Posts Tagged ‘Jews’

When I was in University a friend asked me if it was true that Jews created Chanukka because they were jealous of Christmas.  Yup, was my reply, 500(ish) years before the first Christmas we Jews knew that Christ was going to be born and the Christians, (who didn’t exist yet) were going to make a huge deal out of his birthday. Right there and then we decided that we were going to compete with that future holiday and have our own eight-day festival of light! We even created Chanukka Harry who would visit the kids and give them gifts of chocolate coins and the really good Jewish kids often got socks! To push it over the top we would play games with a dreidel.  Talk about raising the roof!

Living where I do I realize there is a lot of people who don’t really know the story of Chanukka.  Some of you may find this surprising, (others, not so much)  but I don’t know a lot about the holiday myself.  But, as a good Jew I have decided to take what little knowledge I have and fill you, my readers, with the story of Channuka…so put on your yarmulke.

Antiochus, (which rhymes with tuchas) IV Epiphanes, the King of Syria desecrated King Solomon’s temple.  Naturally this upset us Jews.  Truth be told Antituchas didn’t desecrate Solomon’s temple.  Antituchas desecrated the replacement temple built by Cyrus the Great.  Solomon’s temple was destroyed years earlier by the Babylonians but that story is for another time.  Cyrus did a great job and the Temple was dedicated in 515 BC. (see?  I know stuff). In modern times (20BC) Harod the Great renovated Cyrus’s via Solomon’s temple.  Word is the temple developed a nasty leak, in any case Harod did such a good job the temple became known as Harod’s temple.  I often never wonder what King Solomon thought about all the transformations, but alas, we have wandered off topic.

Where were we? Oh yes.  Antituchas desecrated Cryus’s temple which seriously pissed off the Maccabees.  Everyone knows you don’t piss of a Maccabee, after all they were a fearsome rebel army who took back and ruled Judea.  They founded the Hasmonean Dynasty, reasserting the Jewish religion and ruled from 164 to 63BC. 

Sorry I keep getting side-tracked.

So, Channuka is the rededication of this ‘second’ temple, the problem is that the Maccabees ran out of Olive oil.  Their wives must have been very upset.  I know my wife gets upset with me when I use the last of the evoo (extra virgin olive oil for you non-followers of Rachel Ray) and don’t let her know.  And I can only imagine how upset Rachel Ray gets.  Oy Vey!

I’m thinking the grocery stores didn’t have any evoo on hand because this shortage created more problems than one would think possible.   However all was not lost because we are, ‘The Chosen People’ and although there was only enough olive oil to keep the eternal flame alight for one night a miracle transpired and the oil burned for eight, yes count them eight days!  As it happens, eight days is the exact time that was needed to consecrate more oil!  And that my friends was how the festival of light began. 

Personally I like to take a moment or two each Chanukka to remember what it means to be a Jew.  You see there is another story linked to Chanukka.  The story of Hannah and her seven sons.  Hannah was a serious Jew, not Jew-ish like me.  It is because of people like Hannah and her sons that make the Jews the sturdy proud people that they/we are:

Shortly before the revolt of the Maccabees,  Antituchas arrested Hannah and her seven sons and tried to make them eat pork.  Being good Jews and putting their faith in the Lord they refused to eat the pork.  Jews don’t eat Pork, not even bacon!  Hannah watched as her sons were brutally tortured and eventually killed all because they took a stand to protect their beliefs.  They refused to give up all that they were just because another wanted them too.  It is for them that I put on my yarmulke.

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My mother-in-law got herself ensnared in a cookie exchange at work… for the 3rd year in a row.  For many this is not a huge deal, but for others, including my mother-in-law this is a cause for some anxiety.

Last year I suggested she make some Mandel Bread.  No it is not bread, it is a cookie, it is made like biscotti and looks the same only it is of Jewish origin and has the benefit of flavor.  Everyone, including non-Jews love them.   There are several good reasons to use this recipe in a cookie exchange.  First, they are so easy to make it borders on ridiculous. Second, not many people in these parts have tasted them. Third, as previously stated they are always a hit.  Fourth, you can create a wonderful story when handing them out.  For example my Mother-out-law can explain how her son-in-laws family created these as a tasty treat when they were crossing the desert over 2000 yrs ago.  For 40 years they slaved over this recipe getting it just right.  It was perfected when they camped out at the Red sea waiting for Moses to ask God to part the sea so the Jews could get to the other side rather than be slaughtered by the Egyptians that were hot on their trail.  To be truthful if the Egyptians had been a little nicer my son-in-laws family would have been happy to share some of the cookies, (we are very generous that way) but no!  They approached with horses and chariots and swords just waving away, heck if they were going to get any Mandel Bread!  God came through parted the sea and the family passed through safely, once they got to the other side they munched on the cookies as they watched their enslavers’  get swallowed by the sea. Lastly it is pareve. (you can eat them with meat or dairy, a bonus to us Jews).

So I was touched when my Mother-in-law asked me for the hard-earned recipe.  I handed over the cook book to the right page and told her to just follow the directions.  Please understand, I’ve made this countless times and each time I follow the instructions exactly as they are in the cookbook.  Every time my Mother-out-law raves about them. 

A few days later mominlaw asks me if I use almond extract or vanilla extract?  This is a legit question because the cookbook was given to me by the author at my first wedding.  Before it was given the author opened the book to that specific recipe and where it said ‘1/4 tsp almond extract’ she wrote ‘I use vanilla extract instead’.    I proceeded to tell my mother-in-law (complete with four part harmony) the entire story about the Jews crossing the desert ahead of the Egyptians with their precious cargo of Mandel… and in two thousand years the only change that has been made is substituting almond with vanilla extract and I use the new updated version, or as I like to call it Mandel Bread 2.0!  Short answer?  I use the vanilla.

My Mother-in-law still seemed agitated.  “But how does that work?” She asked.  I was confused, so I replied, “I’m not sure what you mean.”

Mom-in-law: “I mean, how does it work adding that tiny amount of liquid to all the dry ingredients?”

Me: “Oh that, well yeah, you take a measuring spoon measure out a ¼ table spoon of the extract add it to the dry ingredients and stir, just as says in the instructions”

“That just doesn’t seem right to me, I’ll add the extract to the liquid ingredients and probably screw it up.”

“Or you could follow the directions like I do, you’ve always saying how great the cookies are”

I knew that all of this had nothing to do with the ingredients and how they work or go together.  My mother-in-law is an intelligent woman and can easily read and follow directions. Rest assured I knew that she was going to make the cookies and I also know she wasn’t trying to ask me to make them.  She was  just trying to throw up these self defeating walls to explain away her perceived eventual failure.

The stress of the cookie got the best of us and in the end I am making the cookies and mom-out-law agreed to not participate in the cookie exchange again next year.

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