One of the many Libyan Jewish customs I was introduced to when I married my husband Yehuda was that for centuries the Jews of Tripoli have eaten meat during the three weeks before Tish'ah BAv. They don't eat fresh or frozen meat, though. Only margaz, sausages that they prepare themselves during the hot summer days. The rationale is that during the period that remembers the destruction of the Holy Temple we should restrain from enjoying things that were done at the Temple. The meat eaten by the priests of our Holy Temple was fresh and roasted, not sausages cooked in a tomato and squash gravy.

I only helped prepare sausages once. After that first time, this Diaspora custom came to an end in my new home in Jerusalem.

Once was really enough. I'll never forget it. Following my mother-in-law's instructions, Yehuda filled our kitchen with the ingredients. A kilometer of beef intestine that he cleaned and kashered until the odor disappeared. (I won't describe what it was like before it disappeared.) A mountain of raw beef to be kashered and ground along with a hillock of alia, choice lamb tail fat; a few kilo of garlic, parsley, and white cumin seeds. Add salt, pepper, and oil to taste.

I tried to pretend to enjoy the stuffing and stringing process as much as Yehuda and his mother did, may she rest in peace. Here was genuine culture, a living tradition, a way of preparing for Tish'ah B'Av that I had never experienced before. I funneled the ground meat mixture into the raw kishka while Yehuda shaped and tied each sausage with white thread. It was an awakening, a discovery of origins. This is where hotdogs come from. Yehuda kept the thread moving along without breaking it. He packed in the filling and tied each sausage tight. Any air inside the sausage would cause decay.

We coated the finished product with oil and salt — to keep away flies and bugs — and hung the long plump strings of margaz on the clothes line to dry in the sun. A few days would suffice. If we were lucky there would be a hamsin, a dry, unbearably hot desert wind.

It took me five hours to clean the house. The kitchen was a battlefield of splattered fat and meat. Oil had dripped into everything. But I must admit that the aroma of the garlic and spices was invigorating. Only once a year, I told myself. Margaz is made only in the summer before Tish'ah B'Av. That was insufficient consolation. I found myself truly mourning the destruction of Holy Temple.

The next day I stepped out to the laundry porch to see how the sausages were doing. Oh, no! A battered old raven with broken wing feathers and gluttonous black eyes had pecked and clawed open the middle row of margaz. He was having a feast!

Five hours work preparing! Five hours cleaning up afterward! For what? To be ruined by this cruel bird. I grabbed the mop stick and banged the porch rail, screaming in English, to make sure he'd understand, Go away!

A neighbor in the opposite building walked out on her porch to stare at the crazy American woman yelling at sausages on the clothesline.

Actually, why did I yell at the raven? I didn't have to tell him to go away because the damage was already done. In the long run, though, the raven did me more good than harm.

To my relief, Yehuda has never suggested making margaz again.

Every year on the 17th of Tammuz I think of the raven, with everlasting gratitude.