Remember how I said that Shavuot gets neglected among non-Orthodox Jews because it falls toward the end of the school year? Well, don't get me started about Tisha B'Av! Although, I'm told that it is a big deal at Jewish summer camp (which I did not attend).
Tisha B'Av (the ninth day in the Hebrew month of Av) is a communal day of mourning, marked by a 25 hour fast (sundown to sundown). It commemorates the two destructions of the Temple in Jerusalem, the first in 586 B.C.E and the second in 70 C.E. Subsequently, other atrocities suffered by the Jewish people have been added to this day of mourning.
As this day is marked by tragedy, eating and drinking is prohibited, as is sexual relations, bathing, wearing leather shoes, and studying Torah (as this is considered a joyous activity). The Book of Lamentations is read.
The meal eaten prior to the fast is marked by eating round foods traditionally associated with mourning, such as hard-boiled eggs and lentils. The meal that concludes the fast traditionally lacks meat or wine, suggesting that the destruction of the Temple continued past the 25 hour mark. As such, an ideal food for either pre- or post-fast is the comfort food classic, mjedderah. Mjedderah is a heavenly, homey mix of lentils and rice--a perfect meal. The recipe that follows is one we have been making for years; it's easy and delicious. I recently made a version from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's amazing Jerusalem: A Cookbook. Their recipe is decidedly more labor intensive than ours, but totally worth it if you've got the time.
In recent years, Tisha B'Av and Ramadan have coincided. When that happens, some Jewish congregations and mosques will offer a joint iftar, or Break Fast. However, unlike such gatherings on Yom Kippur, the atmosphere surrounding Tisha B'Av is far more sorrowful. At no point do you wish somebody a Happy Tisha B'Av. You should, of course, always wish people a Happy Ramadan.
1 cup rice
1/2 cup dried brown lentils, soaked for one hour, rinsed several times, and drained
1 tsp cumin (or to taste)
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth*
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp butter
1 onion, sliced thin
2 tbsp olive oil
In a medium saucepan combine the lentils and rice, add vegetable broth and the cumin. Add salt, pepper and butter. Bring to boil, cover and lower the heat to simmer. Meanwhile, fry the onion in the olive oil until golden. When the rice is cooked, remove from heat and let rest for twenty minutes. Fluff with a fork. Serve on a platter with fried onions on top.
We like this with served with Greek yogurt mixed with chopped cucumber, mint and a chopped jalapeño.
*The recipe I originally made called for beef broth. This recipe has been adjusted for those keeping kosher and is dairy/vegetarian. Alternatively, you could use beef broth and substitute margarine for this to be a meat dish.