Holy Kugel

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Whether it be potato or noodle or Jerusalem, my reaction to kugel has always been pretty ho-hum. It’s OK, but who would really notice if it was missing one week? Not like the Shabbat hall of famers: chicken soup, cholent, pot roast with potatoes.

But, OH BOY, was I wrong.

A few weeks ago, our dear friend Yosef Eltman gave us an article entitled “Holy Kugel” that quotes the greatest Chassidic rebbes on the supreme mystical heights that we can access only through the consumption of this most common, most forgettable of Shabbat dishes.

Believe me, after reading this, that lokshen kugel will never, ever taste ho-hum again.

Here are some highlights from the article:

“The holy ones, the tsaddikim, proclaim that there are profound matters embedded in the kugel. For this reason they insisted that every Jew is required to eat the Shabbat kugel. Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Rimanov recalled that once, when he went out for a walk with the holy Rabbi of Ropshitz, all that they talked about for three hours were the secrets that lie hidden inside the Shabbat kugel.” Oytser Hashabbos

“I will now reveal to you the secret of the Shabbat foods, for in my humble opinion each of the Shabbat foods hints at the ten holy Sefirot (Divine Attributes). My source for this is the holy wonder of our generation, Rabbi Israel of Rizhin, who taught that eating kugel symbolizes the sefira of Yesod, the Divine Attribute of Foundation.” Rabbi Shalom of Koidonov

“Rabbi Meir of Premyshlan declared: ‘lokshen kugel was ordained at Mount Sinai.” Sefer Pardes Hamelech
(This is a minority opinion; most Chassidic rebbes quoted in the article believed that potato kugel is the only REAL kugel)

“Shabbat without kugel is like a bird with no wings.” Popular Yiddish saying.

“…the crown of all Shabbat foods, the kugel…” Yiddishe Maykholim

“You see, the kugel is the most important Shabbat dish, and it is symbolic of the spiritual influence of the Shabbat, something that comes directly from the hand of the Holy One, Blessed be He.” The Apter Rebbe

So, Jewish mom, climb up on that chair, get down that food processor, grate a few potatoes, and enjoy that holy kugel! Yum!

Based on the article: Allan Nadler, “Holy Kugel: The Sanctification of Ashkenazic Ethnic Foods in Hasidism,” Studies in Jewish Civilization 15 (2005): 193-214.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com, by user CJBakker


  1. I was positive you were sending us “Purim Torah” a week early, so I had to read the article. Amazing how chassidut finds kedusha in everything we do for Shaabbat. Another way of saying that everything we do for/on Shabbat should be regarded as holy. The article is worth reading – it gives us a fascinating look into the connection beween chassidim and their rebbes.

  2. B”H

    Just to add an interesting stroy – the Lubavitcher Rebbe once explained how all the foods of shabbos have the gematryia (numeric value) of 7. Like fish , in hebrew “dag” (daled-4 + gimel-3 =7) and he said that even kugel has this gematryia.
    Sounds like someone there tried to calculate it and the numbers weren’t adding up, so the Rebbe looked at him and said something like “didn’t get teh number? eat another slice!”

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