Online Studies



Here is a selection of links to explore the weekly parshah.

Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies
KMTT (KMTT is a daily Torah Podcast, from Yeshivat Har Etzion in Israel)

Weekly e-letters:
– YCT’s Parshat HaShavuah
– VBM’s introduction to Parasha
– Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s Weekly Parsha List

Do you use online resources to study the weekly parshah; which ones?

Chulent Recipes



Here are the recipes I announced yesterday.

Leora shared her recipes in the comments:
Soak beans (enough to cover the bottom) in crock pot on Thursday night. Rinse the beans in the a.m.
Put in new water, enough to more than cover the beans. Add barley (about a layer’s worth?). Cook on high. After a while, add some cut-up potatoes (one or two). Add salt. Other spices you might add: pepper, chili ppr, paprika, cumin. I sometimes add cumin. About one hour before Shabbat, add pieces of lamb stew or a lamb shank. Switch to lower crockpot setting for all Shabbat.
If too watery, add some oatmeal to the top. Or purposely add enough water so you can add the oatmeal on the top.

DYS shared the special ingredients that make up his “secret” vegetarian cholent:
– I usually add less potatoes & more meat substitutes, (cut up veggie burgers, lots of seitan).
– Often, instead of potatoes, I use kneidels (matzo balls). Use a little extra matzo meal to make them more solid.
– If you’re not vegan, throw in a whole bunch of hard boiled eggs, sans shell.
– Lots of fresh garlic! (personal preference – you can leave this out if you choose).
– Here comes the part that really makes the difference:
Instead of putting in a lot of water, I replace at least half of the water with plain soymilk. (I usually use Edensoy for this. It’s pareve and more suitable than the “Silk” type products, which are too sweet.)
– For flavoring I use mushroom soup mix. Somehow this gives it a much richer flavor than the oniony flavorings people use for meat chulents.
– Throw in a whole box of onion or garlic Tam Tam crackers. They might dissolve completely but they’ll give your chulent an incredibly rich flavor. Trust me!

As for Jew Wishes she sent her recipe via email:
I use the crock pot as it is easier, using beef stew meat. It doesn’t have to be made with brisket, but if you use brisket cubed, the time is a bit longer. You must figure how much you want to make in order to cook it, my recipe with the brisket is for about eight people. The crockpot is great, fill it and it cooks on its own.
3/4 – 1 pound cubed beef brisket
4 potatoes, diced
two sweet potatoes peeled and cubed
1/4 cup dry kidney beans
1/2 cup barley
1 chopped onion
1-2 cloves minced garlic, depending on taste
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons ketchup, or one tablespoon ketchup and one of barbeque sauce (it’s tangy)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon onion soup mix
I don’t use salt, but if you must, 1 tablespoon
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon of ginger

You can add carrots, too, if you want.
Combine all of the ingredients in at least a 6-quart slow cooker. Put the meat in first. Once everything is in, fill with water at least 2 inches over the top of the ingredients. Cook on high for 1 hour. Then, turn to low and continue cooking for another 6-7 hours (testing after 6 hours).

Mom in Israel has a lovely post about her mother and chulent.

The Jew and the Carrot posted a Vegan recipe for chulent last Frebruray after a discussion on whether we should share meals with non-Jews.




In a September post, I suggested people were welcome to send me their favorite chulent recipes. I wished to post them altogether and then link to kcc (the Kosher Cooking Carnival) so that they would be included in the next edition. A few people have answered; I’ll post their recipes tomorrow along with a few links.

But first a few explanations about chulent, also spelled cholent.


Max Weinreich traces the etymology of cholent to the Latin present participle calentem, meaning “that which is hot” (as in calorie), via Old French chalant (present participle of chalt, from the verb chaloir, “to warm”). One widely quoted folk etymology, relying on the French pronunciation of cholent or the Central and Western European variants shalent or shalet, derives the word from French chaud (“hot”) and lent (“slow”), but it is categorically rejected by professional linguists. Another folk etymology derives cholent (or sholen) from the Hebrew she’lan, which means “that rested [overnight]”. This refers to the old time cooking process of Jewish families placing their individual pots of cholent into the town baker’s ovens that always stayed hot and slow-cooked the food overnight. (Wikipedia)

This is what the dictionary says:

a Jewish Sabbath dish of slowly baked meat and vegetables, prepared on a Friday and cooked overnight. has a a longer definition:

Cholent is the quintessential Jewish food. Jewish law prohits lighting a fire and cooking on the Sabbath. So how can an observant Jewish family eat a hot, nourishing meal on the Sabbath? Cholent, a slow-cooked, bean-barley stew, has been the answer for centuries. Legumes are not only suited for slow cooking and nutritious, they are also economical.

If you have time, you can read a longer and more personal article by G. Erdosh on

The Litvaks



A summer post written by Leora gave me ideas for a lesson on the Jews of Lithuania, or rather this provided me with a concrete example of a vanished community that the Holocaust destroyed.

Since I did not know much about the Jews of Lithuania, I bought and read a book Jew Wishes had recommended, The Litvaks: A Short History of the Jews in Lithuania. Isn’t the virtual community wonderful? Although it deals with the whole period when Jews lived in Lithuania, this book concentrates on the years 1918-1945. Now a French book, Les Litvaks L’héritage universel d’un monde juif disparu, about which I heard a review on Sunday has just been released. Its authors spoke about it and have helped me understand the particularities of the Litvak community.

The word Litvak comes from the Polish Litwak and means Lithuanian yet specifically refers to a Lithuanian Jew. The term Lithuania is slightly misleading if you think of the country as it is today; the map on Wikipedia gives a fair idea of the size of Lithuania in the Middle-Ages.

The first Jews arrived in Lithuania great numbers from the 12 th century. They came from the Rhine Valley from where they had been driven away by the crusades. The Jews were famous for their talents in crafts and trade and were therefore encouraged by the authorities ruling the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to move there to help develop the country. The same thing happened with Turkey when the Jews were forced to leave Spain in 1492.

At that time Lithuania was not a Christian country yet; it only formally adopted Christianity in 1389, which probably explained why the authorities had no prejudice against the Jews and thus granted them far more rights than in any other part of Europe. Thus in 1388, the Jews were granted a special charter. This is its preambule:
In the name of God, Amen. All deeds of men, when they are not made known by the testimony of witnesses or in writing, pass away and vanish and are forgotten. Therefore, we, Alexander, also called Vytautas , by the grace of God Grand Duke of Lithuania and ruler of Brest, Dorogicz, Lutsk, Vladimir, and other places, make known by this charter to the present and future generations, or to whomever it may concern to know or hear of it, that, after due deliberation with our nobles we have decided to grant to all the Jews living in our domains the rights and liberties mentioned in the following charter.

Thus the Lithuanian Jews formed a class of freemen subject in all criminal cases directly to the jurisdiction of the grand duke and his official representatives, and in petty suits to the jurisdiction of local officials on an equal footing with the lesser nobles (szlachta), boyars, and other free citizens. (Wikepedia). In the book mentioned above I was surprised to read that, at that time, hitting a Jew was a serious an offence as hitting a noble men.

These equitable laws allowed the Jews of Lithuania to reach a degree of prosperity unknown to their Polish and German co-religionists at that time. It also allowed them to develop a unique culture and religious organizations.

Unfortunately this Golden Age ended when Poland was partitioned – the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was part of Poland – in 1793 and the Jews became subjects of Russia.

Walking Old Streets



I am on vacation for a few days and have traveled to Hyères, a town in the southeast of France, in the Var département, located 15 km (10 m) east of Toulon.

Since this is a first visit, this morning was devoted to walking in the old town center which is situated on a hill. Although not sunny, the weather is still quite mild and the little shops display their goods in the streets.




B’nei Noah



Most people know about the covenant (Hebrew: ברית, Brit) between God and Abraham. This covenant is found in Bereshit 12-17. However the first covenant between God and man is found in this week’s parshah, Bereshit 8-9, and applies to the whole of mankind. Even if we often forget about this covenant, we all now the sign chosen by God as its reminder, the rainbow, Bereshit 9: 12-16.

אֶת-קַשְׁתִּי, נָתַתִּי בֶּעָנָן; וְהָיְתָה לְאוֹת בְּרִית, בֵּינִי וּבֵין הָאָרֶץ

I have set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between Me and the earth.

This covenant requires man to follow 7 laws, known in Judaism as Noahide Laws. Thus for the Talmud: “Righteous people of all nations have a share in the world to come” (Sanhedrin 105a). Any non-Jew who lives according to these laws is regarded as one of “the righteous among the gentiles”.

Here are what these seven laws are:
1. Prohibition of Idolatry: You shall not have any idols before God.
2. Prohibition of Murder: You shall not murder. (Genesis 9:6)
3. Prohibition of Theft: You shall not steal.
4. Prohibition of Sexual Promiscuity: You shall not commit adultery.
5. Prohibition of Blasphemy: You shall not blaspheme God’s name.
6. Dietary Law: Do not eat flesh taken from an animal while it is still alive. (Genesis 9:4)
7. Requirement to have just Laws: You shall set up an effective judiciary to enforce the preceding six laws fairly. (Wikepedia)

Nowadays a number of non-Jews call themselves B’nei Noah in reference to the Noahide Laws. They belong to a modern monotheistic movement which observes the Seven Laws of Noah but is not united; thus there are several B’nei Noah organizations. They are activally encouraged and supported by Chabad-Lubavitch as well as by a number of Jewish organizations.

Update: This week, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin asks: “Is Judaism a universal religion, with a message for all of humanity, or a national religion, with a message specifically for Jews?”

Mysterious Signs for Ruby Tuesday



I took this photo almost a year ago on one of Hong Kong’s numerous islands. This cabin is a barber’s shop; I guess it is also a house. I liked the effort to make it welcoming with the red signs around the door despite the obvious poverty.

Over a month ago, I was amazed to see similar signs (or so they seemed to my eyes) around a house in my neighborhood. Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough and when I arrived in front of the house with my camera a few days later, they had disappeared. If anyone knows what these signs mean, I’d be most grateful to know.

On Tuesdays, just post any photo you like (it must be one of your own) that contains the color RED and then link to this blog.