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mercredi 4 mars 2015


Today is 13th of Adar 5775
Yesterday evening, walking home in the evening, the clear fading sky showed the outlines of a bright moon, almost full.
Is the moon full? my little companion asked me. No, but it will be full tomorrow.
I wanted to look up when it would be full, yes, it would be a full moon of joy on 14th Adar 5775...
And we shall eat Homentashen, (Haman’s pockets) those of us who can procure a piece!
(I may have to substitute Nata, the famous Lisboan pastry instead)
It is the feast and celebration of PURIM. As in many of the celebrations, there is much food symbolism, including the sweet, the chick peas representing the vegetarian diet of Queen Esther (4th century BCE).
It is good to think of my two brothers on this day.
The Ashkenazi one, in 2009, was in Jerusalem for this celebration and he sent me a photo of two children walking along a busy street, in disguise, as is the custom of children celebrating. In Jerusalem the feast is celebrated on the 15th Adar
My dear Sephardi brother, who like me grew up in lands, not of his birth (India), nor of his parents (Olav Ha shalom, Iraq and Egypt) wouldn’t be a stranger to the tenets of this festival, the only festival to have a non-Hebrew name! I am sure my brother would like Seudah Purim, the feast; giving alms and sending foods (send some to me brother when I am in the food deserts of North America, serving the Indians!)
What foods do we serve to remind us of this joyous triumph over the evil Prime Minister, Haman? Like the presence of our people in all the 127 provinces of ancient Persian Empire, what did our people eat in distant corners of globe? Needless to say, the food symbolism of Queen Esther’s diet (vegetarian food, to keep kosher, to hide that she was Jewish from the Persian King) is universal but as can be imagined the pastries differ.
börekas, almond “cigars” and candies called figuellos. – (See more at:
Arany galuska, a dessert consisting of fried dough balls and vanilla custard, is traditional for Jews of Hungarian and Romanian descent.
Special breads are baked among various communities. In Moroccan Jewish communities, Purim bread called Ojos de Haman or Eyes of Haman is sometimes baked in the shape of Haman's head, and the eyes, made of eggs, are plucked out to demonstrate the destruction of Haman.

Among Polish Jews, Koilitch, a raisin Purim challah that is baked in a long twisted ring and topped with small colorful candies, is meant to evoke the colorful nature of the holiday
Orejas de Haman (Haman's Ears) or Hojuelas de Haman. These pastries are also known as Oznei Haman. (Wikipedia entry)
What is the lesson in PURIM for an anthropologist?
The word PURIM, derives from PUR, which I am told is from ancient Persian, meaning LOT. –im suffix is the plural of the word, Lot.
It symbolically denotes the integration of our people into the multitudes of cultures that we have lived among in the past 4000 years: starting with the Egyptians, where they may have spoken Hebrew; two very prominent Hebrew based languages, Yiddish and Ladino, and many more forgotten and nearing extinction idioms: such as judeo-arabic, judeo-persian, judeo-turc.
To me, integrating well into the country of your residence, while not turning away from the fundamental laws of humanity we live by is the lesson that I would reiterate to myself and those around me on this day.
Here are some pictures of Purim specialties from around the world of ours and our ancestors.
sambusak el tewa, iraqi chickpea turnover

Hadgi Badah
Indian spiced Sambusak mixed with Malpua a pastry of Bnei Israeli of Bombay
Borekita, of eggplants, being made by a Washington DC area lady of turkish origin
Who has not enjoyed a good Homentashen? 
Kreplach soup, meat hidden inside the dumplings.

More than 60 years ago, a well-known American Rabbi, in his discourse about Jewish survival had this to say:
On the contrary: Our salvation and our existence depend precisely upon the fact that "their laws are different from those of any other people."

Purim reminds us that the strength of our people as a whole, and of each individual Jew and Jewess, lies in a closer adherence to our ancient spiritual heritage which contains the secret of harmonious life, hence of a healthy and happy life. All other things in our spiritual and temporal life must be free from any contradiction to the basis and essence of our existence, and must be attuned accordingly in order to make for the utmost harmony, and add to our physical and spiritual strength, both of which go hand in hand in Jewish life.
With best wishes for a joyous Purim, and may we live to see a world free of Hamans and all types of Amalekites, the enemies of the Jews, of their body, soul and faith.
(This discourse was given on 1 march 1953, a modern day Haman, Stalin, was struck ill that day and died four days later)
 This is also a special holiday to celebrate the bravery of women, Queen Esther as well as the woman who suggested that Haman be hung!
I am thinking of my mischpochah, in California and North Miami, also in Haifa,

Chag Purim Sameach, Freilichin Purim or Purim Allegre 

 If you know the right people, even at a beach in Mexico, you can get Homentashen
The humble Nata, the famous Lisboan pastry. I have been to the famous shop at Belem in Lisboa where the best Nata comes from, they say.
The following item from Bala Menon, an author of a book on Cochin Jewish cuisien caught my attention (anthropologically speaking)
The Pastel has been a favourite for the Cochinis for several hundred years. The Cochini pastel was mentioned by Shlomo Reinman in the 1850s in his book Masa’oth Shlomo b’Kogin. Reinman was a merchant from Galicia in northwest Spain, who came to Cochin in the 1840s. Pastel is a Portuguese word for a crisp pastry with assorted fillings. In Israel, the pastel’s cousin, the bureka is made with phyllo dough, filled with vegetables, meats or cheese and garnished with sesame seeds. In Cochini homes, burekas are always dairy (with cheese), while cheese is never added to pastels.

It made me think:
Sambusek is of Iraqi origin and the Bnei Israelim make it, showing their recent contact with the more prominent Iraqi Jews 
whereas Paradesi Jews of Cochin, who trace their origin to Spain and Turkey, among other areas have Burekas which are of Spanish origin.
An Interesting thought!
Must bring it up to Rockey Neroth, my good friend from Cochin on my impending visit to Cochin

Just received an email from Teheran, POR in Persian means FULL..
Bon apetite!
Came across this photo of a 1936 Seudah Purim at the Sefardi Society of Washington DC!