2020 mid term meeting
2020 mid term meeting
the Land remained a Jewish theocracy under Syrian-based Seleucid rulers.
as part of an effort to impose Greek-oriented culture and customs on the entire population,
Following further Hasmonean victories (147 BCE), the Seleucids restored autonomy to Judea,
as the Land of Israel was now called, and, with the collapse of the Seleucid kingdom (129 BCE),
Jewish independence was again achieved. Under the Hasmonean dynasty, which lasted about 80 years,
the kingdom regained boundaries not far short of Solomon’s realm, political consolidation under Jewish rule was attained and Jewish life flourished.
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Much has happened since I last wrote to you. It seems only yesterday I was wishing all of you a sweet year, a year of health, happiness and success. On Rosh Hashanah I asked each of you “What’s In Your Torah?” and challenged you to share your answers in tangible ways to strengthen and grow Bet Chaverim. And now we find ourselves awash in a sea of grief and confusion. The murder of 11 of our people here in the United States has left us all shaken and angry. “What’s In Your Torah?” speaks to the importance of community, support, sharing and thankfulness, qualities we need now more than ever in these troubling times. I ask all of you to join me, Rabbi Emily and Bet Chaverim this Friday evening for an inspiring Erev Shabbat, to stand spiritually with the people of Squirrel Hill and Jews everywhere and to shout a resounding “NO!” to those who would rid the world of our proud and ancient heritage.
November is a busy month in the Torah, starting with the death of Abraham’s beloved Sarah and ending with the conflict between Joseph and his brothers, setting the stage for the enslavement and redemption of our people. In Chayei Sarah, our first matriarch passes and is buried in the Cave of Machpelah. In one of his last of many instances of “being a mensch,” Abraham refuses to accept the burial place as a gift and insists on paying retail! Through the efforts of Abraham’s major domo, Isaac takes Rebecca as his wife. Abraham passes away and the Torah says that Isaac and Ishmael together buried him in the Cave of Machpelah.
Having been banished by his father so many years ago, and perhaps bearing anger at his brother for that, Ishmael reconciles with Isaac to share their common grief in the loss of their father.
The next parshah tells the story of Jacob and Esau, the selling of the birthright, Rebecca and Jacob’s subterfuge in securing the blessing of the first-born and Esau’s fury at Jacob for “cheating” him out of that blessing. Esau swears to kill Jacob and forces him to flee for his life. In the middle of the chapter we find perhaps the roots of modern anti-Semitism – contention over wells revitalized by Isaac for his flocks between his community and the neighboring Philistines.
The third parshah in November, Vayyetze, tells the story of Rachel and Leah, Jacob’s service to Laban as payment for their hands in marriage, Laban’s unsuccessful attempts to cheat Jacob and Jacob’s success as a shepherd. This last results in Jacob and his family leaving Laban’s community and returning to his father, beside himself with worry that his brother still harbors rage against him.
The final chapter of the month begins with the climactic meeting between Jacob and Esau. The brothers reconcile in a dramatic encounter, thus ending the third of the bible’s first four brother vs. brother conflicts. Rachel dies giving birth to Benjamin and Isaac dies, with Jacob and Esau sharing their grief together and burying their father. Esau goes on to establish the kingdom of Edom, a people who figure prominently later in Jewish history, as we shall see.
Why am I telling you all of this? November is the month of Thanksgiving and the Torah speaks eloquently about family, community and faith. All things to be thankful for. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, even Esau and Ishmael, all draw strength from their loved ones and from God, and in two instances, come together in a time of tragedy to bury old resentments and draw strength from being together. So I say to you, look into your Torah and reach out to those you love, tell them you love them and take this opportunity to forgive and reconcile.
The Sephardic Haftorah for the last parshah of November is the Book of Obadiah. And here is where the narrative of the Torah comes full circle. For you trivia buffs, the Book of Obadiah is the shortest book in the bible at 21 lines. For you Broadway musical fans, Obadiah is the given name of Sky Masterson, the hero of Guys and Dolls. But I digress. Edom, the nation that Esau sires, returns in the time of Nebuchadnezzar to help the Babylonians defeat Judah. According to legend, they not only were pivotal in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple but went out of their way to slaughter as many Jews as they could during the attack. In an eloquent and soaring discourse, Obadiah contrasts the conceit and pride of the Edomites with the faith and righteousness of Israel. You will never triumph over us no matter what you do, he says, because we have the principles and faith of God on our side. We are stronger than you because of what’s in our Torah. Many people and individuals have played the role of Edom in our history and the gunman in Squirrel Hill is only the latest (and unfortunately, probably not the last).
As Obadiah says:
And the house of Jacob shall be a fire,
And the house of Joseph a flame,
And the house of Esau for stubble,
And they shall kindle in them, and devour them;
And there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau;
For the Lord hath spoken.
This month of November, starting out as one more skirmish with the Edomites, ends with a holiday of thankfulness and appreciation for what we have as families, communities and the Jewish people.
I hope to see all of you Friday night to welcome again the Sabbath Queen.
For the holidays, you are all invited to my place – 43 years ago and 3000 miles away in Cranford, New Jersey – to try two amazing desserts made with honey. The first is, of course, my Mom’s teiglach. The second is an absolute knock-your-socks-off dish that can be made a couple of days ahead and kept in the refrigerator – Honey-Ginger Zabayon. That first burst of honey, ginger and raisins on your taste buds is sure to carry you back to Yamim Nora’ims of yore!
Honey is generally believed to have made its first appearance in the human story in Egypt around 4000 BC. Used as a sweetening agent, it was highly valued, and was used to feed sacred animals as well as tribute or payment. By the 21 st century BC, it had been mentioned in the Sumerian and Babylonian cuneiform writings, the Hittite Code, and the Vedas (the sacred writings of India). In Sumeria, Assyria, and Babylonia, it was poured over thresholds and stones bearing commemorative offerings, and bolts used in sacred buildings were dipped in it.
The ancient Greeks believed Mead, an alcoholic beverage made from honey, to be the food of the Gods. When the Spaniards came to the New World, they found that the natives of 16th Century Mexico and Central America had already developed beekeeping, with a distinct family of honeybees native to North America. European settlers introduced European honey bees to New England in 1638. They used honey to prepare food and beverages, to make cement, to preserve fruit and other foods, to make furniture paste-polish and varnish, and for medicinal purposes.
Honey has an incredibly high fructose content. This means that you can use less honey than the amount of sugar called for in a recipe. Start by substituting half the sugar called for. That is, if the recipe says use a cup of sugar, then use a ½ cup of honey.
Reduce any liquid in the recipe by a ¼ cup for each cup of honey used
Add ½ Tsp baking soda for each cup of honey
Reduce oven temperature by 25 to prevent over-browning
When measuring honey, a 12oz jar equals one cup
Spray the utensil you will measure the honey in with pan spray – the honey will slide
Teiglach are Balkan in origin, particularly Lithuania. The word “teiglach” (or tayglach) means
“little doughies.” Among Lithuanian Jews, there are infinite variations on the theme, with the
addition of dried fruits, nuts, rolling in sugar or cinnamon (or a combination), baking and boiling,
baking before boiling, baking after boiling, etc., etc., etc. All require sweet dough and a lot of
honey. Beyond that, you can add whatever you like to the basic recipe.
A WORD OF CAUTION!
Boiling/simmering honey is extremely hot. It is hotter than boiling water. Because of the high
sugar content, the temperature of the liquid can reach almost 300 degrees! Use a big enough
pot so the honey mixture doesn’t boil over, and always use extreme caution when adding or
removing the teiglach from the pot.
O.K. Having given the warning, I must say that my mom has been making teiglach since I was
little, and she has never burned herself or anyone else. She once added too much ginger, but
that’s another story.
This recipe came from my mom and it is the best teiglach in the entire world. The first bite after
dinner on Erev Rosh Hashanah transports me across time and space to the love and warmth of
2 Tsp Sugar
2 Tbsp Oil
1 Tsp Baking Powder
2 Cups A.P. Flour
Raisins or other dried fruit
1 Cup Honey
1 Cup Sugar – for a more intense flavor use brown sugar or go half and half brown and white
2-3 Tbsp Ground Ginger
2 Tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice
½ Cup Boiling Water
2 more Tsp Ground Ginger
Beat the eggs and the sugar together and add the oil, beating well to mix. Mix the baking powder with the flower and add 1½ cups of the mixture to the egg/sugar/oil and incorporate to form a dough. If it is too sticky, add a little more flour and continue working it. When the dough is tacky but not sticky, turn out on a floured surface and knead briefly until smooth. Cover with film and allow to rest for 15 minutes or so.
Cut the dough in half and roll each piece out 1/8” thick and about 4” wide. You will have a skinny rectangle about 24” long. Sprinkle the dough with raisins (and nuts, if you want) and press them into the dough with a rolling pin. Roll up the dough along the long edge and pinch the ends closed. Cut the log into small pieces (they will expand when simmered in the honey) and pinch the ends of each closed so the raisins and nuts are contained inside
Bring the honey, sugar, ginger and lemon juice to a boil in a heavy pot. Drop the nuggets a couple at a time into the liquid. When they are all in the pot, stir to coat all of them, return to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. After a half hour, stir the pot so that all the teiglach on the bottom of the pot are brought to the top, and the ones on top are now on the bottom. Continue simmering for another 15 – 30 minutes, until the teiglach are a rich golden mahogany color and the dough is completely cooked. When they are done, stir in the boiling water and the remaining ginger and mix thoroughly to loosen the honey. Remove the teiglach with a slotted spoon to a sheet of parchment sprayed lightly with pan spray, making sure they don’t touch. When they are cool, store in containers with the syrup poured over them. They will last almost forever.
Gluten Free Teiglach
High quality gluten-free flour is all the rage now so there is no excuse not to enjoy this wonderful holiday treat. Since there is no gluten, you must pay attention to a few details in the process.
First – start out by adding 1 cup of flour and then slowly adding more as you mix the dough. Your gluten-free dough will need to be a little softer than a regular dough since there is no gluten to bind and stretch.
Second – the psyllium husk powder is important, as it adds hydrating capacity to the flour and will help with rolling out the dough.
Third – don’t overwork the dough when you roll it out – without gluten to provide the stretchy elastic resilience, over-rolling will compress and harden the dough and make the teiglach hard and crunchy.
Fourth – do a taste test after the first 30 minutes of cooking. Gluten-free teiglach tend to cook faster and reach the ready point much more rapidly than regular teiglach.
2 Tsp Sugar
2 Tbsp Oil
1 Tsp Baking Powder
1 Tbsp Psyllium Husk Powder
2 Cups Krusteaz or other premium gluten-free flour
Raisins or other dried fruit
1 Cup Honey
1 Cup Sugar
2-3 Tbsp Ground Ginger
½ Cup Boiling Water
2 more Tsp Ground Ginger
Proceed as for regular teiglach, making sure to mix the psyllium husk powder and baking powder into the flour before adding it to the liquids. Remember to do a taste test at the 30 minute mark.
Honey – Ginger Zabayon
Of all the fun things to do with honey, this is possibly the most fun of all. This light whipped cream-like topping is heavenly on ice cream, sorbet, cakes of all kinds, or just eaten out of a glass with some fresh fruit. It is especially yummy if you choose an interesting honey like lavender or wildflower.
A zabayon (or sabayon) is basically eggs and sugar whipped together over simmering water until the eggs cook but do not harden. Flavors and liqueurs are added, and then the entire thing is either eaten as is or lightened with whipped cream to make a fluffy mousse-like substance.
Zabayon is easy once you know how, and is sure to knock the socks off anyone you invite to dinner.
8 Egg Yolks
6 oz Baker’s Sugar (take regular sugar and grind it in the food processor to pulverize the granules)
3 oz Honey
½ Cup Champagne
½ Tsp Peeled and Minced Ginger Root
2 Cups Whipped Cream, whipped to firm (not stiff) peaks
Combine the first four ingredients in a bowl set over simmering water and whisk until pale and thick (this may take a while – when the surface bubbles go away and the surface of the liquid looks glossy, you are getting close). The longer you stir and thicken, the firmer the cooled mixture will be. Immediately transfer to a bowl set over ice and whisk until cool. Fold in the whipped cream and ginger.
Serve over fresh fruit, by itself with a drizzle of Sabra liqueur, or cover and keep in the fridge for a couple of days before eating.
As the tumult of the new year approaches, my thoughts and feelings are all over the place. Elul is almost finished and with it my annual self-evaluation. Once again I find myself coming up short in so many areas and resolving to do better in the year to come. Tishrei is on the horizon and for me, there are two things that tower above everything – shofar and teiglach. This Rosh Hashanah marks the 43rd year that my shofar and I have been together. The only relationship I have that is longer is with my family, and that’s where the teiglach comes in.
Every year since I can remember, my mom has made teiglach. I have vague memories from childhood
of standing on a step stool so I could help drop the pieces into the boiling honey…of waiting for the end of dinner on Erev Rosh Hashanah to have that first piece…the sweet honey, cookie-like dough and sharp ginger filling my senses…there could be no sweet and happy new year without teiglach!
After I stopped coming home for the high holidays, it arrived by mail, a plastic container…wrapped in
plastic film…inside a Ziploc bag…in a small cardboard box. Sometimes one of my dad’s round challahs would accompany it on its journey.
If you have read my previous writings about the time/space portal in your kitchen, imagine closing your eyes and biting into that first piece on Erev Rosh Hashanah and being transported 3000 miles away and 40 years into the past. Without fail, every year, teiglach would come – wherever I was – a week before yontif; the sign of a covenant more powerful than brit milah. Until two years ago, when it was clear to me and my siblings that mom just wasn’t up to the “meshugas” of teiglach. So now, I send her some. My sister and brothers too. Carrying on the tradition. Those little nuggets of dough, raisins and honey are so much more to us than a dessert after the Rosh Hashanah meal. They are family, love, connection, togetherness, life well shared, perhaps even a part of my Torah; they and their creation are part of who I am.
After all those years of getting teiglach from my mom, it was really hard to accept that it wouldn’t be
arriving anymore; that it was up to me to take up the task and continue the work. And so it is with Bet
Chaverim. For the first time in our collective memory, Jack Kornberg will not be with us. Jack loved Bet Chaverim and worked tirelessly on our behalf. It is hard to accept that I will not wish him Shanah Tovah this year, that he will not be there to help raise the sukkah, that his wonderful, thoughtful, caring voice is only in our hearts and minds. This year, perhaps more than in any other, all of us are called by the shofar to make the “community of do-ers” that Jack envisioned a reality…to take up the task and continue the work.
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha’olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav vitzivanu lishmo’ah kol shofar.
Blessed are you, Adonai, our God, king of the world, who raises us to holiness with mitzvot and commands us to listen to the voice of the shofar
“To listen to the voice of the shofar”
I know, just about every prayerbook says “to hear the sound of the shofar.” But a sound is just a noise.
Like cars going by on the street outside your house or the beeping sound a truck makes when it backs up or your washing machine gearing up when it hits the spin cycle. We hear sounds all the time – they register in our brains and then they are gone.
A sound doesn’t reach out and grab you by the soul…
Tekiah! I am whole – I am on the path – I am a good person
Shevarim! I am heading for the shoals – I am struggling – I need help
Teruah! I have made mistakes – I have strayed from the path – I cannot find my way alone
Tekiah! I am whole – I am on the path – I am a good person
The year follows the same pattern, doesn’t it!? We listen to the final shofar note and break the fast on
Yom Kippur and we are whole, starting the new year with a clean slate, ready to do our best. As the
days, weeks, and months go by, we stumble, we stray from our resolve, we yield to temptation, we do
things we are not proud of. By the time Av and then Elul arrive, we don’t know what to think. How
could I have strayed so far from the path I set for myself last year? Why did I do the things I did?
When did I stop listening to the voice of my shofar? In the last week or so before Rosh Hashanah I find myself focusing on the voice inside of me – the one that answered when the voice of the shofar called out. And then the holidays are upon us and we are made whole again, to start the year with new resolve and determination, propelled by the voice of the shofar as it grabs our souls and says “I won’t let go if you won’t.” Because the voice you hear when Peter and I bring our Shofars to life is your inner voice – that visceral, deep inside human gyroscope part of who you are that gives life to your own shofar, fuels your Torah and calls you to action; it is not required that we finish the work but rather that we pick up where others stopped and continue it.
A core group of women is energizing and restarting Sisterhood and I ask all of you to join with them in this worthy endeavor. The men’s group (guys – we still need a catchy name) will be raising the sukkah on Sunday September 23 rd and I call on all of Bet Chaverim to kick-start our “year of doing” by coming out that afternoon to connect with each other and share a wonderful mitzvah. Bring vegetation and other stuff to decorate (a couple of cordless drills would be good too). Upon completion of the sukkah, we will be repairing to Anthony’s in Des Moines for snacks, beverages and tall tales. What better way to start the year than connecting with each other to enrich our community!?
May all of you be inscribed and sealed in the Book Of Life for a happy, healthy and sweet 5779.
I have never forgotten the first Hebrew sentence I ever learned – Aych ani holaich l’kikar dizengoff? – how do I walk to dizengoff square? My grandfather taught me that the summer I was 11 years old. Along with “ani Yehudi” – I am a Jew – and a lot of other things that did not strike me (as an 11 year old from New Jersey) as important, but which turned out to be, on reflection, the most vital lessons I ever ignored. I think often of Grandpa as I approach the age he was when I came to know him and this month I am stuck on the word “holaych.” To walk…and as it turns out, “halachah”, the Hebrew word we accept as meaning “law” or perhaps “rule,” comes from the same root. For Grandpa and me, it meant, and still means, “walking in God’s path.” After escaping from a Russian hospital in World War I he walked to Italy to search out the family roots in Ferrara and then walked back to the Pale of Settlement. For my Grandpa, walking was a big deal and walking with God was even bigger.
By now you are wondering “what does this have to do with anything?” and I will tell you…August begins with Tisha B-Av, the least happy day of the Jewish year. On this day, both temples were destroyed and, if you didn’t know, the first crusade started with the massacre of the Jewish community in Wurms, Germany. I am pretty sure that there’s other stuff we could assign to this horrible day, but those three should suffice. Three weeks later Elul arrives, the month of S’lichot, reflection, preparation for the Yamim Nora’im, the Days of Awe.
August is the month of transition. From mourning to joy, summer fun to fall reflection. When Tisha b’av arrives, my internal jewish clock says “hey – only a few weeks until Yontif.” And every year I ask myself, why does Isaiah get to run the table? Just so you know – I am a haftorah guy. I love them – think of Jonah getting spit out of the whale and walking straight into Nineveh stinking to high heaven proclaiming the word of God as he shambled across that great city. He walked for three days and he was so good, they all paid attention and changed their ways!!! These were the original street preachers, pouring forth their vision to all who would listen. The prose and poetry, the trope, the message. Maybe it was growing up with a knock your socks off sermonizing rabbi, maybe it was becoming Jonah one day each year, pretending to walk from one end of Nineveh to the other on Yom Kippur afternoon, maybe it was being Isaiah on Yom Kippur morning. We don’t really do Haftorot in Reform Judaism, so you might not know this; from Tisha b’av to Rosh Hashanah, Isaiah is the man. The Second Isaiah…the one who spoke to the remnants of Israel as they saw their lives destroyed and were led off to Babylon. These are the “Haftorot of Consolation” – and the message is simple – life is hard now, things really don’t look so good, but if you walk in god’s path, follow his way, do what you know is right, life will be really good in the future. My Grandpa would look at me, wag his finger and say “Be a Mensch!” Jonah walked from one end of Nineveh to the other, proclaiming the path of God. In other words, be a “DO-er!”
Walking is active…if you are walking you are “doing” in space and time, affecting the world around you, and if you are walking the path of God, you are making a positive impact on that world. My hope for Bet Chaverim as we get closer to Rosh Hashanah is that we become a “community of doers.” There’s a lot going on in the next few months and I invite all of you to join “The House of Friends” in “Doing.” For you outdoor types, the Naches Loop Trail Hike is August 1st and our Lakewold Gardens Tour is August 11th. Peter Smith and I are looking for Shofar Blowers to join the “Rock-Shofarians” for Yontif and September is shaping to be a busy month in the Sanctuary. If you like to sing, join the Choir (they are really good). We are planning a 30th Anniversary celebration for Bet Chaverim sometime in the spring, the Chanukah party needs Latke Mayvens and we will be firing up the First Annual Bet Chaverim Kugel Cook-Off after Tu B’Shevat. Dig out those old family recipes and get ready – next to Latkes, Teiglach and Brisket, Kugel is just about the best thing you can either make or eat!
A Community of Doers…
If I am not for myself, who will be for me? – Do stuff for us, for Bet Chaverim…join a committee, help with the Oneg after services, join in a social activity, sign up to host an Oneg (talk to Chris Bogart about that), be an ambassador for Bet Chaverim on the holidays as a greeter during Yontif or anything else that fires up the embers inside you. The best thing about Bet Chaverim for me is that we love and care for each other and I invite you to be a bigger part of that.
But if I am only for myself, what am i? Do stuff for others – join the caring committee and help launch our new idea, Miriam’s Well. Jump in to collect stuff for the Federal Way Day Center. Perhaps you live near someone who needs a ride to Erev Shabbat services or a social event – pick them up and come together! Bring your ideas for Repairing the World, Tikkun Olam, and excite us in your passion.
And if not now, when? Indeed…the new year is almost upon us…what better time to start walking, start doing, start bringing your Torah to join with Bet Chaverim. I am looking forward to hearing from all of you and welcoming you to our Community of Doers. As always, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Passover is one of the most popular Jewish holidays. One way we celebrate is by going to a very special dinner party called a Seder. We read a script from a book called a Haggadah which urges us to try foods we don’t usually eat, encourages us to ask questions, play with our food and even slouch in our chairs! Why? Why indeed!
Long, long ago, there was not enough food to share in the land of Canaan which today is called Israel. The Israelites of Canaan traveled for many days to live in Egypt where there was plenty of food. Welcomed as honored guests by the Egyptian king, the Pharaoh, they ended up living in Egypt for many, many years where they became excellent farmers and shepherds. How many years? Over 400 years!
After all those years, a new Pharaoh was unhappy that the Pharaoh from long ago let the Israelites stay in Egypt. The new Pharaoh was afraid there were so many Israelites that they would become the rulers over the Egyptians, when all they wanted was to raise their flocks. When Pharaoh needed buildings and statues to be built for his cities, he decided the Israelites should do all the work. They became his slaves! Making bricks and pulling heavy loads, they worked for hours and hours under the hot sun with very little food and water.
By adding more and more cruel burdens, Pharaoh made life extremely hard for the Israelites. The Torah teaches us that God realized it was time to get them out of Egypt. Knowing that the Israelites would be more likely to listen to one of their own, God picked a young man named Moses by speaking to him from a burning bush! Amazed that the bush burned without turning to ash, Moses knew God was strong, but he did not feel strong enough to be a hero. God told Moses that his brother Aaron would help him.
Moses and Aaron appeared before Pharaoh to deliver God’s message: “Let my people go!” Pharaoh answered, “No!” God caused Moses’ walking stick to become a snake but Pharaoh just made the slaves work harder. Since God wanted to change Pharaoh’s mind by showing him what it felt like to be treated badly, God created plagues like frogs and darkness. During each plague, Moses and Aaron said, “Let my people go!” Terrified, Pharaoh said, “Yes!” but he changed his mind and said, “No!” when each plague stopped.
Finally, the last plague was so terrible that when Moses and Aaron said “Let my people go!” Pharaoh answered “Yes!” and meant it this time. Or he thought he meant it until after the Israelites left. Pharaoh asked, “Who will build my cities for free?” He and his army chased after the Israelites to bring them back. Thinking that it would be easy to catch them at the shore of the sea, the Egyptians were astonished to see the Israelites crossing through on dry land! God had caused the water to separate – the biggest miracle yet!
Moses, Aaron, their sister Miriam and all the Israelites sang and danced to celebrate their escape from slavery. Today, we gather around our Seder tables to celebrate that great escape by retelling the story and imagining that we lived through the miracles!