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July 13

Saint of the day:

Prophet Ezra 

Prophet Ezra's Story (Nehemiah)

Ezra, Hebrew ʿezraʾ, (flourished 4th century BC, Babylon and Jerusalem), religious leader of the Jews who returned from exile in Babylon, reformer who reconstituted the Jewish community on the basis of the Torah (Law, or the regulations of the first five books of the Old Testament). His work helped make Judaism a religion in which law was central, enabling the Jews to survive as a community when they were dispersed all over the world. Since his efforts did much to give Jewish religion the form that was to characterize it for centuries after, Ezra has with some justice been called the father of Judaism; i.e., the specific form the Jewish religion took after the Babylonian Exile. So important was he in the eyes of his people that later tradition regarded him as no less than a second Moses. Knowledge of Ezra is derived from the biblical books of Ezra and Nehemiah, supplemented by the Apocryphal (not included in the Jewish and Protestant canons of the Old Testament) book of I Esdras (Latin Vulgate form of the name Ezra), which preserves the Greek text of Ezra and a part of Nehemiah. It is said that Ezra came to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes (which Artaxerxes is not stated) of the Persian dynasty then ruling the area. Since he is introduced before Nehemiah, who was governor of the province of Judah from 445 to 433 BC and again, after an interval, for a second term of unknown length, it is sometimes supposed that this was the seventh year of Artaxerxes I (458 BC), though serious difficulties are attached to such a view. Many scholars now believe that the biblical account is not chronological and that Ezra arrived in the seventh year of Artaxerxes II (397 BC), after Nehemiah had passed from the scene. Still others, holding that the two men were contemporaries, regard the seventh year as a scribal error and believe that perhaps Ezra arrived during Nehemiah’s second term as governor. But the matter must be left open. When Ezra arrived the situation in Judah was discouraging. Religious laxity was prevalent, the Law was widely disregarded, and public and private morality was at a low level. Moreover, intermarriage with foreigners posed the threat that the community would mingle with the pagan environment and lose its identity. Ezra was a priest and “a scribe skilled in the law.” He represented the position of stricter Babylonian Jews who had been upset by reports of laxity in Judah and desired to see matters corrected. Ezra set out in the spring at the head of a sizable caravan and arrived four months later. Ezra apparently had official status as a commissioner of the Persian government, and his title, “scribe of the law of the God of heaven,” is best understood as “royal secretary for Jewish religious affairs,” or the like. The Persians were tolerant of native cults but, in order to avert internal strife and to prevent religion from becoming a mask for rebellion, insisted that these be regulated under responsible authority. The delegated authority over the Jews of the satrapy (administrative area) “beyond the river” (Avar-nahara), or west of the Euphrates River, was entrusted to Ezra; for a Jew to disobey the Law he brought was to disobey “the law of the king.” The order in which Ezra took the various measures attributed to him is uncertain. He probably presented the Law to the people during the Feast of Tabernacles in the autumn, most likely in the year of his arrival. He also took action against mixed marriages and succeeded in persuading the people to divorce their foreign wives voluntarily. His efforts reached their climax when the people engaged in solemn covenant before God to enter into no more mixed marriages, to refrain from work on the sabbath, to levy on themselves an annual tax for the support of the Temple, regularly to present their tithes and offerings, and otherwise to comply with the demands of the Law. Nothing further is known of Ezra after his reforms. The 1st-century Hellenistic Jewish historian Josephus states in his Antiquities that he died and was buried in Jerusalem. According to another tradition, he returned to Babylonia, where his supposed grave is a holy site.





Ezra 7





The tomb of Ezra 

Al-Uzair, Qalat Saleh district, Maysan Province, Iraq






Bourak: Assyrian Egg Rolls 


  • 1 lb. ground beef 15% fat

  • 1 small white onion minced

  • 1 tsp salt

  • ¾ tsp black pepper

  • 1 tsp curry

  • 1 tsp allspice

  • ¼ cup Italian parsley chopped

  • 1 package eggroll wrappers

  • oil for frying


  1. Brown ground beef in a skillet, breaking up any large clumps. Add minced onion to the pan, and saute until soft.

  2. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and remaining spices over the meat. Add chopped parsley and cook for an additional minute. Set aside to cool.

  3. When the filling is ready, place one egg roll wrapper in front of you. Add approximately two tablespoons of filling close to the bottom edge of the wrapper.

  4. Lift the bottom edge of the egg roll wrapper over the filling. Next, fold the sides of the wrappers over the filling and roll up. Seal the corner with a dab of water, and repeat.

  5. Heat oil in a large frying pan to 375-degrees F. Carefully place a few bourak in the pan. Fry until golden brown, and do the same with the rest.

  6. Drain fried bourak on a paper towel-lined plate. Serve while hot.


  • Toss the Bourak in cornstarch before refrigerating them to keep them from sticking to each other or to the plate.

  • To reheat cooked bourak, use a toaster oven or an air fryer. If you use a microwave, they will be soft and soggy instead of crispy, as they are intended to be.

Red Rice or  Riza Smookah


  • 1 1/2 pounds bone-in lamb leg or shoulder chops or 1 pound lean beef*

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil (not extra virgin)

  • Salt to taste (I use 2 teaspoons total for the whole dish)

  • 3 tablespoons butter (or substitute 2 tablespoons olive oil)

  • 1 medium onion, finely diced

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed through a press or finely minced

  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 14 ounce can diced tomatoes

  • 1 big pinch saffron

  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

  • 2 cups water**

  • 2 cups basmati rice, rinsed


  1. Trim the lamb of its fat and bone and cut the meat into very small pieces (about 1/4 to 1/2 inch). Discard any fat and bone (you’ll be left with about 1 to 1 1/4 pounds of meat).

  2. Turn on the exhaust or open an window, and set a dutch oven or stock pot over high heat for 3 to 4 minutes.

  3. Once the pan is very hot, add the 1 teaspoon of oil, swirl it to coat, and immediately add the lamb (salt to taste), stirring it occasionally until juices start to seep. Once you see juices, stir the lamb constantly until they evaporate, and keep stirring until the lamb is nicely seared (and add 1 tablespoon of water to deglaze if the pan bottom looks like it’s browning too quickly).

  4. Once the lamb is seared, turn the heat to medium and stir in the butter, onions, and garlic (salt to taste), scraping up the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan as you stir. Feel free to deglaze with 1 tablespoon of water if the bits aren’t coming up. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring every couple minutes, until the onions soften a bit.

  5. Add the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute, scraping the bottom of the pan and stirring constantly.

  6. Add the diced tomatoes, saffron, salt, pepper, water, rice, and salt to taste, and raise the heat to medium-high. Once it comes to a boil, cover tightly, reduce heat to low, and cook for 14 minutes. Do not open the lid to see how it’s doing or stir it at any time.

  7. Once 14 minutes have passed, remove from heat, do not remove the lid, and let the rice rest for 15 minutes to coast the rest of the way.

  8. Fluff the rice with a fork and serve.



  • * Riza smookah is usually a side dish, so it’s not supposed to have a ton of meat in it. If you want to turn this into a main dish, feel free to increase to 2 1/2 pounds of bone-in lamb shoulder or 2 pounds lean beef. If you’re doubling the meat, sear the meat in 2 batches (using an extra tablespoon of oil), and don’t crowd the pan. Also be sure to add some extra salt (about 3/4 teaspoon total), 1 extra tablespoon tomato paste, and a little extra saffron and pepper.

  • ** I’ve made this dish with a couple different brands of diced tomatoes, and the moisture levels vary significantly, which makes recipe-developing a little tricky. Luckily, this recipe relies in part on tomato paste, which controls this variable a little—so while extra-watery cans of diced tomato will lead to softer rice, it will at least be within the realm of acceptable, and will still be delicious. But if you want to make sure your rice is absolutely perfect, pay attention to the can of diced tomatoes before you add them. Does it look like a whole lot of tomato juice with not enough diced tomato floating around? Then leave out 1/4 to 1/3 cup of water. Does it have a pretty normal-looking amount of tomato juice with a healthy amount of diced tomatoes? Add the full amount of water.

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