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September 25, 2016 / 22 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘fruit’

Sharing The Fruit

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

{Originally posted to Rabbi Weinberg;s website, The Foundation Stone}

I read the laws of Bikkurim, the ceremony presenting our First Fruits in the Temple in Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 26), as the final chapter of the story of the original First Fruits; those of the Garden of Eden. Human beings have been yanked this way and that by desire ever since their creation on Rosh Hashanah was immediately followed by the introduction of the fruits they could not have. Bikkurim are the completion of the story of the first Rosh Hashanah, and we use this time of year to offer our First Fruits.

“The King’s glory is in an expansive people,” was the opening theme of the Bikkurim parade as they would assemble for the trip to Jerusalem, as it is for us who are stepping towards the Rosh Hashanah Coronation. A “multitude of people” does not guarantee God’s glory. Two people, Adam and Eve, fighting each other and themselves, lessen God’s glory. We glorify God, not in numbers, but in expansiveness. We too, are bringing our First Fruits when we’re not busy battling each other over what is ours or who speaks the truth. Our Bikkurim begin with affording room for people to explore and grow.

The daily Shofar blowing marks our joining the Bikkurim parade, “led by an ox, its ‘horns’ covered with gold, the marchers chanting, “I’m thrilled when they say to me, ‘Let us go to the House of God’ (Psalms 122:1).” People carrying decorated baskets filled with their successes of the past year to lift up to God and say, “This is what we have accomplished! We have learned how to properly make this world our own.”

Myriads of singing angels descend from the Heavens to greet us as we approach the Rosh Hashanah Coronation just as the inhabitants of Jerusalem would swarm out with music to greet those bringing the First Fruits. The angels rejoice when we use Rosh Hashanah to bring our First Fruits, replaying the scenes of the Garden, having learned how to make all the fruit ours, without grabbing what is not.

There is one moment in the presentation of the First Fruits that resonates deep within my soul: “While the presenter held the edges of the basket, the Kohen placed his hands beneath it, and together they performed the waving-ceremony.”

The visitor does not hand over his basket of First Fruits; he first shares it with the Temple representative.
We hold our baskets of fruit and accomplishments together with God.

This is not a ceremony of give and take but of sharing.

This is not, “I did my part; You do Yours,” but, “I share my existence with You, as You share Your existence with me.”
This is not a question of “Whose fruit are they?” as asked and argued by Adam. This is, “I honor all that I have as Your sharing with me.”
These days are not filled with prayers of pleading, but of sharing between God and us, us and God.
These are days on which the Bikkurim parades and the heavenly angels join us as we head toward the Coronation celebrated right back where it all began, in the Garden, with Adam and Eve looking on, as we stretch out our baskets of accomplishments to God and say, “Grab with us and hold on for the ride!”

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg

Rabbi Simcha Weinberg

Israel’s Strategy Shift Bears Fruit

Monday, August 1st, 2016

{Originally posted to the Commentary Magazine website}

Last Wednesday’s announcement that Guinea is resuming ties with Israel almost half a century after severing them is a nontrivial piece of good news. Granted, Guinea is a poor and relatively unimportant African country. But it’s 85 percent Muslim, and few Muslim-majority countries have yet been willing to forge open relations with Israel; consequently, its decision could encourage others to follow suit. Guinea was also the first country in Africa to sever relations with Israel following the 1967 Six-Day War. For both those reasons, its renewal of ties underscores the degree to which a new Israeli strategy aimed at improving relations with the non-Western world has begun bearing fruit.

The Guinea announcement comes on the heels of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s successful trip to Africa earlier this month. Highlights of that trip included announcements by both Kenya and Ethiopia–two of Israel’s closest African allies–that they would push for Israel to receive observer status at the African Union, as well as Tanzania’s announcement that it planned to open an embassy in Israel, 21 years after renewing relations.

Israeli media outlets have also reported that officials from three other Muslim-majority African countries that don’t have relations with Israel–Mali, Chad, and Somalia–recently paid secret visits, indicating that the prospect of other Muslim countries following Guinea’s lead is far from inconceivable. Indeed, just last week, Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold visited Chad for a meeting with its president. This prospect is made more plausible by the warming of Israel’s relations with key Arab states. As several African leaders noted during Netanyahu’s trip, there’s little point in African countries continuing to give Israel the cold shoulder when some of the very Arab countries that originally pushed them to do so now have either overt or covert relations with it.

There are two reasons why Israel ascribes such importance to its warming ties with Africa, and both have more to do with the long term than the short term. The first is the need to diversify its trading partners. Currently, about a third of Israel’s exports go to Europe. But the combination of Europe’s slowing economy and its growing hostility to Israel make this heavy reliance on Europe a potential threat to Israel’s economic future. Africa is the world’s poorest continent, but it’s experiencing rapid economic growth, and many of Israel’s fields of expertise fit well with Africa’s needs, including agricultural technology, water conservation, and counterterrorism. Thus by expanding and improving its diplomatic relations with African countries, Israel hopes to eventually expand its trade relations as well.

The second, as Netanyahu said during his Africa trip, is the hope of ending the automatic majority against Israel in international forums. As he readily acknowledged, this could well take decades; long-entrenched voting patterns don’t change overnight. Nevertheless, change is far from impossible: See, for instance, the 2014 Security Council vote on setting a deadline for Palestinian statehood, which was defeated because the Palestinians failed to muster the requisite nine votes. Two of the five crucial abstentions came from Africa (Rwanda and Nigeria).

Even if African countries can’t yet be flipped into the minuscule camp of pro-Israel voters, just moving them from the anti-Israel bloc to the abstention column could ease Israel’s dependence on America’s Security Council veto. Since Security Council resolutions need a minimum of nine “yes” votes to pass, an abstention has the same effect as a “no” for countries without veto power. It should also be noted that reliably abstaining would suffice to make African countries better voting allies than about half the European Union and of equal value to most of the rest: EU countries almost never vote with Israel, and some regularly vote against it.

Israel’s burgeoning relations with Africa obviously stem partly from something beyond its control: the rise of Islamist terror. As several African leaders openly acknowledged during Netanyahu’s trip, counterterrorism assistance is currently the thing they most want from Israel. And if reports of the visits by officials from Mali, Chad, and Somalia are true, it’s a safe bet they were also seeking counterterrorism help; all three have serious problems with Islamist terror.

The improvement also stems partly from Israel’s longstanding policy of proffering aid even to countries it has no relations with, which sometimes bears belated fruit. For instance, Israeli officials said one factor in Guinea’s decision to renew relations was the medical aid Israel gave it during the Ebola crisis two years ago. A salient example from Asia, another continent with which Israel’s ties have recently blossomed, is Singapore. Singapore asked Israel to train its army in the mid-1960s, before the two countries even established relations, and then concealed that fact for decades. But last month, as Elliott Abrams noted, Singapore joined forces with India and Rwanda–the third country in the club of Israel’s closest African allies–to help Israel gain the Non-Aligned votes it needed to win the chairmanship of a key UN committee.

The third reason for Israel’s declining isolation, however, is a deliberate decision by successive Netanyahu governments that the country could not afford, either economically or diplomatically, to keep focusing almost exclusively on the West while largely ignoring the rest of the world. Avigdor Lieberman, now the defense minister, made a major push to improve Israel’s ties with Africa and Asia during his term as foreign minister, and since his departure, the ministry has continued this drive under the de facto leadership of Gold (Netanyahu is the nominal foreign minister).

This constituted a major shift in Israel’s strategy, and it stemmed from a simple realization: Relations with Europe are inevitably being frayed by the fact that what the EU seems to want most from Israel is something beyond Israel’s power to provide. Namely, a peace deal with people who have consistently refused every Israeli offer and are currently refusing even to negotiate with it. Europe’s attitude could change someday, but Israel can’t count on that. Hence it must develop alternative sources of trade and diplomatic support as an insurance policy.

The restoration of relations with Guinea is yet another sign that this strategy is starting to pay off. And that’s very good news for Israel.

Evelyn Gordon

Chassidic Tu B’Shvat Sederim [photo]

Monday, January 25th, 2016
Stropkov Tu B'Shvat Seder

Stropkov Tu B’Shvat Seder

Zvhil Tu B'Shvat Seder

Zvhil Tu B’Shvat Seder

Spinka Kahana Tu B'Shvat Seder

Spinka Kahana Tu B’Shvat Seder

Hug Hatam Sofer Tu B'Shvat Seder

Hug Hatam Sofer Tu B’Shvat Seder

Deyzh Tu B'Shvat Seder

Deyzh Tu B’Shvat Seder

Photo of the Day

Get to Grips with Fruit Flavors in Wine on Tu B’Shvat

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

Market stalls along the cobbled alleys in the Machne Yehuda shuk (market) in Jerusalem are overflowing with dried fruit. As the sudden abundance of donuts reminds Israelis that Chanukah is coming, so the mounds of dried fruit are synonymous with the arrival of Tu B’shvat.

Not well known outside of Israel, the minor Jewish holiday of Tu B’shvat celebrates the ‘New Year of the trees’ from which the correct tithes were calculated in the times of the Temple. Today, many Israelis take Tu B’shvat as an opportunity to eat exotic dried fruits. Some even go as far as to hold Tu B’Shvat seder, a Chassidic custom that traditionally included fruits and wine from the seven Biblical species.

Alongside the piles of dried fruit in the market are bottles of homegrown Israeli wines also ready to grace the Tu B’Shvat table. The relationship between fruit and wine is clear. Fruit is transformed into wine. But from there things become more complicated. Wine is frequently described in terms of fruit. We hear phrases like, ‘notes of cherry.’

But, what do these terms really mean? If no artificial flavors are added to wine, then how can the simple grape produce a flavor with ‘a hint of orange blossom?’

Fruit flavors as described in wine actually only refer to the scents that are identified as we smell the wine. They could be classified by the chemical names, but would hardly appeal to the average wine drinker.

Instead, a common language of wine tastes that uses common scents as analogies to the flavors present in wine has developed. Referring to such association enables the experience of wine taste to be universal and allows the exchange of knowledge and impressions.

To experience a wine’s true scent, you should smell the wine twice. First, gently swirl the wine in the glass, then sniff deeply; this is called the ‘first nose.’ Then swirl the wine again and smell a second time, the ‘second nose’, which allows you to identify a greater range of flavors in the wine. The best sommeliers are able to identify as many as 60 flavors in one wine.

Once identified, each fruit flavor teaches us something about the wine. Fresh fruit flavors like apple, pear, quince, peach, apricot and strawberry are usually signs of a young wine.

Cooked fruit flavors like compote or jam indicate a very ripe harvest year with hot weather conditions during the fruit ripen period.

Exotic fruits such as papaya, mango, pineapple, passion fruit and litchi are only found when the grapes were very ripe at the time of harvesting.

As you might expect, sour fruit flavors, such as citrus, green apple, kiwi, red currant and raspberry indicate a wine that was produced from grapes with a greater acidity.

Flavors reminiscent of dried fruits or nuts are usually found in sophisticated white wines.

Obviously, every wine contains multiple flavors. For a full tour of fruit flavors this Tu B’Shvat try these suggestions, found in local wine stores throughout the UK, to bring a taste of Israel to your table this Tu B’Shvat.

Grown in the footsteps of Mt Hermon, Gilgal White Riesling is fresh and makes a great aperitif with notes of citrus, melon as well as lemon and honey. Swill the glass to see if you can identify the subtle character of lime peel.

To accompany your dried fruit, try Yarden’s T2, produced from two different varieties of Portuguese grapes – Touriga Nacional and Tinta Cao. This rich wine was fortified with brandy to stop its fermentation and increases its alcohol content while preserving the grapes’ natural sweetness. Look out for the aromatic blend of ripe cherries and plums in the scent.

Daniela Berkowitz

Condé Nast Designates Tel Aviv Home of Best Vegetarian Food

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

(JNi.media) Condé Nast Traveler, which is part of a network of 20 print and digital media brands reaching more than 164 million consumers, focuses on literary journalism and hard news reporting. This month, it declared that Israel’s trend-setting city Tel Aviv has become a Mecca for herbivores. The magazine extols the city’s Carmel Market, with its “gleaming pyramids of eggplants, peppers, and cabbage heaped like pinups.” It is astonished by all the gastronomic influences: Russian, Polish, Arabic, Moroccan, Bulgarian, Iraqi, which “can coax a world of flavors out of the most humble potato.” And best of all, for the religious Jewish traveler, Tel Aviv’s abundance of no-meat, no-dairy restaurants are “kosher by default,” if you trust the owner, of course.

The article divides the eateries into outright Vegan and “veggie friendly.” Vegan food, in addition to being vegetarian, does not contain animal products and by-products such as eggs, dairy products or honey. The list of top notch, Tel Aviv Vegan joints is impressive (served here with choice lines from each):

Café Anastasia: tofu crepes, macadamia or chickpea omelets, and veggie scrambles.

Caffe Kaymak: fundamental bean soup is a medley of nutty al dente beans sitting in a sweet tomato broth roused by black pepper.

Nanuchka: hand-made dumplings, include a pastry pocket stuffed with potato, paired with eggplant salsa, as well as a pirashki filled with seasonal mushrooms.

Tenat (Ethiopian): crepe-like Injera bread, which you can wrap around the accompanying lentils, root vegetables, beetroot leaves, and potato salad.

Bindella: open ravioli piled with green-pea puree, mushrooms, and green-vegetable ragu.

Chiripom: Tip the party hat and out roll croquettes made of fried onion, parsley, and white potatoes.

Dallal: A forest-mushroom-and-mascarpone tortellini with hazelnut and truffled goat cheese makes for a rich starter.

Incidentally, Carmel Market, Shuk HaCarmel in Hebrew, is a vast, open air marketplace in old Tel Aviv, bordered by Allenby Street and Magen David Square. The market is open every day of the week, except Shabbat, and sells mostly food but also home accessories and flowers. Tuesdays and Fridays are the days when independent artists and vendors sell unique crafts, art, and jewelry nearby, along Nahalat Binyamin Street.

JNi.Media

Jordan Valley Cloned Bananas and BDS

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

The Ginosar Agro team says they come from a deep understanding of the challenges banana growers are facing worldwide. You may not know this, but the Cavendish, that lovely, big, yellow banana you so love, is in grave danger. Tropical Race 4, a fungus which has already destroyed acres of crops across Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia, is threatening the plantations of Australia and South and Central America. In those areas, banana plantations are guarded by barbed wire fences and patrols.

The Ginosar elite-cultivars of disease-free banana plants are the result of decades of stringent professional selection from our mother plantations, located in northern Israel. The clones are globally recognized as a premium brand, due to the high quality of the plants and their superior performance in the field.

So, before you know it, those BDS folks are also going to have to go with just berries in their morning cereal…

And now a bonus image: a vendor at the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem who discovered a brand new use for his bananas.

Photo credit: Kobi Gideon / FLASH90

Photo credit: Kobi Gideon / FLASH90

Yori Yanover

Chinese Lanterns In The Sukkah

Friday, November 16th, 2012

A Hong Kong symphony of sounds fills the air as local laborers shout across the shul courtyard in Cantonese while tossing bamboo in a pile for the sukkah: Filipino maids chatter in Tagalog hovering over the children in their charge, the radio of the Nepalese gurkhas, the Synagogue security, crackles and jackhammers provide the background music. The thick air and humidity within the walls of the partially constructed bamboo sukkah sharply contrasts with the crisp fall air of Sukkot in the northeastern corridor of the United States, where the sukkahs of my childhood were laden with dried fruit and autumn color. Dozens of colorful miniature Chinese paper lanterns dangle from the sukkah and here replace the burnt orange and golden gourds of autumn.

The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Lantern Festival or the Mooncake Festival, falls on the 15th day of the eighth Chinese month, which not coincidentally coincides with Sukkot every year. The Chinese calendar, also being lunar, has a familiar rhythm. Side by side, we celebrate our Jewish festivals with our local Chinese hosts. While they gaze up at the moon, we speak of seeing the night stars through the s’chach. Both of our festivals are reminiscent of the harvest, though we have both journeyed seemingly far from our agricultural roots living here beneath the shadows of Hong Kong’s glittering skyscrapers

Despite the exoticism that life in the Far East might evoke, our children and those of our friends certainly still sit on the floor and color, cut and paste to decorate the sukkah, just as they would had they still been living in New York, London or Melbourne. That being said though, our themes here do tend to combine more pop culture and modernity with the tradition that I remember. And while Sukkot brings about the sense of impermanence and wandering, for me it is somehow about everything but that. It is a time to reflect on the meaning of home. And to emphasize my point, this year’s Wizard of Oz themed sukkah at the Ohel Leah Synagogue features a giant banner bearing the words, “There’s no place like home.”

And for most of us, being high-rise city dwellers, the community sukkah is in fact our only sukkah. While empty it seems cavernous, but it will quickly fill with friends who are our family and congregants who are our community. As a result, we all have a sense of ownership over our synagogue’s sukkah.

And for all the talk of what my children miss by living in the Far East and in a large Asian city, I counter with all they have gained. While it is true that they will never have a sukkah in their backyard, nor will they ever have a backyard (which the British have influenced them into believing is called a garden), they live in a world where by age nine it is safe to wander around on your own and by 11 taking public transport and a taxi alone is the norm. They live in a place where they are immersed in a foreign culture, free from the dominance of Christian culture and holidays, void of anti-Semitism and where they are exposed to multiple languages on a daily basis.

They can also actually sleep in a sukkah, without freezing, so long as they remember the mosquito spray. They have an understanding of diversity and culture and don’t fear things they don’t understand. They are born travelers and adventurers and see possibilities as limitless. Living within five minutes from their Synagogue and school, and most of our closest friends, in many ways they live in a small town but with little risk of developing a small town mentality.

And Sukkot, for them, while it will certainly never conjure up a nostalgia for dried fruits and cranberries on strings, dried gourds and Indian corn, cool weather or fluttering crisp leaves painted with brilliant autumn colors, they won’t think of themselves as rootless as some think the expat experience suggests.

Sukkot, while maybe framed in memories of Chinese lanterns and bamboo, perhaps takes on a greater meaning for them. Aware that China is our adopted home, a “temporary” dwelling for them is in some ways played out here on a daily basis. Home for my children is not a solitary image. It is bigger than that. It will likely always remain somewhat fluid, not fixed to a singular place but a feeling they can carry with them. It will be connected to synagogue and Sukkot, Israel, China and the US; to the places where they can find common language and ground, where welcomed and where they are loved.

Erica Lyons

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/features/features-on-jewish-world/chinese-lanterns-in-the-sukkah/2012/11/16/

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