September 2016 -- Elul 5776,  Volume 22, Issue 9

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Rabbi Rigoberto Emmanuel Vinas, of the Lincoln Park Jewish Center, and his wife, Rebbitzen Sarah Vinas, cook up the ingredients of a traditional Sephardi soup for Rosh Hashanah, incorporating the kabbalistic ingredients for the Jewish New Year: zucchini squash, butternut squash, a turnip, and leeks, preparing for the Jewish New Year weeks from now. Photo © 2016 Robert Kalfus

Holiday Food Relates to Prayer Says Rabbi Rigoberto Vinas

By Stephen E. Lipken

 

 Rabbi Rigoberto Vinas of Lincoln Park Jewish Center (LPJC), Yonkers is preparing in many ways for the   upcoming High Holiday season. Since food for the Holiday meal plays a big part for many, he notes that certain recipes have special meaning for Rosh Hashanah.

 

“All foods have names, either Aramaic or Hebrew.  What you eat becomes part of your prayers,” Vinas noted.  “You actually ‘eat the prayer’ and food related to that prayer.  Although dipping an apple in honey is an Ashkenazic custom it dates from older Talmudic texts.

 

“At the Simonim (symbols) Seder, there is food symbolic of G-d’s name with the Kabbalistic ‘chakal Tapuchim,’ or ‘apple orchard.’ When the orchard is in bloom, the smell of the blossoms is overwhelming, symbolizing Hashem’s overwhelming presence.  The honey urges G-d to temper His judgement with sweetness.

“We eat the head of a fish, symbolizing that we are leaders, not followers.  The Leek is eaten because its name in Arabic was ‘Karti’ which sounds like the words ‘Sheyiskartenu,’ May our enemies be cut off.”

 

In January 2000 Rabbi Vinas founded El Centro de Estudios Judios, Torat Emet  (www.toratropical.org) outreach Torah classes in person and on the internet, encouraging  Anusim from all over the world to return to Jewish learning.

Vinas also discussed bringing “Anusim” back into the fold. “’Anus’ means ‘force’ in Hebrew. The Anusim were forced to convert during the Inquisition.  Our active Anusim [re] conversions are designed to recognize Spanish and Portuguese Anusim as Jews.”

 

Rabbi Vinas stressed that he is not trying to create a Spanish synagogue.  “We are trying to create a shul of power, strength and diversity through many cultures.”

 

Born and raised in a traditional Sephardic home of Cuban Jewish parents who came to Miami, FL after the Cuban Revolution in 1960, Vinas, 47 completed his training as a scribe with ordination (kabala in sofrut) at Yeshiva University and received “Yoreh Yoreh” ordination from both Kollel Agudath Achim and Yeshiva VeKollel Zichron Hezkiahu Yoel of Boro Park in Brooklyn.

 

Now in its 77th year, LPJC has just 65 families and according to Rabbi Vinas, cannot maintain a building that size. “It is in the hands of the Attorney General and will be sold within six months,” Vinas stated.  “There will be a small endowment fund and the buyer will rent it back to us for three years, enough time for us to find a smaller place…”

Rabbi Vinas concluded that Rosh Hashanah is a time for deep prayer but often difficult to express our deepest hopes and prayers.  “For this reason, the sound of the Shofar is so powerful.

 

“It can break right into our hearts, reach in and offer our deepest most primitive prayers that we do not even have words for…”

 

Here are some of Rabbi Vina’s favorite High Holiday recipes:

 

 

 

 

Sopa de Siete Verduras con Carne de la Sopa

(7 Vegetable Soup and Meat from the Soup)

Seven is a lucky number associated with Plenty... Sheva relates to shefa bounty. This uses seven of the simanim symbols of Rosh Hashana.

 

3 leeks (thin sliced)

3 stalks celery (thin slices)

5 Medium Zucchini (Diced)

1 pound carrots (Sliced)

1 large squash (butternut

    or acorn) chopped into

    chunks

1 small pumpkin

1/2 cup dry fava Beans

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 large onion (chopped)

1/2 cup parsley leaves (chopped)

 

Fava Beans need to be soaked in 1-1/2 cups of water overnight (covered). Place Soup bones, then stew meat (over the bones) in pot and cover with water to twice its depth. Add salt, onion, fava beans (drained). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook with low heat for two hours. Add the rest of the vegetables (add more water if necessary) cook for 1 hour longer until the vegetables and meat are very tender.

Keftes de Prasa (Leek Croquettes)

Also Keftes de Espinaca (using chopped Spinach leaves instead of leeks) and Keftes de Berengena (Eggplant cut into thin medallions - here no need to soften eggplant just cut it thin).

 

6-8 Leeks

2-3 eggs used to batter

3-4 cups of Matza Meal

1 cup coarse corn meal

Vegetable Oil for frying

1 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of pepper

 

Cut off outer leaves and root. Clean very well. Check for bugs. Slice leeks into thin strips 1/2 inch wide.

Boil leeks to soften them a little. Then Drain them - wait for them to cool off. Mix Matza meal, corn meal and salt and pepper. Dip into egg and matza meal mix forming patties. 2 inch wide. Fry in hot oil and drain on paper towels.