I repeat this post every year at this time, and with it, I wish all those of you, Beautiful People, who observe this tragic day of mourning, an easy and meaningful fast.
Traveling through the streets of Paris with his entourage, Napoleon passed a synagogue and heard heart-wrenching wailing from within.
“Why are my Jews crying? – asked the emperor, – What happened to them?
“Sire, – rushed an aide-de-camp, “they are lamenting the destruction of their Temple.”
“What? Their Temple was destroyed and nobody told me? Where? When?”
“Your Majesty, I believe it occurred about seventeen hundred years ago in Jerusalem, and every year on that day they get together, fast, and mourn their loss.”
“Alors, – exclaimed Napoleon, “people who remember their past as if it happened just now, will definitely live to see their future!”
So says the Gemorrah (Taanis), that all who mourn the destruction of Jerusalem will merit to rejoice in its rebuilding. This story has been circulating in many variations and various settings, including the Russian Tzar and the Vilna Gaon, but the truth of the matter is that all we have left of the Temple is the Western Wall, otherwise called the Wailing Wail where we weep as we remember Zion.
“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept…” – sang the Psalmist, and proclaimed:
Im Eshkakheih Yerushalayim – “If I forget Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning…”
We don’t forget. We start the mourning period of three weeks on the day the walls of Jerusalem were breached for the first time by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia in 586 BCE and for the second and final time by the Romans in 69 CE. On that day, the 17th of Tammuz, we fast from dawn to sundown and begin observing certain restrictions: we don’t listen to music, don’t engage in any water activities for pleasure, don’t cut hair, etc.
Mourning intensifies on the 1st of Av, the Yuhrzeit (date of passing) of Aaron the High Priest, Moshe’s brother. Among all the biblical events and deaths of various important personages, Aaron is the only one whose demise is specifically mentioned by date:
“Aaron the High Priest ascended Mount Hor at G‑d‘s behest and died there, on the first day of the fifth month, in the fortieth year of the Children of Israel‘s exodus from Egypt” Numbers 33:38).
Why did Aaron merit this distinction? A learned man, a distinguished patriarch, he was nonetheless mostly famous for his skill as a peacemaker among people.
This is what happened after the loss of Aaron the Peacemaker which, according to Gemorrah (Gittin), led to the destruction of the second Temple. A wealthy man was throwing a party. He sent out servants with invitations. One of the invites was addressed to his friend Kamtza. But the half-literate servant delivered it instead to someone named Bar Kamtza. It so happened that this Bar Kamtza was the worst enemy of the host, and when he saw the invitation, he decided that the guy wanted to make nice and sort of extend a friendly hand. So he dressed in his finery and showed up at the party. The moment he appeared, the host went livid and ordered his servants to throw him out. “Wait, – pleaded Bar Kamtza,- I’ll pay for my meal, just let me stay!”
“Get him out of here, – screamed the host.
“Look, I understand someone made a mistake, but this is embarrassing. Let me stay, and I’ll cover half of the cost of your party, – begged Bar Kamtza.
“Out, I said!”
“But we are both prominent businessmen, respectable people, I’ll gladly reimburse you for the total expense of this event, just let me stay and let’s make up already!”
“Didn’t you hear me, idiots? Throw him out!” – yelled the host, on the verge of apoplexy.
It is believed that this act of sinas chinom – baseless, senseless hatred – initiated series of tragic historical events culminating in Tisha b’Av, the 9th of Av, the day when both Temples were destroyed, the day of the Expulsion of Jews from England and, later, Expulsion form Spain, the day when WWI started, and the list goes on. During these first days of Av, mourning restrictions strengthen: we don’t eat meat and don’t drink wine, as well as refrain from many pleasurable activities and festive occasions. Obviously, everybody is coming up with vegetarian recipes. If you look at my Nine-Day Pie and do your math, though, you’ll realize that there are eight parts to it. That’s because on the ninth day, i.e. Tisha b’Av, we fast from sundown of the night before to an hour after sundown on the day itself, as Napoleon had observed firsthand.
I use spelt flour which is gluten free for our purposes, but if you are allergic to gluten or have a celiac disorder, please consult your physician. You can easily substitute gluten free flour. This is yeast dough, and I simply throw all ingredients into my bread machine and press the button. However, you can do it manually, by diluting yeast in a mixture of warm water and soy or any other non-dairy milk, adding oil, xylitol or sugar, and a pinch of salt, and then gently mixing in flour. Treat it like you would treat bread dough, i.e. cover and leave it in a warm place until it rises, then punch it down and let it rise again. The whole process should take about as long as my bread machine does – about an hour.
While the dough is in the making, you can prepare filling. Roughly chop about half an onion and dice a pint of mushrooms (that should give you about two cups). You’ll also need your favorite ground beef substitute – mine is Beefless Ground – and fresh chopped parsley.
Start by stir-frying your onions until translucent, then add mushrooms, mix, cover, and reduce heat to medium.
When mushrooms soften and give out liquid, add ground meat substitute and parsley. Season with a pinch of cinnamon, and salt and pepper to taste. I also added some Garam Masala, but that’s up to you. You can try cumin; I am sure it’ll work. Mix it all up, cover, and cook together for a couple of minutes, to blend flavors. Turn it off and let it cool.
Your dough should be ready by now. Turn it out onto a floured board or working surface and roll it into a rectangle about 10 by 15 inches (25 by 38 cm). It will be pliable and thick about 1/3 of an inch (1 cm). If it feels crumbly, add some warm water and kneed again. If it sticks to your hands, add some flour.
Spread the filling on top of rolled out dough, leaving about 1/2 inch (a little more than 1 cm) on all sides. Now just roll it – it should roll very easily.
Once you make a fat roll, place it seam side down on an oiled baking sheet and join the sides to make a ring. Make sure you don’t stretch the dough too much so the filling doesn’t poke through.
Here comes the tricky part. With a sharp knife, make eight cuts from the outside to within an inch (2.5 cm) of the center. Gently turn each section sideways so that the filling cross-section looks up. You’d want to make sure the sections are roughly equal in size, but they shouldn’t be separated. Remember, it’s one period of eight days! Mist it with oil, sprinkle with sesame or caraway seeds, whatever you prefer, and leave it in a warm place until it almost doubles in size.
Bake it at 350 F for about 45 – 50 minutes and serve hot, crusty on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, with juicy savory filling. I served it with my homemade kale chips (for recipe, please see Meatless Surprise Wrapped in Mystery). Enjoying this meatless, but comforting and so satisfying meal in the midst of the most tragic period of the year, let’s remember Aaron and his message – LOVING KINDNESS!
- 1 cup warm water
- 1/2 cup room temperature soy or any non-dairy milk substitute
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoon xylitol or sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 3/4 cups spelt or GF flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1/2 large onion, roughly chopped
- 1 pint mushrooms, diced (makes 2 cups)
- 1 cup ground meat substitute
- 1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
- Pinch of cinnamon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Optional 1/2 teaspoon garam masala or cumin
- Optional sesame or caraway seeds to sprinkle.
- For bread machine: place wet ingredients into pan first, followed by dry ingredients, topped by yeast. Turn on DOUGH cycle.
- Mist deep frying pan with oil, stir fry onions. When translucent, add mushrooms, stir, cover, reduce heat. When mushrooms soften and emit liquid, add the rest of ingredients, season, mix, cover, cook for 2 – 3 minutes. Remove, let cool.
- When dough is ready, turn onto floured board or surface, flatten, roll
- into 10 by 15 inch (25 by 38 cm) rectangle.
- Spread filling evenly 1/2 inch (about 1.5 cm) off all sides. Roll dough tightly, seal sides.
- Place dough roll on misted with oil baking sheet seam side down. Form ring, connect sides securely.
- Make 8 cuts, starting from outside to 1 inch (2.5 cm) from center. Turn each section sideways. Adjust sizes of section. Make sure sections are not separated. Mist with oil, sprinkle with sesame or caraway seeds.
- Place into warm place for about 1 hour or until almost doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake for 45 – 50 minutes until light golden. Remove, serve hot. Garnish with hot kale chips.