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November 25, 2015 / 13 Kislev, 5776
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Posts Tagged ‘matzah’

A Taste of The Middle East

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

As an American of Sephardic heritage, I was raised on the mouth-watering delicious foods that define Middle Eastern fare. For as far back as I can remember the kitchen has been my comfort zone. Whipping up culinary creations to please the palates of an Ashkenazic husband, Sephardic kin, fussy kids, and guests who frequent our dinner table can be quite challenging, but at the same time tremendously satisfying.

Two all-around favorite appetizers – Laham Bajeen and Sambusak – are yummy Shabbat staples that can actually be enjoyed on Pesach as well, with some modification.


Laham Bajeen are flavorful mini pizza-like meat pies that are both tangy and sweet. They can be prepared beforehand as they freeze well in raw or cooked form. This recipe yields 24 pieces.



Frozen mini pizza dough (substitute round mini tea matzos on Pesach)

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 med onion grated and squeezed

1 6-oz. can tomato paste

1 tsp lemon juice

1 c tamrahandi sauce (purchase in any middle eastern grocery store)

1 tsp allspice

1½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

1/8 c sugar

Combine ground beef, onion, tomato paste, lemon juice, tamrahandi sauce and spices. Mix well.

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place dough (or matzah) rounds on sheet and top each with a tablespoon of the meat mixture, pressed firmly onto dough.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.


Sambusak can actually be enjoyed as a dairy appetizer by filling with a luscious cheese mix in place of meat.


Dough ingredients (for Pesach):

2 c matzah meal

¼ c cake meal

3 tbsp potato starch

3 tbsp oil

1 tbsp salt

cold water


Mix by hand with wet fingers; add water to mixture as needed to form dough. If the mixture becomes too wet, set aside to dry out a bit. If dough consistency is too dry, add water accordingly.


Meat filling:

1 lb. ground beef

1 onion

1 tsp salt

1 tsp allspice

Sautee chopped onion in 2-3 tbsp oil. Add ground beef and cook until browned. Drain liquid, add salt and allspice and mix well.


Cheese filling (for dairy use):

Beat one egg with a dash of dried mint and 1 tsp each of salt and black pepper; add 1 lb. grated mozzarella cheese and mix well.

Form little-larger-than-walnut size portions of dough, flattening each one in a circular shape. Spoon meat (or cheese mixture) on to each circle of dough and fold over into a half-moon shape, pressing moistened edges together.

Deep fry in oil until golden brown. (Ideal oil temperature: 350°)


Dough ingredients (not for Pesach):

2c flour

1c semolina flour

2 sticks margarine (at room temp)

1 tsp salt

½ c water

Mix by hand. Follow instructions for filling above, but instead of deep-frying, place on cookie sheet, brush lightly with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired. Bake at 350° until golden brown (approximately 20 minutes). Yields 40 pieces.

Remember to fry them on Pesach and bake them for chametz. (The reverse for either one is not an option due to the nature of the dough.)


Eggplant Salad

This spicy eggplant salad – not of the garden-variety type – is another flavorful appetizer that can double as a dip or a side dish. Leave it on the table for the duration of dinner and don’t bank on any leftovers.



1 large eggplant, unpeeled and cubed

1 onion, diced

6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 6 oz can tomato paste

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp red pepper flakes


Sauté onions until translucent. Add garlic slices and cubed eggplant; cook for 7-10 minutes on medium heat. Add tomato paste, salt, pepper, pepper flakes, and about 1cup of water. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for about 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.


Another hot food item that’s an international palate pleaser and finds a place of prominence on our dinner table at festive occasions all year round: Dips. Seriously hot. No, no, not the over-the-counter variety. These are homemade and a big hit – with those who like it hot, that is.

If you plan to prepare one or more of them for the second days of Pesach, make sure to have enough matzah to go around to satisfy all the dippers at your table.

These are also great accompaniments to the various dishes on the Shabbat/Yom Tov table, fish, meat or vegetarian.




1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

1 3 oz can tomato paste

3 jalapeno peppers, diced

6 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tbsp olive oil

Chol Hamoed Survival Guide

Friday, April 6th, 2012

If you are anything like me, Chol Hamoed can be just the teeniest bit stressful. Okay, maybe very, very stressful. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.

Yes, you just spent a minimum of two to three, or more, weeks scouring every square inch of your humble abode, cooked up massive quantities of food in a minimum amount of time in pots, pans and appliances that you barely even recognize as yours, have spent countless hours washing endless streams of pots, pans, silverware and dishes and then Chol Hamoed rolls around. Despite the inevitable exhaustion that is oozing out of your every pore, your entire family wants you to not only prepare gourmet food but structure social activities that are fun, enticing and will make them the envy of everyone they know.

If you are anything like me you will try your best not to have a meltdown as you explain to your family members that with all the work you have done preparing for Pesach you have zero interest in being designated the family social director as well.

Take a deep breath and remind everyone, including yourself, that you don’t have a cape, you don’t have superpowers and you can’t possibly do everything, for everyone all at once. What your family is envisioning requires you to be in multiple places at once and requires an endless supply of money, which you probably don’t have, having just bought matzah, food for an eight day eating extravaganza and clothing for the entire family. So tell everyone to take a chill pill and remember that if they want to live in Fantasyland, they need to head down to Disney World. Because you can either prepare gourmet meals every day of Chol Hamoed or you can plan exciting activities to keep everyone entertained. You can’t possibly do both.

But that’s okay, because neither can anyone else. So just relax. You have worked so hard to get this far; it is finally time to enjoy a well-deserved break. Let’s start with the food. Go check your refrigerator. Got leftovers? Great. Then put them to good use.

Flake up leftover roast and serve it with a salad for supper one night. Dice up extra chicken and resurrect it as chicken salad or chicken potpie. (Skip the bottom crust. Trust me. No one needs all those extra calories this week.) Don’t have any leftovers? Cook up a pot of hot dogs or buy a package of cold cuts and remember that this just isn’t a week for dieting. Feel free to add some easy veggies to your menu: think bagged salad, grape tomatoes, mini sweet peppers (depending on your minhagim), or even a jar of pickles, all things that don’t require cutting up. Round out your meals with all those leftover kugel pieces and potatoes that are taking up valuable space in your fridge.

Try yogurt, leben, smoothies, fruit salad or even brownies for breakfast. Lunch choices can include tuna, eggs and if you eat gebrokts, matzah pizza or matzah brei. If you are planning a day trip, try serving a serious breakfast – say scrambled eggs, matzah and lots of sliced veggies – giving you the option of a lighter lunch which could consist of yogurt, string cheese, fruit, nuts or anything else that is easily totable. Feel free to freeze a few water bottles to take with you. Not only will they keep your perishables cold, but you will have drinks for the family as well.

Now that at least some of your meals have been taken care of, you can enjoy some quality time with your nearest and dearest. With this years’ long Chol Hamoed, there is ample time for lots of family fun, but as always, use your head and plan wisely. It is entirely possible that your teenagers may want to spend a day or two with their friends. Let them. It gives you the perfect opportunity to plan activities that are geared towards either older or younger family members. Check the weather sites and see what the forecast is for Chol Hamoed, taking advantages of the best weather for outdoor activities.

If your family enjoys the big outdoors then budget friendly opportunities abound. Try hiking, biking, rollerblading, or if the winds allow, kite flying at your local park. Stroll across the George Washington or Brooklyn Bridge. Pay a visit to the nearest (or not so near, if you are in the mood of traveling) botanical gardens and enjoy the most fascinating time of year as the trees start to leaf and the flowers start to bloom. (For those of you with springtime allergies, don’t even think about leaving the house without taking some form of allergy medicine.)

How Much Matzah?

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Question: How much matzah must one eat at the Pesach Seder?

Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 486:1) rules that one must eat at least an olive’s worth (kzayit) of matzah to fulfill the mitzvah. It states that an olive is equivalent to half of an egg. The Noda B’Yehudah argues that eggs in Talmudic times were much larger than eggs nowadays. Accordingly, whatever amount one comes up with for a kzayit must be doubled. The Mishnah Berurah rules that people should follow this stringent opinion when observing biblical mitzvot.

Rav Moshe Shternbuch (Haggada of Pesach p.42, rule 5) notes that, practically speaking, this stringency means that one should eat 30 grams, or the size of a whole matzah, to fulfill the mitzvah. Since there is a debate whether the kzayit should come from the broken matzah or the whole one, Rav Shternbuch notes that one should eat a kzayit from both the whole and broken matzot.

But is this the minhag of klal Yisrael? Many people who have spent a Pesach Seder with chassidic Rebbes report that they hand out very small pieces of matzah to those at the table. In addition, many people don’t recall eating so much matzah when they were growing up. They received relatively small pieces from the head of the family and that was it. Was everyone just ignorant of basic halacha?

Based on the belief that that there must be a halachic rationale for such a widespread custom, the following is suggested as a possible explanation:

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 271:13) rules that a person who makes kiddush on Friday night should drink at least a mouthful (melo lugmav) of wine. If he doesn’t drink the requisite amount but everyone collectively does, the Shulchan Aruch writes: “some say they have fulfilled their obligation since their collective drinking combines to complete the required measure.” The Mishnah Berurah (271:72) rules that this is only true post facto (bidi’eved). Initially, though (l’chat’chila), the person making kiddush should drink the requisite amount himself.

The Aruch HaShulchan (271:36) discusses this issue at length. Those who argue that the person making kiddush must drink the required amount himself reason that a person doesn’t derive pleasure from drinking less than this amount. Those who argue that it’s not necessary reason that a person derives pleasure even from a sip (which is why drinking even a small amount of wine requires a blessing). This is the position of the Ritva.

In an attempt to find support for this latter position, the Aruch HaShulchan notes that the Talmud (Yoma 39a) states that kohanim in the Beit Hamikdash ate less than a kzayit of the lechem hapanim even though the verse, “And they shall eat it in a holy place” (Vayikra 24:9), requires the eating of at least a kzayit. The Aruch HaShulchan argues that the only way this Gemara makes sense is if it maintains that the requisite kzayit may be eaten collectively.

Thus, if a group can combine to drink the minimum amount of kiddush wine and if a group of kohanim can combine to eat the minimum amount of lechem hapanim bread, perhaps everyone sitting at the Pesach Seder may combine to eat the minimum amount of matzah. If that is the case, no single individual at the Seder would need to eat very much matzah.

Rabbi Cohen, a “Jerusalem Prize” recipient, has just published “Jewish Prayer The Right Way: Resolving Halachic Dilemmas” (Urim Publications), available at Amazon.com and Judaica stores.

Why Don’t We Make A Berachah Over Korech?

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

The Gemara in Pesachim 115a says that there was a machlokes regarding how one was supposed to eat matzah and marror in the times of the Beis HaMikdash. Hillel said that during those times, when there was a korban Pesach, matzah and marror should be eaten together. His peers argued that they must be eaten separately. The Gemara concludes that since the halacha was not paskened we eat matzah separately, then marror separately, and then both together to accommodate both opinions.

The Rambam (Hilchos Chametz U’matzah 8:8) says that one should korech matzah and marror together, dip it into charosses and eat it without reciting the berachah, “zecher l’mikdash.” The Rambam’s words imply that the reason that we do not recite a berachah on the takanah of korech is because it was instituted zecher l’mikdash (as a remembrance of the Beis HaMikdash). Any takanah that was instituted zecher l’mikdash does not require a berachah.

However the Achronim ask the following question: Originally the mitzvah of lulav was to take the lulav only on the first day, with the exception of taking it in the Beis HaMikdash – where it was taken for seven days. The Mishnah in Sukkah 41a says that after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, Reb Yochanan ben Zakai instituted the policy that the lulav should be taken for seven days everywhere, even outside the Beis HaMikdash, as a remembrance of the Mikdash. Why is it that regarding the institution of taking a lulav for all seven days of Sukkos we recite a berachah, and regarding the institution of korech we do not? The rule that we do not recite a berachah on an institution that was initiated zecher l’mikdash should exempt a berachah on the takanah to take the lulav for the remaining six days of Sukkos.

I would like to suggest that the answer lies in the words of the Rambam. The Rambam (Hilchos Lulav 7:15) says that after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, it was decided that the lulav should be taken on each of the seven days of Sukkos – zecher l’mikdash. One should recite the berachah of “al netilas lulav” over it every day because it is a mitzvah midivrei sofrim (from the Rabbanan). The Rambam seems to be alluding to this question when he answers that this takanah is a mitzvah. I think this can be better understood based on the following explanation:

The Gemara in Sukkah 44a brings a dispute as to whether a certain rabbinic institution was a takanah or a minhag. The Gemara says that if it is a takanah, a berachah is recited; if it is a minhag, a berachah is not recited. Rashi explains that as the Gemara in Shabbos 23a and Sukkah 46a both say, in order to recite a berachah on a rabbinic decree and say “vetzivanu” (Hashem commanded us) it must be decreed that if one disobeys this ruling he will have transgressed the Torah’s prohibition of lo sasor. Rashi explains that only if one disobeys a takanah will he transgress the Torah’s prohibition; therefore one can make a berachah on it. But if one does not follow a minhag of the Rabbanan, he does not transgress the Torah’s prohibition of lo sasor. As a result, a berachah is not recited.

The Rambam, in Hilchos Mamrim 1:2, says that if one does not adhere to even a minhag he transgresses the Torah’s prohibition of lo sasor. According to this opinion this question remains: Why don’t we recite a berachah on a minhag of the Rabbanan?

The Brisker Rav, in his sefer on the Rambam, explains that there are two requirements that must be met in order to recite a berachah on a rabbinic decree. One is that it was a commandment; this is met when one will transgress a Torah prohibition by disobeying the decree. The second is that its essence must be a mitzvah. Even though one who does not follow a minhag that the Rabbanan instituted will transgress the Torah’s prohibition, it was nevertheless not instituted to be a mitzvah by nature; rather it is a minhag. We do not recite a berachah over minhagim. We only recite a berachah on mitzvos.

By applying this rule we can differentiate between the takanah of taking a lulav on all seven days of Sukkos and that of korech. By the takanah of taking the lulav on all seven days, the actual decree was an institution of a mitzvah in its essence. The reason why this mitzvah was established was zecher l’mikdash. The takanah to eat korech with matzah and marror together was not instituted as a mitzvah, but rather its essence is to commemorate and remember the Beis HaMikdash. The Rambam writes that the takanah of taking the lulav on all seven days of Sukkos is a mitzvah, and therefore we recite a berachah. Regarding the takanah of korech, the Rambam does not say that it is a mitzvah because it was not established as a mitzvah – but rather as a zecher l’mikdash. Thus we do not recite a berachah on korech since its essence is not a mitzvah.

Pesach Video: Baking Passover Matzah in Israel’s Heartland

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Yishai Fleisher takes us to Beit El in Israel’s heartland, the location of Yaakov’s (Jacob’s) ladder, to bake matzot (unleavened bread) the old fashioned way by hand.  A crew of friends and neighbors carefully follow the detailed processes laid out in Jewish Law (Torah) for preparing and baking the matzah in less than 18 minutes total from start to finish.

Chad Gadya – Pesach & the Order of Things

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

As the Seder night ebbs away – long after the Four Questions have been asked and answered, after the festive meal has been eaten and the post-feast drowsiness descends, after the evening’s mitzvot have been observed and the fourth cup of wine emptied – we raise our voices in a curious, delightful, seemingly whimsical song at the end of the Haggadah.

The song is Chad Gadya, a lively tune that is one of the most popular of the many Pesach songs as well as one of the strangest.

On the surface, Chad Gadya appears to be nothing so much as a simple folk tune. Perhaps even a nursery rhyme suitable for the youngest among us, the very child who sang the Four Questions early in the Seder.

Like so many nursery rhymes – an egg perched upon a wall? A fork running away with a spoon? A cow jumping over the moon? Two young children tumbling down the hill? – it is filled with odd images and paradoxes.

What are we to make of these curious images? Likewise, what are we to make of a song that seems, on its surface, to be about the purchase of a goat? While it is possible to enjoy the song just in the singing, the paradoxes and troubling images draw us deeper as we search for meaning and significance.

Why have the rabbis placed this strange song in the Haggadah?

Certainly it keeps the children awake so that the end of the Seder is as filled with delight as its beginning. But more than that, the song is part of a sublime and meaningful religious/halachic experience.

A skeptical reader will no doubt ask: A religious experience? About goats? What does Chad Gadya – a song worthy of Dr. Seuss, a song that goes on and on about goats, cats, dogs, sticks and butchers – have to do with the leil shimurim, the night of geulah and redemp­tion?

Is this any way to conclude Sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim?

* * * * *

Among many other things, our ancient rabbis were brilliant educators. God had commanded that we teach our children. The question then became, How best to teach? How best to fulfill this commandment?

The answer: To engage and to reward. And to keep the focus on the student – the child. For Pesach is a holiday of children. And it is right that it is so. Our Egyptian servitude was made more painful for its cruelty to our children.

“And he said, When you deliver the Hebrew women look at the birthstool; if it is a boy, kill him.” With these words, Pharaoh sought to cut off our future by denying us a generation of children. He demanded that “every son that is born… be cast into the river.”

Why did Pharaoh cause such suffering for the Jewish people? For no other reason than we grew. We became numerous. We gave birth to children, in accordance with God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply.”

Pharaoh felt threatened by our numbers. “The children of Israel proliferated, swarmed, multiplied, and grew more and more.”

How great was Pharaoh’s hatred of the Jews and our children? How threatened did he feel? So threatened that the Midrash teaches us that when the Israelites fell short in fulfilling the prescribed quota of mortar and bricks, the children were used in their stead to fill in the foundation of the store cities built in their servitude. Another Midrash describes Pharaoh bathing in the blood of young children.

When redemption was finally at hand, children were once again at the forefront of this historical and religious drama. When Moses first confronted Pharaoh with the request to be free to go into the desert to worship, he proclaimed, “We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters.” In making this proclamation, he was giving voice to the ultimate purpose of our redemption, found in the central command of Pesach, “You will tell your son on that day, saying: It is because of this the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt…”

Judaism is a faith rooted in the past but which is always forward looking. Tradition loses meaning unless it is passed forward to the next generation. We do not look for individual redemption so much as communal salvation.

For that to happen, our children must thrive. They must go forward with a solid foundation in the godly lessons of our history. The Exodus from Egypt is rife with the significant role our children played in its historical narrative.

Perhaps Chad Gadya, in its guise of a nursery rhyme, is no different from the afikoman, one more in a series of games and songs and techniques to stimulate and motivate the interest and curiosity of the youngest among us on the Seder night.

Photo Essay: Passover Preparations in Israel

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish harvesting wheat with hand sickles in a field of Moshav Komemiut near the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Gat. The wheat will be stored for almost a year before being used to grind flour in order to make the Matzah Shemurah (unleavened bread) for the week-long Passover festival next year. Photo by Flash90

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men dressed up with traditional holiday clothes making matzah by hand, a traditional unleavened bread eaten during the Jewish holiday of Passover, just few hours before the "Seder" starts. Jews are forbidden to eat leavened foodstuffs during the Passover holiday. The week-long festival commemorates the exodus of the ancient Hebrews from Egypt. Photo by Flash90


Israeli soldiers prepare food packages at a distribution center for needy in Lud on April 03, 2012, ahead of the Jewish holiday of Passover. Photo by Flash90

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) (R),and Head of the Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky stand with newly arrived Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia as they attend a rehersal of a Passover holiday dinner (known as a "seder"), organized by the Jewish Agency and IFCJ at an immigrant's centre in Mevasseret Zion, near Jerusalem April 02, 2012. Photo by Flash90

Western Wall workers remove thousands of handwritten notes placed between the stones of the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site in the Old City of Jerusalem. The operation is carried out twice each year: before the Passover festival and at the Jewish New Year in the fall. Photo by Flash90

Arab dry cleaners prepare Jewish prayer shawls for the holiday in Jerusalem. Photo by Yishai Fleisher

Rabbi Avi Elbaz dunks a new Pesach Seder plate in the ritual bath, preparing for use on the holiday. French Hill, Jerusalem. Photo by Yishai Fleisher

Yishai Fleisher shows off a Matzah after manning the oven of a Matzah bakery in Beit El, Israel.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/photo-essay-passover-preparations-in-israel/2012/04/03/

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