Nine Vegetarian Days

— by Ronit Treatman

The verse, “Out of the depths have I called Thee, O Lord,” (Psalms 130:1) perfectly captures the essence of Tisha B’Av. The fast day, which begins at sundown on Monday, July 15 this year, is one of the most solemn days in the Jewish calendar. It memorializes the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. The Sephardic community also mourns the issuing of the Alhambra Decree, or Edict of Expulsion. This dictum, ordering the banishment of the Jews from the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, was announced on Tisha B’Av in 1492.

The three weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av are known as Bein HaMetzarim (“between the straits”). They begin on the 17th day of Tammuz (June 25 this year) and end on Tisha B’Av. This is a time of mourning the destruction of the Temples and the exiles of the Jews from the land of Israel. Historically, these three weeks have been a time of danger for the Jewish community. It is customary to avoid hazardous situations during those three weeks. Many Jews eschew lawsuits, surgical procedures, or travels during this time. The Shulhan Arukh (Orah Hayyim 551:9-11) mentions a Jewish tradition to refrain from eating meat and drinking wine during the week of Tisha b’Av or even (for some at that time) the entire three weeks.

Out of these days of despair have emerged some of the most creative vegetarian recipes of the Jewish kitchen. Mejedra, a crown jewel of the Syrian Jewish kitchen, is such a dish.

Recipe for Mejedra follows the jump.
Mejedra is a rice, lentil, and onion pilaf.  It is a very ancient recipe, first recorded in 1226 in Kitab al-Tabikh (“The Cook’s Book”). Mejedra is a traditional dish of mourning, based on the stew that Jacob prepared when Abraham died (Genesis 25: 29-34). Traditionally, “Esau’s favorite” was cooked with rice and green or brown lentils. Here is a recipe adapted from Gilda Angel’s Sephardic Holiday Cooking:

Mejedra

  • 2 cups brown lentils
  • 2 cups Basmati rice
  • 1 large Spanish onion
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil

  1. Pour the lentils into a bowl, and cover them with cold water.
  2. Allow the lentils to soak for two hours.
  3. Thinly slice the onion.
  4. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy pot.
  5. Add the onion, and fry until caramelized to a golden-brown color.
  6. Drain the lentils.
  7. Sautee the rice and lentils with the onion.
  8. Pour in the water, and season with salt and pepper.
  9. Cover the pot, and bring its contents to a boil.
  10. Simmer for about 30 minutes, until all the liquid has been absorbed.
  11. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan.
  12. Brown the pine nuts in the pan.
  13. Sprinkle the pine nuts over the mejedra.

You may serve the mejedra with warm pita bread, an Israeli salad, and some plain yogurt on the side.  

GOP Candidates In Their Own Words

Race Republican Photo Quote Contenders
US Senate
Nevada
Sharron Angel,
State Legislator (Washoe County-26)
  • “People are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I’ll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.” [Link]
Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader
US Senate
South Carolina
Jim Demint, Incumbent Senator
  • “If a person is a practicing homosexual, they should not be teaching in our schools.” [Link]
  • “I would have given the same answer when asked if a single woman, who was pregnant and living with her boyfriend, should be hired to teach my third grade children.”
    [Link]
Alvin Greene, political unknown
US Senate
Delaware
Christine O’Donnell, marketing consultant
  • “American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains.” [Link]
  • “Lust in your heart is committing adultery so you can’t masturbate without lust.” [Link]
Chris Coons, New Castle County Executive
US Senate
Pennsylvania
Pat Toomey, Former Congressman (PA-15)
  • “Let’s not tax corporations…. I think the solution is to eliminate corporate taxes altogether.” [Link]
  • “There has been an increase in the surface temperature of the planet over the course of the last 100 years or so. I think it’s clear that that has happened. The extent to which that has been caused by human activity I think is not as clear. I think that is still very much disputed and has been debated.” [Link]
Joe Sestak, retired Admiral and Congressman (PA-7)
US Senate
Kentucky
Rand Paul, opthamologist and son of Congressman Ron Paul (TX-14)
  • “Decisions concerning private property and associations should in a free society be unhindered. As a consequence, some associations will discriminate…. A free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination – even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin.” Link]
Jack Conway, Secretary of State
US Senate
Connecticut
Linda McMahon,
co-founder of World Wrestling Entertainment
  • “So I still don’t think we know the long-term effects of steroids. They are continuing to study it more and more, but I don’t believe there are a lot of studies out there today that are conclusive.” [Link]
Richard Blumenthal, Attorney General
US Senate
Louisiana
David Vitter, incumbent Senator
  • “I personally don’t have standing to bring litigation in court. But I support conservative legal organizations and others who would bring that to court. I think that is the valid and most possibly effective grounds to do it.” [On birther investigations] [Link]
Charlie Melançon, Congressman LA-3
US Senate
Alaska
Joe Miller Scott McAdams, lawyer; and Lisa Murkowski, incumbent Senator
US Senate
Colorado
Ken Buck, Weld County District Attorney
  • “You are taking a very small group of cases and making a point about abortion. We have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of abortions in this country every year. And the example that you give is a very poignant one, but an extremely rare occurrence.” [Defending his opposition to abortion even in the case of rape and incest] [Link]
Michael Bennet, incumbent Senator, and Tom Tancredo, former Congressman (CO-6)
US Senate
Oklahoma
Tom Coburn
  • “Lesbianism is so rampant in some of the schools in southeast Oklahoma that they’ll only let one girl go to the bathroom. Now think about it. Think about that issue. How is it that that’s happened to us?” [Link]
Jim Rogers, teacher
US Senate
Alabama
Richard Shelby
  • “Well, his father was Kenyan and they said he was born in Hawaii, but I haven’t seen any birth certificate.” [Link]
William Barnes, lawyer
House of Representatives
Delaware (At-Large)
Glen Urquhart,
real estate financer
  • “Do you know, where does this phrase ‘separation of church and state’ come from? It was not in Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists…. The exact phrase ‘separation of Church and State’ came out of Adolph Hitler’s mouth, that’s where it comes from. So the next time your liberal friends talk about the separation of Church and State ask them why they’re Nazis.” [Link]
John Carney, Lt. Governor

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