Judaism is very into renewal. We have yearly renewal – Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and we restart our year with blessings of “Shana Tova” – happy new year! We have weekly renewal – known as Shabbat, and we restart our week with blessings of “Shavua Tov” – have a good week! We even have daily renewal: God orchestrated the universe that all living beings must rest, refresh their batteries, wake up and start a new day.
But what many don’t know is that we also have a monthly renewal. That is the semi-holiday called Rosh Chodesh.
The word “rosh” in Hebrew literally means the “head.” We know this term from Rosh Hashanah – the head, or start, of the new year. Rosh Chodesh, then, means the head or start of the new month. But even the word “Chodesh” is telling: while literally, it means “month,” it is also the same word for “chadash,” which means “new.”
See, commemorating the new month is actually a Biblical mitzvah, in fact, the first mitzvah the Jews are given upon their exodus from Egypt. Specifically, we are commanded to “sanctify” the new moon.
Noticing when the moon renews itself in the sky, in Temple times (now we have a pre-set calendar) and declaring the new Jewish month was a very important function of Jewish living. If you didn’t know when the month started, you couldn’t celebrate any of the holidays. The ancient Syrian-Greeks knew this, during the Chanukah story, and actually outlawed the declaration of Rosh Chodesh. Which is ironic, because we triumph every Chanukah, which always includes Rosh Chodesh.
Why is it so important? Why couldn’t God pre-designate when the months would start and end?
It is an axiomatic theme of Judaism that God wants us to partner in His world. Indeed, when God created humankind, He said: “let us make man.” Who is “us”? Us is God, in partnership with man. God wants us to be His holy partners in feeding the sick, clothing the naked, fixing the world… and in sanctifying time. God gave that privilege, that honor, over to us.
Because “sanctifying time” doesn’t just mean figuring out when the Passover seder is going to be this year, or how Chanukah coordinates with winter break. No, sanctifying time is far more powerful than that. Sanctifying time means understanding that the time we have in this world is given to us on trust. That it’s not really ours. That it’s borrowed time, and that we must fill it with purpose and meaning. God can’t do that for us. It’s our job, our privilege.
The celebration of Rosh Chodesh, which was uniquely gifted to women, as a reward for not participating in the Golden Calf, is a reminder that our time is holy. Women are specifically tied to the monthly cycles of the moon and experience the passing seasons of time as men don’t. We are more sensitive to the waxing and waning of life, of emotions, of seasons.
We can make Rosh Chodesh special in our lives by designating these monthly pauses, perhaps organizing gatherings, or study sessions, or monthly mitzvah opportunities. And by so doing, we will give ourselves the gift of renewing and refreshing our lives on a monthly basis, with blessings of “Chodesh Tov!” – may it be a good month!
This holiday’s recipe is brought to you by Momentum sister Paula Shoyer. Known as “the kosher baker”, Paula is the author or four kosher cookbooks. This recipe was included in her latest cookbook, The Healthy Jewish Kitchen, which incorporates many recipes that Paula enjoyed growing up — made healthier and easier. Paula says that this tart is especially perfect for people who are afraid of fancy pies. Credit: Reprinted with permission from The Healthy Jewish Kitchen © 2017 by Paula Shoyer, Sterling Epicure.
Fruit Galette with a Chocolate Crust
Parve Serves 8
This galette is a new version of my easiest fruit tart. You do not even need a tart pan or pie plate. You can use any fruit you like, but it tastes best with summer fruits and it looks best if you combine raspberries and plums with peaches or apricots to contrast with the dark color of the chocolate crust.
PREP TIME: 5 minutes to make dough; 15 to 20 minutes for dough to chill; 10 minutes to fill and assemble tart
Bake Time: 30 minutes
ADVANCE PREP: May be made 2 days in advance EQUIPMENT: Measuring cups and spoons, food processor or pastry cutter, cutting board, knife, plastic wrap, parchment or silicone baking mat, rolling pin, cookie sheet or jelly roll pan, medium bowl, small bowl, silicone spatula, pastry brush, fork
1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour, plus extra for sprinkling on the dough and parchment
¹⁄³ cup (25g) dark unsweetened cocoa
3 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105ml) coconut oil, measured and then frozen for about 20 minutes, until hard
1 large egg, plus 1 large egg white for glaze
3 tablespoons ice water, divided
3 cups fresh fruit: berries, plums, peaches, or apricots, cut into ½-inch (12-mm) pieces, or peeled and thinly sliced pears
3 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Confectioners’ sugar, to sprinkle on top, optional
To make the dough, place the flour, cocoa, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to mix. Cut the frozen coconut oil into pieces and add them to the bowl of the food processor. Pulse them into the flour mixture 10 times or cut the frozen oil pieces into the dry ingredients by hand, using two knives or a pastry cutter.
Add the egg and 1 tablespoon (15ml) of the ice water to the bowl of the food processor. Pulse the mixture 5 times or mix it gently by hand. Add another tablespoon of the ice water and pulse the mixture another 5 times or mix it again gently by hand. Add the last tablespoon of water, pulsing or lightly mixing the dough for 10 to 15 seconds, until it looks like clumps of couscous; the dough does not have to come completely together.
Cut off a large piece of plastic wrap, place the dough on top of it, lift the sides of the plastic to wrap it around the dough, and then flatten it into an 8-inch (20-cm) pancake. Place the dough in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes, until it feels firm, but you can still press into it a little.
Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C) and place a rack in the lowest position in your oven.
Cut off a large piece of parchment paper and sprinkle it with some all-purpose flour. Remove the dough from the plastic wrap and place it on top of the parchment. Sprinkle some flour on the dough and then place a second piece of parchment on top. Using a rolling pin, roll over the top of the parchment to smooth out the dough into a 12- to 13-inch (30- to 33-cm) round shape. Peel back the top piece of parchment paper and sprinkle some more flour over the dough, once or twice, while you are rolling. Place the parchment and rolled crust onto the cookie sheet or jelly roll pan.
To make the filling, place the fruit in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and cornstarch, then sprinkle it on top of the fruit and mix it in gently until the flour dissolves. Place the fruit in the center of the dough circle and spread it outward, leaving a 2- to 3-inch (5- to 7.5-cm) border. Fold about 2 inches (5cm) of the border over the fruit, leaving the fruit-filled center open. Fold over another 2-inch (5-cm) section of the border and repeat this step, pressing one section of the border into the next, so that you end up with dough pleats all the way around. This will seal in the fruit (and fruit juices). Use a pastry brush to dust off any excess flour on the dough.
Beat the reserved egg white with a fork, then brush the egg white all over the dough. Sprinkle it with the remaining teaspoon of sugar if you like. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the pan from the oven. Using oven mitts, move the rack to the middle position, then move the galette back to the rack and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes or until filling looks bubbly. Let cool for 20 minutes and serve, dusted with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.
Dark cocoa is a favorite recent ingredient that gives chocolate desserts deeper flavor and color. Whenever I substitute dark cocoa for the regular cocoa in a recipe, I add 2 tablespoons of sugar to the recipe to balance the slight bitterness of the dark cocoa.
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Raising a mensch means teaching our kids what Judaism says about being a good person. Jewish wisdom teaches: praising a child’s ethics, morals, and ideals is more important than praising their academic marks. If our children’s honesty, inclusiveness, and kindness garners the same praise as an A on their report card, our children will develop healthy self-esteem that isn’t tied to their intellect or academic achievements.