewish community here in Great Falls. I don’t like using names on the Internet without permission.
I enjoyed this recipe very much. I hope you enjoy it as well.
5 cups finely ground walnuts
1 cup concentrated pomegranate juice
2 TBL Tomato paste
1 – 2 lbs. quartered duck. Bone in and skin on, please!
1 onion, grated
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp baking soda
Salt and Pepper
1 cup basmati rice
handful pine nutes
2 quart chicken stock
1 pomegranate, seeded
Start the rice cooking in the chicken broth. You know how to make rice, right?
While the rice is cooking, toast the ground walnuts briefly in a nonstick fry pan. Lower the heat to a simmer and add about 3/4 inch of water. Add the pomegranate juice and tomato paste and simmer 45 minutes. The surface should get oily from the walnut oil. You should stir this so the walnuts don’t develop a crust.
Meanwhile, add about 3/4″ of water to a dutch oven. Score the duck skin with a knife. Place the duck pieces in a steamer basket, and steam them in the covered dutch oven for about 25 minutes. This will render out most of the duck fat, which is about the best stuff ever.
Reserve the duck pieces and boil the water until most of it is evaporated. What is left in your pan is white gold, rendered duck fat. Scoop it into an appropriate vessel, leaving about 4 TBL in the pot.
Cube the duck meat, removing the bones. Sear the duck meat, and then add the onion. After the onions have become translucent, add the tumeric, salt and pepper. Stir and add 1 quart chicken stock. Simmer for 45 minutes, uncovered. Add the walnut mixture to the stew, and cook over low heat for 15 minutes.
Add the pine nuts and pomegranate seeds to the cooked rice. Serve the stew over the rice.
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Now that the days are growing a little shorter and the evenings are a bit chilly, I am thinking about winter borscht. In addition, I am seeing a lot of fresh beets at the farmer’s market here in Great Falls. So, borscht.
Now, this isn’t a traditional borscht. However, I think it is very tasty. Don’t wear a white shirt.
Flanken (cross cut beef ribs cut into 1″ sections)
Salt and pepper
Chiffinade of Basil, Oregano and Parsley
In a large dutch oven, sear the flanken in a very small amount of oil. After the meat is seared, add a few quarts of water and boil for 45 minutes, tenderizing the meat and adding flavor to the water. The amount of water should be a little more than the total amount of soup you want to make.
Once the meat is tender, reserve it and shred the meat. Remove and toss the bones. They aren’t good for making stock, as their flavor has already gone into your soup pot.
Add the miripoix, potatoes, cabbage, beets and meat to the pot. Season to taste and simmer for about two hours.
About 30 minutes before removing from heat, add the diced tomatoes. Right before serving, add the herbs.
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The two-day (one day if in Israel or if following the Reform ritual) Jewish Biblical Festival of Rosh ha Shannah (Lev. 23:23-25), also known as the Jewish New Year, begins at sunset on this Wednesday (September 12) and commemorates the anniversary of the creation of the world, and more specifically the day on which G-d created Man, G-d’s final and most precious creation; and, of G-d as judge, dispensing mercy or justice to those who do or do not repent their sins.
The shofar (ram’s horn) is blown, sounding the alarm that it is the time for introspection, asking for forgiveness, giving forgiveness, resolving to do better, remembering G-d is our King and Judge.
The custom is to eat sweet foods on Rosh ha Shannah as a symbol of the wish for a sweet year. In Biblical times, honey was the sweetener and represented good living and wealth. The Land of Israel is often called the land of milk and honey in the Bible.
Following my name are two sweet Rosh ha Shannah recipes that, of course, use honey: Sweet New Year Brisket and Honey Cake.
L’Shannah Tovah* & Happy 5768,
Great Falls, MT
* L’Shannah Tovah (li-SHAH-nuh TOH-vuh; li-shah-NAH toh-VAH)
Hebrew. Lit. for a good year. The common greeting during Rosh ha Shannah and the Days of Awe. This is a shortening of “L’Shannah tovah tikatev v’taihatem” (or, to women, “L’Shannah tovah tikatevi v’taihatemi”), which means, “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.” This year, Rosh ha Shannah begins at sunset on Wednesday, September 12 on the civil calendar.
Sweet New Year Brisket recipe
The following recipe for Sweet New Year Brisket was obtained at judaism.about.com :
5 to 7 lb. brisket, washed and drained
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 to 1/2 cup Coca-Cola™
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup honey
4 to 5 Tbsp. ketchup
1/2 tsp. mustard powder
1/2 tsp. paprika
1. Place washed and drained brisket in covered container large enough to hold brisket in refrigerator.
2. Blend all remaining ingredients in food processor and pour over the brisket.
3. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
4. Cook at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, loosely covered with aluminum foil, until done, approximately 4 to 5 hours.
5. When cool, pour the gravy into a saucepan.
6. Add 1 Tbsp. flour to the gravy and cook until thickens.
7. Pour this gravy over sliced meat when serving.
Honey Cake recipe
The following recipe for Honey Cake is by Esther Shaw, a one-time resident of Helena, Montana, and is from “The MAJCO COOKBOOK, VOLUME II”, published by the Montana Association of Jewish Communities (1999):
3 cups flour, sifted
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 cups honey
1-1/2 cups orange juice
2 eggs, well beaten
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup dried apricots, cut
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients. Set aside.
3. In another bowl mix together the honey, orange juice, eggs, raisins, walnuts, and dried fruit, reserving the almonds for a topping.
4. Add orange juice/honey mixture to the flour. Mix well.
5. Grease two (9 X 5-inch) loaf pans.
6. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans.
7. Sprinkle almonds on top of batter.
8. Reduce the oven to 325 degrees and bake cakes for one hour.
9. Cool the cakes on rack.
Yield: 14 servings
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