Thursday, April 21, 2011

An Artistic Vision of Passover

Being Jewish to me has been a sort of thrust and parry, an existential bout with myself. Where in chassidus it is taught that one should nullify their sense of self by serving an infinite creator and accepting it’s service as your own. Many can interpret that as a burden or you can look at it as a challenge. These paintings are an internal conversation I have been having about the initial thoughts inside the minds of the Jewish people after the sea parted and before they received the torah. Sure there was a miracle but what was it for. Within these works are also my questions and interpretations that every person has, for the ego is not a flaw. It’s an opportunity for the sense of self is essential. You must exist to have a relationship with another person and let alone an infinite being. It surmounts to how you choose to exist.


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Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Passover Webcast (By Mayanot Women!)

Wow, what a video! Check out the work being done by two Mayanot Women's Alumni: Chava Zviklin and Miri Burke. Take a half hour out of your day, and enjoy this great video about Pesach. If you don't have time for the whole video, watch the first 5 minutes with Chava, it's not to be missed!


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Alumnus of the Week: Reuben "Prodezra Beats" Formey

Reuben Formey, aka Prodezra Beats, is one of the veterans of Mayanot.  Old school.  And he has brought the lessons from Mayanot all the way into his rap and hip-hop life.  He even included a song about Mayanot in his latest album.  Awesome. Check out his bio below as well as the awesome video to learn more about him and his music.

The video:



The bio:

"A Chabad Baal T'shuva, Prodezra hails from Savannah, GA where he started making beats as a hobby in early high school with just an old Casio board & computer. Being a member of school bands from a young age contributed to his knack for creating hard-hitting tracks early on. Time passed & he collaborated on a number of local projects. After making some changes in his own life, he's now using his G-d given talent for good. He is working on music with artists abroad, proving his abilities in the public arena. Prodezra draws strength from his desire to make music that people do more than just listen to, but will actually feel within their soul. But he won't take the credit for the music for himself...assuring that he is only blessed from G-d to be a vessel to deliver these powerful and positive sounds. Hence, he takes the "L'Shem Shamayim" part of his work very seriously. While he is one of the only Jewish track makers coming from a foundation of Southern Bump that hits you hard & plays no games, Prodezra brings a love of all music that gives him versatility in creating Hip-Hop, "Country-Rap" Tunes, Pop, & Rock tracks, etc."


For all updates on Prodezra Beats, check out these links:

Buy the new album:


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Smoke Rises Always to the East

Smoke rises always to the East

memories of the eternal flame now hidden under secrets

of stone song silence while sun sets on a century

awaiting the dawn

savor the rain in Summer heat

even when the skeleton sky is barren

at night silver moon reflects His light

and Angels take flight

among stars that shimmer and glimmer above

the waters that reflect only truth, beauty and wink with understanding

of what is hidden within


Where do we begin?

break the klipah that surrounds, obscures, conceals

make for yourself a vessel that captures, reveals

hear the voice commanding your heard from the depths of your mind

we grasp the Divine

scream silently, ache longingly, laugh joyously, live prayerfully


And if you find yourself lost in your own dusty footprints

echoing down winding hallways that lead nowhere

except into a vat surrounding resounding somewhere

remind yourself that wherever you go, there you are

and there is Hashem in a dew-drop memory dream

of what is, was, and will always be

be you, be free is the key

to unlock your broken birdcage heart

in the morning with

"Modeh Ani lefonecha Melech chai vikayam

shehechazarta bi neshemati bechamlah rabah emunatecha"



When smoke rises always to the East

visions of eternal flame now revealed

over flames of Tehillim, HaKodosh Baruchu I call out to You

when October sun sets Yetzer Hara and Yetzer Tov

battle ravenously for my sanity


Sun sets over the West Bank

I've only got You to thank

for this Land given to Am Yisrael

we Sons and Daughters of Avraham and Sarah Avinue

Hashem Elokienu

all I ask now is that you

bless me with a place to call Home


It's quiet now, sky of rose blue twilight

and angels take flight

among the stars that shimmer and glimmer

reflecting truth reflecting beauty reflecting light reflecting water reflecting Torah


Smoke rises always to the East

where The Holy Temple will soon stand, (please G-d)

but as for tonight, today its light is in our heart, mind and soul


While I sit reflecting the fading light, I become like the night

the call to prayer stops

the echoes stop

and I am left with

the silence of the wind with winter ridding on its feathers

and my loneliness is Alone-One-Ness

that echoes off the rocks and into the sky

reflected in amber-blue dusk reflected

on these cragged gray rocks

I wait

until the sky she drains herself of color

and I tiptoe back home...


...Where I long to see the eternal flame burning

where two souls mirror one soul

Where my rambling feet can finally rest

in our home that is Shalom manifest

where smoke rises always to the East...


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Lacto-Fermented Borscht and Pesach

When my grandfather, alav hashalom, was nearing the end of his long and fruitful life, I had the opportunity to make dinner for him once (usually my mother cooked dinner for all of us). He requested borscht, a dish that I was altogether unfamiliar with, but which was an essential part of the Eastern European Jewish food tradition my grandfather had grown up with. In my good intention to fulfill his request, I opened a jar of sterile canned borscht from the supermarket (Ingredients: Water, Beets, Sugar, Salt, Citric Acid) and served it with sour cream, and love.

Flash forward to 2010. Today I avidly lacto-ferment in my spare time and am very interested in traditional Jewish foodways. And I've come to learn that, traditionally, borscht is not a sterile and denatured product sold in a jar, but a lacto-fermented, probiotic food produced in the home.

Now, I have realized from my conversations with people that lacto-fermentation is a generally unknown and mysterious process in modern society, and yet it is one of the oldest, safest, and most nutrient-enhancing forms of food preservation on Earth. Jewish mothers used to lacto-ferment various vegetables the way they toss food in the microwave today. It was just a part of living.

However, as Pesach approaches, those who want to be well-prepared are stocking up on overpriced, over-processed packaged foods from the ubiquitous "Passover Section" at the local supermarket, jars of sterile "borscht" included. (As an aside, please be informed about the ingredients in those kosher-for-Passover products. Avoid disease inducing ingredients like partially hydrogenated and hydrogenated oils, vanillin, and MSG--heimish companies love to add these ingredients to their products.)

But a generation or two ago, as part of that preparation, Jewish mothers would have been putting up a jar of beets and water to lacto-ferment for a couple weeks before Pesach, to be enjoyed either cool (like gazpacho) and probiotic, or hot and sour with meat and spices. That was the dish that nourished my forbears, that my grandfather's body would have intuitively recognized as nourishing and good.

It is approaching ten years since the dinner I served, and I wish that I could have made the nourishing, delicious, live-culture meal that my grandfather must have grown up on. But I am grateful for the renaissance in traditional Jewish foodways that is just beginning, and hopeful that I will be able to pass these traditions down to my own children some day.

Here is a recipe for "beet sour" adapted from Leah Leonard's Jewish Cookery, published in 1949. It can be drunk in small quantities as a digestive aid, used as a salad dressing base, or used as a borscht soup base, as it was traditionally:


BEET SOUR (Rossel) (renders one quart)

Remove tops and scrub beets thoroughly. Cut in halves or quarters and place in a glass quart-sized pickling jar that has a cover (you can buy these at your local hardware store). Add about a tablespoon of sea salt per two medium or three small beets. Fill the jar with lukewarm purified water (or the water should at least be chlorine free). Screw on lid and let stand, covered, in a warm place (64-74 degrees F) from one to four weeks to form soured beet juice for Passover borscht. Unscrew lid slightly about once per week to release pressure. A white mold bloom may grow on the surface of the rossel... this is completely normal and may simply be skimmed off. The liquid underneath will be unaffected.


Also, here is one of Leah Leonard's borscht (Rossel) recipes:

Meat Rossel Borscht (Serves 6)


1.5 lbs brisket of beef

4 cups cold water

1 onion

2 bay leaves

3 cups beet sour

Salt and pepper to taste

Lemon juice (optional)

Sugar to taste

6 egg yolks



Cook the meat, onion, and bay leaves in water at a slow boil until meat is tender when pierced with a fork. Add the other ingredients, except egg yolks, and boil 15 minutes longer. Serve hot with 1 beaten egg yolk per serving (depending on taste), for thickening, and garnish with parsley, sliced hard cooked egg and plain boiled potato.


This piece was originally posted on Uri's blog.