Schooled by Isaiah: The Lessons of Tisha B’Av

By ILANA KRYGIER LAPIDES

Tisha b’Av, the saddest day of the Jewish year, begins at sunset July 29. While most Jewish holidays are ultimately celebratory (“They tried to kill us. We won. Let’s eat…”), Tisha b’Av is a rare exception. The ninth (tisha) day of the month of Av marks the destruction of the First Temple in 587 BCE and the Second Temple in 70 CE, as well as numerous other tragedies including: Bar Kokhba’s fallen rebellion (135 CE); the expulsion of Jews from Spain (1492); the Warsaw Ghetto liquidation (1942); and the bombing of the Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires (1994). We remember and commemorate this solemn day with a 25-hour fast.

On the Shabbat before Tisha b’Av, known as Hazon Yeshayahu, we read from the first chapter of Isaiah. It is a disturbing passage in which the prophet Isaiah, speaking the words of G-d, rebukes the Jews for their failure to act honestly and compassionately.

“Alas, she has become a harlot, the faithful city that was filled with justice, where righteousness dwelt – but now murderers!” (Is. 1:21).

Evidently, the Israelites have been going through the motions of devoutness while acting immorally in their regular lives. This strategy fails miserably; nothing makes G-d angrier than to see people treating other people poorly: “What need have I of all your sacrifices? Says the Lord. “I am sated with burnt offerings. Stop bringing meaningless offerings!” (Is. 1:11-13).

It becomes clear that our role in Judaism is to take care of one another even more than to worship G-d: “Wash yourselves clean; Put your evil doings away from My sight. Learn to do good. Devote yourselves to justice; aid the wronged. Uphold the rights of the orphan; defend the cause of the widow.” (Is. 1:16-17).

Isaiah’s message is timely in hundreds of ways. A topical example: Wearing masks. Public health experts have been fairly consistent in their messaging that wearing a mask in public, in addition to frequent hand-washing and social distancing, is the primary way to reduce the risk of spreading COVID.

We may feel fine, but there is a chance we are carrying a deadly virus that could destroy the life of someone we encounter: A young mother whose child is immune-compromised, the man at the grocery store going home to his elderly mother, the teenager whose little sister has asthma. The truth is, we just don’t know, and what we don’t know can kill us.

How is this the message of Isaiah? Because wearing a mask doesn’t much safeguard the person who is wearing it. The only reason to wear a mask is to protect those around us. It is a gift we give, from the goodness and wisdom of our hearts, to our neighbors, friends, family, and ultimately, the whole world.

Our community, and Canadians in general, are well-known for compassion and caring. Canadians treasure universal healthcare and prioritize education because, even if we are perfectly healthy and don’t have kids, it is in all of our best interests that our nation be healthy and educated. Our country is made up of a diverse group of people who, in all the ways that matter, are a lot like us; we look out for each other. We are a family and we are our brothers’ keepers.

Whether or not you observe Tisha b’Av, think about all that has befallen our people. Remember the loss and the sadness and how we want better for ourselves and our descendants. And when that day is done, continue to wear your mask in public to protect G-d’s children all around you. We are deserving of this gift, it keeps on giving, and it is the least we can do.


Ilana Krygier Lapides
Ilana Krygier Lapides

Ilana Krygier Lapides is a Jewish educator and storyteller. She is currently attending rabbinic school at the Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute and will be ordained in June 2021.

Nine Days of Vegetarian Fare Precede Tisha B’Av

By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN

Tisha b’Av, the ninth day of the month of Av, is an annual fast day that falls in July or August. This year, the fast begins on the evening of July 29.

Tisha b’Av is one of the most solemn days on the Jewish calendar. It commemorates a number of disasters in Jewish history, primarily the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE and the Second Temple in 70 CE. The fast has also become associated with remembrance of the Holocaust.

In the nine days leading to Tisha b’Av, many people refrain from eating meat or poultry. Those nine days of vegetarian eating fall within shloshim or “30 days,” the month-long period of mourning preceding Tisha b’Av.

For those who observe the dietary restrictions during the first days of Av, one can find many books and websites that offer vegetarian recipes. One of my favourite sources is The Brain Boosting Diet: Feed Your Memory, a cookbook/nutrition guide that was written by the late Jewish food maven, Norene Gilletz and Edward Wein.

Published at the end of 2019, just months before Gilletz’s death last February, The Brain Boosting Diet emphasizes recipes with fresh produce and whole grains.

Not all the recipes are vegetarian but the selection for vegetarian dishes is extensive. I am particularly fond of the Cauliflower-Crusted Pizza. I’ve made it many times with different toppings. It’s a real winner for pizza lovers who want to cut back on their white flour consumption.

I am also a fan of salads with Asian dressings. The Brain Boosting Diet has a variety of options in this category. I have received great feedback for the Kale Slaw with Peanut Dressing. The recipe also includes a substitution for the peanut butter, an ingredient that many people avoid due to the prevalence of peanut allergies.

CAULIFLOWER-CRUSTED PIZZA

Cauliflower Crust

1 medium cauliflower, florets only about 4 cups (1 L) finely riced cauliflower
½ cup (125 ml) spelt flour (or any flour you like)
½ cup (125 ml) almond meal/flour
½ tsp (2 ml) kosher salt
½ tsp (2 ml) garlic powder
1 egg
½ cup (125 ml) finely grated reduced-fat mozzarella cheese
2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil, for brushing

Cauliflower-Crusted Pizza. Photo Barbara Silverstein

Toppings

1 cup (250 ml) shredded smoked or reduced-fat mozzarella cheese (approx.)
12 cherry tomatoes, quartered (approx.)
Big handful of spinach (approx. 3/4 cup/185 ml)
10 fresh basil leaves, roughly torn

To Prepare the Cauliflower Crust

Place an oven rack in the second lowest position and preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush with olive oil. 

In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, pulse the cauliflower florets for 25–30 seconds, until they resemble rice. Measure 4 cups (1 L) riced cauliflower into a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with a damp paper towel and microwave on high power for 4 minutes.

Transfer the cauliflower to a clean kitchen towel and let cool. Wrap up the cauliflower in the towel and squeeze out as much moisture as possible.

Transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl. Add the spelt flour, almond flour, salt, and garlic powder and stir well. Add the egg and cheese and work the dough with your hands so that everything is evenly distributed.

Spoon the cauliflower mixture onto the parchment-lined baking sheet and carefully spread it out. (Tip: If you place another piece of parchment paper on top and press down it will help keep your hands clean.) Flatten the crust into an oval or round shape, creating a nice, raised edge.

Bake the crust for 12–15 minutes, until golden and set.

Toppings 

Remove the pan from the oven and add the toppings, starting with the cheese. Bake 10–12 minutes longer, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Remove the pizza from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Cut into wedges and enjoy.

Norene’s Notes

Never use parchment paper at temperatures over 425°F (220°C) as it will burn.

Gluten-free option: Replace the spelt flour with gluten-free flour (e.g., chickpea flour, gluten-free oat flour, or all-purpose gluten-free flour).

Nut-free crust: Omit the almond meal and increase the grated mozzarella to 1 cup (250 ml).

Top it up: In Step 7, add a handful of broccoli florets, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, zucchini, and/or diced red onion. Crumbled feta or goat cheese and/or grated Parmesan cheese also make tasty toppings.

KALE SLAW WITH PEANUT DRESSING

Kale Slaw

1 medium bunch kale (about 1 lb/500 g)
1 tbsp (15 ml) canola oil
4 cups (1 L) shredded red cabbage (or one 16-oz/500-g pkg)
2 cups (500 ml) shredded carrots (about 4 medium carrots)
1 red bell pepper, diced
½ cup (125 ml) diced red onion
½ cup (125 ml) chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
½ cup (125 ml) toasted slivered almonds (for garnish)

Peanut Dressing/Marinade

2 cloves garlic
¼ cup (60 ml) peanut butter (preferably natural with no added sugar)
2 tbsp (30 ml) rice vinegar
2 tbsp (30 ml) soy sauce or tamari (preferably low-sodium)
2 tbsp (30 ml) honey
1 tsp (5 ml) toasted sesame oil
3–4 tbs (45-60 ml) orange juice (preferably fresh)
Pinch red pepper flakes

Prepare the Peanut Dressing/Marinade as directed and refrigerate until needed.

Dressing

Mince the garlic in a mini prep or food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, orange juice, and red pepper flakes.

Process until blended, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. If it’s too thick, drizzle in a little more orange juice.

Store the dressing in a jar in the refrigerator until it’s ready to use. Shake well before using.

Kale Slaw

Wash the kale and dry it thoroughly. Remove and discard the tough stalks and centre veins. Chop the kale into bite-sized pieces and place it in a large bowl. Using your fingertips, massage the kale with oil for 2–3 minutes to break down the tough fibres.

Add the cabbage, carrots, red pepper, onion, and parsley. Drizzle the slaw with the prepared dressing and toss to combine. Refrigerate the slaw covered, to blend flavours.

At serving time, place the slaw into 8 individual salad bowls and top with almonds. Serve chilled.

Norene’s Notes

Peanut butter: Store natural peanut butter in the refrigerator. When needed, stir well, measure the desired quantity, and bring it to room temperature for easier blending. Alternatively, microwave the butter on medium for 30 seconds, then stir well.

Variation: Use almond butter (homemade or store-bought) instead of peanut butter. If you are allergic to peanuts or any nuts, use a peanut butter substitute.


Barbara Silverstein
Barbara Silverstein

Barbara Silverstein is a Toronto-area journalist and an award-winning food writer. She was a long-time contributor to The Canadian Jewish News. Her articles have also appeared in Homemaker’s Magazine, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, and Tablet Magazine.