Shabbat Shalom
Shabbat Toldot Macher Chodesh/ 28 Cheshvan 5775
Genesis 25:19-26:22 / I Samuel 20:18-42

This Shabbat, Stacey Robinson shares
Chicken Soup

We did not keep kosher when I was a kid. The closest we may have gotten was the story my mother used to tell, about how, when she was growing up, her father yelled at her one day, as she went to pour herself a glass of milk to go with her Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwich: "We don't mix milk and meat!" Funny how that works - I still don't keep kosher (though I toy with the idea these days), but I also don't mix milk with meat.

And, while we didn't keep kosher, my mother always used a kosher chicken when she made chicken soup. "It tastes better," she would say with a shrug. I have to say, she made amazing chicken soup. It was mostly for holidays, like Rosh Hashanah or Pesach - big, extended-family meals that came out in a thousand courses. At least, it seemed that way. Every one of them started with soup. And noodles - lokshen - unless it was Pesach, and then it was matzoh farfel instead. Knaidelach were best when they were hard as rocks; my family had no truck with soft and fluffy matzoh balls! When my bubbe was still alive, there were always kreplach, too: chopped, spiced meat and dough, a cross between ravioli and a knish. Mmm, but it was good!

It was heaven in a pot.

Every once in a while, my mother got it into her head to make "Shabbos dinner." To her, that meant the whole shebang: brisket and roasted potatoes, challah, candles and wine. And it always started with soup. Homemade chicken soup. In the midst of running around - dealing with kids and carpools and family and home - she would stop. Pause for a minute, and return to something that had traveled up through the generations, a symbol and sanctification, contained in a pot of soup.

I didn't have a huge connection to Shabbat s a kid, and that held true even as I moved into my adulthood. That connection came much later. Even so, I remember when I moved out of my parents' house into my own apartment, every so often, when I wanted to feel connected to something older and more than just the passing of weeks and the rushing of time, when Friday started to slip and I could feel it tug at me, inviting me to slip with it, I would take out a pot and prepare to make soup.

These days, Shabbat is less about soup and more about --

Huh. I was about to write, "More about Shabbat. More about celebration and community and prayer."

But you know - that's the chicken soup of my now. For me, for my family, the soup was the divider: it was special, out of the ordinary, a ritual that separated the everyday from something fine and rare, but connected me to family and tradition and love. It was Shabbat, in the same way that going to synagogue and being part of my Beth Emet community is now. It is the symbol, the sanctification of the moment, the pause - for breath and rest and peace - that welcomes in the holiness of Shabbat.

And, in case you're wondering about my mother's (and her mother's and her mother's mother's ad infinitum) recipe for killer chicken soup, here's the recipe (as it was given to me by my bubbe, with translation):

Bubbe's Recipe

Stacey's Translation

A pot, big enough to make soup

Use an 8qt pot or larger; I only know how to make a lot of soup

A chicken

At least 1, cut up. Kosher is good, but don't forget to pluck off all the tenacious feathers that seem to cling to the bird. Include the gorgle (neck bone), because that's how bubbe did it

Carrots

Cut in chunks or a bag of baby carrots

Celery

Cut in pieces, about 3 inches each, sometimes forgotten

An onion

Whole; yellow preferred; don't use Bermuda or sweet

Green pepper

A later invention taught to us by my cousin, the sabre, for flavoring only. This is optional, and certainly not part of the original recipe

Salt and pepper

Kosher, of course (the salt, not the pepper)

Fresh dill

The actual secret (as I've been assured) to real Jewish chicken soup. You need about 5 sprigs, not a whole bunch


 

Put chicken in the pot, add water to cover, plus some, over medium heat. Bring to a boil, skimming the bubbly stuff off the top every so often. After the first boil, lower the heat, add the rest of the ingredients. Remember - the slower the boil, the clearer the broth. Continue to skim the bubbly stuff, and simmer. Simmer for a really long time, until it smells like soup throughout the house. Tast3e occasionally; you'll need to add salt to taste. Keep simmering. Taste it. Don't forget to blow; it's hot! When it smells like soup, and tastes like soup, it's done. Remove from heat, let cool.

 

Remove all the stuff - chicken, carrots, onion, etc. Strain the soup through cheese cloth and a colander. This will help "clean up" the broth, but it's optional. Discard onion and whatever dill is still hanging around. Remove bones from chicken. I keep the broth separate from all the other stuff, mainly because my bubbe did, and my mother does. Certainly, if you've made noodles or matzoh balls, keep those separate from the broth. They are starchy, and that's not good for the long-term health of the soup.

 

Do this with someone - your kids, a friend, your mom. Talk about stuff, like life and God and Shabbat and justice and how you're felling and love and memory. These add a particular flavor to the soup that cannot be had in store-bought items. Even kosher ones.

 

Chill overnight - because it's always better the next day. As it warms for your dinner, light the candles to welcome in Shabbat. Say a few words over bread and wine - to remind us to be grateful for all that we have, all we've been given. And let us say: amen.

 

Stacey Zisook Robinson has been writing poetry and creative non-fiction since she launched her blog, 
Stumbling towards meaning, in 2009. Prior to that, she wrote in the old-fashion way, using pen and paper. Using a digital format, she can write faster, delete easier and reach a much wider audience. In addition to her blog, she is a regular contributor to the Reform Judaism blog, and is privileged to be a writer at several online sites, including iPinionsyndicate.com and thesmartly.com. She was published last year in the summer issue of Lilith Magazine, and was one of the featured authors in Beth Emet's Memorial Book for 2013/5774. She lives in Skokie with her son, Nate. Stacey is also the curator of The Shabbat Project, Beth Emet's weekly e-newsletter focusing on reflections of Shabbat
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Each Friday during 5775, we will be featuring writings from you, our congregants, sharing reflections on Shabbat. We hope you will be inspired to share your reflections with the community. If you are interested in contributing to this project, please contact Stacey Zisook Robinson
This Shabbat at Beth Emet

Friday, November 21
5:45 p.m.
Wine and cheese reception

6:30 p.m. 
Kabbalat Shabbat Services including a D'var Torah by Rabbi Andrea London and Tallulah Luck baby naming. 

Saturday, November 22
9:30 a.m.
Kahal Worship in the Weiner Room with Torah Reader Wiley Feinstein and
Torah Discussion Leader Zach Selch.
 
Shabbat Minyan in Room 208

10:30 a.m.
Madeleine Ross Bat Mitzvah in the Sanctuary 

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