Posts tagged " Pesach "

What do you eat at a Passover feast?

April 23rd, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 8 comments

As a chef, I have a question pertaining to the traditional Passover meal. The traditional Seder dinner typically includes gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, brisket or roast chicken, potato kugel and carrot and prune tzimmes. Now, we know that none of these foods originated in ancient Israel – they’re from a later period in Jewish history during the diaspora and after the destruction of the Temple.

But my question is, what would have been a traditional Passover meal in ancient Israel? What would have been the traditional Passover meal for people living at the time of King Solomon or the Prophet Isaiah? What would have been the traditional Passover meal for people living in the time of Herod’s Temple?

Thank you,

Joshua F.

Dear Joshua,

Are you trying to start an international incident? A religious war? The foods you cite—gefilte fish, potato kugel, carrot and prune tzimmes and the other foods you mention are traditional foods only for Jews whose ancestors lived in eastern Europe. But, we Jews have been around for a long time and we have lived everywhere from China to Morocco, from Johannesburg to Gibraltar. Some of these communities lasted for a short time, others for thousands of years. Jews were expelled from Egypt, Libya and other Islamic countries during the second half of the twentieth century but a few still live in Iran and many other countries that would surprise you. A traditional Syrian or Yemenite Passover meal would have none of the foods you mentioned.

Even the ceremonial foods that are required as part of the Passover Seder will look different in different communities. For example, a vegetable from the ground is needed, but our own family uses potatoes while other families use leeks. The matzah itself, the centerpiece of the meal, looks quite different if baked by those from Arab countries vs. European ones.

Having said that, you ask what the meal would have looked like in the land of Israel when the 2nd Temple was standing. There would have been wine, roasted lamb (which we deliberately do not have at the Seder today) matzah and a vegetable. The spices and methods of cooking would have been those of the place and time. There certainly would not have been the plethora of kosher for Passover items that fill grocery stores today.

If you’re looking to recreate a historical meal, we would suggest looking in cookbooks from the Yemenite community, which dates back to the days of King Solomon. You might also look at the Roman Jewish community that pre-dates the destruction of the Temple.

The bottom line is that “Jewish” cooking is any cooking that follows the laws of kashrut, the basics of which are shared by all these communities. Other than that, each community adapted to what was available and popular in its own country. So, please, in the pursuit of peace, stop talking about traditional Jewish cooking!

Hearty appetite,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

PASSOVER SALE
Best prices of the year on our value-jammed library packs

Sale ends when the store closes Thursday night in honor of the final days of Passover. Complete Library Package
      Complete Library Pack PLUS            Complete Library Pack

 

Fifty Pounds of Potatoes, Fifteen Dozen Eggs…

April 13th, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

 

At the end of the meal, after proclaiming in a loud voice, “Thank you HaShem (God); thank you Grandma,” three year old Eli noticed that everyone at the table was looking at him. He explained to the group, “I like to thank both those guys.”

Which pretty much sums up our Passover. With God’s blessing, we had all our children and grandchildren around the holyday table for the first time in a number of years. While I spent many hours preparing the food for the seventeen to nineteen people at each meal of the eight day celebration (including ten festive meals), it truly was a labor of love.

This is not to say that it also wasn’t a lot of work. The planning started weeks in advance with a lot of unknowns. Would we have a very pregnant daughter at the table or a post-partum one? Or maybe the eagerly awaited family member would arrive during the festivities? Would we have a sparkling new and large kitchen to work in as well as extra bedrooms available or did the east coast winter snowstorms put another daughter’s planned move into a new home behind schedule?

Well, we are still waiting for the baby and about two weeks before Passover it became clear that a tiny kitchen would have to suffice and that we would need to impose on generous neighbors for beds. We rented an extra refrigerator, bought a counter top convection oven and moved the organizing/cleaning/shopping/cooking countdown into high gear.

Is Passover an easy holyday to make? No. But it is hard to think of anything that is worthwhile which doesn’t entail great effort. While this year had its specific complicating factors, other years have featured my own newborns, ovens and refrigerators that conked out, and a variety of other family and technical hurdles to overcome.

Still, while I appreciate the times we have spent Passover at friends or relatives as well as the availability of hotel Passover programs, my favorite years are like this one, when we are blessed enough to have the strength and time to do all the preparations and gather our family around our own table. The “easy” Passovers, when others do the work, can be wonderful, but they always feel a bit “Passover style” to me rather than the real thing. Not only are the weeks of preparation an intrinsic part of the celebration, but while the food may be delicious elsewhere, it doesn’t include those items whose smell and taste trigger the explosion of Passover memory receptors.  And had anyone other than I done the cooking, I would have missed out on my grandson placing me in such illustrious company.

As my mother always said at the holyday’s end each year, “May the same hands that put the Passover dishes away this year take them out again next year.” Amen.

 

Passover – Sex is Everybody’s Business

January 21st, 2008 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Passover – Sex is Everybody’s Business
By Rabbi Daniel Lapin

The five books of Moses are divided up into fifty-four portions. Every Sabbath a different portion is read so that, taking into account leap years and various other considerations of the calendar, the entire Torah is completed every year. We are currently in the beginning of the book of Exodus, the portions dealing with the Children of Israel leaving Egypt and the holiday of Passover. This portion teaches us valuable lessons about family and society.

For centuries America has recognized that sex is everybody’s business. The community does care about what people do in the privacy of their bedrooms. First Roman law, then English law, and finally American law prohibited polygamy, incest, and, until recently, adultery. These cultures all drew heavily on the Torah which was the first inkling mankind received that regulation of these seemingly private matters helped preserve society. These laws reflected our conviction that we all have a say in what two of our fellow citizens might be doing in the privacy of their bedroom. Even today, on some deep level, we still suspect that sex is everybody’s business. That may be why most of us notify our friends of our intention to mate by announcing our engagements well in advance of the wedding night.

Yet during the past four decades or so, we have uncritically embraced the revolutionary idea that sex is nobody else’s business. Fortunately, the holiday of Passover reminds us that sex is indeed everybody’s business. Read More…

Sign up to receive our AAJC newsletter and our free weekly teachings!

Sign Up Now!

Follow AAJC on its new Facebook Page!
X