Parshat Yitro – February 11, 2012

In 19:10-11 Moshe is instructed by Hashem to tell the people to spend two days preparing to receive the Torah. According to Rabbi Meyer Twersky, an encounter with holiness warrants preparation.

Just as a painter in order to achieve maximum results first primes and then paints, so to we must prepare ourselves before an encounter with kedusha.

The concept of preparing for holy activities has existed for some time. Rabbi Twersky points out that  Chassidim Harishonim spent an hour preparing for prayer.

 They would empty their minds of all distractions and focus on their impending audience with Hashem.

Indeed, they succeeded in achieving an extremely high level. According to Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, both Moshe and the Israelites reached an extremely close relationship with God when accepting the Torah:

This can be seen from the striking parallel between the Torah’s descriptions of Moshe’s level of prophecy – “whom God knew face to face” (Devarim 34:10) – and the people’s experience at Sinai – “God spoke to you face to face in the mountain out of the fire” (Devarim 5:4).


How does one empty their mind to prepare for prayer? One method is meditation. Considered standard practice during Temple times,  Jewish meditation is making somewhat of a comeback. Here’s someone who meditates daily and never davens without meditating first. A fantastic internationally known meditation teacher, Chashi has been helping people enhance their power of their Tephillot through meditation. (Right click for a larger image.)

Here’s a fun recipe to commemorate Har Sinai.

Mountain Potatoes

  • 8 potatoes (sorry, I filled up a saucepan, I don’t have an exact amount)
  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • one egg
  • Peel potatoes and boil until tender.
  • Drain and add margarine and seasoning.
  • Mash potatoes with a hand masher until the potatoes are smooth.
  • After fifteen minutes add the egg.
  • Place in a piping bag and pipe in a ‘mountain’ shape on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. (Optional, brush with melted margarine.)
  • Bake 15-20 minutes at 400F.

Recipe #2:

In this week’s Parsha, some spectacular events occur. Moshe’s father-in-law Yitro hears of the miracles that G-d has performed for the Israelites. He advises Moshe to implement a justice system of delegated leadership so that Moshe will avoid wearing himself out. The Jews camp at Mount Sinai which fills with smoke, thunder, and lightning as G-d proclaims the Ten Commandments.

Shemot 19:18 describes the entire Mount Sinai smoking like a furnace. Rashi points out that the mountain smoked more than a furnace, and actually blazed with a fire up to the heart of Heaven. But the Torah uses terms that are comprehensible to humans, ‘what the ear is able to hear.’ According to Midrash Rabba, when G-d spoke, no bird chirped, no fowl flew, no ox made a sound, none of the angels stirred a wing, the seraphim did not say “Holy, Holy,” the sea did not roar, the creatures spoke not, the whole world was hushed into breathless silence and the voice went forth: “I am G-d your G-d.”


Shemot 19:18 And the entire Mount Sinai smoked because the Lord had descended upon it in fire, and its smoke ascended like the smoke of the kiln, and the entire mountain quaked violently.

I’ve done “smoked” almonds, or “Smokehouse Almonds” inspired by the spectacular events surrounding G-d’s revelation to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai in a cloud of smoke.

Hot and Spicy Smoked Almonds

  • 2 tablespoons margarine
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon teriyaki sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon basil
  • 1/8 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 1/2 cups whole almonds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


  • Set oven to 350°F.
  • Mix all ingredients except the nuts and kosher salt in a lasagna-sized pan; mix well.
  • Pop pan in oven, until margarine is melted.
  • Add nuts; toss to coat.
  • Stir ingredients until mixed. Add nuts and toss to coat.
  • Bake until nuts are toasted – approximately 20-30 minutes.
  • Toss with kosher salt
  • Store in an airtight container or freeze for up to 3 months.

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