Rosh Hashana this year starts on a Wednesday night, and ends at sundown Friday night, which is when Shabbat begins. Observant Jews all over the globe will be closing down their connection with the outside world and turning inwards to family, community and God.
If you have ever been to Israel, whether you are Jewish or not, you have most probably visited the Kotel, the Western Wall. And whether it is your first time, or your 100th time, you probably every now and again leave a little note for God, stuffed in the cracks of the wall.
It’s a known constant in my life that man plans, God laughs. Yesterday I said in my Honey Honey blog post:
So I could leave you with a cute little video of buzzing bees or those singing worms in the apple wishing you a happy new year, but I won’t.
Wrong. Sort of.
It’s been a slow summer for me. I don’t do well in the humid heat of Ra’anana. I feel sluggish, ponderous, as sticky as thick honey. All that, and a bout of pneumonia last week, has left me full of ennui and it hasn’t helped the blogging much either. I haven’t been in much of a mood to cook, or to write about cooking. Pity this hasn’t extended to my appetite, that’s been as healthy as ever, in the most unhealthy of ways.
It took my friend Abby to get me out of my funk. Well, not totally out of it, just to nudge me a bit. She’s been asking me about Rosh Hashana menus. I haven’t really thought about the holiday yet, I mean, it’s not Rosh Hashana until next year…
I am not a spiritual Jew. I am a social Jew. If you happen to find me in shul (synagogue) on a Shabbat morning, you will see that I talk more to my friends than I do to God. No disrespect intended, honestly, but I will admit that I am not a fan of prayer… in shul, that is. I don’t connect with words written hundreds of years ago by some man with a beard who spent his days with the holy texts while his wife struggled to get Shabbat on the table. Now, if she had written these prayers I might feel more connected.
It’s not that I don’t believe in God, I do. How can you not look at nature and see God in the details? I see God in my four beautiful daughters. I see God in music, in solar eclipses, even in evolution. There is no way that something as twisted as the human race evolved on its own from the muck, we had help. And God certainly has a sense of humor, don’t you agree?
While I do believe in God, my belief is limited to the fact that once he set up the game of Life, he didn’t hang around to play much. I think there’s something more interesting out there than the likes of us. But just because I don’t think he’s listening, that doesn’t mean I still don’t talk to him. I have my chats with God every day, with the hope that at some point he’s going to pick up his messages. In my mind, life on Earth is just a macro set to run until God sees fit to check up on us. He helps those who help themselves, so my chats with God aren’t so much prayers asking for something, but rather little personal updates, verbal thank you cards, and sometimes a letter of complaint or a note in the Suggestion Box.
So this Rosh Hashana you really won’t see me hanging out much in shul. I’d rather give my seat to someone who wants it, who needs the connection via the words written in the machzor. I’ll be at home having a cup of coffee with the Big Guy, I’ve got my dialogue worked out already.
Rosh Hashana Honey Cake
One of the proofs of God’s existence has got to be honey. A whole colony of buzzing bees work so hard to bring us such wonderful yummy sweetness. Yes, I know there are quite a few people out there who don’t like honey and, even worse, hate honey cake. God makes all kinds…
The original recipe comes from Ruth Sirkis, doyenne of Israeli cookbooks. I’ve been making this honey cake every single Rosh Hashana since 1983.
- 3 teaspoons instant coffee
- 1 cup hot water
- 4 eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup honey (about 12 ounces)
- 1/3 cup oil (not olive, use soy or canola)
- 3 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (I leave this out)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice (I usually use nutmeg)
- Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C (325 degrees F).
- Get a baking pan with a 7 cup capacity. Grease lightly and set it aside. You could also use parchment paper, my favorite trick.
- Prepare a strong cup of coffee with the hot water and the instant coffee. Let it cool down a bit so it’s not boiling.
- Separate the eggs. Put the yolks into a big mixing bowl and the whites into a medium one.
- Beat the yolks with the sugar until creamy.
- Add the oil, then the honey, beating after each addition. Beat until the mixture is totally smooth and creamy.
Sift the flour and combine with the salt, baking powder, baking soda and the spices.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture alternately with the coffee, stirring with a spatula or a wooden spoon. Do NOT use and electric mixer for this one. Stir only until all the ingredients are well blended, do not overmix.
- Clean and dry the mixer beaters. Whip the egg whites until they are stiff and can hold their shape. Don’t overbeat the whites or you will end up with little islands of egg white that will never be blended into the batter.
- Add one third of the beaten whites at a time to the batter. Fold in gently until the batter is smooth.
- Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake in the preheated oven for about 80 to 90 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick comes out dry and clean. This cake keeps really well. In fact, it gets better with a little aging, so bake it several days ahead.
I can’t bake this cake without remembering way back in 1986 when I was still in my baby-induced coma. Nomush has just had her first birthday and suddenly Sassy was so grown up at the age of 2 and one month. I decided to let her help me make the honey cake while Nomush took her nap. I lifted my little helper up on to the counter and she was thrilled to be able to stir the batter. I was so proud of myself, thinking I was training my sweet little angel to make honey cake at the age of two. And then (man plans, God laughs) my little angel took the measuring cup, dipped it into the sink full of dishes soaking in soapy water, and poured a cup of that stuff into the batter….