Anyone who’s observed Rosh Hashanah knows this is one holiday when you might as well forget about counting calories, reducing carbs or sticking to a weight-loss plan. In Jewish households, the tables sag beneath the weight of tempting delicacies, rich comfort foods and traditional desserts. When faced with this kind of temptation, it’s best to give in, indulge for two days and pray for the will power to go back to your diet on the third.
What I find really interesting is the symbolism in the foods that Jews eat for Rosh Hashanah. Since it’s considered the Jewish New Year, we eat a lot of honey as a way to say we’re hoping for a sweet new year. The most popular tradition is to eat our honey on apples, a reminder of the creation story.
Honey also becomes a dip for our challah, which is already sweetened for the occasion with raisins or more honey baked right into the bread. During this holiday, the loaf is made round to symbolize the circle of life.
Then there are the honey cakes. Every family has a favorite recipe that’s likely to have been passed down from generation to generation. Flavored with fragrant spices like cinnamon, cloves and allspice, these are the ultimate fall treat that smell heavenly while baking. My new favorite honey cake is this one that’s moist and rich – and topped with a chocolate glaze.
A totally healthy traditional Rosh Hashanah food is a new fruit that’s just come into season. When we eat this fruit, we say the shehechlyanu blessing to thank God for keeping us alive and well for the beginning of a new year.
A popular new fruit is the pomegranate, which Jewish lore tells us has 613 seeds, exactly the same as the number of mitzvoth or commandments in the Torah. The seeds also help us to remember that our good deeds in the coming year should be as plentiful as the seeds of the pomegranate.
Another Rosh Hashanah staple is carrots sliced into coins to represent prosperity. Many times the carrots are used in fabulous soups and stews made slightly sweeter than usual for the holiday.
And finally, although it’s customary in some Jewish traditions to serve fish head to symbolize Rosh Hashanah as the “head” of the year, I’m not there yet.
I’d much rather save my calories and indulge in something sweet and wonderful like this noodle kugel made from my mother-in-law’s recipe. It’s everyone’s favorite, so I hope you’ll try it!
Louise’s Noodle Kugel
1 12-oz. bag of “no-yolk” noodles
1 16-oz. container cottage cheese
1 16-oz. container sour cream
2 eggs, beaten
8 packages Sweet’N Low
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ cup raisins
1 stick margarine
1 small jar peach or apricot preserves
Preheat oven to 375°. Boil noodles until soft. Melt margarine in 8 ½” x 11” baking pan in the oven. In a large bowl mix the noodles with the cottage cheese, sour cream, eggs, Sweet’N Low, cinnamon and raisins. Spread evenly in the melted butter pan. Bake covered for 1 hour. Removed from the oven and spread the jar of preserves over the top. Return to the oven uncovered for 15-20 minutes.
What’s your favorite Rosh Hashanah dish or recipe?No tags for this post.
I caught only glimpses of the closing ceremony for the XXX Summer Olympics in London, but I could tell everything about it was spectacular. Planners went all out to make sure London 2012 would be remembered as a great chapter in the Olympic tradition.
What really struck me about the event, though, was how it marked both an end – the successful conclusion of the 2012 games in London – and a beginning – the kickoff for the 2016 games in Brazil.
In the Jewish faith, we experience something similar every week as we celebrate the end of Shabbat. Although not nearly as elaborate as the Olympic closing ceremony, our ritual of Havdalah, which literally means “separation,” marks the close of our holiest hours of the week from Friday evening to Saturday nightfall, and beginning of the ordinary part of the week. The many blessings we recite create a bridge between the peaceful, relaxed hours of Shabbat and the hectic pace of the rest of the week.
The Havdalah service begins about 45 minutes after sundown on Saturday. Traditionally this is the time three stars can be seen in the sky.
The service requires three items: a Kiddush cup of wine or other liquid, some fragrant spices and a braided Havdalah candle. In a fairly dark room, we form a circle and have different people hold the three items. As for the blessings, most families have their own customs. They can be recited or sung by one person or everyone in the room, in Hebrew or English.
My favorite is the first one, Shavua Tov (which means a “good week”): A good week, a week of peace; may gladness reign and joy increase.
As the rest of the blessings are said, the three items are presented in succession. First, the Kiddush cup is held up, but no one drinks from it yet. Then the spice box is passed around and everyone takes a minute to sniff the contents so they can take that sweetness into the rest of their week. After that, the candle is held up, and everyone puts their hands up to the light as a reminder of the distinction between light and darkness.
When the blessings are finished, everyone takes a sip from the Kiddush cup, and the rest is poured into a bowl in which the candle is extinguished. And so, our new week begins.
Many Jewish families use special pieces set aside for their weekly “closing ceremony.” At Traditions Jewish Gifts, we have an outstanding selection of Havdalah items, such as spice boxes, Kiddush cups and braided candles in our online catalog. Many of the artists we feature have produced such sets with unique, exquisite designs to fit every style and décor.
Take a look and let you imagination help you choose the items that will make someone’s weekly closing ceremony a memorable and blessed event.No tags for this post.
Have you ever noticed how candlelight changes the mood in a room? The flame somehow has a peaceful, calming effect that seems to fill the space. Just compare how you feel when stepping into a sports bar filled with TVs and a restaurant glowing with candlelight. The energy is completely different.
In the Jewish faith, we strive for calm and tranquility during our weekly celebration of Shabbat. And so we begin our Friday evening ritual with the lighting of candles. Although customs differ slightly, this ceremony is typically started 18 minutes before sunset. I’m often struck by the mental image of candles being lit in homes across the country in a progression that follows the Earth’s rotation around the sun.
Typically, a married woman lights the candles, but girls in the family may also be allowed to do the honors. In fact, many families give the young daughter her own candle to get her started in the tradition. We have our daughter participate in this way to help reinforce her Jewish education.
At least two candles are lit, one to focus on “remembering” Shabbat, and the other on “guarding” it. Many families embrace a lovely tradition of lighting a candle for each of their children, never taking any away even after the children are grown.
Here’s how the ritual goes: First, the woman (if married, she wears some type of head covering) lights the candles. Next, she draws her hands around the candles and toward her face three times, symbolically drawing the warmth, light and spirit of Shabbat into herself. Then she covers her eyes with her hands and recites the Shabbat blessing. The woman might take an extra moment at this point to thank God for blessings of family, health and prosperity. Or, a few minutes might be spent in silent prayer.
Finally, she uncovers her eyes to take in the glow of the candlelight and the love of family and friends.
The lighting of Shabbat candles is one of the beautiful rituals in our religion. What better Jewish gift could there be than a special set of candlesticks for a young girl or a couple setting up their own Jewish home? Check out our online catalog, where you’ll find Shabbat items in a wonderful variety of styles and materials. Meaningful Jewish gifts like these, no matter what the occasion, are a welcome addition in every household. You’ll be remembered fondly and frequently – at least once a week.Tags: Candles, Candlesticks, Jewish gift, Jewish Gifts, Shabbat, woman
Do you ever find yourself wondering on a Thursday afternoon, “Where has this week gone?” With the demands of the job, the housework, the kids, the family, the laundry, the lawn, the meals and social obligations, there never seem to be enough hours to get everything done.
Take heart! You are not alone. In fact, this has been the lament of hard-working people for centuries. Even back in the days of the Jews being enslaved in Egypt (about 38 centuries ago), Mose saw the need for people to set aside time to rest. He went to the pharaoh and talked the ruler into giving the slaves one day off a week.
This day became Shabbat, 25 hours set aside for rest and reflection on the sixth day of every week. It has evolved with some variations, but many of the traditions have remained intact even in modern times.
In my family, the Friday night meal is our main focus. Our table is beautifully set with a white tablecloth, silver candlesticks, our Shabbat china, Kiddush cups and special serving dishes. Before our celebration starts, we put a donation in our tzedakah boxes, a tradition that reminds us of our blessings and our obligation to help eliminate poverty and illness in the world.
At 18 minutes before sunset, we light the candles to signal the official beginning of Shabbat and set the tone for our quiet time together.
We sing prayers and beautiful melodies to welcome the Sabbath, including a song of praise for the Jewish woman (my personal favorite). We also recite blessings on our daughter, Amanda, and any other children at the table, asking God to ensure their health and wellbeing.
Then we fill our Kiddush cups with wine and raise them in unison. To the sound of clinking glasses, we say l’hayim, which literally means to life. We next wash our hands to purify them before eating.
At this point, it’s time to break bread. Two loaves of challah have been placed on a challah plate or challah board and covered with a challah cover. The two loaves represent the double portion of manna that fell from the sky each Friday while the Jews wandered in the desert. After a short blessing called the hamotzi, my husband, as head of the family, cuts the challah and serves it. We sprinkle salt, a preservative, over the bread to signify our desire to savor this moment.
And then it’s time to eat! We all love the traditional Friday night meal, not only for the several courses of our favorite foods, but also for the time spent enjoying the company of family and friends without the distractions of the outside world.
As things wind down, we again rinse our fingertips in a special washing bowl and thank God for our many blessings by reciting the blessings after meals.
No matter how crazy my week is, I always find myself looking forward to Shabbat. It’s a great break from the commotion of everyday existence and a chance to reconnect with our family, close friends and spirituality – the really important things in life. What a wise and wonderful Jewish tradition!No tags for this post.
Tamara Baskin was one of those larger-than-life people whose personality could fill up a room the moment she stepped inside. She knew no strangers – only friends she hadn’t met. And she created beautiful art – especially fused-glass art – that brought countless people into her life to experience her lively spirit and creativity.
Born and raised in Israel, Tamara came to the United States, where she launched her career. A self-taught artist, she worked for twenty years in media as varied as ceramics, wood and dried flowers. She started out selling her work at art and craft shows, where she was an instant hit. In fact, some of her more popular items (some cookie jars with whimsical designs come to mind) would sell out within the first hour!
Tamara poured her heart and soul into her business and got her whole family involved, too. Her son, Ilan, told me he was always fascinated by her work and can remember spending hours in the garage cutting and staining wood for her projects.
In the mid-1990s, Tamara discovered her gift for working with handmade fused glass. It quickly became her medium of choice, and she became the first ever to create a fused-glass mezuzah. This made her a hallmark in the world of Judaica.
With its color, clarity and beauty, glass allowed Tamara to create art that was both elegant and functional. It defined who she had become as an artist.
My family and I were among the many, many people greatly saddened by Tamara’s death after a brief illness five years ago. But thanks to Ilan, her legacy lives on. He took over the Tamara Baskin Art Glass and remains committed to his mother’s vision of creating unique and functional Judaica art. He also lives up to her quality standards: Every piece is individually crafted, and nothing leaves the studio before he has personally inspected it.
At Traditions Jewish Gifts, we are proud and pleased to carry a large array of Judaica from Tamara Baskin Art Glass. Our online catalog features everything from menorahs and candlesticks to Tzedakah boxes and Jewish-themed home decor. And right now, you can take advantage of our special discount. I know you won’t be disappointed.
“Each piece is an extension of our family name,” Ilan says. I think that says it all.No tags for this post.