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Traditional Shabbat Foods

The rhyme and reason for the customary Shabbat menu

Explore the rich background, significance and symbolism of the time-honored Shabbat menu, as sourced in classic Jewish texts, their halachic underpinnings and the mystical perspective.

There are copious Talmudic references to fish on the Shabbat menu, yet, despite its apparent deep history something seems fishy as it virtually disappears from Torah literature for over 1000 years – only to reappear with regularity in Halachik codes and Responsa of the late modern period! A fascinating thesis is introduced to solve this seeming mystery, prominently placing kosher seafood on the Shabbat table. Rhyme and reason for the development of European “Gefilte” and its cousin “Schmaltz” are richly introduced and garnished with tantalizing insight and clarity!
Despite its apparent lack of deep history—as there are no obvious references in any classic sources speaking of chicken soup on the Friday night Shabbat dinner menu—this basic staple in every (Ashkenazic) Jewish home is so widespread that it must have been bubbling on the fire since antiquity! Here we provide a tripod of solid Talmudic footings that seems to be the likely source for this piping hot Shabbat delicacy. Late in the modern period, we do discover copious and truly fascinating rhyme and reason for both the broth and the accompanying “lokshin” noodles!
Beyond its ubiquitous presence at Shabbat tables in virtually every (Ashkenazic) community – there are numerous astounding statements attributed to outstanding Chassidic Masters attaching extraordinary prominence and importance to the proverbial Shabbat staple known as “Kugel.” Our voyage into the past to discover the origin and meaning, sails from an ancient harbor, unfolds dinner napkins and Talmudic recipes to link us back to the miraculous Manna of old – culminating with uniquely propitious properties associated with “Lokshin Kugel”!
Hands down, it’s the long-simmering stew of Shabbat morning that is its signature staple. A surprisingly strong statement from a 12th-century luminary – incorporated into the menu of the Shulchan Aruch, Judaism’s proverbial “Set Table” of Torah Law – gives us a taste of just how important serving and eating this traditional delicacy really is! Another medieval manuscript thickens the consistency of its mysterious prominence, as numerous other ideas further stir the pot. Finally, a bag of beans added to the mix, concludes this delightfully flavored offering!
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