Fish is a traditional part of the Rosh Hashanah meal. Since Rosh Hashanah translates literally as “Head of the Year,” some people will eat the head of a fish as part of the holiday meal, or at least have one on their holiday table. Fish is also a symbol of fertility and prosperity.
Today, we will make a beautiful fish from Plasticine. While you won’t be able to eat it, you can add it to the table with other symbols of the holiday.
For this art project, you will need various colors of Plasticine or Play Doh.
1. First, we make the body of the fish. Roll a small ball from blue Plasticine.
2. Flatten the ball with the palm of your hand and flip onto the other side.
3. With the tip of your fingers, gently raise the edges on both sides.
4. Now make a top fin. You will need three small pieces of dark blue or purple Plasticine. Using a toothpick, attach the top fin to the body of the fish.
5. Use yellow Plasticine to make a bottom fin.
6. Add an orange fin on top of the yellow one.
7. With the help of a toothpick, make an indent for the mouth. Later, using pink Plasticine, create heart-shaped lips. Attach the lips to the body.
8. Using white and black Plasticine assemble an eye, and add it to what you’ve already put together.
9. Our fish is almost ready! We just need to add scales. Make a small green ball and flatten it. Add this newly formed circle to the body. Now, create many of these circles and decorate your fish with beautiful and colorful scales.
Instead of circles, you may create stripes or any other unique designs – and, of course, you can use any colors you want for any part of your fish. Art is a soul’s expression. Imagine, inspire, innovate!
Happy New Year to all young readers and their parents! Curly Orli and I wish you a year full of happiness and joy!
Lana Lagooncais a graphic designer, author and illustrator. At curlyorli.com, there are more free lessons, along with information about Curly Orli merchandise.
The tuna salad recipe is one of Lynn Kirsche Shapiro’s mother’s most popular recipes. (photo by Nick Ulivieri Photography)
The first section of Food, Family and Tradition: Hungarian Kosher Family Recipes and Remembrances (Cherry Press, 2013) is a family album, which Lynn Kirsche Shapiro says is her way of completing two unfinished legacies: “my mother’s recipes and my father’s autobiography.”
Her mother went blind at age 75 and Shapiro viewed the project of compiling her recipes as a tangible tribute to her mother’s contribution to the lives of her family and others. Her father was in the process of writing his life story when he died at the age of 81.
“After beginning the book, I understood that my family’s recipes and history were part of a larger world: the traditional Jewish life in Czechoslovakia and Hungary before the Holocaust,” Shapiro writes. “Many books have been written to educate others, to bear witness to the events and atrocities of the Holocaust. My book also attempts to get the picture of the richness of Jewish life in Eastern Europe prior to the Holocaust. Strong family traditions were the bedrock on which our parents, and so many of the Holocaust survivors, were raised. It is because of this strong family bond, deep tradition and unwavering faith that our parents were able to live again, to build a family and to contribute to the future.”
Shapiro’s father, Sandor Kirsche (Shalom Kirschenbaum) was born in a village in Carpathian Czechoslovakia. His family ran a small grocery store in their home. Barely surviving Buchenwald, he returned to his hometown of Hlyuboka, where he found his remaining two sisters who, along with Sandor and an aunt and uncle, were the only five remaining from 38 family members. A ship he had planned to take to Palestine was canceled and he soon after met Margit Weisz. They married in 1947 and moved to Chicago. There, Sandor worked in retail foods and, in 1973, opened an all-kosher supermarket that thrives today.
Margit was born in Gergely, Hungary. In 1944, on the last day of Passover, word came that the Nazis were to evacuate the Jews the next day. Her family hired non-Jews to drive them in wagons away in the night, but they were caught. They were sent first to a ghetto and then most of the family was killed in Auschwitz. Shapiro’s mother was sent to a subcamp of Buchenwald, where she worked with 250 other women preparing wooden crates and making ammunition. After liberation, she discovered that a brother had survived, alone among their large family. Meeting Sandor shortly after liberation, the family story takes an uplifting turn as their American dream becomes real.
The recipes in the book are not really innovative. Many of them, like the ones included here, which have been proven in one of the Jewish Independent “test kitchens,” are superb in part because of their simplicity. While East European cuisine generally, and its Jewish form specifically, certainly have dishes that are set apart from others as emblematic of major celebrations, they emphatically avoid fancy-schmancy trends so common today. This is probably why recipes like these last generations.
The book, in fact, has a litany of the classics of Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine: chopped chicken liver, gefilte fish, chopped herring, stuffed cabbage, borscht, potato soup, chicken soup, of course, blintzes, kugel, boiled fish, schmaltz, cholent, goulash, brisket, tzimmes, beet salad, latkes, kasha, and a litany of baking from challah to dumplings and honey cake.
While these recipes are fitting for the High Holidays, you might want to put them aside (the ones with oil, at least) for Chanukah as well.
SWEET AND SOUR CABBAGE SOUP WITH MEAT Traditional Hungarians cooked cabbage in a variety of ways. Here is a rich and tasty sweet and sour cabbage soup, with the deep flavor of meat. I like to cook it for a few hours to develop a flavor. For a sweeter taste, add raisins. I always do.
1 to 2 tbsp vegetable oil 1 1/2 to 2 lbs short ribs, cut into large chunks 1 medium onion, diced 1 medium head cabbage, cored, cut into small squares or shredded 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes quartered or one (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes 1 cup tomato sauce 1/2 tbsp lemon juice 1/3 cup sugar 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper 1 tsp salt 1/3 cup dark or golden raisins, optional
In an eight-quart pot over medium-high heat, heat oil. Brown short ribs with onions, turning so ribs brown on all sides. Decrease heat to low, cover tightly and steam until meat is tender, about 30 minutes to one hour.
Add the cabbage, the tomatoes together with their juice, and the remainder of ingredients to the meat, including raisins if using. Add six cups of water. Bring to a boil, decrease heat to low and simmer, covered, until the cabbage and the meat are both tender, about one hour. Taste and adjust seasonings. For a richer flavor, cook an additional 30 minutes to one hour.
Serve ladled into heated bowls. Makes eight to 10 (eight-ounce) servings.
TUNA SALAD This tuna salad is one of my mother’s most popular recipes, and we have been told that nobody’s tuna salad is as tasty. It is simple but it has its secrets. One is the grated egg; another is the oil-packed tuna. You can substitute water-packed tuna if you want a lighter salad, but the depth of flavor will not be quite the same.
1 (12-ounce) can or 2 (5-ounce) cans oil packed tuna, well-drained 3 hard-boiled eggs, shelled 1/4 cup minced onion 1 stalk celery, very finely chopped 1/3 to 1/2 cup mayonnaise
Place tuna in a medium bowl and mash with a fork. Grate the egg and add to the tuna, stirring to mix. Add the onion and celery, and mix well with the mayonnaise. Cover and refrigerate for up to three days. Makes four servings.
CHICKEN SCHNITZEL Schnitzel is authentically European, whether veal or chicken. My mother’s chicken schnitzel is special. She debones her own white meat from the chicken, then slices it thin and pounds it to about 1/4-inch uniform thickness. Also, she uses fresh breadcrumbs for the breading. Pounding the chicken breasts uniformly thin allows them to cook faster and more evenly. For added flavor, I often mix breadcrumbs with cornflake crumbs, half and half.
6 to 8 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, about 2 pounds 1 cup flour 1 tsp seasoned salt 1/2 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika 1/4 tsp garlic powder 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper 2 eggs, beaten, mixed with 1 tbsp water 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, or 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs and 1/2 cup cornflake crumbs vegetable oil for frying, as needed
Slice each chicken breast in half horizontally. Cover each piece with plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet or rolling pin, pound chicken breasts to an even thickness of 1/4 inch. Some tears are OK; even thickness is the most important step.
Place flour and seasonings in one shallow bowl; stir to mix. Place egg and crumbs into additional separate shallow bowls.
Dip each chicken piece first in flour, then egg and then the crumb mixture. Transfer to a tray or plate and repeat until all chicken is breaded.
In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil as needed. Fry schnitzel on each side, in batches, turning once, until golden brown and cooked through, about five minutes for each side.
Serve immediately or transfer to a parchment-lined baking pan and keep warm in a 250°F oven. Serve on individual plates with vegetables and potatoes or rice of choice. Makes eight servings.
FRIED CAULIFLOWER This is crispy and best prepared in a deep fryer. For a lighter, healthier choice, oven bake it on a cookie sheet.
oil, as needed, for deep frying 1 cup bread crumbs, preferably from challah, or 1 cup cornflake crumbs [the Independent used Panko, with great results] 1/4 tsp salt 1/4 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper 1 cup flour 2 eggs, beaten 1 large head cauliflower, separated into florets
If frying, preheat the oil to 350°F in a deep fryer or deep pot. Season breadcrumbs or cornflake crumbs with the salt, paprika and pepper.
In three separate shallow dishes, place flour, eggs and crumbs.
Dip the cauliflower florets first in the flour, next the eggs, and then the breadcrumbs. Fry in batches in the deep fryer, drain on paper towels.
Alternatively, preheat oven to 400°F. Place breaded cauliflower florets on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, and bake until crisp and brown, about 20 minutes, turning the pan once in oven.
Makes eight servings.
CUCUMBER SALAD, UKORKASALATA
Cucumbers were readily available in Hungary and Czechoslovakia from spring through summer, making ukorkasaláta a classic salad during the season, light and refreshing, perfect for a summer meal. My husband, Irv, likes to serve it as an accompaniment to grilled steak; it balances the richness of the beef. The vinegar and the salt are preservatives, allowing the salad to keep, refrigerated, for a week. Of course, as my mother says, “At home, we never worried about the refrigeration because it never lasted too long – it was all eaten up quickly.” It is best prepared in advance, so the cucumbers have a slightly pickled flavored.
2 large seedless cucumbers (about 1 1/2 pounds), skin on, sliced paper thin one medium onion, sliced paper thin 1 heaping tbsp salt 1/3 cup water 1/3 cup sugar 1/3 cup white vinegar
Place the cucumbers and the onions in a medium bowl and toss with the salt. Let stand for one hour. Transfer to a colander and drain. Place plastic wrap on top and press down to extract the maximum liquid. Transfer drained cucumber onion mixture to a nonreactive bowl. Reserve.
In a small bowl, place water, sugar and vinegar, and whisk to dissolve sugar. Pour this marinade over the cucumber and onions. Cover and refrigerate, for up to one week.
From Sybil Kaplan: A couple of years ago, I discovered clafouti, the French dessert of fruit, covered with a batter, baked and served warm. What I loved most was that it was good year around, it could be made pareve and it looked elegant.
MASTER CLAFOUTI Works for peaches, plums, nectarines, cherries, pumpkin, pears, apples. Makes six to eight servings.
1 cup non-dairy creamer or pareve whipping cream (with/without sugar) 1/3 cup sugar (or substitute) 4 large eggs 1 tbsp vanilla 1/2 cup flour
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a baking dish or deep glass pie plate. Place non-dairy creamer, sugar, eggs, vanilla and flour in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Place fruit overlapping in bottom of baking dish. Pour batter on top. Bake 30-40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
APPLE CLAFOUTI 6 apples 1 cup non-dairy creamer or pareve whipping cream 1 tbsp brandy 1/4 cup raisins 4 eggs 1 tbsp vanilla 1/2 cup flour
Follow directions for master clafouti. Makes six servings.
CLAFOUTI WITH PEACHES 6 large sliced peaches 2 1/4 cups non-dairy creamer or whipping cream 3 eggs 3 egg yolks 1 1/2 tsp vanilla 6 tbsp sugar cinnamon
Grease baking dish. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place peach slices in baking dish. Whisk together non-dairy creamer, eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, sugar. Pour over peaches. Sprinkle on cinnamon. Bake 30-40 minutes until knife inserted in centre comes out clean. Makes six servings.
From Esther Tauby: This is a Rosh Hashanah cake that my Aunt Rose made up and my mother always makes for the holidays – as do I. Enjoy!
PLUM CAKE 2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar 1/2 cup oil 3 eggs 2 tsp baking powder 1/2 cup water 1 tsp vanilla 6-8 prune plums pinch of salt
Cream oil and sugar. Add eggs, beat well. Add flour, baking powder, salt, then vanilla. Use Pam or cover nine-by-13 cake pan with foil or parchment. Pour in half the batter. Cut plums in half lengthwise, place face down in batter. Cover with rest of batter. Bake at 325°F until golden brown, about 30 minutes.
During a festival when people try and increase their “blessings,” adding many different wines provides the opportunity to keep proclaiming HaTov v’HaMeitiv. (photo courtesy of Yarden Inc.)
The Rosh Hashanah meal is a festive affair. Traditions abound as to how the evening meal can bring good tidings for the year ahead. While some stick to apple and honey for a sweet new year, others recite a full array of blessings over various symbolic foods; from increasing in numbers like the seeds of a pomegranate to hopes of being the head not the tail, akin to the lamb’s or fish head that adorns some tables.
When reflecting on wishes for the upcoming season, one Rosh Hashanah tradition that continues throughout the year is that of the HaTov v’HaMeitiv blessing, recited when switching from one style of wine to another. In addition to its centrality for sacramental purposes, in ancient Israel, wine was cleaner and tastier than drinking water and it continues to be a focal element of Jewish culture. The custom is to celebrate the abundance of this joyful beverage, which symbolizes wealth, happiness and success. Given wine’s special power to “gladden the heart” and the uniqueness of each varietal, the sages instituted the special blessing. As opposed to regular blessings which, once recited, “cover” all similar food types, adding the HaTov v’HaMeitiv blessing maintained an awareness of the risks of mindless intoxication and proclaimed gratitude for the abundance of this most-sought-after beverage.
The sages were very clear that drinking alone could lead to sin or impropriety and that only when one is in the company of others could true joy be experienced, thus the blessing is said when two or more are present.
This blessing praising “He who is good and bestows good” is most commonly recited when switching between a white and a red wine, but it can be said when partaking in a wine of a different varietal, quality or style. It is said only when the second (or third, fourth or fifth) wine is of equal or better quality and when the wine is being drunk in company. The sages were very clear that drinking alone could lead to sin or impropriety and that only when one is in the company of others could true joy be experienced, thus the blessing is said when two or more are present.
Celebrating the good and enjoying superior-quality wines are wonderful ways to enhance the Rosh Hashanah table and raise the spirits of all the celebrants. During a festival, when people try and increase their “blessings,” adding many different wines provides the opportunity to keep proclaiming HaTov v’HaMeitiv. In time for the festive season, there are a number of high-quality Israeli wines that are hitting the shelves, yielding the chance to keep blessing good (and better) offerings.
From white to red
The Galil Viognier is a pleasant change from the more traditional white grape varieties. The Viognier is a challenging wine to perfect, but the Galil Mountain Winery, on the border of northern Israel, produces a flawlessly dry, yet extremely fruity and floral offering. Move from this more unusual white to an ever-loved red, the Gilgal Cabernet Sauvignon. Produced by the Golan Heights Winery, this classic red wine is a treat for any cabernet fan. Full-bodied and with an exquisite finish, the Gilgal Cabernet Sauvignon exhibits blackcurrant and cherry notes rounded out by earthy, spicy and oaky characters. While it is eminently drinkable upon purchase, recently wine experts in Israel have been opening decade-old bottles and have been surprised by its aging potential.
Novel blends, from fruity to complex
The Mount Hermon Indigo, named for its signature indigo color provided by a blend of syrah and cabernet sauvignon grapes, set new standards for affordable kosher wine when it was released last year. Now in its second vintage, it is a medium-bodied, fruity wine combining a deep plum flavor with hints of herb and a subtle smokiness. Move from the Mount Hermon Indigo to the Yarden 2T for a richer and fuller-bodied blended red wine. The Yarden 2T, like the Mount Hermon Indigo, shows off plum and cherry characters but this blend of two Portuguese grapes has been aged for 18 months in French oak barrels. The lengthy aging period enables the wine’s deep flavors to flourish and produces a richer, blackberry flavor coupled with Mediterranean spice and deep chocolate notes. The Yarden 2T stole the show this year at the Citadelles du Vin, France’s biggest wine awards, and raises the bar when looking for wine to top that which has been previously tasted.
Whites, from young to aged
Moving from a fresh wine to a richer and aged wine normally implies moving from a white to a red wine but it is possible to do the switch with two white wines. The Gilgal Riesling resembles the traditional rieslings emanating from Alsace and German regions. The Gilgal Riesling showcases the riesling’s familiar high acidity balanced with tropical and fruity aromas. It is a young and easy to drink wine, which underwent a short, cold fermentation and makes a great accompaniment to the first course of the Rosh Hashanah meal. Move from this easy-to-drink white to a richer, barrel-aged chardonnay such as the Yarden Odem Chardonnay. Produced entirely from grapes grown in the Odem organic vineyard on the slopes of the Golan Heights, this delicious, aged chardonnay combines a melt-in-your-mouth buttery flavor with aromatic pear, quince, apple and tropical notes. The Yarden Odem Chardonnay is aged sur lies for seven months in French oak barrels, giving it a rich and full body and one that will improve for a number of years to come.
When saying HaTov v’HaMeitiv, it is preferable to have the previous wine still open and remaining. This Rosh Hashanah, keep the wine flowing all evening and toast a l’chaim to a “good and better” year ahead.
Anna Harwoodis a writer and clinical psychology student at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. She made aliyah from England at the end of 2010 and has been living in Jerusalem ever since.
The key to understanding the confusing global landscape of the 21st century is to recognize that there is nothing normal or logical about it. If you’re confused by current events and concerned with the recent surge of antisemitism and the war with terrorists in Gaza, you may think that you have lost touch with reality – or maybe it’s the rest of the world that’s gone mad. Scanning the news, it sometimes seems as if the world now supports the bad guys over the good. However, if you look closely, you can see the Divine hand at work, the work of Divine providence and intervention. Why would G-d intervene in this way? Would G-d ever cause there to be irrational support for evil in the world?
The answer to this critical question is that the Almighty seeks to maintain a balance of power in the world at all times. It is often difficult to appreciate the significance of events as they unfold. When we look at a majestic tapestry, we can admire the work of the weaver, but we cannot see the back of the tapestry, with all its loose threads and knots, nor can we see the hard work that the weaver put into it or the amount of time it took them to weave such a masterpiece. In this way, the hand of G-d majestically weaves a wondrous and deliberate pattern on the tapestry of Jewish history. In order for humanity to have free choice, however, there must be a balance of good and evil in the world. In fact, in the most mindboggling illogical world events lies the deepest Divine providence and order; the chaos provides the perfect backdrop and balance for free choice and its maximum impact.
G-d’s plan is nothing short of incredible. In recent history, He has returned millions of Jews to their homeland, even though we are surrounded by tens of millions of hostile neighbors. Just this summer, terrorists in Gaza fired about 4,000 missiles at Israel. There were just a few fatalities.
My parents (may they live to 120) who live in Netanya heard a few rockets over the summer, and were so grateful when they found out that those missiles drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in the middle of the night. My sister who lives in Kfar Chabad, 10 kilometres from Ben-Gurion Airport, told me that she woke up one day to find a commercial Swiss Air jet and a huge Air Canada plane rerouted to a field just two kilometres away from her home. The airport had been closed to international flights. Watching with her grandchildren, she described how the aircraft were taking off and landing half a block from her house. My nephew was a tank commander in Gaza and, thank G-d, he came home safely.
Given everything, it was miraculous that there were few Israeli fatalities. Nonetheless, most of us here in Canada felt helpless. However, Israel saw supporters gather in cities around the world. Here in Vancouver we had two rallies in just one day in late July to show our love for Israel and our gratitude to the soldiers of the IDF. In fact, the afternoon rally at Vancouver Art Gallery felt like a miracle in itself. Seeing my own sons with the Israeli flags draped round them and seeing them singing, dancing and being with community members from the Lower Mainland filled my and my husband’s heart with nachat. Holding up our posters and flags to cars driving by on Georgia, our hearts swelled with joy and pride. The sign I made and carried, the straw hat I wore with an Israeli flag through it, gathering with Jews and non-Jews in support of our homeland, I felt a true sense of unity.
What is our role in G-d’s plan for the world? How can we believe in G-d when there are so many things going on that we abhor? What can we do about it all?
Our role in this world is actually a mission that G-d gave all Jewish people. It is to join together in unity to create a peaceful and harmonious world. Some call this tikkun olam. If we’re worried about what’s happening in Israel, we can review some of the many thousands of miracles that G-d has made for us. In fact, we don’t need to worry, because G-d is in control, as we have seen so many times over these recent months. G-d has given each of us what we need to be able to fulfil our jobs in this world. We are called, “a light among the nations.” This means that we need to try to model ourselves as bright lights. How do we do that?
One way to do this is to teach by example. By making ourselves the best we can be and by helping our friends and families, as well. True, we can only have influence over those close to us, but we can engage them in doing mitzvot, for example, praying to G-d and saying psalms every day, including chapters 20, 130, 142, which are particularly relevant for our soldiers in Israel. Any mitzvah that we can do, big or small, can turn over any difficult times we may have. Doing mitzvot is the way we teach those around us to not feel helpless. On the contrary, we do mitzvot to feel special and important in G-d’s eyes.
Whether it be visiting someone who isn’t well, putting some coins in a tzedakah box, calling someone who may live alone and would appreciate a call, shopping with people who may be new to town and aren’t familiar with our city yet, the list is endless. That way, we are doing something instead of feeling helpless to change the situation.
Whether it be visiting someone who isn’t well, putting some coins in a tzedakah box, calling someone who may live alone and would appreciate a call, shopping with people who may be new to town and aren’t familiar with our city yet, the list is endless. That way, we are doing something instead of feeling helpless to change the situation. That is how we find our belief in G-d increasing and we can sleep at night knowing that G-d is the one watching over us and His whole universe that He created. Doing mitzvot also guarantees that we will retain our own goodness and not, G-d forbid, fall into wanting to take revenge on Israel’s enemies.
When we celebrate Rosh Hashanah this year, we can also ask G-d to give us the faith that we may feel we have misplaced. It is a wonderful time of year as we go to synagogue to pray to G-d for ourselves, family, community, and to feel connected to G-d who loves us so much, as a parent loves an only child. When we wish each other “Shana tova u’metukah,” we are offering everyone we speak to a wonderful, sweet New Year with all their wishes coming true for them. Our blessings to each other are precious and we get many mitzvot for offering them. Then our faith will shine through us as we make the world a better place. Our hearts will be filled with joy when we hear the 100 blasts of the shofar each day of Rosh Hashanah, as we know we are asking G-d to grant us a year filled with health, happiness and only good for us and all our sisters and brothers around the world. What a wonderful feeling that is.
Shana tova u’metuka, have a wonderful, sweet year beginning with an apple dipped in honey, and then enjoy everything sweet in your life this special year of 5775. Celebrate in your special way with family and friends. May G-d give you the strength you may need this year to accept your gifts from G-d in an open way.
Esther Taubyis a local educator, counselor and writer.
According to Jewish law, every seven years, agricultural fields are to lie fallow during the Shmita, or Sabbatical. (photo from commons.wikimedia.org)
This Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the year 5755, a year that has a special significance, as a Shmita, or Sabbatical year, a year of rest for the soil.
Shmita literally means renunciation or release. We renounce the right to work the land, and let it lie fallow in the seventh year. In Leviticus 25:4, it says, “The seventh year shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath unto the Lord, thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.” It is also a year in which we renounce our right to collect debts. “At the end of every seven years, thou shalt make a release. And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release that which he lent unto his neighbor.” (Deuteronomy 15:1-2)
Although the laws of the sabbatical remittance of debts apply to Jews everywhere, the obligation to let the land lie fallow is limited to the boundaries of Israel, as these laws begin only “… when ye come into the Land which I shall give you.…” (Leviticus 25:2) After wandering the desert for 40 years, Moses gathered the Israelites at the foot of Mt. Sinai, and gave them a detailed law about the soil. As soon as they entered Eretz Israel, they were to become people of the land, with their lives bound up in agriculture.
For centuries, as the Jews in the Diaspora became largely non-agricultural, the law of Shmita became a theoretical problem to be discussed by talmudic scholars. However, with the establishment of the state of Israel, Shmita again became a practical problem for the pioneers and early settlers.
Until the system of crop rotation was devised at the beginning of the 20th century, both Jews and non-Jews saw the logic of letting the land periodically rest. For Jews, these agricultural cycles were detailed in the Torah. For centuries, as the Jews in the Diaspora became largely non-agricultural, the law of Shmita became a theoretical problem to be discussed by talmudic scholars. However, with the establishment of the state of Israel, Shmita again became a practical problem for the pioneers and early settlers.
There are many reasons for the Shmita year. It teaches human beings that the earth does not belong to them, but to G-d. It also teaches people to have confidence in
G-d; even though we are asked to let the land rest, the Lord will invoke a blessing for us. Letting the land lie fallow is useful for another reason, too: every seven years, freed from the preoccupation of working the land, we are freed to study Torah full time.
Apparently, even Julius Caesar exempted the Jews from taxation in the Shmita year, since they did not have any livelihood from their fields. After the Bar Kochba revolt, however, the Jews were again compelled to pay taxes, causing grave hardship, which in turn convinced the rabbis to relax many prohibitions.
During the Second Temple period, the Jews rigidly adhered to Shmita in Eretz Israel. During the Hasmonean War, the fall of Bet Zur was attributed to a famine in the city since it was a Sabbatical year. Apparently, even Julius Caesar exempted the Jews from taxation in the Shmita year, since they did not have any livelihood from their fields. After the Bar Kochba revolt, however, the Jews were again compelled to pay taxes, causing grave hardship, which in turn convinced the rabbis to relax many prohibitions.
In the days of early modem statehood, Shmita was problematic in Israel, when its unbearably heavy economic load became too much for the young state to bear. Learned rabbis, like the late Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, agreed to the use of a heter (special dispensation) to sell the land to non-Jews during the Sabbatical year, to permit the land to be worked.
In recent years, there have also been developed other methods of using a heter for Shmita, such as early sowing of vegetables before the New Year (relying on the view of Rabbi Shimon of Sens, for example) and the growing of crops by hydroponics or soil-less systems. The Israeli botanist Meir Schwartz founded the first fully automatic hydroponic farm at the Agudat Israel Kibbutz Chafetz Chaim, but there are now other hydroponic farms at Ein Gedi and Eilat, which use water culture and gravel in agricultural production.
How does the Shmita year affect Orthodox Israeli consumers? Throughout the year, in local newspapers, there are regularly published lists of shops from whom it is permissible to buy fruit and vegetables in the Sabbatical year; there are also chains of shops that market Arab Israeli-farmed or imported produce. Many Orthodox Jews buy their fruit and vegetables in the Arab market in East Jerusalem, for example, or travel to Arab cities to shop.
It is not easy in Israel to observe the Shmita year, however. Although different dispensations have been made in recent years to make it less difficult, they are considered “emergency measures,” as implied by Kook in the introduction to his work on the Shmita, Shabbat Haaretz, in which he wrote: “We today are charged with preserving the memory of the commandment until the time is ripe for it to be carried out with all its minutiae.”
Christianity and Judaism have many customs and symbolism in common. Naturally, as the aphorism states, the child does not stray far from the mother. We both take vows to repair our character. But, in one area, we grossly diverge: the proclamation of the new year.
To put it plainly, New Year’s Eve to your Christian friends may be an office party with wine, stolen kisses and shrill music that drowns the clarion call of the shofar. Rosh Hashanah is both private and public sober meditation, as serious as death. You can tell it’s Rosh Hashanah even without a calendar when Jewish faces go serious – when Jewish eyes are not smiling.
In both religions, we reexamine our behavior, note our lapses and vow to improve our moral balance. But, in Judaism, ceremony and symbolism take the throne. The environment is much more regal. After all, we are asking of this shofar-announced first day of the year to come – the king of days, so to speak – mercy and goodness. And, above all, life. May that lump on your leg be benign. May Bennie turn a dark corner and find through honest labor the means to feed his family. We attempt to woo good fortune with a shofar blast, the bugle call of the Jewish warrior. We give tzedakah. We fling away our sins, contemptuous of our selfish errors of the past. This is the first bright, shining day of the year to come. Repent, so that the year to come will reflect the life to come. Sweet as the honey in which we dip our challah.
If we were a bit morally careless during the previous year, we bear down hard on the 10-day interval leading to Yom Kippur. We must be as angelic as a human can be so that we are properly inscribed in the Book of Life – and please, Sir, spell my name right. It’s one “b,” not two.
Forgiveness depends not only on repentance, but also on restitution. If I burned down my neighbor’s house, I must rebuild it. “Sorry” is not enough. I must repay my debts of insult, deceit, thievery and violence. And, to be heretical for a moment (rabbis, read no further) it is vulgar, but not a sin to lust after your neighbor’s wife who looks like Jennifer Lopez. So long as you suppress your evil inclination and take no action on your devilish desire.
Deeds, deeds, Judaism is all about deeds.
Ted Roberts is a freelance writer and humorist living in Huntsville, Ala.
Sukkah Hill Spirits’ Howard and Marni Witkin. (photo from sukkahhill.com)
There are any number of traditional Jewish holiday foods, but not nearly as many holiday-related beverages. Hands down, wine dominates. But, company has arrived. Two new – and already medal-winning – artisanal liqueurs will be a welcome addition to your table.
Los Angeles-based Sukkah Hill Spirits’ Etrog Liqueur and its Besamim Liqueur both won gold in the 2013 SIP awards: out of some 300 entries, Etrog was deemed the best fruit-based liqueur and Besamim the best herbal/botanical. Both liqueurs are kosher (including for Passover), gluten-free and made with no additives or stabilizers. Not only are they a pleasure to drink, they are aromatic as well – lemon and cloves, respectively. Take a sip of either, and a host of recipe possibilities come to mind.
When the Independent heard about Sukkah Hill liqueurs, the first question was whether we can get it in Canada.
“We will be in stores in Washington, Oregon and the Pacific Northwest in the next few months, and have a list of stores that ship listed on our website,” responded Howard Witkin. “We are adding a number of new online retailers and will update the site as we put it together.”
Witkin’s wife and business partner Marni is the creative force behind these products. He refers to her as the “Taste Mistress” – “No barrel goes to bottling unless she has tasted it and approved it,” he said.
“Marni’s been making liqueur for almost 10 years,” he explained. “She started out making it for our own home, and to share with friends. Soon, she was making dozens of bottles at the request of friends all around the community. When we were approached by a local storeowner who suggested he could sell whatever we could make, we realized that we had a product that people really enjoyed, and which could become a new business.”
The inspiration to use etrogim came from the fate many of the fruit face after Sukkot – the compost.
“Marni wanted to do more with it than allow it languish after the holiday,” said Witkin. So important during the festivities, “it seemed like a waste to let its potential just fade away. So, we started bottling it.
“Besamim is based on a twist of a traditional spice mixture from Havdalah,” he continued. “Besamim at Havdalah gives an extra lift to your soul as Shabbat wanes. We wanted to tie into those wonderful family times and warm moments. Smell has such ties into memories and experiences. I feel the warmth and closeness of Havdalah and Shabbat every time I taste our Besamim liqueur.”
Transforming something done for pleasure into something commercial can sometimes diminish its enjoyment
“Because we make everything by hand, and use the same pure and simple ingredients and processes we started with, it still feels like a fun project,” said Witkin. “Just the barrels are a lot bigger, and there are thousands of bottles to label. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed the creative process of putting together labels and art, and sharing what we are making with so many more people.”
Sukkah Hill Spirits’ website offers several drink ideas. In response to a request for food suggestions, Howard Witkin offered the following recipes, noting also that biscotti dipped in a glass of Besamim is delicious, as is either liqueur over ice cream or sorbet.
GRILLED TROUT WITH ETROG
Combine Etrog Liqueur, brown sugar, black pepper and tarragon vinegar. Marinate red trout fillet – skin on – for up to four hours.
Spray/brush the grill with olive oil. Cover the skin side of the fillets with a thick coating of olive oil and lay on the oiled grill. Leave in place until the top of the fish starts to become opaque. Shake a light rub of brown sugar and pepper over the trout, lightly mist with olive oil.
You should now be able to lift the fillet with a spatula from the skin and flip it over back onto the skin, which has remained on the grill. (The skin protects the trout from burning.) Drizzle the remaining marinade over the fish, sprinkle with brown sugar rub. Cook until flaky (a few extra minutes).
Variation: Drizzle soy sauce on the trout as it grills.
4 large carrots 3 medium yams 3 tbsp Besamim Liqueur Cinnamon to taste (3-6 tsp)
Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange carrots and yams cut to size in a baking pan. Spoon liqueur over the carrots and yams and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake for 45 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.
ETROG HONEY CAKE
Dry ingredients: 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1 cup granulated sugar 1/2 cup brown sugar 2 tsp baking soda 2 tsp baking powder 2 tbsp ground cinnamon
Liquid ingredients: 1 cup clear honey 1 cup vegetable oil 1 cup strongly brewed black tea, cooled to room temp. 3 large eggs 1/3 cup Etrog Liqueur 1 cup plus 2 tbsp applesauce 1 tsp vanilla extract
For finishing: honey and Etrog Liqueur (approx. 1/2 cup each)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease three eight-by-four-inch loaf pans.
Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. In small bowl, combine honey with oil, then add to dry ingredients and whisk in remaining liquid ingredients. Mix thoroughly.
Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 45-55 minutes until cake springs back when lightly pressed and cake tester tests clean.
Cool the cakes in the pans for 10 minutes, then poke all over with a skewer and very slowly spoon the honey/Etrog Liqueur mix over the cakes, allowing the liquid to thoroughly saturate them. When cool, remove from the pans. Wrapping and storing the cakes for a day improves the flavor.
When ready to serve, top with confectioners’ sugar if desired.
The holy month of Elul has begun, the sixth month in the Hebrew calendar. There is a rabbinic allusion that the month was named from the initial letters of “Ani le dodi v’dodi li” (“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine”), describing the relationship between G-d and His people. In the Aggadah, we read that Elul has special significance because of Moses’ 40-day stay on Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:28), which was calculated to have begun on the first of Elul and ended on the 10th of Tishrei (Yom Kippur).
Every weekday morning, the shofar is sounded and Psalm 27 recited. Sephardim have already begun saying Selichot, but Ashkenazim recite this only in the last days of the month. The word selichah means forgiveness – it is a plea for forgiveness for sins and, as we approach the time when we know that we will be judged, we practise a kind of spiritual stocktaking. We look inward, trying to assess what happened to last year’s dreams/goals, asking pardon for wrongs committed and hoping, with repentance, charity and prayers, to be written into the Book of Life for another year.
Rav Nachman of Bratslav expressed it beautifully: “Every word of your prayer is like a rose which you pick from its bush. You continue until you have formed a bouquet of blessings, until you have pleated a wreath of glory for the Lord.”
Prayer takes on special meaning in Elul, as we move toward Rosh Hashanah, which celebrates the birth of the world. Then, we will recite the special prayer called Unetenah Tokef (“Let us proclaim the sacred power of this day…”) when we are reminded of our mortality. The translation for part of it reads: “Humanity’s origin is dust, and dust is our end. Each of us is a shattered pot, grass that must wither, a flower that will fade, a shadow moving on, a cloud passing by, a particle of dust on the wind, a dream soon forgotten…. But You are the Ruler, the everlasting G-d.” Legend has it that this prayer was written some 10 centuries ago by Rabbi Amnon of Mainz. Ordered to convert to Christianity by the local bishop, Rabbi Amnon refused. His limbs were amputated and, as his mutilated body lay before the ark as he was dying, he said these words, which are also part of the Yom Kippur liturgy.
When mystics pray, they believe there is an ascent of the soul to upper worlds. Prayers of thanksgiving and praise are deemed worthier than petitionary prayers (when we are asking for things), because they are selfless. Some people believe that the highest form of worship is silence. The Bible tells us that Abraham was the first to utter a true prayer – for his fellow man.
In these times, when we are at war, agonizing over our losses and the many families who have lost loved ones, we in Israel need to have faith more than ever. We pray for all Jews to have a good, safe year. We share a common destiny – Jews in Israel and abroad – and it is this shared destiny that binds us together, no matter how different our ethnic and cultural boundaries may be.
I memorized the following poem when I was a schoolgirl. I never knew the author, and doubt that he was Jewish, but I think it is appropriate now and all the year: “I shall pass through this world but once / Any good therefore that I can do / Or any kindness I can show / To any human being / Let me do it now / Let me not defer it or neglect it / For I shall not pass this way again.”
This year’s Summer Celebration cover is a collaborative effort between Jewish Independent production manager Josie Tonio McCarthy, JI publisher Cynthia Ramsay and archivist Jennifer Yuhasz of the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia, which granted the JI permission to use the circa 1950 Leonard Frank photo that appears on the left of the cover and blends into the current-day photo taken on the Granville Street Bridge of False Creek, with the Burrard Bridge and North Shore mountains in background.
Frank was a well-known professional photographer in British Columbia, active between 1910-1944. He was born in Germany and first moved to San Francisco, before traveling to Port Alberni, B.C., to work in the mining industry. He began his photography interest there. In 1916, he moved to Vancouver and began to work as a photographer. He traveled throughout the province, taking a wide array of photographs, thereby preserving a detailed record of life here. Frank was interested in photographing city scenes (buildings, bridges, waterfront), industry (logging, construction, shipping) as well as scenic views (mountains, lakes, woods). In 1946, two years after Frank died, Otto F. Landauer purchased the Leonard Frank Photos Studio, which he owned and operated until his death in 1980.
The JMABC has approximately 39,000 photographs in the Leonard Frank-Otto Landauer Photos Studio collection – the largest collection of Frank photos in existence. Of these, the JMABC has digitized almost 7,000 photographs and made them available for viewing on its website. You can search them using the JMABC’s Yosef Wosk Online Photo Library: jewishmuseum.ca/archives.