The Blessing of Bibhilu …In the Moroccan Tradition



My cousin Avi introduced the ‘Bibhilu’ to our Passover Seder, a beautiful Moroccan tradition which Rabbi Daniel Bouskila explains in an article in the Jewish Journal a few years ago.  It is so deep and rich with meaning, so beautiful, that I am printing that story here (the link no longer seems to work.)

How beautiful and woven with richness is our tradition!   May we all have opportunities to share these traditions and always add new ones to our families, as well!

Pesah blessings, my friends!

The Jewish Journal
April 21, 2005
The Blessing of Bibhilu

A Sephardic ritual calls attention to God’s place at the seder table.

A book’s opening chapter is crucial to setting the mood and aura for the remainder of the book’s journey. Likewise, the opening scene of a film usually helps set the tone for what will ensue.

The Passover seder is both a reader’s experience and a moviegoer’s. We sit around the table and read the haggadah, and we also witness a host of rituals. But how does the seder leader creatively capture an audience and draw it into the experience from the beginning?

My father is neither novelist nor screenwriter, but from childhood he exposed me to a Moroccan seder ritual that immediately drew all those around the table into the full experience of a seder. This ritual is affectionately known amongst Moroccans as Bibhilu.

Following the kiddush, the karpas, and the yahatz (division of the matzah), the leader takes the brass seder plate, adorned with all of the ritual items, and he begins to walk around the table, waving the seder plate over each person’s head. As the plate is being waved, the entire gathering at the seder chants in unison: “Bibhilu yatsanu mimitsrayim” (“In a hurry we left Egypt”). When my father did this, each of us wondered whether he would simply wave the plate above our heads or knock us over the head with it. This ritual created lots of positive energy — between the anticipation of your turn under the plate and the chanting in unison of Bibhilu.

Yes, it’s a lot of fun. But is there a deeper spiritual meaning, or is this ritual simply some gimmick meant to create excitement among those who might be otherwise bored?

Throughout my life, I have always celebrated the seder in Moroccan fashion, Bibhilu and all. But only a few years ago did I first see a Moroccan haggadah.

At the beginning, there was, as in all haggadot, a drawing of the seder plate, illustrating the placement of each ritual item, which generally followed the Sephardic tradition. I had always known that Sephardic Jews arrange the seder plate differently than Ashkenazim, but again, I never knew why.

The Sephardic pattern, I knew, derives from tradition attributed to the great kabbalist from Safed known as the Ari (Rabbi Isaac Luria). In this haggadah, the drawing not only reflected the Ari’s Sephardic arrangement, but it added something that I had never seen, something which suddenly tied together for me the logic behind the Sephardic arrangement, and the reason behind the Moroccan Bibhilu ritual. Next to each ritual item on the plate was written one of the 10 kabbalistic sefirot, the mystical dimensions describing the sacred attributes of God. The three matzahs correspond to keter (crown), chochmah (wisdom) and binah (understanding); the shank bone corresponds to hesed (kindness); the egg corresponds to gevurah (strength); the bitter herbs correspond to tiferet (beauty); the charoset corresponds to netzach (victory), the karpas corresponds to hod (splendor), the hazeret corresponds to yesod (foundation); and the seder plate itself represents malchut (kingship).

It suddenly dawned upon me that, with this mystical arrangement, the seder plate is no longer just a platter carrying a selection of ritual items. The Ari’s Sephardic arrangement transformed the seder plate into a sacred representation of God, which means that when the seder plate is waved above your head during Bibhilu, you are being blessed by the spiritual strength of the Shekhina. The body of God, as represented by the sefirot, is now being waved above your head, and for the rest of the evening, the presence of the seder plate on the table represents the presence of the Shekhina in your midst.

From then on the Bibhilu ritual suddenly meant a lot more to me, because I now understood that, in addition to drawing in the audience, the Bibhilu ritual also represented a spiritual blessing for each participant as he or she prepares to set off on the haggadah’s storytelling journey from slavery to freedom.

As an American Jew raised in a Moroccan Jewish home, the Bibhilu ritual will always be part of my life. Having experienced it from childhood, and now coming full circle to understand its meaning, I will always look at the seder plate as a source of blessing and sanctity throughout the evening. Whether you are Moroccan or not, this ritual can become a powerful way to help infuse your seder with a newfound spiritual depth.

As it turns out, my father is now in a wheelchair, so he has transferred this privilege and responsibility to me. And yes, after all of those years under the seder plate, it’s lots of fun banging my father over the head while we all chant Bibhilu.

Daniel Bouskila is rabbi at Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel.
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Pesah Lyrics….Un Kavritiko and Kien Su Piense

Every year, I like to post the lyrics to two Pesah songs from the Parade of Hits we enjoy at our Seder – the Ladino versions of ‘An Only Kid’…’Un Kavretiko’ and ‘Who Knows One’…..’Kien Su Pience.’   (click on the links next to the songs to hear Yehoram Gaon sing them).

Everyone looks forward to these songs.  They help define ‘our’ Seder.  Our folks sang these songs when they were growing up, be it here in L.A., in Seattle or Montgomery, Alabama.   And their parents before them in our beloved Rhodes. (There was always a part when my Dad, of Blessed Memory, who grew up in Seattle and my Aunt Belina, of Blessed Memory, who grew up in Montgomery, would add a line to ‘Kien Su Piense’ that both their parents’ had used…. “Eloenu shebashamayim, nos iremos a Yerushalayim, con la caravana grande.'”…..we always waited for them to chime in with that!!!).  Our kids and grandchildren have learned them, their spouses and friends as well.  L’dor v’dor.  May we keep singing them for generations to come!

I find myself playing this music, along with my other favorite Ladino albums and Middle Eastern tunes when I’m in the midst of holiday cooking.  It conjures up memories of days gone by, generations past.  That invisible chain that connects us….how I love that feeling and that bond.

Have a good week as you prepare to greet your family for a Pesah Alegre…..a good, meaningful, joyful celebration together. Moadim LeSimha!

~Bendichas Manos


Un kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.

Y vino el gato, y komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre, por dos levanim, por dos levanim.

Y vino el perro, y modrio al gato, ke komio el kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.

Y vino el palo, y aharvo el perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.

Y vino el fuego, y kemo al palo, ke aharvo al perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.

Y vino la agua, y amato al fuego, ke kemo al palo, ke aharvo al perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim. por dos levanim.

Y vino el buey, y bebio a la agua, ke amato al fuego, ke kemo al palo, ke aharvo al perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.

Y vino el shochet, y degoyo al buey, ke bebio a la agua, ke amato al fuego, ke kemo al palo, ke aharvo al perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko, ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.

Y vino el Malach Hamavet, y degoyo al shochet, ke degoyo al buey, ke bebio a la agua, ke amato al fuego, ke kemo al palo, ke aharvo al perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.

Y vino el Santo Bendicho, y degoyo al Malach Hamavet, ke degoyo al shochet, ke degoyo al buey, ke bebio a la agua, ke amato al fuego, ke kemo al palo, ke aharvo al perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.


Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo es el uno?
UNO es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los dos?
DOS Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los tres?
TRES muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador,
baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los kuatro?
KUATRO madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y
Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los cinko?
CINKO livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los sesh?
SESH dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los siete?
SIETE dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los ocho?
OCHO dias de la millah, siete dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, ” Kualo son los nueve?
NUEVE mezes de la prenyada, ocho dias de la millah, siete dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los diez?
DIEZ mandamientos de la Ley, nueve mezes de la prenyada, ocho dias de la millah, siete dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los onze?
ONZE ermanos sin Yosef, diez mandamientos de la Ley, nueve mezes de la prenyada, ocho dias de la millah, siete dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los doje?
DOJE hermanos kon Yosef, onze hermanos sin Yosef, diez mandamientos de la Ley, nueve mezes de la prenyada, ocho dias de la millah, siete dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los treje?
TREJE son los Ikarim, doje hermanos kon Yosef, onze hermanos sin Yosef, diez mandamientos de la Ley, nueve mezes de la prenyada, ocho dias de la millah, siete dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Mos Abastava – Daiyenu

I want to share a story about a song in Ladino that we sing at the Seder.  It’s a song my parents remember from their youth that I had not heard during my years growing up at our Seder table.

A few year back, my friend Murray Weiss and I were leaving a meeting and talking about the upcoming Passover holiday. Recalling our shared Sephardic backgrounds we started talking (rather singing to each other!) the various Ladino songs our families sing for this holiday.  We knew the same top choices from the Sephardic Hit Parade. Then Murray asked about “Mos Abastava”… Mos what??? Murray told me it was the Ladino version of Daiyenu. Something brand new to me!

I saw my folks later and mentioned “Mos Abastava” which they both recalled with delight, saying that it was sung at their family Seders in their youth.  I looked it up, learned the words and we have since included it in our family Haggadah, hoping it will become part of our collective tradition.

At a later date, I heard a lovely tale from the brother-in-law of Ralph Amado (z”l) as to Ralph’s “introduction” of “Mos Abastava” at their family Seder.

Bits and pieces of our tradition….sometime hidden for a awhile, only to be uncovered, recalled, reclaimed and shared again.

Here are the words of “Mos Abastava”, from the Passover Agada; according to the Seattle Sephardic Tradition, 1995:

Ladino Version

Kuantos grados buenos a el Kriador sovre nos:

Si mos kitava de Ayifto, i non aziya en eyos justicias, mos abastava

Si aziya en eyos justicias, i non aziya en sus dioses, mos abastava

Si aziya en sus dioses, i non matava a sus mayores, mos abastava

Si matava a sus mayors, i non dava a nos a sus aciendas, mos abastava

Si dava a nos a sus aciendas, i non rasgava a nos a la mar, mos abastava

Si rasgava a nos a la mar, i non mos aziya pasar entre eya por lo seco, mos abastava

Si mos aziya pasar entre eya por lo seco, i non afinkava muestros angustiadores entre el, mos abastava

Si afinkava muetros angustiadores entre el, i non abastesia maestro menester en el dizierto cuarenta anyos, mos abastava

Si abastecia muestro menester en el dizierto cuarenta anyos, i non mos aziya comer a la magna, mos abastava

Si mos aziya comer a la magna, i non dava a nos a el Shabbath, mos abastava

Si dava a nos a el Shabbath, i non mos ayegava delantre monte de Sinai, mos abastava

Si mos ayegava delantre monte de Sinai, i non dava a nos a la ley, mos abastava

Si dava a nos a la ley, i non mos aziya entrar en tierra de Yisrael, mos abastava

Si mos aziya entrara en tierra de Yisrael, i non fraguava a nos a cas de el Santuvario, mos abastava


Sharing traditions…making memories!

Pesah Alegre ~ Moadim L’Simha!!

~Bendichas Manos

Keftes de Prassa … Pesah 2018


After a whirlwind trip to New York for a very special wedding, I returned home and got into ‘Pesah Prep’ mode.  When I walked into my mom’s home on Sunday morning, she had already prepared and fried 6 dozen Keftes de Prassa!! She knows they are a favorite for so many in our family and she wanted to make sure she had them made and ready for the family to enjoy!!

We serve Prassa (leeks) at Pesah as they are a spring vegetable.  We also serve them at Rosh Hashanah as part of the ‘yehi ratzonis’ – the Rosh Hashanah Seder.

In our family, there are vegetarians – (other families make them with ground meat.)
This is my mom’s method for Keftes de Prassa.


1 large onion – chopped

8 medium stalks of leek

3 eggs

2 tblsp matzah meal

1 C mashed potato or 1 C mashed potato flakes

pepper to taste

*optional pinch of red pepper flakes

*****(One side note – for ease of preparation: Trader Joe’s has packages of pre-cut leek in the freezer section – cuts down on preparation time!  Boil the leek for about 20 − 30 minutes until soft. Rise under cool water. Squeeze water from leek. (then squeeze again – and again. Then, just one more time – it is amazing how match liquid can be removed, and so doing will help ensure the best possible results.  Separately chop and boil the onion in a pot of water. Then continue as below.)

Prepare leeks. Cut 1/4″ from top and bottom. Cut in half vertically. Soak and clean leeks throughly. (leeks, by nature, often have a good amount of fine dirt between leaves. Make sure to clean carefully) Cut into 1/2″ pieces.


Boil cut leek and chopped onion in a pot of water ( covering mixture), until vegetables are soft and limp.

Drain ( squeeze out) all liquid. Add additional ingredients. Blend into an even leek-onion mixture. Shape into patties.


Fry : 2/3 C oil

Fry on medium heat until both sides are slightly browned.


Drain on a paper towel. Divine freshly made…..can be frozen, sealed tight.


Defrost and place on a cookie sheet and warm in the oven at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until warmed throughly.


~ Bendichas Manos

Sevollas Reinados – Stuffed Onions for Pesah

One of our family favorites is Sevollas Reinados, stuffed onions.  Savory and delicious, with a simple substitution, it can be Pesah friendly, and always appreciated as part of a holiday meal.   These are made with ground beef (although I prepare it with ground chicken which makes it a bit lighter, and my family prefers the taste.)  Another item that can be made ahead and frozen.  Give it a try and let us know what you think!

Approx 12 smaller sized onions

1 C matzah meal

1 lb ground beef

1 egg

S & P to taste

‘Handful’ of chopped parsley – I recommend 3/4 C (you can substitute or mix in cilantro for a punch)

1 beat egg  and 1 C matzah flour or matzah meal to use to coat top of each before browning


I C tomato sauce

1 C water

1 tsp sugar


Cut onions in half lengthwise.


Separate outer layers in double thickness.  (Save inner  pieces)



Combine ground beef, egg, parsley,  and chopped onion (from inner core saved when separating sections.)  (You knew we’d use them sonewhere!).  Add matzah meal.


Fill onion shells with this mixture



Dip meat side into matzah flour or matzah meal then into beaten egg before placing into frying pan with heated oil to brown.


After browning, place meat side up in casserole pan in which bottom has been covered with remaining sliced and chopped onions.



Cover with sauce made of tomato sauce, water and a tsp of sugar.  Cover casserole and bake in oven at 300 degrees for 1 hour.


This is one of many stuffed vegetable dishes we frequently prepare – stuffing tomatoes, zucchinis, small eggplants, bell peppers, cabbage leaves.  During the year, instead of matzah meal we often add bread crumbs or softened slices of bread for a binder – some use potato flakes (I like to use Panko).  Often, a ‘grainiko’  (a small grain – a handful) of rice is added to the meat mixture.    { I would make a heartier sauce – tomato sauce, lemon juice, water, garlic, S & P – and simmer it while I prepare my vegetables.  Then pour it over the vegetables.  That would make much more ‘caldo’ (sauce) when the stuffed vegetables are served with rice and the sauce spooned over the rice – but that’s for another time during the year!}

So many dishes to prepare for the week!   My mom has already started!  There is megina (Meat and matzah quajado), a delicious new chicken to try from Rachel Sheff (SEC Food Group  on Facebook ) Keftes de prassa (Leek patties), Bamya (okra), my cousin Sarita will make our family’s Haroset – then there’s the desserts – marochinos (almond macaroons),  mustachudos (nut confections), ashuplados (meringue clouds)…… wow!

Some of the best memories are made while preparing and cooking for the holidays.  Spend time with your families.  Remember and reflect on holidays past – tell stories; remember relatives. L’dor v’dor.  This is how we keep traditions fresh – how we keep memories alive.

Which reminds me – watch the movie ‘Coco,’ the new Pixar/Disney film.  Beautiful lessons on family, traditions, memory.   Nice to share other’s cultural traditions – nice to know the similarities we share – the importance of family and memory.  Beautiful film.  Perfect season to share it.

Busy time in the kitchen. We’ll share more in the days to come.  Looking forward to hearing of your menus, your traditions and your memories.

May your hands always be blessed!

~Bandichas Manos



Getting Ready for Pesah….Megina Recipe

As we begin to prepare for Pesah, it’s time to pull out the favorite family recipes, those familiar dishes that bind generations together, remind us of our connectedness…..brings us back to the familiar.  One of the staples of our seder meal is a megina, sometmes refered to as ‘mina,’ or a ‘meat quajado.’


My mom’s is made with crumbled matzah mixed in giving it a meat casserole- like consistency once cooked and able to be cut into and served in squares. The ‘mina’ version is often made with layers of soaked and softened matzahs and constructed more like a meat lasagna. I am sharing the recipe as my mom makes it for our family and as she has taught it in community cooking classes. This is one of those dishes you can customize to your liking, adding different spices for a differnt flair ( think cumin or ‘ras el hanut,’ diced peppers or even cilantro instead of parsley, to name a few).  This version is made with ground beef, although ground turkey or ground chicken could be substituted. Let us know what you think!

My Mom’s (Kaye Israel) Recipe for Passover ‘Megina’ (meat casserole) {sometimes called Quajado de Carne or Mina}

As one of my friends points out, anytime you start with sautéed onions and meat……how can you go wrong?

2 C chopped onions
2 lbs ground meat
2 tblsp oil
1/2 tsp pepper (to taste)
1 tblsp salt
1/4 c parsley, chopped
8 – 10 eggs
1 C farfel (soaked in warm water, and squeezed dry) or 4 sheets matzah (soaked in warm water, squeezed dry and crumbled)
touch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Brown onions in oil.



Add meat and continue to brown.



Transfer to bowl and allow to cool. Add salt, pepper, parsley and farfel (or matzah). Add 2 beaten eggs at a time until eggs are mixed in.



Grease 9 x 13 inch pan (pyrex type) and heat in oven for 2 – 3 minutes. Pour mixture into pan.


Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool. Cut into squares and serve. Delish!!!!


We serve this as part of our holiday meal.  It’s also a staple during the week.  Easy to cut a square for lunch and serve with a light salad for lunch or easy dinner.   Easy to transport for those who need to take a lunch to work or school. (I have one cousin who looks forward to megina each year with cranberry sauce on the side. I know, they didn’t have cranberries in Rhodes. That’s how we create new traditions!) Enjoy it!   Make it your own!

~Bendichas Manos

Happy Hour……Abedahu and Reshas!



A taste of abedahu (aboudaju, bottarga), Greek olives, reshas, a glass of raki….and Port Said playing in the background.   A meze to delight……’Happy Hour’ Rhodesli style.

We’ve written about finding the perfect abedahu, a salted, cured fish roe, a delicacy in our Rhodesli homes – made in Atlanta, GA by the legendary gastronomical culinary craftsman, Dan Maslia.  (for information on ordering his abedahu, contact Dan at Dan’s parents brought the recipe with them from Izmir, but it wasn’t until much later that Dan took up the art himself, making it side-by-side with Rabbi Robert Ischay(z’l), the beloved spiritual leader of Atlanta’s Or Ve Shalom Synagogue.


As a boy, Dan remembers cleaning fish at a fresh foods market and carefully removing the sack of eggs (the roe) along with the bones, the entrails that were discarded before the fish was cleaned and ready to sell.  Dan carefully salvaged the roe and brought it home for his mother, aunts and neighbors to clean, salt and cure on their back porches to make our precious abedahu.  From a time when nothing was left to waste, the roe was turned into a delicate, salted and cured ‘poor man’s caviar’ – savored by our folks.  It is served as a delicacy in Italy, referred to as the ‘truffle of the sea’, delicately grated over pasta or other dishes, adding a unique, savory taste to whatever it graces.  In Japan, it is called Karasumi, a highly prized and priced delicacy eaten while drinking saki.  A treasured delight.

It’s demand has driven up the price and limited the availability of the roe.  
Dan still manages to procure some of the finest mullet roe from the southern coast and prepare it as it has been for generations.  The amber, golden bars (or ‘dethos’ (fingers) as we call them) are a sight and taste to behold, ‘intense and elegant,’ as described by Lucianna Squadrilli, ‘with a pleasant, bitter aftertaste.’  (definitely an acquired taste.)    We love it with a slice of a baguette, or better, with a resha…..a light-as-a-feather, pretzel-shaped, sesame covered biscuit from a yeast dough.

Reshas or reshikas as they are sometimes called, are a favorite in our family. A resha is not actually sweet or savory; it is light and has a crunch that is sensational, especially if you love texture in your food! With a piece of abedahu, a few olives, some raki……our Happy Hour.

Reshas with a cup of coffee or tea and with a chunk of sharp cheese, a delight! My husband and my sons love them with dips such as tarama (a Sephardic caviar spread), with tzatziki (a Greek yogurt dip), and with ajada (a potato and garlic dip). Mostly, they love knowing they are in the kitchen, and grab one when passing through!!!!   Reshas take time to make.

So….how does one make these divine reshas?     Start by making a yeast dough.

Kaye’s Resha Recipe

2 packets of Yeast Powder or 4 heaping tblsp of dry yeast

1 1/2 C + 1 tsp sugar

1 C lukewarm water

1 C oil

6 – 8 C flour

Start with 2 packets of fresh yeast ( always check expiration date on package).  Place in a glass bowl. (*rinse bowl in warm water first).  Add 1/2 C of lukewarm water. Add 1 tsp of sugar.  Set aside in a warm place ( a toaster oven or microwave….not turned on).  Allow yeast to proof ( foam), about 20 minutes.


Meanwhile, sift flour into a mixing bowl.  (How much flour? you ask.)  Start with 1 – 2 C to get mixing started. Add 1 ½ C of lukewarm water, oil, and 1 1/2 C of sugar.  You’ll note that we have said “lukewarm” water several times.  This means…..not cold from the tap, and not hot.  Hot water will kill the yeast, and not only will your dough not rise, it will become heavy and brick like. Trust me….I’ve figured in the past that if warm is good, hot is better.  Was I wrong!  I ended up with a batch of doorstops, paperweights and hockey pucks!!!!   SO…warm means….just that, warm!!!!  (Now, go forth and figure out for yourself what that means!!!)

My mom use an electric Mix Master with a dough hook.


As you start mixing, add the foaming yeast mixture. Then, add additional sifted flour, approximately 1/2 cup at a time…..ultimately about 7 Cups. (Add it slowly….it will “suddenly” start to come away from the sides of the bowl and become “dough”). When it begins to come away from the sides, turn the dough onto a floured wood surface or table, adding approximately 1/2 cup additional flour. Work the dough; knead it. You want the dough not to be sticky as long as you can handle it without it sticking to your hands. To achieve this feel with the least amount of flour produces the best results. (You’ll get the feel of it, honest!)


Put it in a bowl, cover with a piece of Pam-sprayed plastic wrap. Tuck the plastic edges in nice and cozy! Put the dough in a “warm” (i.e. draft-free) place and let it rise for about an hour. My mom will tell you this is a good time to go make the beds, or straighten up the house. My cousin Sarita will tell us it’s a good time to run up to Neiman’s and see what’s new. I’ll tell you it’s a great opportunity to start preparing some biscocho dough and make a day of baking!!!! You choose!




After it rises for an hour, punch it down…


Cut the dough into walnut sized pieces.


Roll each piece into a long rope, perhaps 12″ long:

Turn into a pretzel-like shape.  “Paint” with an egg-wash and dip into sesame seed.  Place onto parchment lined cookie sheet.


Now, let them rest for another hour under cover as they rise again. Place in a preheated 350 degree oven. Here’s the important part: place baking sheet on low oven rack for about 10 minutes or until bottom of reshas begin to turn a golden color. Then place them on the upper rack of the oven. It should take about another 10 – 15 minutes until the tops become a golden brown as well. (This depends on the oven and might take a try or two to figure out the exact timing).

Remove from oven and allow to cool.  Return them to a 200 degree for 1 hour to “biscochar” ( crisp ’em up). Enjoy!!!


Now you’re ready.     Get your raki…..slice the abedahu.  A few greek olives…..turn on Port Said……a few reshas.   It’s time for Happy Hour!     Enjoy!

~Bendichas Manos~


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A Sephardic Shabbat, Delicious Desserts and a Story…….

Have you ever experienced being transported to a different place when you hear a specific song or a specific kind of music?   Maybe you remember who you were with or where you were when you hear a old favorite.   Or a song can remind you of a feeling you had or an experience you were going through when you heard it and it had touched you.  There is memory in music.   Music can, and often does, have a transformative effect on us.  All types and kinds of music.

I think this is one of the reasons that Sacred Music, Liturgical Music is so meaningful to so many.  It touches our soul.  It reminds us of times shared with our families when we were young – it reminds of places we might have grown up in that we now miss.  It brings up a longing.  Sometimes it touches a places in our ethnic soul that we don’t even realize. A place within us that we might not even remember.  But our soul remembers.   That is the magic of music.

So it was on Friday evening, January 5, 2018 when Cantor Jackie Rafii brought Asher Shasho Levy, Jamie Papish and Rabbi Jay Shasho Levy to share the bimah with her for a Shabbat Service in the Sephardic tradition.  The melodies, the chanting, the sounds absolutely touched my soul and transported me to an altogether different place and time.  I was entranced and enriched.  And from the reactions of those around me, the majority of others felt the same.   A spiritual awakening of the senses.

If you go to this link: STS Live Stream Services and SELECT the Friday Night Shabbat Service 01/05/2018 you can hear the beautiful music of Cantor Jackie Rafii, Asher Shasho Levy, Jamie Papish and Rabbi Jay Shasho Levy.  It was truly something special. (I’m listening as I type….aman, aman!  It’s a treat!)   Shomrei Torah Synagogue is blessed to have Cantor Jackie Rafii join Rabbi Richard Camras Camras and Cantor Ron Snow, all who are willing to share their bimah and always enhance our meaningful community experiences.


During the service I had the opportunity to share some comments on growing up Sephardic. I want to share them with you here:

“Being Sephardic… the youngest age, who knew any different?

Everyone in my world was Sephardic, our families having come from the same small community in Rhodes, an island in the Mediterranean….my family, our closest circle of friends, were made up of cousins…..second cousins, third cousins….cousins of cousin’s. (We were a pretty insular group.)

We ate the same foods at our grandmother’s houses or community gatherings…..boyos, burekas, sweets like biscochos, ashuplados….We were born and grew up in America so we knew American foods, too.  But for family gatherings…..keftes, avicas con arroz, fasulia….that was our ‘soul food.’

The language of our grandparents, our parents and the community was Ladino, a Judeo-Spanish that had been part of our family since living in Spain, through the expulsion in 1492, moving to the Ottoman lands, my family, as I said, to Rhodes, ….Turkish when my grandparents left, then Italian….now Greek.    The Spanish became intertwined with phrases in Turkish, Hebrew and Arabic.

Ours was a strong Jewish tradition – a proud tradition.  It wasn’t until I started school that I really understood that not everyone who was Jewish shared the same Jewish tradition as we did.   In fact…..once I left the confines of the family, it seemed that ‘most’ of the Jews that I met ‘out there’ shared a Jewish tradition that was quite different than ours.

Growing up, it was a rare occasion when my parents and I would visit a delicatessen in Leimert Park, Newman’s, and have a bagel with lox and cream cheese.  “Exotic.”  I was an adult before I indulged in the ‘delicacies’ of gefilte fish, kugel or bobka!  The Ashkenazi world out there….a whole different ball game. But it was the dominant expression of what was Jewish in America.

As a youngster, it was hard to know exactly where to fit in.  We weren’t Yiddish, bagel and latke Jews. And although our families spoke Ladino, we didn’t fit the LATINO profile.

The 1970’s were a time of Ethnic Pride.  On college campuses all over the country, people were finding their roots….Black Power, Pan African Studies, Mexican-American History…..even Jewish Studies found its way onto campuses.

And onto the scene came the American Sephardi Federation, a grassroots, groundbreaking, amalgamation of distinct, unique, Jewish, cultural communities that traced their recent roots to the Mediterranean and Levant.

The Sephardim.   Finally……a place I fit in!!!!!

In 1973 we brought together the first group of young people from across the country….from communities representing Rhodes, Turkey, Greece, Morocco, Syria, Iraq, Iran, India…..all under the banner of the ASF.  We met locally, nationally, internationally.  They were Us.

How fun it was to gather in Atlanta, Georgia at that first Convention and meet other young people…..from New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle.   Maybe different regional accents….but they knew about boyos and burekas, too!  ….  wow!

Then we met others…..who prayed with the same Hebrew accent as we did, same melodies…..but they didn’t speak Ladino.  They spoke a Judeo-Arabic.

But some of the words and phrases were similar or the same.  Their families were from Morocco, Syria.
Then there were the Iraqis….some who had gone to Iran, some to Bombay.  Their language was all together different….but we all prayed the same.  Together….we had things in common.  Our world views, not totally….but more similar.  Our foods, more similar.

We came back to our homes and our cultural pride exploded.  We began planning and executing programs all over the city.  The Jews of Rhodes.  The Jews of Morocco.  The Jews of Syria.  Each had a night of their cultural history, music and foods.  Young adults came out of the woodwork to claim their place in their story.  The general Sephardic community followed suit.  It was a great cultural awakening. We held conventions up and down the coasts, groups flying from Los Angeles to Seattle.  The next year we had 500 teens from across the country fly to Los Angeles to express their Sephardic pride.

Around this time, one of the local Rabbis wanted to meet with me.  I finally made some time and was excited to tell him about all our successes in gathering so many young people to celebrate their cultural heritage.  ‘But what about classes on Torah, and classes about Shabbat?,’  He asked. ‘No, you don’t understand,’ I told him.  ‘They’re not coming for that.  They’re coming to connect to their cultural heritage.  To find where THEY fit in to the Jewish story.  They want boyos and borekas from Rhodes. They want the sights and sounds of Aleppo.  The flavors of Fez.  You don’t understand, Rabbi.’  ‘No,’ he said.  ‘YOU don’t understand.  You can’t be Sephardic if you’re not Jewish ’.

It took me a few years to really internalize and get his message.  But I got it. And he was right.

There’s more to our heritage than just our cultural traditions….. and truthfully.  That goes for all of us, whatever our cultural background


So let’s jump ahead a few years… we are.  We’ve grown past our college years.  Many of us have married.  Some…..well, some, like myself, a Sephardia, married, an Ashkenazi ….(it happens) an INTERMARRIAGE!

We have two boys, Askefards, we call them.  The best of both traditions.


Traditions might vary.

But we all follow the same Torah.

When it came time to look for a neighborhood synagogue, one our children could grow up in – and learn the basics of Judaism  – CBK became the obvious choice for us in the West Valley. CBK morphed into STS. And it became our home.  Our family has grown up here at Shomrei Torah Synagogue.  And our family, while holding tight to many Sephardic traditions during holidays and life cycle events, has incorporated many new traditions that we’ve learned from our STS family and friends.

We live, what we like to call, a new American Judaism….
The best of our cultural traditions, rich and textured as they are, sprinkled with traditions of the place where we live.  Within the framework of the Torah – which we all share.”


The service was followed by lovely Shabbat dinner and delicious Sephardic desserts enjoyed by 225 guests, who lingered and enjoyed each others company.    The desserts were lovingly gifted and prepared by a group of volunteers, led by master baker Kaye Israel.  The bakers included Marilyn Conrad, Sharlene Blau, Judy Yaniv Goldberg, Sandi Gilbert, Cantor Jackie Raffi, Maxine Schwartz, me (Marcia Weingarten) and the invaluable help and support of Sue Moss. Pictures of the desserts and the recipes are included:

Recipes for Desserts Prepared for Sephardic Shabbat at Shomrei Torah Synagogue January 5, 2018


Biscochos de Huevo

Biscochos are often called tea biscuits.  We think of them as a “biscotti”, a crunchy treat!  Biscochos are a bit sweet and are wonderful with your morning coffee (could be afternoon or evening coffee or tea or even milk, for that matter!!)

Ingredients for My Mom’s Biscochos

1 C eggs

1 C sugar

3/4 C oil

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla flavoring

5 – 7 C flour


1 egg + 1 drop of water, beaten well

sesame seeds

(alternative to sesame seeds:  cinnamon and sugar or “sprinkles”)

These are my mom’s directions:

With electric mixer, beat eggs and oil in a mixing bowl.  Add sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until well blended.  Add flour and baking powder gradually, knead into a medium dough until no longer sticky.

Place onto floured work area and finish kneading dough with additional flour as needed. Dough should not be sticky as long as you can handle it without it sticking to your hands.

Take walnut-sized pieces and roll down on table with palms of hands into a rope 5 inches long and only 1/2 inch thick.

Press down with fingers to create channel;

Fold rope over and cut slits into the edge.

Join into a bracelet shape.  Brush egg on top side.

Dip top side into chosen topping ( sesame, cinnamon sugar or sprinkles):

Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 12 minutes or until lightly brown. Remove from pan.  Allow to cool.


Baklava is a sweet pastry made of layers of Filo dough filled with chopped nuts and bathed in a sweet syrup. It is labeled as a Turkish, Greek or any of a variety of Middle Eastern delicacy. Our families made it on the Island of Rhodes, so we claim it as our own.

There are many variation in making Baklava. Different communities feature different nut mixtures and dIfferent configurations when baking. My mom makes a rolled variety. Here is her recipe:

Kaye Hasson Israel makes Baklava


1 Lb prepared FIlo Dough
5 Cups almonds, ground (or other nuts of your choosing)
1 C Sugar
1/2 tsp ground Cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 C oil in a small bowl.
1/2 C Tasted Sesame Seeds (optional)

Prepare a mixture using ground nuts, sugar, cinnamon and gloves. Set aside.

Open package of Filo. Keep moist and usable by placing a moist cloth over the waxed paper covered batch of Filo that you are not currently using ( otherwise, Filo has a tendency to dry out).

Place one layer of Filo on your work surface. Brush with oil. Place a second layer of Filo directly on top. Brush second layer with oil.

Kaye Israel making Baklava

Sprinkle nut mixture in a thin, even layer on brushed Filo. Top with one additional sheet of Filo. Brush with oil.

Begin to roll Filo tightly. Slice rolled Filo log at a diagonal. Cut approximately 1 inch in length. Place cut pieces on a cookie sheet, lined with parchment paper.


Bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes (Since ovens vary, watch as it bakes…when it begins to take on color, you can remove from the oven)

Allow to cool.

In the meantime, prepare syrup.

Syrup ingredients:

1 1/2 C Honey
1 1/2 C Sugar
1 C Water

Combine all ingredients. Boil on stove. Cook until it becomes “sticky” (if you have a cooled bit between your fingers, it should form “strings”)

When syrup is ready, pour over tray of baked Baklava. Allow syrup to soak in.

For serving, “soaked” piece of Baklava can be placed in size-to-fit paper Bake Cups (often called Cupcake liners) and placed on a serving platter.


Baklava Seph Shabbat Jan2018


Marochinos are an almond macaroon type of cookie.  They are an excellent parev dessert for any time of the year, and a favorite for Passover.   Make a batch and enjoy them!!


2 C blanched almonds

1 C sugar

2 eggs…whites only

Blanched Almonds Marochinos Seph Shabbat Jan 2018

Grind blanched almonds to near a fine consistancy.  Mix in a bowl with sugar.

Ground Almonds Marichinos Seph Shabbat Jan 2018

Add egg whites and add almonds and sugar. (do NOT beat egg whites prior to adding. This will flatten the cookies during baking)  Mix until biscuit-dough consistency.  Using a tablespoon or metal scoop, drop 1″ apart on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 10 minutes in a pre-heated 350 degree oven.

Making Marichinos Seph Shabbat Jan 2018
Marichinos out of Oven Seph Shabbat Jan 2018

Allow to cool completely before handling. Will harden as they cool.

Marochinos Seph Shabbat Jan 2018


IMG_8560Growing up, we knew it was a very special occasion when Grandma made Ashuplados……meringue clouds! Sweet….light as a feather, a light shell on the outside. Texture, sweetness……simply….divine!!! They look beautiful on a sweet table, and delight young and more mature and sophisticated palettes alike!  These are one of my mom’s signature delicacies.    Give them a try! And let us know how they turn out!!   (They are great to add to your Passover collection!)

Kaye (Hasson) Israel’s Ashuplados


1 ¾ Cup sugar

6 eggs – (you will use the whites ONLY)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Separate eggs. Use whites ONLY.

Place in a COMPLETELY dry mixing bowl. (moisture will adversely affect the creating of the meringue).

Using an electric stand mixer, begin mixing the egg whites and gradually add the sugar. Continuing beating on high for approximately 20 minutes. Mixing will be done when the mixture stands in very stiff peaks.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. ( there was a time when brown paper bags were cut and used to line these pans to ensure a very dry surface. However, parchment seems a more sanitary alternative available these days!!

Spoon mounds of the meringue onto the lined cookie sheets.

Ashuplados can be made as large or small as you wish.

My mom used heaping tablespoons to create these clouds.

We sprinkle nonpareils on top for a festive look.

Before putting them in the oven, TURN HEAT DOWN to 225 degrees.

Bake for one hour.

Ashuplados can be made one day before serving. They are best enjoyed for a day or two after preparation. By the third or fourth day they become dry and are not as good as when first prepared.

(* however, we have learned over the past few years that ashuplados freeze beautifully!  Package delicately and freeze within the first day they are made).

Yield: approximately 48 ashuplados



In our home, we have always used a variety of nuts in baking.  (Moustachudos are the cookies that were sprinkled with powdered sugar).  The cloves give them a special “kick”.  These treats can be made in advance and freeze well. (Another one that can be added to your Passover collection).

Ingredients for Moustachudos:

1 1/2 C pecans or walnuts, coarsely ground

1 1/2 C almonds, coarsely ground

3/4 C sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1 egg

water – 1/2 eggshell full

Coarsely grind all nuts.

Add other ingredients including 1/2 eggshell filled with water.  (folks, that’s how it’s done!!)

Shape into triangle or ball shapes about 1″ in diameter.

Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 5 or 10 minutes in a 400 degree oven until lightly brown.

Allow to cool and harden before removing from pan.  Sprinkle with confectioners’ (powered) sugar.

It was a joyfully wonderful Shabbat experience.  The music was soul stirring!  The Sephardic delicacies were a delight to share.  Shomrei Torah Synagogue in West Hills, CA is a wonderful community.  If you are ever in the area, we invite you to visit,  If you live in the are, come by.  We would love to have you join us.  Visit us at

As always, Bendichas Manos.   May your hands always be blessed.

Masapan – Marzipan; To Make a Wedding Sweet

Re-posting….recipe for Masapan:

My cousin is getting married this weekend.  Actually, it’s my cousin’s grandson.
This is the eldest grandson of my mom’s eldest nephew – and my mother and her nephew grew up practically as siblings.  We’re a close knit group. We try and keep our relationships strong and keep our traditions alive.

With the wedding this weekend, the cousins got together and made bombonieres, the favors given to each guest, made of Jordan almonds and foil-wrapped chocolate kisses, all wrapped together in tulle, with a ribbon tying it together.  These are traditions likely woven into our customs from our Greek and Italian neighbors. The almonds are bitter on the inside with sweet coating on the outside. There are five almonds in the package – an indivisible number. So should be their life.  Through the ups and downs, the bitter and sweet – they will face life together, and remain united and as one.  And the number five corresponds to five blessings the guests wish for the new couple – health,  happiness, children, financial success and long life. The chocolate kisses… I think they looked pretty in the mix, and added an extra touch of sweetness! All are gathered together in a circle of tulle, tied with a ribbon that is imprinted with the names of the bride and the groom and either the date of their wedding or a special saying for them.   A nice keepsake of the day.


Yesterday, my mom made masapan (Marzipan) for the wedding, another tradition.  “If my mother or my sister were here, they would make it.  As long as I’m able, I’ll make it, so we can carry on the tradition. You girls learn to make it for the next generation.”

As we’ve shared on this blog before, ‘masapan’……marzipan….is that delicious sweet that our mothers lovingly make for engagements, weddings, a brit mila or a Bar (and today even a Bat) Mitzvah.  Basically a homemade almond confection made with ground almonds and sugar, marzipan traces it’s origin to …..well….that depends.  Some say the Persian empire, introduced to Europe by the Turks;  others claim the origin to be Spain.  In any case, it got to us, was a delicacy on our beloved Island of Rhodes, and our grandmothers brought it here with them when they came to these shores.

While some from Eastern Europe talk of marzipan being colored and fashioned into miniature, fruit-like shapes, our variation is kept in it’s white, pure state, made into a simple design.

My mother, Kaye Hasson Israel, uses a recipe shared with her by Rebecca Levy. Here is the recipe and photos. This recipe makes about 125 pieces of masapan.


6 C almonds
3 C sugar
4 C water
Start with raw almonds.    To blanche, bring a pot of water to a boil. ( enough water to cover the almonds).  When water boils, add almonds and leave them in for 4 to 5 minutes (until skin is loose).
Rinse in a colander with cold water.  Remove the skins from the almonds and place almonds into a bowl of cold water ( to prevent discoloration).
Take a clean towel and dry almonds thoroughly.
Put almonds into food processor with blade.
Grind to a fine texture.


In the meantime,  mix sugar and water and heat over medium/high flame.  Make sure sugar dissolves.  Bring to a boil.  This is to make a sticky syrup.  Stir and watch carefully so it does not discolor or burn.



Test for correct stickiness by removing spoon from pot, allow it to cool a bit, placing a drop on your fingers and noting a ‘thread’ of sugar when pressing then pulling apart finger and thumb.


At this point, lower the heat and add ground almonds.  Thoroughly  blend and constantly stir mixture.   Cook and stir masapan until it reaches a dough-like consistency.(continuously stir over medium heat…..seriously….. continuously stir.  It can easily burn if not consistently stirred.  A good opportunity to develop those arm muscles!!)  ( it will cleanly leave the sides and bottom of the pan when ready).   Remove from heat and allow to thoroughly cool.



Once cooled, knead on your rolling surface to create a smooth dough.  Pinch off small portions and roll into a long strip.  (Perhaps cut into 10 – 12 portions before rolling).


Keep a bowl of water handy.  Dampen your rolling surface and hands, as it will make it easier to roll out.  Cut at an angle into diamond shaped pieces.



Our tradition has been to top with a decorative silver ball ( dragees ). These are for decoration and not to be consumed. (although for this wedding, we topped them with decorative gold balls)


For engagements, our tradition has been to make a “mano” (hand) fashioned out of masapan, with silver dragees across the ring finger.  This is fashioned on a tray, surrounded by cut pieces of masapan, jordan almonds and often, a gold leafed piece of ‘aruda’ ( the rue plant).

Masapan Mano

Like all our delicacies, masapan takes a bit of practice.  And the results are divine!
Always a blessing to have these special traditional treats made by loving hands for the special occasions in our lives.  And l’dor v’dor.  May we all continue the traditions for our children and our children’s children.
Bendichas manos! As with the love in our hearts, may our hands continue to be blessed!

Delicious Delicacies…the Flavors and Foods of our Heritage

IMG_2400What is the thread weaving together the Rue Tigrane Pacha in the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria, Shah Street in the cosmopolitan city of Teheran, and the Puerta de la Mar in the Old Town of Rhodes, once a part of Turkey and now a part of Greece? And what do ‘cahk’, ‘toot’ and ‘ashuplados’ have in common?

These are the tastes and the neighborhoods we once called home. “Cahk” is an Egyptian egg and sesame biscuit, “toot” a Persian marzipan delicacy shaped like white mulberries, and “ashuplados” are meringue clouds from the Island of Rhodes. These recipes and recollections, along with other multi-cultural delicacies, make up the new Sephardic Heritage Cookbook, produced by the Or Chadash Sisterhood of Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel in Los Angeles. The Sisterhood originally produced a cookbook in 1971, which has sold several thousand copies throughout the world over the past 40 some years.

Since that time, Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel has grown, evolved and become home to a growing number of Jews from throughout the Ottoman lands and the Middle East, as well as new generations of young families drawn to the warmth and vibrancy of the community. Each group has brought with them a cultural and culinary tradition that together create a beautiful ‘salad bowl’ of diversity that makes Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel such a rich and enriching place to call home.

The ‘Cookbook Group’ has been meeting for the past five years, sharing recipes and traditions from Turkey, Morocco, Rhodes, Iran, Israel, Curacao, Egypt and South America. Our diversity makes us unique – bringing new flavors and traditions to the table; always marveling at the similarities we share.

The new cookbook, replete with or stories and photographs of delicious delicacies, is a volume that all collectors of ‘Sephardica’ will want for their library……and ‘foodies’ and cooks of all backgrounds will want in their kitchen. Get a copy for yourself – and get a few for gifts!

Enjoy cooking ….and may your hands always be blessed!

~Bendichas Manos, Marcia

You can purchase them online at Books are $32 each + shipping (buy 3 or more and receive a 10% discount on books.) {Can be shipped anywhere in the US for an additional $5/copy}