It’s the Hebrew month of Adar. A time when laughter is practically a commandment, and so is noshing on those delicious little pastries called “hamantaschen.”
Here’s a little something to help you enjoy the holiday:
A LITTLE JEWISH HUMOR…
The newly wealthy Bernsteins went on vacation to England. While they were in London, they decided to hire a butler and bring him back home to their mansion in Westchester. One Sunday morning they invite Mr. and Mrs. Cohen for breakfast. As Mrs. Bernstein leaves the house to get some fresh bagels, she asks the butler to set the table for four. Upon her return she notices the table is set for six. “Why is the table set for six?” she asks the butler. “Oh, “ he responds, “while you were out Mrs. Cohen called to say they were bringing the Knishes.”
Haikus for Jews
From the book of the same name by David Bader
Is one Nobel Prize
so much to ask from a child
after all I’ve done?
Left the door open
for the Prophet Elijah.
Now our cat is gone.
Wet moss on the old
stone path — flat on my back,
I ponder whom to sue.
Hey! Get back indoors!
Whatever you were doing
could put an eye out.
The shivah visit:
so sorry about your loss.
Now back to my problems.
Q: Why do Jewish mothers make great parole officers?
A: They never let anyone finish a sentence!
I hate housework. You make the beds, you do the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again.
– Joan Rivers
A bum walks up to a Jewish mother on the street and says, “Lady, I haven’t eaten in three days.” “Force yourself,” she replies.
A man called his mother in Florida and asked “Mom, how are you?” “Not too good,” said the mother. “I’ve been very weak.” The son said, “Why are you so weak?” She said, “Because I haven’t eaten in 38 days.” The son said, “That’s terrible. Why haven’t you eaten in 38 days?” The mother answered, “Because I didn’t want my mouth to be filled with food if you should call.”
Q: What is the difference between a crucifixion and a circumcision?
A: In a crucifixion, they throw out the whole Jew.
Purim change of pace: a chocolate dough
By Shannon Sarna
NEW YORK (JTA) — Hamantaschen talk is always about the filling: prune, poppy, apricot and strawberry, just to name a few favorites. I love being creative with the fillings, but this year I wanted to change up things with a flavored dough rather than just a fun filling. And what better ingredient to include than chocolate.
Once you have made your chocolate dough, you can still be creative with the fillings, although I recommend two combinations below: triple chocolate, which is filled with Nutella and drizzled with white chocolate, and chocolate mocha. You could also try filling the chocolate dough with raspberry jam, peanut butter or even halvah.
The key to making and working with this dough successfully is making it several hours in advance — even a day or two — so that it is properly chilled. It will feel sticky, so add flour as you roll it out to make sure it holds its shape.
Most hamantaschen bakers know that one of the keys to making a cookie that doesn’t fall apart during the baking is to pinch the three points very carefully. Another tip is to lay out all the folded and filled cookies on a baking sheet and then pop them into the freezer for five to 10 minutes before baking. Chilled cookie dough simply bakes better.
If you enjoy the custom of handing out mishloach manot, or Purim baskets, in your community, these chocolate hamantaschen would go great with a coffee-themed package: include a small bag of high-quality coffee, a little bag of chocolate-covered espresso beans and the hamantaschen inside a big mug.
For the chocolate dough:
1/2 cup butter (or margarine)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon milk (or almond milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/8 cup cocoa powder (I prefer Hershey’s Special Dark)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
For the mocha cream cheese filling:
4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon brewed espresso or coffee
Pinch of salt
For the white chocolate drizzle:
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
Nutella or milk chocolate chips
Chocolate covered espresso beans (optional)
Instant espresso powder (optional)
To make the dough:
Beat the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add egg, milk and vanilla until mixed thoroughly.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, cinnamon and salt in a separate bowl. Add dry mixture to wet mixture until incorporated. Note: If the dough is too soft, increase flour amount by 1/4 cup until firm.
Chill dough for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
To make mocha cream cheese:
Mix cream cheese, espresso, sugar and pinch of salt together in a small bowl. Allow to chill 1-3 hours.
To make the white chocolate drizzle:
Place white chocolate and vegetable oil in a small glass bowl. Heat in the microwave at 30 second intervals until melted. Mix until completely smooth. Use right away.
To make the cookies:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Dust your work surface with powdered sugar or flour to keep from sticking. Roll the dough to about 1/4-inch thick.
Using a round cookie cutter, cut out and place onto cookie sheet. To keep the dough from sticking to your cutter, dip in powdered sugar or flour before each cut.
Fill cookies with Nutella, milk chocolate chips or mocha cream cheese filling.
Bake for 7-9 minutes. Allow cookies to cool completely.
To assemble the mocha chocolate hamantaschen, top with crushed chocolate covered espresso beans or a dusting of instant espresso.
To assemble triple chocolate hamantaschen, use a fork or a small plastic squeeze bottle to drizzle white chocolate sauce back and forth on cookies. Allow to dry completely on a cooling rack before serving or packaging.
(Shannon Sarna is editor of The Nosher blog on MyJewishLearning.com.)
The Adult Issues of Purim
By Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs
During the 40 years that I served as a congregational rabbi, Purim evolved from a pleasant celebration into what has become almost a third High Holy Day.
We no longer simply read the Megillah to cheer Esther and boo Haman. We have come to expect elaborately choreographed and carefully rehearsed Purim spiels with clever lyrics sung to the tunes of popular songs or show tunes. At Congregation Beth Israel, Pattie Weiss Levy has become a legend for the clever lyrics she writes. Other communities have their bards as well!
How wonderful! As a rabbi I am all in favor of anything that increases involvement in synagogue life and multiplies the joy of our festival celebrations.
To maximize the “Purim effect” we need to offer more than great music, groggers, costumes, carnivals, noise and merriment. We need to relate the story of Purim to the lives of our congregants — both children and adults — because the Purim story has so much to teach us if we look at it closely. Here are three examples:
The Courage of Vashti – We should ponder the courage of Vashti, King Ahasueras’ first wife. In the story, the world’s most powerful man commands her to display her beauty for his drunken friends, but she refuses. Of course, in the story line Vashti must exit the stage for Esther to enter. But we should usher her off with a standing ovation.
Vashti is a worthy role model for every woman. Her actions provide a great jumping off point for a discussion about how women are often treated and how they can choose to respond. Vashti refused to simply be a sex object even at the price of her throne. Vashti is a wonderful example of one for whom popularity and position were less important than her dignity as a human being. Would that more of us had the courage to follow her example.
Prejudice – A vital lesson about prejudice presents itself when Mordecai refuses to bow down before Haman. Haman is angry, but as the Book of Esther records: “…it was not enough for him to punish Mordecai alone, for they had told him the people of Mordecai” (Esther 3:5). No, because of his anger at one man, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews.
Generalizing feelings about an individual to an entire group is a textbook example of prejudice. Sadly, the prejudice we see in the Book of Esther has confronted our people many times throughout history and is rearing its ahead again with frightful frequency. It confronts many other groups as well. Racism, sexism, ageism, and homophobia are just some of the types of prejudice that plague our world today. The Purim story provides a vivid example of this phenomenon that we can profitably discuss with groups of all ages.
Human Destiny – A third vital lesson is about human destiny and the meaning of life. When Mordechai read Haman’s decree condemning the Jews of Persia to death, he sent a message to Esther to intercede for her people. Esther’s response was that she dared not enter the presence of the king because he had not summoned her. To go to the king unbidden would be to risk her very life.
When he urges her to go anyway, Mordecai asks Esther a question we should all ask ourselves: “Who knows if you have not come to your position for just such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).
Mordechai’s really asks us all: Are we on this earth just to avoid trouble and enjoy life? Is our own comfort the primary purpose of our existence? Jewish tradition and the Book of Esther say, “No.”
Esther could have lived out her life in luxury by ignoring the plight of our people. But Mordecai’s question pricked her conscience enough so that she risked everything in an effort to save the Jews.
Like Esther, we all have moments when our action or inaction will make a vital difference. We can seize these moments or turn away from them. By swallowing her fear and seizing her moment. Esther inspires us all.
So as Purim approaches let us prepare for more than fun, games and great music. Modeling the courage of Vashti, recognizing prejudice and seizing our destiny at crucial moments make the Story of Esther our story, a story that can enrich our Jewish souls long after the celebration is over.
Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs is the author of What’s in It for Me? Finding Ourselves in Biblical Narratives, former President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Beth Israel.