Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah

The final Jewish holidays to celebrate in September are Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.  In Israel and among liberal Jews these two holidays are combined into one holiday on the day after the end of Sukkot.  For more traditional Jews these two holidays are observed separately on two consecutive days.  Shemini Atzeret means the “Eighth Day of Assembly,” while Simchat Torah means “Rejoicing in Torah” or "rejoicing in law."  Simchat Torah seemed the more prominent of the two. This holiday is for celebrating the Torah (which is the Religious text of Judaism) and is a day for all members of the temple to come in contact with and celebrate the Torah and affirm the centrality of Torah in their lives.

 In many synagogues on Simchat Torah, each member of the congregation is called to the Torah for an aliyah (going up, which refers to the honor of ascending the bimah to recite the blessing before and after the Torah is read). Other synagogues may call all children who have not yet reached the age of bar or bat mitzvah to the Torah. Before the entire congregation the children receive a special blessing from the rabbi. 

During these holidays many Jewish families will still take their meals in the Sukkah (more information on Sukkot can be found here)  In addition to celebrating the Torah this festival is also a time for gathering and celebrating the harvest.  

I talked to the boys about Judaism again- there are a lot of Jewish holidays in September!  This time I told them the holiday was to celebrate the holy book that contains all the important information for the religion.  I said it has all the important stories, laws, and customs explained.  For our craft we made our own "Torahs"

 Supplies:  Tape, popsicle sticks, construction paper.

Supplies:  Tape, popsicle sticks, construction paper.

We used tape, popsicle sticks and construction paper.  My Middle son helped tape the ends and ran away.  So I rolled his up and put a secret message in it.  Then my older son who said he didn't want to do the craft was intrigued.   So I showed him the secret message and he asked why it looked that way.  I explained this is kind of what the Torah looks like in a Synagogue.   He opened the "Torah"  and decided that his would be a treasure map.  So he enthusiastically made his into a treasure map.

 Taping the sticks to the paper.

Taping the sticks to the paper.

 Holding our "torah"

Holding our "torah"

 Turning his into a treasure map.

Turning his into a treasure map.

For our recipe we made "stuffed cigars."  There were many recipes for foods that resembled the torah but this one sounded delicious to me.  They had me at feta.  My middle child loves all food so feta was great for him too.  However my oldest is the picky one of our family so I made him some with cheddar instead of feta and they were pretty decent too.  However some of the cheddar "cigars" exploded while baking.  We had extra phyllo dough so I did a quick dessert of melted butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon and wrapped those up and the boys went crazy for those.

We used the recipe from here.

Our dough casing

8-10 sheets phyllo (filo) dough, about ½ of a 16-oz. package

Potato-feta filling

  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled or just scrubbed, and cut into ½-inch cubes 
  • 1 Tablespoon butter, olive oil, or margarine 
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1/3 cup milk 
  • 1 egg, beaten 
  • 3 oz. feta cheese (about ½ cup), crumbled 
  • Pinch nutmeg 
  • Salt to taste 
  • ½ stick butter or margarine, melted 

Cheddar potato filling:

  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled or just scrubbed, and cut into ½-inch cubes 
  • 1 Tablespoon butter, olive oil, or margarine 
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1/3 cup milk 
  • 1 egg, beaten 
  • 3 oz. feta cheese (about ½ cup), crumbled 
  • Pinch nutmeg 
  • Salt to taste 
  • ½ stick butter or margarine, melted

Cinnamon sugar filling: 

  • Melted about 2 Tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • sprinkle of cinnamon

METHOD: 

We made the cigars by first peeling then boiling the potatoes for about 20 minutes. 

After they were soft I removed the potatoes. 

In two different small pots I heated oil and then added crushed garlic cloves.  Immediately after I added the potatoes and cheese and mashed together.  While mashing I added the milk, egg, nutmeg, and salt. 

 My oldest has lately been extra silly whenever the camera comes out.  Here he is spreading butter on the dough.

My oldest has lately been extra silly whenever the camera comes out.  Here he is spreading butter on the dough.

After cooking we got to work by "painting" oil onto the phyllo.  Be sure to cover the phyllo dough that you are not working with because it dries up really fast.  The boys both saturated their sheets and layered them with two layers.  Then we added the filling and rolled up the "cigars" and folded the ends under and placed them on a parchment lined baking sheet.  We then did an egg white wash over the tops of each "cigar"   We cooked the "stuffed cigars" for about 20 min at 350F.  

 Middle rolling the "cigars"

Middle rolling the "cigars"

I then made the desserts while the boys were off playing.  I melted the butter and stirred in the sugar and cinnamon.  Then I went to work by "painting" the sheets with another dish of melted butter and layered two sheets of phyllo and put the mixture in and rolled them up and topped with an egg white wash- same as the cheesy filled ones.  These only cooked for 8 or 10 min and they were done.  These also exploded a little but that was not a problem for the boys they ate them up anyway.

     
 Plate full of cheese "cigars"

Plate full of cheese "cigars"