This exhibit shares fun facts, curriculum content, liturgy, and other resources surrounding Shabbat around the Jewish world and in various Jewish languages.
Wherever Jews have lived, they have eaten cuisine similar to the surrounding culture, adapted for kashrut (interpreted variously). They have also maintained special foods, particularly for Shabbat and holidays, sometimes influenced by biblical and rabbinic texts. One such food is the slow-cooked Shabbat lunch stew, which Jews prepare before sundown and leave simmering all night, so as not to break the prohibition against cooking on Shabbat. Many Ashkenazi Jews know this stew as cholent because this Yiddish word continues to be used in Jewish English. Less common knowledge is that the warm Shabbat stew has unique names in various Jewish languages. Yiddish tsholent stems from medieval Judeo-French, the primary language of the grandparents of early Yiddish speakers. (Old French Chalant, hot, is a cognate of the Spanish caliente.) Hamin, common in Modern Hebrew, stems back to ancient Mishnaic Hebrew and has also been used in Ladino, Judeo-Italian, and Judeo-Arabic. The words in the Mishnah that lead to the practice of the warm Shabbat meal are טוֹמְנִין אֶת הַחַמִּין - [one may] hide/cover/insulate/bury the hot [water/food]. This line also leads to other names for Shabbat stew, including t'beet (spend the night), and tefina/adafina (buried).
This “fun fact” demonstrates the commonality and diversity of the Jewish people. Commonality: Jews maintain common prohibitions and traditions, including not cooking on Shabbat and eating a slow-cooked stew for Shabbat lunch. Many communities have names for this stew stemming from a rabbinic text shared by Jews around the world. Diversity: Different languages have different names for this stew, reflecting the linguistic diversity of Jews throughout the Diaspora, from Yiddish in Europe to Ladino in the Ottoman Empire to Judeo-Arabic in North Africa and the Middle East. Even when the Hebrew word hamin is used, its pronunciation depends on the sounds Jews pick up from their non-Jewish neighbors. Do they pronounce the deep-in-the-throat ḥet sound and double consonants of Arabic (ḥammin), or do they use the sounds of Spanish (hamin)? The image also demonstrates how two words in the Mishnah can be interpreted in many ways. Clearly all of these communities interpret the Shabbat tradition to be warm food, rather than water, but the various names show diverse interpretations of the word טוֹמְנִין, such as tefina, meaning buried. Shabbat stew may be comfort food, but it’s also a lesson in Jewish geographic commonality and diversity.
Food for Thought:
For Shabbat stew cooks and eaters: How does your favorite cholent/hamin/adafina recipe reflect the flavors and ingredients from a particular historical Jewish community and from your current society/community?
For language buffs: How do you think Old French “chalant,” Modern French “chaud,” Spanish “caliente,” and Yiddish “cholent” are related?
For anyone: Can you think of other Jewish traditions that simultaneously reflect commonality and diversity?
Hamavdil with Judeo-Spanish stanza, Ottoman tradition
Hamabdil, Yehoram Gaon, Ensemble Hiba (Judeo-Spanish verse begins at 1:50)
Lekha Dodi in Ladino
Hazzan Isaac Behar, son of Rabbi Leon Yehuda Behar who wrote the Lekha Dodi translation in Ladino.