When a queen visits a head of state of another country, she will obviously be a guest of honor at various official banquets; it is expected. But at the end of her visit, when all the formal banquets are finished, and she is about to leave, the head of state wants her to know that she is genuinely loved and respected in his country, and that his people sincerely appreciate her visit and would like her to come again. So he orders to prepare yet another meal, not as formal, perhaps, but much more intimate and friendly. Thus, the queen is assured of his and his people’s true good will towards her.
We call Sabbath The Queen – Malka. Every Friday night, we welcome Queen Sabbath into our homes with joyful songs and a festive meal. During Saturday, there are two more elaborate “formal banquets.” And then, on Saturday night, it is time for Her to leave. We are a a bit sad. We don’t want to let Her go, we’d like Her to hang around some more, we want this peaceful spirit and energy to linger. So we have yet another meal, informal and sort of intimate, and we light some more candles, sing songs, tell inspirational stories, and eat chickpeas. It is called Melave Malka – ushering or escorting The Queen.
Of course, we eat many other things as well, fish,cheeses, pastries of all kinds, and even pizza. There is no prescribed menu or traditional foods, other than – chickpeas! Humble and unassuming, chickpeas are almost obligatory on a Melave Malka table. Is that what you feed a queen? Yes, if we remember that King David initiated this custom, when he asked G-d about the time of his death. He was told that it would be improper for a human being to possess this knowledge, but whenever it happens, it will be on Sabbath. Thereafter, every Saturday night King David gathered his closest friends and family for a special meal, to celebrate the fact that he was still alive. He specifically requested chickpeas; being round, they symbolized the circle of life.
It is considered more respectful to Queen Sabbath if you don’t serve Her leftovers, but prepare something right at the moment, on Saturday night. Chickpeas are easy because, contrary to all other beans, they grow hard and need to be cooked to become edible. You have to precook them anyway. For this simple but delicious salad, you need precooked chickpeas, scallions, garlic, and cilantro. A special significance of chickpeas for Eastern European Jews lies in the Yiddish name for them – Arbe – which in Hebrew is used in the promise given to our father Abraham,” I shall multiply (arbe) your seed like the stars of Heaven.” There was also an Eastern European minhog to eat garlic, to ward off Yetzer Hora, the evil spirit who has been eagerly waiting for The Queen’s departure in order to pounce on unsuspecting people. So you chop scallions and cilantro, squeeze garlic, and season.
There are as many different ways to season it, as there are different taste buds possessed by different people, so please feel free to experiment. I simply splash some olive oil and light balsamic vinegar, sprinkle some cumin, and add salt and pepper. Chili pepper, jalapenos, cherry peppers, etc. are optional. In my house, those are served on the side and consumed by Israeli guests in great quantities. Mix it and serve.
Don’t forget your Melave Malka candles to light The Queen’s way! And may all the good things in your life multiply, like the chickpeas.
Bring joy into your Melave Malka by listening to our dear friend Sruli Williger perform for the Oorah charitable organization. Have a good week and a wonderful year!
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas
- 3 – 4 scallions, chopped
- 2 – 3 garlic cloves, squeezed
- 1/2 fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon light balsamic or wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Optional: chili, jalapeno, or cherry pepper, minced
- Mix all ingredients
- Season with salt and pepper