Friday, March 4, 2011

Cholent Rap from a 12th Century Rabbi

There are shops in Benei Berak that sell Cholent mid-week; a song about ch-ch-ch-cholent, a blog called left-over-cholent and a group of former Chasids that meet every Thursday in the Garment District of New York City, that call their meeting chulent.
What is the fascination surrounding this food that some suggest a person who does not partake of the savoured dish is a heretic.
Cholent (Yiddish: טשאָלנט, tsholnt or tshoolnt) or Hamin (Hebrew: חמין) is a traditional Jewish stew. It is usually simmered overnight for 12 hours or more, and eaten for lunch on Shabbat (the Sabbath). Cholent was developed over the centuries to conform with Jewish religious laws that prohibit cooking on the Sabbath. (Wikipedia)
The headline on the left reads: You don’t like Cholent? Not certain you are Jewish. A Yeshivah student who came to Israel from a distant country aroused suspicion from his host when (in addition to not shockeling- the swaying motion which sometimes accompanies praying) he did not like cholent. Alarmed, the host informed the Rabbis who later instructed the student to undergo a “conversion lechumrah” (which is generally is applied when a previous conversion has a doubt, but is not without basis.)
The Shulchan Aruch writes: “It is a mitzva to seal CHAMIN [literally hot food, but more specifically, the Hebrew word for cholent] for Shabbat, in order that he should eat CHAMIN on Shabbat, for this is the honour and enjoyment of Shabbat. And anyone who doesn't believe in the words of the Sages, and forbids eating hot food on Shabbat, there is a suspicion that he may be a (apikoros) denier.”
While a poem by Heinrich Heine made Cholent a little more famous, The Chofetz Chaim, writing in the in the Mishna Berurah, has an even earlier example of Cholent-worship.
He quotes a 12th century sage, the Ba’al Ha’maor, who wrote what could pass a rap about this favourite dish:
Kol Mi Sheano Ochel Chamin, Whomever does not eat cholent,
Tzarich bedikah acharav im hu min Needs to be checked he may not believe,
Ulehazmiin, Levashel, Lehatmin, To invite, to cook, and to insulate the pot,
Uleoneg Et Hashabat Lehashmin, To Honour the Shabbat and to fatten up, Hu Hamamin, Vezoche Lekaits Hayamin. He believes, and will merit to the
End of Days (Moshiach)

So while the Rabbis may question ones faith: How else can one enjoy warm food on Shabbat? Only Karatie’s (non-believers) cooked on Shabbat. Perhaps more so, it is an instruction to us to enjoy the Shabbat. The sages are telling us, don’s look at the prohibitions as a reason to not enjoy yourself. Get creative and express yourself, make a cholent and enjoy Shabbat.

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