Shabbos Blessing- Week 36

This post is late again. I ended up traveling up until nearly the moment shabbat began, and yesterday I was thinking too hard to actually write. Here’s why:


Friday began for me in downtown Bethlehem. It was my second time there, almost exactly 6 months after my first time visiting in December. Much of this trip was the same as my first. I was traveling with the same organization. I visited some of the same sites. I ate some of the same foods.

Yet, it had been 6 months. Not everything had remained constant.

Prickly thistles that were hidden beneath the earth in December were blooming. IMG_1972.jpg

Surrounding the Arab village of Kefar Zecharia, the fields were green instead of grey with cold. IMG_1985.jpg

Along a part of Bethlehem’s border, where 6 months ago had been just a road, was a shiny grey fence– one more piece of the ever-expanding Israeli security barrier. IMG_1974.jpg

My role in this visit was also different, as I shifted from being a participant to being a peer facilitator, preparing and guiding other Jewish-American participants through processing conversations as they encountered Palestinian narratives.

I paid the same amount of attention. I asked more questions. I took far fewer pictures (though, it being me, “far fewer” is relative, as this mule will attest).


In the last 6 months, I also moved from West Jerusalem, where my environment was almost entirely Jewish, to Jaffa, where my environment is far more mixed. I hear the adhan– the Muslim call to prayer– 4 times a day (fortunately for me, the mosque doesn’t broadcast the 4 AM call), and I hear bells from the nearby churches more often. I volunteer in a preschool with Jewish and Palestinian children. I go to beaches frequented by women in hijab, men with peyes, and secular tourists in shorts. Certain elements of my life here remind me of Bethlehem, but Jaffa is certainly not the West Bank.


In Bethlehem, I met a young Palestinian woman named Emilie. I have met so many Emilys and Emilies in my life, and here in Israel I have met countless Cohens. But I had never met an Israeli or a Palestinian who shared my first name. She was named for her grandmother. When I was a baby, before “Emily” surged in the US, people commented to my parents that “Emily” was a name from their grandmothers’ generation.

In nearly perfect English (“English doesn’t count,” Emilie said, when I complemented her language ability), she spoke about her experiences growing up in Bethlehem and her luck in getting a job “just because I speak French. Otherwise I wouldn’t have a job.”


Bethlehem was not a city filled with hope 6 months ago, and it was not a city filled with hope on Friday; if anything, as the security barrier grew taller these last months, hope sank deeper beneath the earth.

Our Palestinian speakers spoke their truth, and their truth was vicious and their anger was righteous, and I felt their words carve a line through hope and shatter it to pieces, and I knew that I could not piece it all back together, and in that moment it felt like hope itself was a privilege that I had not merited.

But I also know that I can’t exist without hope. Their truth is vicious and their anger is righteous and the privilege that I merited was to hear it and to hold it and to share it.

This week’s Torah portion was Emor. 17 years ago to the day, in both the English and Hebrew calendars, I read a section of this portion for my Bat Mitzvah. The section I read was what might be called the “kid-freindly” part, in which the calendar of holidays is laid out in detail for the first time in the pentateuch. I read about when to mark Pesach and Rosh Hashanah and about leaving the corners of one’s fields for those in need. I did not read the section of the parsha about how Kohanim (priests) with “blemishes” could not serve in the Tabernacle. I did not read the section about the man born to an Israelite mother and Egyptian father who blasphemed God and was stoned to death as punishment (and trust me– I’ve got a lot more to say about that particular story).

No. When I read at my Bat Mitzvah, I was 12. I was celebrating the rite of becoming a Jewish woman. I chanted beautiful, inclusive words about our holiday practices. I engaged in ahavat yisrael: the love of  the people Israel and the traditions passed down through the generations from the Torah to the year 2000.

But it has been 17 years. I am nearly 30. Yesterday, I sat in my apartment and chanted the entire portion of Emor aloud, from the laws regarding Kohanic marriage to the laying out of the calendar to the stoning of the blasphemer according to God’s command. I let the justice and injustice in the holy words wash over me, and I let myself be angry, and in that anger I found the pieces of hope that had eluded me in Bethlehem.

I reminded myself that ahavat yisrael can be a foundation not for oppression but for grounded love as we work for a better world for all. I reminded myself that the holy words in our texts that ring of injustice today remind of us of our mandate to seek justice always.


On Friday afternoon, I left Bethlehem. I got on a bus to Jerusalem, and I got into a shared taxi to Tel Aviv, and I walked the streets of this city where I live to Jaffa. I bought pita and vegetables at a corner store run by Palestinian-Israeli neighbors, and I came inside, and I heard the adhan ring out from the minaret, and I lit my own candles for shabbat.


17 years ago, in the 3rd verse of Torah that I ever read, I chanted the words:

שֵׁ֣שֶׁת יָמִים֮ תֵּעָשֶׂ֣ה מְלָאכָה֒ וּבַיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֗י שַׁבַּ֤ת שַׁבָּתוֹן֙ מִקְרָא־קֹ֔דֶשׁ

On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there shall be a sabbath of complete rest, a sacred occasion. (Leviticus 23:3) 

On this shabbat, I lit the candles, breathing into the weekly sacred occasion, letting myself rest, and that was blessing enough.



I realized something kinda crazy: I have had this blog going for 8 months, and I have yet to post a single recipe. Now, depending how long you’ve known me, you may or may not know just how into food I am. I’m a lot into food. I’m a lot into cooking. I’m a lot into baking. (In fact, past me had a now-mostly-defunct-food-blog). I’ve done a lot of cooking (and some baking) this year. But, I have yet to post a single recipe…until now.


Tomato season is back. When I first arrived in the fall, tomatoes were everywhere and I found myself making dish after dish with them, as is the only appropriate response to loads of in-season tomatoes. Then, as happens every year, the weather cooled and the tomatoes started tasting sad, and I stopped buying them.

Since they’re back, it was time for me to take on a dish that, at home, I felt pretty lukewarm about but that, here, I have come to love. I’m talking, of course, about shakshuka (pronouned shock-SHU-kuh).


Here are my folks eating shakshuka in December at Tmol Shilshom in Jerusalem

Shakshuka, it turns out, is pretty easy to make. I won’t claim that mine is perfect or perfectly authentic, but I enjoyed making it and I’m excited to share how I did with all of you.


Ingredients (for 1-2 servings):

  • Glug olive oil
  • 1 small onion, medium dice
  • 1/2 red pepper, medium dice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 large handfuls cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2-3 tsps paprika (hot if that’s your thing)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup water, plus more as needed
  • 2 eggs
  • a few sprigs of basil, parsley, or both
  • bread, veggies, and tehina to serve (optional)



The key to shakshuka is to be gentle. There’s no rush. Heat a skillet over medium-low heat, let the oil warm up, and add the onion. Let it cook for a few minutes, stirring a bit, until it’s started to soften and go golden. If it starts browning, you’re in a rush and cooking it too high. Chill. Cut the heat back. IMG_1884.jpg

Once the onion has started to go soft, add in your garlic and pepper, which will naturally offer a little bit of moisture if you’re cooking low enough. Let them cook together, stirring, for 3-5 minutes.


Time for the tomatoes to make their debut. Slide them in, along with as much of their juice as you can manage to preserve. Add the cumin, paprika, and some salt. Then, after cooking a couple minutes more, add in the water. Many shakshuka recipes that I saw called for both tomato paste and water. Since I opted for cherries, which have a little less juice, and I didn’t have tomato paste, I just guestimated here. IMG_1894.jpg

Now it’s really time to let time do its work. Let the mix come to a simmer (giving the heat a tiny boost if necessary) and cook for about 10 minutes. The tomatoes should start to fall apart without completely losing their sense of self, and much of the water should integrate into the mix. IMG_1897.jpg

Now it’s time for the egg well. I don’t know how easy it is to see in this picture, but in the middle of the pan there’s a square that’s a bit deeper than everything around it. That’s for your egg. (If you’re cooking 2 eggs at once, you’ll need 2 egg wells. If you’re planning to get 2 meals out of your skillet, I suggest cooking 1 egg and then cooking the second egg as you reheat the leftovers. It tastes better fresh.)


Crack the egg into the well, being careful not to break the yoke, and then cover the pan. Timing is the tricky part here. You want the yolks runny and the whites not. I mean, you can cook your eggs however you like, but that’s how I like them in this. I set a timer for 7 minutes the first time and found the yolk too solid and 5 minutes the second time and found the whites solid enough to not be scary but not as solid as I like. I think 6 would probably be the sweet spot but I haven’t had time to try it yet.


When the egg is done to your liking, cut the heat, garnish with herbs, and serve up. I like to have bread for dipping and crunchy veggies and tehina for contrast, but you do you. Happy Tuesday, folks.  IMG_1905.jpg

Shabbos Blessing- Week 16

(New to shabbos blessings? Learn more here. And don’t forget that I’m trying to get 8 more for the 8 nights of Hanukkah! Happy to accept via comment/facebook/email/text/smoke signal)

I gotta say, these days I’m grateful for my (self-imposed) weekly post. Life gets so busy and having time to write can definitely be a challenge. Still, I haven’t missed a Friday yet and I hope to keep that up! And hopefully to get a chance to actually finish one of the 4 or 5 posts I’ve started and had to abandon over the last few weeks.

Of course, a lot of what’s been keeping me busy is really fun stuff. Last night, I went with a bunch of folks to see Rogue One (no, people who know me well, I don’t know how I managed to wait a week after opening day either).


future JTS rabbi + future RRC rabbi (matching entirely unintentional)

It was my first time at an Israeli movie theater, and I had a blast. Not least because watching a movie about x-wings in 3D IMAX is guaranteed to be fun. img_9168

In the meantime, Hanukkah is coming. Soon! Like, tomorrow night soon! Like, Christmas Eve/Hanukkah Night 1 extravaganza! Here, one gets a little more attention than the other. Since the movie theaters are not decked out with Christmas trees, they get dreidels instead. Very exciting stuff. And outside, we get giant menorahs.


But don’t worry, Christmas! I did find a Christmas tree…at the YMCA.


But most of the decorations up these days look a bit more like this:


Totally pretty, right? Just not what this American-raised kid is used to in mid-December. I’m really excited for Hanukkah here. We’ve got awesome lights and giant menorahs and fun selection of sufganiyot.

This coming week, on Wednesday night, my parents are arriving from California. My dad hasn’t been here since high school, and it will be my mom’s first trip. I’m so excited to show them around and spend time together. It’s crazy to think that this part of my time in Israel is already here. It felt quite far off when I got on the plane in September. Now, I’ve got less than a month left living in Jerusalem.

This week’s blessing relates to time. It comes from one of my first friends in college, a neighbor of mine my first year with whom I shared many a choir tour, music class, and meal at Cafe Mac. I was so delighted to see what she shared, because I find Kahlil Gibran’s writing to be deliciously vibrant and soul-filled. She shared his poem, “On Time:”


You would measure time the measureless and the immeasurable.
You would adjust your conduct and even direct the course of your spirit according to hours and seasons.
Of time you would make a stream upon whose bank you would sit and watch its flowing.

Yet the timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness,
And knows that yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream.
And that that which sings and contemplates in you is still dwelling within the bounds of that first moment which scattered the stars into space.
Who among you does not feel that his power to love is boundless?
And yet who does not feel that very love, though boundless, encompassed within the centre of his being, and moving not from love thought to love thought, nor from love deeds to other love deeds?
And is not time even as love is, undivided and spaceless?

But if in your thought you must measure time into seasons, let each season encircle all the other seasons,
And let today embrace the past with remembrance and the future with longing.


That which sings and contemplates in you is still dwelling within the bounds of that first moment which scattered the stars into space.

The words give me chills. I think back to a class most of my friends and I took in college, basically a “Physics for Poets” course. On the last day of the class, our professor, an old Korean man who was on his “last semester before retirement” for at least 5 years, gave a lecture in which he reminded each of us that we were made of star stuff. When I feel the world seeming too closed off or too pained or too terrible, I try to remember that. The makings of everything that once was are in everything that is. We are all tied to one another. As we look forward to throwing more light into the world beginning tomorrow night, I hope we can illuminate the star stuff within each of us.

Today, I’ve got an hour or so before heading off to synagogue where I’ll be helping to do some musical shabbat leading with classmates from Ziegler. For now, I’m admiring the little baby hanukkiah that I bought at the crazy-packed-with-shabbat-shoppers-and-birthright-kids shuk this morning. Come at me, Hanukkah!