Fall Holidays: Feasting and Reading

Sukkot: Stuffed Zucchinis

Sukkot: Stuffed Zucchinis

Greetings from Tel Aviv! I want to share my latest Haaretz piece about addressing the serious hunger and poverty crises in both the US and Israel.

And, I want to share with you some of my recipes for the remaining fall holidays. Sukkot is the ultimate “farm-to-table” holiday, celebrating the bounty of Fall harvest. On Shemini Atzeret we transition to saying a prayer for rain— so needed right now in Israel and the West Coast.
Sukkot:
Stuffed Zucchinis
Perennials Roast
Shemini Atzeret:
Nopales and Tomatillo Sauté
Simchat Torah:
Eggplant-Quinoa Rounds
Chag Sameach!

 

Shana Tova: Reflections and Moving into a New Year

Apples. Eastern Market. Washington, DC

Apples. Eastern Market. Washington, DC

Shana Tova! Last year at Rosh Hashana, I decided to start Neesh Noosh, without having a vision or plan. Just a desire to learn, cook and write. What a whirlwind and exciting journey it has been! I want to share an article, after the break, that I wrote for last week’s Jewish Journal about my journey writing Neesh Noosh.

In the coming year, instead of creating a dish for the weekly Torah portion, I will make a recipe for each Rosh Chodesh (new month).  I am also working on turning the blog into a cookbook.

Thank you to everyone who reads Neesh Noosh. I am grateful for your support and encouragement!  I hope you will continue to enjoy reading and cooking with me in the new year.

Wishing you a sweet, healthy new year!
Sarah

PS: If you want to read more about Rosh Hashana and food ethics, please check out  an article I wrote for the Isareli paper, Haaretz: What do Jewish Morals Have to Say About Your Rosh Hashana Dinner?

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Ki Tavo: Mitzvot and Renewal

Ki Tavo: Roasted Fruit

Ki Tavo: Roasted Fruit

This week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo, begins with the responsibility of the Israelites to bring an offering of first fruits (bikkurim) after they’ve entered the land of Israel. “He brought us to this place, and He gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. And now, behold, I have brought the first of the fruit of the ground which you, O Lord, have given to me.” (26:9-10)

Fruit offerings were later replaced with prayers but the purpose and intention are the same. As my teacher, Diane Bloomfield of “Torah from Jerusalem” explains, each day is the potential for both the physical world and humans to renew through prayer and actions. Despite the darkness that shrouds much of the world, we are commanded by God, as caretakers of the world, to illuminate dark places through mitzvot (actions). Such behaviors enable us to connect more deeply to God and renew ourselves and the world.

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Emor: Not Cutting Corners

Emor: Kaleidescope scapes, carrots, garbanzo beans

Emor: Kaleidescope scapes, carrots, garbanzo beans

At the beginning of Emor it is written, They shall not make bald patches on their heads, nor shall they shave the edge of their beard, nor shall they make cuts in their flesh” (21:5).

And, in the middle of a description about the holiday of Shavuot, comes the following: When you reap the harvest of your Land, you shall not completely remove the corner of your field during your harvesting, and you shall not gather up the gleanings of your harvest. [Rather,] you shall leave these for the poor person and for the stranger. I am the Lord, your God.” (23:22).

Both of the facial beard and field corners are called payot.

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Tzav: Sharing with Others

Tzav soup

Tzav soup

This week’s parsha, Tzav, includes more details about sacrifices, including the Korban Todah (Thanksgiving offering). Again, I wrestled this week about what the sacrifices mean to me and how to translate the parsha into a recipe (though the Korban Todah “consisted of forty loaves of bread”)?

Dr. Tali Loewenthal on Chabad.org explains that this offering “was brought as expression of thanks to God by someone who experienced any of four specific kinds of danger: a captive who was freed; a person who crossed the sea; one who traversed the desert, and someone who has recovered from an illness. And, none of it could remain until the following day.

Rabbi Brad Artson, in The Bedside Torah, comments that “the Korban Todah is a celebration of life and its wonder.”

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Shmot: Righteousness

Shmot: stuffed grape leaves with pomegranates

Shmot: stuffed grape leaves with pomegranates

The beginning of Shmot includes a listing of Jacob’s sons and a description that the “Israelites were fertile and prolific; they multiplied and increased very greatly, so that the land was filled with them.”  Pharaoh, frustrated by the Israelites fertility commanded to the midwives that newborn boys be killed. But, “the midwives [Puah and Shifrah], fearing God, did not do as the king of Egypt had told them; they let the boys live.”

A midrash says, “Not only did they not do what Pharaoh told them, they even dared to do deeds of kindness for the children they saved. In behalf of poor mothers, the midwives would go to the houses of rich others and collect water and food, which they gave to the poor mothers and thus kept their children alive” (Sefer Ha-aggadah, p. 60).

Like many stories in the Book of Exodus (Shmot), the story of the midwives is one that exemplifies our responsibility to do justice in the face of oppression and protect disadvantaged people in our communities, nation and world. Continue reading

Vayera: The “Other”

Vayera roasted peppers dips

Vayera roasted peppers dips

This week’s parsha, Vayera, is filled with ethical challenges:  Sodom and Gomorrah, the binding of Issac, and the departure of Hagar and Ishmael. But, at the beginning of the parsha, Sarah and Abraham welcome three unexpected strangers to their tent. They wash their guests feet, bake bread and slaughter a calf for them for dinner.

Shortly after Abraham and Sarah’s generosity to the strangers, we are brought to the horrors of Sodom and Gomorrah. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah lived in a land of material abundance but followed the ethic, “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours” (Pirkei Avot). No one took care of sick, vulnerable people. As Aviva Goldbert of the Pardes Institute writes, “the people of Sodom and Gomorrah are utterly destroyed because, according to many commentators, they wouldn’t help the “other”: the poor, the hungry, the weak, the needy.”

We Americans live in a land today of great wealth. But, how do we share it? As I’ve written previously, there are 46.5 million hungry people in the US, including 12 million children and 7 million seniors. I live in Los Angeles–a city with hundreds of farms within hours of our city limit, countless urban gardens and some of the nation’s best restaurants–but there are 1.7 million hungry residents.  These are the “others” in our cities and country: food insecure Americans who go to bed hungry, not necessarily knowing when they will next eat. Continue reading

Yom Kippur: From Fasting to Juicing

Magical Juice

The anxieties of abstaining from food and water on Yom Kippur (and enduring an expected heat wave in Los Angeles this weekend) start to dance around my head months before the actual holiday. As I try to do the important work of teshuva, I keep thinking: How am I going to prepare for and survive the fast?! How many late summer conversations do I have with my coffee drinking friends about their preferred caffeine withdrawal techniques?

Needless to say, I probably don’t need to remind anyone of the billion plus people worldwide who experience many days like this from lack of access to or fresh water each week, month, year.  Or the 46.5 million Americans who are hungry (21 million children, 7 million seniors). Unlike the daily struggles billions of people endure, this is one day for Jews without food or water.

And even though my mind admittedly will at times be distracted by a visual loop equivalent to the Food Network, Yom Kippur is really a gift. It’s an opportunity to try to move into a deep spiritual realm that is beyond our physical dimensions. Continue reading