Shemini Atzeret and Simchas Torah

Simchat Torah

Well, today is a short day for me, one of the benefits of working for an observant Jewish employer, as tonight the 2 day holiday (1 day in Israel) of Shemini Atzeret and Simchas Torah. What not everyone realizes is that these days are actually a separate holiday from Sukkot. What is so special about this holiday? It is one of pure joy! Even more so than Sukkot, it is characterized by unadulterated joy, with the climax being on Simchas Torah, when we celebrate the conclusion and beginning of the Torah reading cycle.

What better way to celebrate an end and a beginning? How about dessert and an appetizer? You can’t get any more symbolic than that! So remember to be happy, be joyous, and try not to party too much, after all, it’s only 62 days until Chanuka!

Hoshanah Rabbah

Well, with the first half of Sukkot finished, and now moving into the second half, we bring special attention to the seventh day of the holiday known as Hoshanah Rabbah, meaning “Great Salvation”. According to tradition, our verdict that G-d has decided for us, that was written on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur, is now handed down by the Heavenly Court. To celebrate this, we circle the Bimah seven times while holding the Lulav and Esrog, while reciting special prayers for prosperity. It is also the custom that during the course of the morning prayers, to take a bundle of five willow branches and beat them against the ground five times. With all this circling and beating, one can work up quite the appetite. As mentioned in past postings, we eat foods during this time that are wrapped, or encircled. These are symbolic for many different things: The wrapping up of one year of Torah reading, and beginning again. The wrapping up of our prayers and the judgment for a brand new year. And of course, the wrapping, or circling of the Bimah, now with the Lulav and later on Simchas Torah with the Torah itself. So with that in mind I thought a rolled entree would be appropriate. Just make sure to put down your Lulav before picking up your meat!

Under the Weather

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Well dear readers, it turns out that despite wishing that one doesn’t get sick doesn’t actually prevent one from getting sick… who knew? That dreaded bug that has been going around claimed me on Monday, after taking down three of my loved ones. You would think that a cold bug would have more respect for the high holidays! So again I find myself in the strange position of NOT cooking for the holiday. Don’t get me wrong, I am appreciative of those doing the work for me, but as I’ve stated in the past, the joy for me comes from preparing, not the eating. I know I’m strange

Another Holiday?!

Succah

Yes folks, we’re now on the home stretch. After Rosh HaShanah, and Yom Kippur, not to mention the regular celebration of Shabbat, we’ve been action packed lately with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to holiday feasting! But now we wind down to the last of the season, Sukkot! The combination of fine dining and an al fresco atmosphere, what’s not to love? During this 8-day holiday (or 7-days in Israel), we get to reenact the journey that B’nei Israel took, as they wandered the desert for 40 years after the exodus from Egypt. Things were a little different then… They had Ma’an to sustain them, so no planning menus, grocery shopping, or dishes to wash up; and instead of a man-made structure of wood or cloth, they had the Heavenly protection of clouds to surround and protect them from the elements. They were also in the desert, and not in Canada in October! So for us, who are not as fortunate to have G-d provide the food and shelter, He has provided us with the creativity and desire to make this temporary dwelling a warm and welcoming atmosphere, to sit and enjoy with family, guests, and a few Spiritual visitors! (click here to learn all about the Ushpizin). While there are not specific foods inscribed to eat during the holiday, it is traditional to eat foods of the fall harvest, as well as stuffed or wrapped foods, such as cabbage rolls and kreplach (meat dumplings). We’ve got 2 ½ days to go, so let’s get on with the cooking! Unless of course G-d would like to send down some more Ma’an… I always wondered what it would taste like :)