Shawarma; it’s Bitter/Sweet



“A remembrance to (the time of) the Tempel like Hillel, who said, ‘On Matzo and bitter herbs he shall eat it (the paschal lamb.)

~ Hebrew Manuscript at the Met

         A friend was recently speaking of her comparative religions study group on Barbara Brown Taylor’s new book, ‘Holy Envy.’  She said she has decided she wants to be Jewish in her next life.  I said, “me too!”  Their food and community are simply the best.

         Have you ever had shawarama?  If you haven’t tried it, do so! It’s a most delicious wrap sandwich from the Middle East, dating back to the Ottoman Empire. Today, I found myself at Mizrahi Grill in Highland Park, IL ordering several (run don’t walk if you are nearby.) 

         Rabbi Hillel, author of many wise teachings, is said to have invented it. In an attempt to live by biblical instructions for Passover (Numbers 9:11), he created this great sandwich. Like life, shawarma has a little bit of everything in it, with the balance of bitter and sweet tastes   (including french fries and pickles too, hello!)  It’s been referred to as a moral migration, where sinners like me first taste the bitter cabbage and sour pickles representing their past misdeeds, but are then brought to humility and comfort with the healing nourishment of the matzah.  It’s truly amazing. 

         Rabbi Hillel also created the Golden Rule; “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The story goes that a young man came upon him and said, “Explain to me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.” Being a playful and peaceful man, he responded, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah.  The rest is the explanation; go and learn”

         In his doctrine of man’s likeness to God, he emphasized our responsibility to care for our own bodies. Hillel was even and balanced, and taught his followers to care for others AND to care for ourselves. We forget this sometimes. His simple motivational wisdom cut to the chase. Another one;  ”If not now, when?

         I got a lot of brownie points with the man behind the counter, he in his yamaka, me in my cross and ashes, when I asked him if he knew who invented the shawarma. (“No I don’t, but do YOU??”)  Well, yes, and then I mentioned this wise guy named Hillel.  We all got lives of shawarma–bitter and sweet, with soggy fries and crispy cabbage and everything mashed up in between. The key is to just not be off put by the whole mess of it.  There’s a lot going on in there, no doubt, but the sum total is really good. 

Today’s practice: Recognize someone today by giving them an unexpected compliment , or thank them for a past act of kindness, by email, phone or in person.  Now here’s the weird part; give yourself the same– by text or out loud (privately:) You can thank God for giving you the inspiration or gift , if that makes this part easier.  What goes around comes around, and good karma is good self -care!

         The Golden Rule:  Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Judaism: “Hurt not others in ways you yourself would find hurtful.”

Islam: “None of you is a believer until you love for your brother what you love for yourself. “

Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty; do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.”

Christianity: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Turia

    Fav cousin….Thank you for so many gifts. Can’t thank you enough for another 40 days of self care and wholeness lessons!! I love waiting for your new posts in my in-box, my go-to (first thing) in the mornings. Love you lots.

  2. Marina Carney Puryear

    Turia,my fav cousin, said it all, love to get up to your mindful practice! Thanks Elinor!

  3. Jen Pen

    Romans 8:31 King James Version (KJV)

    31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

    Thanks for the HP referral! On my way there! Yum!

  4. Ian McLaughlin

    And don’t look down on Naf Naf.
    They use a robot slicer on the chicken,
    designed by Turkish transplants, made in
    Germany. Fresh baked pita and creamy hummus.

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