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Sweet apple cake for Rosh Hashanah Shabbat

#tweetyourshabbat is a global movement founded by Carly Pildis, celebrating the struggle and joy of getting Shabbat on the table every week. This is a place for real dinners and real conversations about Jewish life. Join us at Forward in sharing what you’ll be eating and how your feeling this week at #TweetYourShabbat

Rosh Hashanah is supposed to be the sweetest time of the year, but this time we are surrounded by bitterness. We are unable to pray together. We are unable to eat together. No matter who you are or what your situation is, this is a deeply difficult time. We are in a world full of injustice and cruelty and grief, and simply pouring honey on top isn’t enough.

I wish I could be in an enormous crowd of Jews singing Avinu Malkeinu. I wish I could hold hands with strangers at tashlich. I wish I could be with all of my Aunties and cousins, embracing and kissing on the cheek and wishing each other a hearty Shana Tovah! I want to sit at lunch with 30 people and attempt to critique the rabbi’s sermon until our kids interrupt us with requests for more soup. I want spilled wine. I want the anarchy and joy of a big holiday. I want us all to survive this moment more than I want this happy anarchy, and so for this year, we will have a smaller, more intimate gathering.

What we can do, in this difficult time, is to embrace what we have and who we have with us. We are blessed to be healthy —how sweet it is to be able to breathe, now more than ever. We are happy, through no merit of our own but dumb luck, to be spared. How sweet it is to have food on our table when so many are hungry. We are so lucky to have a table and a house when so many are losing everything they’ve worked for. Thank God I have a family with me. While this year has been so full of bitterness and cruelty, we are now more able to appreciate the sweetness of simply being alive.

Certain foods call us home. In good times they are wonderful punctuation marks on joy and in bad times they provide solace. My mom’s apple cake, cooked only for the High Holidays, fills the house with the smell of apples and cinnamon. Generations gather around it, eating seconds and thirds. The cake comes out stately and grand, tall and filled with layers of apples and moist, fruity cake. It is beautiful, special enough for a Rosh Hashanah Table, implying hours of delicate baking.

Don’t tell my mom, but I’m telling her secret. It’s actually very easy. I think you deserve something easy at the end of this very difficult year

May next year be sweeter, and if it can’t be sweet if it must remain bitter and full of suffering, may we at least be blessed enough to find the sweetness in what we still have and who we still have with us.

Shana Tovah. Shabbat Shalom

How was your week? How are you spending Shabbat? Let us know at #tweetyourshabbat! Everyone is welcome at this table! Come hungry.

Rabbi Ellen Pildis’s Apple Cake

1 tsp cinnamon
4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1 cup of orange juice
4 eggs
4 large apples, peeled and cored.

Preheat oven 350 degrees

Mix and set aside ¾ cup of sugar and a tsp of cinnamon.

Sift flour, remaining sugar, baking powder and salt.

Make a well in the center.

Min in orange juice and eggs, beat until smooth.

Pour half the batter into a well greased dube pan. Slice ½ the apples over batter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Repeat. Apples should be poking out of the top of the surface of the cake.

Bake about 1 ½ hours until it is brown and tests somewhat dry, but not entirely. A toothpick should come out with still some rich cake stuck to it, but not batter.

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