Thursday, November 17, 2011

What's a Few Shekels Between Friends? Parshat Chayay Sarah

While the name for this week's portion, Parshat Chayay Sarah, is translated as "the life of Sarah," it actually opens with the death of our matriarch. Though Sarah lived a long life, dying at age 127, Abraham is still beside himself with the loss. He mourns for Sarah and then sets about finding a proper place to bury his beloved.

Ever since God promised Abraham the land of Israel as an inheritance for himself and his future nation, Abraham has been on the move in and out of the area. They are back in the land when Sarah passes and he must now put roots down in purchasing a burial plot for her in Hevron. He feels like an outsider in the country right now and approaches his Hitite neighbors admitting "I am a resident alien among you, sell me a burial site among you." While the Hitites respect Abraham, they too see him as an outsider and are hesitant to sell him a plot of land for burying his wife, which they know will remain in his family for generations.

Abraham asks them to help him negotiate with a man named Ephron who owns a cave that Abraham has eyed as a perfect place to bury Sarah. But Ephron overhears the conversation and simply offers the cave - and the field too - for Abraham to use (but not buy!) to bury his wife. Abraham insists that he wants to pay for the plot and Ephron slyly replies "listen, a piece of land worth 400 silver shekels - what is that between you and me - take it and bury your dead." But Abraham insists on owning the place to indeed pass on to future generations so that more of his family can be buried there, visited and respected.  Abraham pays him the money and buries Sarah in the cave of Machpelah and comes to own the cave and all the trees in the adjacent field.

The coins that so reluctantly passed hands to purchase a place that remains holy to so many people today can be represented in many different food dishes. Below I have recipe for a Middle Eastern inspired salad crowned with golden roasted eggplant slices.

Sabich Salad
I read about this Iraqi egg and eggplant sandwich on kveller this week and made it for lunch to take to work. It was beyond delicious (with the addition of a veggie burger and farmers cheese)  and I realized it would make a great Shabbat salad.

1lb of thin eggplant
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper 2 eggs
2 veggie burgers, defrosted (you could use meat if you want to omit the farmers cheese)
2 tbsp tehina
2 tbsp lemon juice (fresh)
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
2 tbsp farmers cheese (optional)
1 head of lettuce, rinsed and torn into bite sized pieces

Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds and salt on both sides. Let them sit for 30 minutes and then rinse.

Meanwhile Boil the eggs in their shell a small saucepan as you would for making egg salad. Once cooked and cooled, peel the eggs and chop them up.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay the rinsed eggplant out on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes to one hour until dark brown and tender.

Brown the veggie burgers in a pan and then crumble with a fork or spoon. Set aside.

To make the dressing mix the tehina, lemon juice and parsley with 1/4 cup of water and a touch of olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble the salad throw the lettuce into a bowl and add in the egg, eggplant slices, crumbled veggie burger, chopped tomato and cucumber and c=farmers cheese if using. Toss with the dressing.

Thanksgiving Menu
This year we're having a vegetarian centered meal - but there will still be a bit of turkey for me and Sam - legs to make up for the ones we missed out on last year

Roasted chestnuts

Cinnamon apple sauce

Butternut squash fries

Brussels sprouts

Roasted cauliflower with date sauce

Cornbread and vegetarian sausage stuffing

Cranberry sauce with maple apples and ginger

Turkey legs

Pecan/pumpkin pie

Non dairy vanilla ice cream

P.S While it's annoying that stores already have Christmas merchandise out before we've even cooked the Thanksgiving Turkey - Target gets a shout out for having a whole aisle devoted to Chanukah items!


  1. It's interesting that you focus on the coin exchange for this week's dish. I had a Bible professor once who made a very big deal out of this act, noting that in Ancient Near East texts (I think it's Akkadian, but don't hold me to it) this is a legal, binding exchange. Apparently there still exists some cuneiform tablets which completely mimic what Avraham and Ephron did.

  2. How interesting Molly- thanks for sharing.