Tag Archives: Passover

“Quarantine,” the significance of the number 40, and Passover.

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The word quarantine derives from the Latin word quadrāgintā and Italian quaranta meaning “forty.” But how did we get to the number forty as a reference to isolation? 

In his article “The Origin of Quarantine,” Paul Sehdev notes that one of the earliest references to the use of isolation as a strategy for limiting the exposure of a disease such as leprosy can be found in the Bible (although a minimum period of time is not specifically mentioned):

LEVITICUS 13:46: “As long as they have the disease they remain unclean.
They must live alone; they must live outside the camp.”

Sehdev goes on to explain that in the fourteenth century Europe first began adopting extreme measures of isolation in order to control the spread of the Black Plague. In 1377 a council in southern Italy declared a mandatory thirty-day isolation period called a trentino for those residing or visiting hotspots mostly affected by the Plague, threatening fines to anyone who even tried to visit the closed off area without license. The period of time was eventually extended forty days, thus changing the term to quarantino

While one can assume that the period of time had been extended out of necessity to more thoroughly contain the disease, why the number was changed to forty at this point in history to become an official term in our language today is curious. Perhaps this seemingly random number has roots in the three Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism where the number forty has particular significance:

In his article Mr. Sehdev goes on to note how the Christian practice of Lent — a period of “spiritual purification” — lasts for forty days, as mentioned in the New Testament:

MATTHEW 4:2 (Jesus fasting in the Judaean Desert): “After fasting forty days and forty nights he was hungry.”)

In Islam the number forty is mentioned several times in the Quran and believed to be the age when a person obtains his or her highest level of wisdom and intellectual maturity:

SURAH al-AHQAF, 46:15: “… When he comes of age and reaches forty years, he says, ‘My Lord! Inspire me to give thanks for Your blessing with which You have blessed my parents and me, and that I may do righteous deeds which please You, and invest my descendants with righteousness. Indeed I have turned to you in penitence, and I am one of the Muslims.”

In Judaism the number forty is written throughout the Torah as a number tied to change/transition, and renewal/purification:

GENESIS 7:4 (Noah and the flood): “For seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living thing I have made.”

EXODUS 34:28 (Moses and the Ten Commandments): “And he was there with
the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water.
And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.”

NUMBERS 32:13: “And the Lord’s anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation, that had done evil in the sight of the Lord, was consumed.”

During the Seder we retell the story of our ancestors the Israelites who were freed from bondage in Egypt and brought to the Promised Land of Canaan (the region in which today’s Israel is located). A trip that should have taken only forty days turned instead into a forty-year period of isolation as they wandered along with uncertainty. Perhaps as a people they needed to first go through this period of struggle together so that by the time they reached their final destination they were ready to embrace their new home and become the unified nation of Israel they were meant to be.

Many cities and states throughout the country and the world today have issued shelter-in-place orders and told their citizens to stay at home in order to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We are constantly told to keep our distance from others, even family members who may be most vulnerable to the disease. All shops, except for grocery stores and other essential businesses, are completely closed forcing many to work from home or lose their jobs. Students around the country are learning virtually online with their teachers, while healthcare workers are working around the clock to save thousands of lives. But one bright spot may be the number of people who have been reunited by phone or video with friends and relatives who they had lost touch with long ago.

The New York City quarantine officially began on Monday, March 23, and we are now only in our eighth day of isolation. I only hope during these weeks (or months) of uncertainty and fear that we too — like Israel — will all come out of this as a more unified nation and people than we had been going in.

Please take care of yourselves and be good to others.
And I’ll see you on day forty (May 1.)

BIBIOGRAPHY:

Paul S. Sehdev Department of Medicine, Division of Geographic Medicine,University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, 2002.

Salam Islam. “What is the Significance of Number Forty in Islam?”
Published 10/13/19
.

Aish HaTorah Israel Programs. Aish.com Torah portion:
“Ask the Rabbi: The Number 40.” March 29, 2020.

Sweet and Spicy Ethiopian Style Haroset

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I was surprised to learn from many Jews who had grown up in Ethiopia, that haroset simply had never been a part of their Seder meal. But for those few who did have it, the addition of fresh ginger was essential to creating a paste that was both sweet and spicy. Because the Ethiopian diet traditionally has very little in the way of sweets, the haroset also became the dessert, spread over matzah either at the end of the Passover meal or during the long holiday week.

Recipe from “Too Good To Passover,” Section 1: Africa, Chapter 3: Ethiopia

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ETHIOPIAN STYLE HAROSET
(Date and Fig Spread with Fresh Ginger)

Yield: Serves 8 to 10 / Makes 2 1/2 cups

Ingredients:
1/2 pound Medjool dates (about 8 large), cut in half, pits discarded
1 pound dried Black Mission figs, quartered, stems discarded
1/4 cup peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger root
1/2 to 3/4 cup cold water

Steps:
1.
If your figs are dry and hard, place them in a small bowl filled with enough cold water to cover. Let the figs soak long enough to soften slightly, 1 to 2 hours. Drain well. (Figs should be soft enough to squeeze between your fingers.)

2. Place dates, figs, ginger root, and 1/2 cup water in a food processor and pulse until a smooth and thick paste (if you need to add more water, do it one tablespoon at a time so that it doesn’t become too watery).

3. Place in a small, decorative bowl and serve at room temperature with matzah.

 

A Matzah Mosaic Decorating Party!

The whole idea behind the Passover holiday is to get the kids involved. What better way than to have a matzah decorating party? Every year my kids enjoy decorating sheets of matzah that we give to our guests as gifts to take home with them after the Seder meal. Just melt chocolate and paint it on using pastry brushes, then stick on your favorite candies, sprinkles, or chopped up nuts and dried fruit. It’s fun for adults as well! Make sure that the chocolate has dried completely before placing into Ziploc baggies and storing in the freezer until ready to eat. You need only defrost about 20 minutes before.

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Grandma Fritzie’s Syrian Passover Soup

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Today’s post by the Jewish Food Society shows my family recipe for Kibbeh Hamdah, a Syrian soup made with lamb meatballs, dried mint, and lots of lemon. If you like tart flavors, this is the dish for you. Enjoy!

 

Moroccan Date-Raisin Haroset “Truffles”

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Moroccan Style Haroset
(Cinnamon Dusted Date-Raisin “Truffles” with Walnuts, Rolled in Cinnamon)
Yield: Serves 12 / Makes approximately 3 cups or 4 dozen 1-inch balls

A recipe from my cookbook Too Good To Passover: Sephardic & Judeo-Arabic Menus and Memories from Africa, Asia and Europe, Section 1: Africa, Chapter 5.

This Moroccan haroset is shaped into a small ball, then rolled in ground cinnamon to resemble an elegant truffle. For the most impressive way to serve visually, stack balls on top of one another into a pyramid shape on an elegant platter alongside any other more classic haroset spread in a bowl. When it comes time to eat, guests may help themselves to a single truffle and eat it straight, or pressed down between two small pieces of matzah as a sandwich.

For Haroset:
1 cup walnuts

½ cup slivered almonds
12 large Medjool dates or 20 regular-size dates, pitted and cut into large pieces
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup dark raisins
3 to 4 tablespoons sweet Passover wine, such as Manischewitz

For Serving:
1 box of matzah/matzo squares or mini matzah crackers

Cinnamon (for rolling and dusting the outside)

DIRECTIONS:
1. Place the walnuts and almonds in the food processor and pulse until coarsely ground, but not into a meal-like consistency (about 30 seconds).

2. Add the dates and raisins and combine in the food processor for about 30 seconds.

3. Add the wine and pulse until the mixture becomes a soft paste.

4. Taking one level tablespoon (or mini melon ball scoop) at a time, roll the thick paste into 1-inch balls* (if the paste is sticking too much to your hands, try dipping your hands in cold water and then rolling them).

5. When all of the balls have been rolled, pour a couple of tablespoons of ground
cinnamon onto a small plate and gently roll each ball in the cinnamon to lightly coat the outside. (You can also dust your hands with cinnamon and then roll each ball again
between your palms to lightly coat, whichever way is easier.)

6. Serve haroset balls at room temperature stacked in a small decorative bowl or on a small platter alongside tea matzahs. Store balls in a tightly covered plastic container between layers of parchment or wax paper in the refrigerator for up to three days, or the freezer for up to one month.

*Note: If you wish to serve the mixture in the more common way of a paste in a bowl, then add a little more wine or warm water to make a bit smoother and softer for spreading.

The Seder gift that is (really) “Too Good To Passover!”

Now that Purim is over, the countdown for Passover has begun! If you are hosting a Seder or invited to one as a guest, don’t forget to make Too Good To Passover a part of your holiday.

Please spread the word to your friends, colleagues, and family.
(And thank you for leaving a book review! 🙂 )

CLICK HERE TO ORDER in the U.S.A.

For those of you outside of the U.S. you can order my book and have it shipped directly from the local Amazon in the following countries:

CANADA
FRANCE
SPAIN
ITALY
GERMANY
U.K. & IRELAND
NETHERLANDS

Thank you,

JenniferAbadi_small

Jennifer

About Too Good To Passover
Too Good To Passover is the first Passover cookbook specializing in traditional Sephardic, Judeo-Arabic, and Central Asian recipes and customs (covering both pre- and post-Passover rituals) appealing to Sephardic, Mizrahic, and Ashkenazic individuals who are interested in incorporating something traditional yet new into their Seders.

A compilation of more than 200 Passover recipes from 23 Jewish communities, this cookbook-memoir provides an anthropological as well as historical context to the ways in which the Jewish communities of North Africa, Asia, the Mediterranean, and Middle East observe and enjoy this beloved ancient festival.

In addition to full Seder menus, Passover-week recipes, and at least one “break-fast” dish, each chapter opens up with the reflections of a few individuals from that region or territory. Readers can learn about the person’s memories of Passover as well as the varying customs regarding pre-Passover rituals, including cleaning the home of all hametz or “leavening,” Seder customs (such as reenacting the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt), or post-Passover celebrations, such as the Moroccan Mimouneh for marking the end of the week-long “bread fast.” These customs provide a more complete sense of the cultural variations of the holiday.

Too Good To Passover is a versatile and inspiring reference cookbook, appealing to those who may want to do a different “theme” each Passover year, with possibly a Turkish Seder one year, or Moroccan one the next.

See inside my book! Sample Spreads:

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The following 3 e-booklets are
also available on Amazon
:
E-BOOKLET 1: Seder Menus and Memories from AFRICA
(Pages 1-223/Chapters 1-6:
Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia)

E-BOOKLET 2: Seder Menus and Memories from ASIA
(Pages 225-473/Chapters 7-13:
Afghanistan & Bukharia, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria & Lebanon, Turkey, Yemen)

E-BOOKLET 3: Seder Menus and Memories from EUROPE
(Pages 475-665/Chapters 14-18:
Bulgaria & Moldova, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal & Gibraltar)

Jennifer_WritingRecipe_3BW

About Jennifer Abadi
Jennifer Abadi lives in New York City and is a researcher, developer, and preserver of Sephardic and Judeo-Arabic recipes and food customs. A culinary expert in the Jewish communities of the Middle East, Mediterranean, Central Asia, and North Africa, Jennifer teaches cooking at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) and at the Jewish Community Center Manhattan (JCC). She also offers private lessons and works for a variety of clients in the New York City area as a personal chef. In addition, Jennifer provides Jewish food and culture tours on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Her first cookbook-memoir, A Fistful of Lentils: Syrian-Jewish Recipes From Grandma Fritzie’s Kitchen is a collection of recipe and stores from her family. Too Good To Passover is her second cookbook.

From Haman to Pharoah: Common symbolism in Purim and Passover.

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The holiday of Purim has some parallels to Passover, and marks the beginning of the 30-day countdown to the Seder. In both cases we retell a time when the Jewish people faced near extermination and were saved. On Purim we read in the Book of Esther, how Haman (the evil vizier of King Ahasuerus) tried to annihilate the Jews and Queen Esther stepped in to save them. During Passover we retell the story of the Book of Exodus when Moses saved our ancestors from the evil Pharoah by bringing us out of Egypt.

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Interestingly enough, the original date when Haman first cast his lot (to choose when to destroy the Jews) was the 13th of Nisan, while the 14th of Nisan (the first eve of Passover) was when Queen Esther called for the Jews of Susa to join her in a 3-day fast before appealing to the King to protect her people. (It was later that the fast dates were set to begin on the eve of Purim — the 13th of Adar.)

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Food in many Eastern cultures, and especially in Judaism, plays an important role in commemorating particular moments in our history. By consuming matzah —
“the Bread of Affliction” — we relive the story of Passover by recalling when our ancestors fled through the desert without having enough time for the bread to rise. During Purim,
we destroy Haman’s evil plan to kill all the Jews by eating stuffed pastries that symbolize his pocketful of lots (for selecting the date for annihilation), or money (to bribe the king). The most well known Purim pastries in the United States (brought over by German Jews) are called Hamantaschen, meaning, “Haman’s pockets” in Yiddish/German, and while we often see them filled with either prune or apricot filling, the original pastries had poppy seeds, and were based upon popular German cookies called, Mohntaschen (meaning, “poppy seed pockets”).

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I decided to prepare Hamantaschen this year as a way to kick off my preparations for Passover, as well as teach my kids how to make them. To give a slight Middle Eastern flavor I added a few teaspoons of orange blossom water to the apricot jam, and I cooked down prunes with dates, cinnamon, and a little sugar for my own homemade prune butter (blending it until very smooth in the food processor). I don’t have a cookie recipe of my own to share, but you can follow one of the hundreds of good ones out there, and try my idea for the fillings.

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Chag Sameach!

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Check out my sister’s Purim story!

 

 

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