Saint of the day:
Prophet Haggai 's Story
Haggai was a Hebrew prophet during the building of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, and one of the twelve minor prophets in the Hebrew Bible and the author of the Book of Haggai.
He is known for his prophecy in 520 BCE, commanding the Jews to rebuild the Temple.
His name means “Festive, Festal”
He was the first of three post-exile prophets from the Neo-Babylonian Exile of the House of Judah (with Zechariah, his contemporary, and Malachi, who lived about one hundred years later), who belonged to the period of Jewish history which began after the return from captivity in Babylon.
Scarcely anything is known of his personal history. He may have been one of the captives taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. He began God's prophecy about sixteen years after the return of the Jews to Judah (ca. 520 BCE). The work of rebuilding the temple had been put to a stop through the intrigues of the Samaritans. After having been suspended for eighteen years, the work was resumed through the efforts of Haggai and Zechariah. They exhorted the people, which roused them from their lethargy, and induced them to take advantage of a change in the policy of the Persian government under Darius I.
The name Haggai, with various vocalizations, is also found in the Book of Esther, as a eunuch servant of the Queen.
Haggai prophesied in 520 BCE Jerusalem, about the people needing to complete building the Temple. The new Temple was bound to exceed the awesomeness of the previous Temple. He claimed if the Temple was not built there would be poverty, famine and drought affecting the Jewish nation.
There is a controversy regarding who edited Haggai's works. According to scholars, they credit it to his students. However, Jewish Tradition believe that the Men of the Great Assembly were responsible for the edits. The Men of the Great Assembly are traditionally known for continuing the work of Ezra and Nehemiah.
Haggai and officials of his time
Haggai supported the officials of his time, specifically Zerubbabel, the governor, and Joshua the High Priest. In the Book of Haggai, God refers to Zerubbabel as "my servant" as King David was, and says he will make him as a "signet ring," as King Jehoiachin was (Haggai 2:23; cf. Jer 22:24). The signet ring symbolized a ring worn on the hand of Hashem, showing that a king held divine favour. Thus, Haggai is implicitly, but not explicitly, saying that Zerubbabel would preside over a restored Davidic kingdom.
Jewish Persian Diplomacy
The Persian Empire was growing weak, and Haggai saw time as an opportunity to restore the Davidic Kingdom. He believed that the Kingdom of David was able to rise and take back their part in Jewish issues. Haggai's message was directed to the nobles and Zerubbabel, as he would be the first Davidic monarch restored. He saw this as important because the Kingdom would be an end to Jewish Idol worship.
Haggai in Jewish tradition
Haggai, in rabbinic writing, is often referred to as one of the men of the Great Assembly. The Babylonian Talmud (5th century CE) mentions a tradition concerning the prophet Haggai, saying that he gave instruction concerning three things: (a) that it is not lawful for a man whose brother married his daughter (as a co-wife in a polygamous relationship) to consummate a levirate marriage with one of his deceased brother's co-wives (a teaching accepted by the School of Hillel, but rejected by the School of Shammai); (b) that Jews living in the regions of Ammon and Moab separate from their produce the poor man's tithe during the Sabbatical year; (c) that they accept of proselytes from the peoples of Tadmor (Palmyra) and from the people of Ḳardu.
On the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar, Haggai is commemorated as a saint and prophet. His feast day is 16 December (for those churches which follow the traditional Julian Calendar, 16 December currently falls on 29 December of the modern Gregorian Calendar). He is also commemorated, in common with the other righteous persons of the Old Testament, on the Sunday of the Holy Fathers (the second Sunday before the Nativity of the Lord).
Tomb of the Prophets
Middle Eastern Date-Filled Cookies (Ma’amoul)
FOR THE CAKE SPICE MIX:
½ Tablespoons Ground Cinnamon
1-¼ teaspoon Ground Allspice
½ teaspoons Ground Mahlab (ground Seed Kernel From St Lucie Cherries)
½ teaspoons Ground Nutmeg
¼ teaspoons Ground Ginger
¼ teaspoons Ground Anise
¼ teaspoons Ground Fennel Seed
¼ teaspoons Ground Cloves
FOR THE DATE FILLING:
¾ pounds Pitted Dates, Coarsely Chopped (or Date Paste)
2 Tablespoons Canola Oil
1-½ teaspoon Cake Spice Mix (recipe Above)
FOR THE DOUGH:
1 cup Sugar
¾ cups Water
¼ cups Canola Oil
¾ cups Clariﬁed Butter (Ghee)
4 cups All-purpose ﬂour, Plus Up To 4 Tablespoons More For Kneading
½ teaspoons Instant Yeast
FOR DUSTING ON TOP (optional):
¼ cups Powdered Sugar
Mix together the spices for the cake spice mix. You will only need 1 ½ teaspoons of the spice mix for recipe; store the remaining spice mix in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 6 months.
To make the date ﬁlling, grind the dates and oil in a stand mixer ﬁtted with a food grinding attachment (ﬁne grind) or in a heavy-duty food processor. If using a stand mixer, alternate between adding the dates and oil. If you’re using a food processor, before you add any dates, rub oil on the blade and inside of the bowl. Once processed, oil your hands and knead the cake spice mix into the dates.
To make the dough, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a full, rolling boil (occasionally giving the pan a swirl); boil 1 minute and then turn off the heat. Cool 5 to 10 minutes.
Combine the oil and clariﬁed butter in a separate small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the butter is just melted, about 2 minutes; cool slightly.
Put the ﬂour in a large bowl and whisk in the yeast. Use a wooden spoon to gradually incorporate the oil mixture, then gradually incorporate the sugar syrup. Knead the dough until it comes together nicely into a shaggy dough, adding up to 4 tablespoons more ﬂour as needed (when done, the dough will be soft and should look smooth, shiny, and slightly oily). Cover the dough, put it in the freezer to stiffen slightly, about 5 to 10 minutes, and then knead it again for a couple minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C); line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat liners.
To shape the cookies with a ma’amoul mold (see note below), measure 1 slightly scant tablespoon of dough and roll it into a ball; slightly ﬂatten it with your hands, then press it into the bottom and up the sides of the mold. Measure 1 teaspoon of the date mixture and roll it into a ball; slightly ﬂaten it and gently press it into the dough in the mold. Measure 1 slightly scant teaspoon of dough, roll it into a ball, slightly ﬂatten it, then put it on top of the date mixture in the mold; use your ﬁngers to press the dough on the top into the dough on the sides. To remove the cookie from the mold, hold the mold by the handle and tap the flat rim on a secure surface; the cookie will drop right out.
Arrange the cookies on the baking sheets about ½ to 1 inch (1 ¼ to 2 ½ cm) apart (if you use 2 half-sheet pans, the cookies should all ﬁt on 2 pans; if you use smaller pans you will need to cook them in 2 batches). Bake until light golden brown on the bottom, about 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the trays once.
Cool completely, and then dust with the powdered sugar. To store the cookies, package them layered between parchment paper in an airtight container.
Ma’amoul mold: In this recipe I give directions for how to shape these cookies with a ma’amoul mold, which can be purchased at Middle Eastern grocery stores or online. However, these cookies can also be shaped by hand. To do so, measure 1 slightly scant tablespoon of dough and roll it into a ball; slightly ﬂatten it with your hands, then hold it in the palm of 1 hand. Measure 1 teaspoon of the date mixture and roll it into a ball; slightly ﬂatten it and gently press it into the dough in your hand. Measure 1 slightly scant teaspoon of dough, roll it into a ball, slightly ﬂatten it, then put it on top of the date mixture; use your ﬁngers to press the dough on the top into the dough on the sides. Use your hands to gently shape it into a circle, and then use a fork to make a decorative cross-hatch pattern on the top.
Mahlab: This spice is the seed kernel that comes from the center of St. Lucie Cherry pits; it has a lovely aroma and tastes like a cross between almonds and cherries. You can usually find mahlab at specialty spice stores or Middle Eastern grocery stores. If you can’t find it, although the flavor won’t be quite the same, for a similar flavor you could add a couple drops of pure almond extract.
Extra date filling: If you have extra date filling, wrap it well and freeze for up to 6 months. When you’re ready to use it, let it thaw in the fridge overnight, then knead a little bit of canola oil into it until smooth.
Clarified butter (ghee): I don’t recommend replacing the ghee in this recipe with regular butter because of the different water content. Clarified butter can commonly be found at regular grocery stores or easily made at home.