Monthly Archives: April 2012

Parshat Tazria – Metzora April 29, 2012

This week’s Parsha deals with the procedures involved with the ‘metzora.’ Metzora is often translated as leprosy, but it actually is a more physical manifestation of spiritual dysfunction that can also affect clothing and homes. It is connected to sins of speech – speaking evil of others. The Parsha explains in detail the ceremony conducted by the Kohen (priest) following the physical healing of the ‘leper,’ which marks the beginning of the process of purification. The ceremony required two birds, one which was slaughtered and the other that was set free.

According to Rabbi Yehoshua Greenbaum, the Hebrew word for sparrow is ‘dror’ which means freedom. Birds are difficult to catch but they are noisy creatures. Their purpose in the ceremony is to “impress upon the Metzora the great importance of catching our speech and chatter before they fly off. We must learn to take control over what we say, in order to use words intentionally, productively, lovingly, to good effect.”

Rabbi Greenbaum says:

The use of the two birds is bound up with the double-edged nature of speech, which can be used for good or evil. The Metzora had to watch as one of the chattering birds was slaughtered in front of his eyes, teaching him that he must simply kill his evil talk for all time…When we release ourselves from the bonds of pride and arrogance that enslave us, we are freer than ever to explore the great power of pure speech.

What are kosher birds?

There are 24 avian species of birds in the Torah that are not kosher. All others are considered kosher. Since the time of Moshe, a ‘Mesorah’  (tradition) was handed down from generation to generation, which identified the kosher birds. Some of those details were lost over the last few thousand years and as a result, no one today can identify all of those 24 species. This is also a particular issue in the New World, since new species of birds were encountered by settlers who thought they were the same as European species so they gave it the same name. The OU gives a fascinating explanation and history of how some of that Mesorah was recovered from Europe and their ongoing research into this issue. It’s well worth the read.

For my recipe, I was determined to use quail eggs. I discovered that quails are kosher. (Yes!) Then I discovered that there are a number of types of quail and some aren’t kosher. (No!) I needed to find something called Coturnix. I called up a bunch of farms (good so far) but some were too far away (no way) I emailed the quail farmer from the Chinese supermarket.

(Don’t you love that you can just email the farmer?)

(And isn’t it even better that you can email your local quail farmer?)

He emailed me with the good news – his eggs were Coturnix Japonica. Yay!

 

Leaf Salad with Quail Eggs

  • spinach
  • iceberg lettuce
  • frozen/fresh green peas
  • chives
  • quail eggs

How to Cook Quail Eggs

Place the eggs in a pot and cover with an extra inch of water. Bring to a boil then turn off heat. Cover with a lid and let sit for five minutes. Rinse off eggs with cold water to stop the cooking.

You’ll have perfect quail eggs.

Creamy Italian Dressing (from Food.com)

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons soy milk
  • 1 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil
  • 1/8 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Place in a jar with tight lid and shake.

B’tayavon and have a great Shabbos!

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Parshat Shemini – April 21, 2012

UPDATE: I’m back! I hope anyone reading this had a wonderful and meaningful Pesach.

In VaYikra (Leviticus) 10:1-2 Aaron’s two sons, Nadav and Avihu take their incense vessels to make an unsolicited offering of Ketoret – incense.

[They] each took his pan, put fire in them, and placed incense upon it, and they brought before the Lord foreign fire, which He had not commanded them. And fire went forth from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.

According to Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsh, this incident highlights the balance between freedom and structure in the Torah.

No place is allowed in the whole service of the offerings of the Sanctuary of the Torah for subjectively doing just what you think right. Even the free-will offerings have to be kept meticulously within the limits of the forms and kinds prescribed for them. For the proximity of and getting near to God, which is the purpose of every offering, is only to be found by the way of obedience, by compliance with God’s Will and subordination to it. The Jew, with his offering, wishes to place himself in the service of God; by his offering he wishes to make himself subservient to the wishes of his God. So that all offerings are formulae of the demands of God, which the bringer, by his offering, undertakes to make the normal routine for his future life. So that self- devised offerings would be a killing of just those very truths which our offerings are meant to impress upon the bringers, would be placing a pedestal on which to glorify one’s own ideas, where a throne was meant to be built for obedience, and obedience only.

According to Rav Hirsch, these deaths that occur in the first days of the consecration of the Mishkan serves as a warning for future Kohanim (priests). The Mishkan is not a place of subjective actions and independent deeds. It is a place to fulfill the word of God. Certainly when we looked at Korban Todah, God has given us the physical parameters and tools to express our emotions.

This recalls a wonderful statement by the late (1907-1963) Irish poet Louis MacNeice:

Freedom is getting into things, not out of them.

If you’ve ever played a musical instrument, or studied art, than you know that the endless drills, exercises and practices, are the building blocks for those soaring moments of expression.

When Moshe says to Aaron, This is what the Lord spoke, [when He said], ‘I will be sanctified through those near to Me, and before all the people I will be glorified in the next pasuk, Aaron is silent. Aaron is rewarded by receiving Nevuah (prophecy) directly instead of through Moshe.

Silence is an important factor in comforting the mourning. We don’t speak to the mourner until they address us first. We follow their conversation. I was at a Shiva a few months ago. Our friend Annie who is French Moroccan was mourning the passing of her father. I learned something that I had never known. Many Sephardim do not eat meat during the Shiva – they only eat fish.

Here is a fish recipe – inspired by ‘Spanish Moroccan Fish’ from Allrecipes.

Moroccan Fish

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped,
  • 6 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sliced olives
  • bunch of cilantro or parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon hot chili sauce (or to taste)
  • salt or soy sauce to taste
  • 1 lb sole filets

Directions

  1. In a saucepan, saute onions and garlic until golden. Add remaining vegetables and cook until soft. .
  2. Add parsley, paprika, cumin, cayenne, and soy sauce to vegetables and stir. Place fish on top of the vegetables and add water to cover vegetables. Reduce heat, cover, and cook for half an hour.
  3. Serve with couscous or rice.
B’tayavon and have a great Shabbos!


There is only one word to describe blogging about this week’s Parsha…

PESACH!?!?!?!

I have my recipe for this week’s Parsha. It’s not really related to the special readings for Passover, but it’s definitely Kosher L’Pesach. If I’m efficient I’ll turn my kitchen over tonight and tomorrow I’ll start cooking for Yontiff. But I’ll take a little break to research and write up a Dvar Torah, I’ll cook the recipe, I’ll take photographs, I’ll blog…

Okay, give me a second to slow down my heart rate.

I’m taking a cleansing breath now.

I’m counting to four and breathing out slowly.

Okay. Now I can talk again. Now I’m going to tell you a little story. It probably happened this past Rosh Hashana. I was at the supermarket looking at these gorgeous peppers and thought to myself – why don’t I make stuffed peppers? The problem is that I’d never made stuffed peppers before. A nice looking lady was walking by and I stopped her.

“Excuse me,” I said. “Do you know how to make stuffed peppers?”

“Why yes,” she said with a smile. She had a slight French accent and I’m assuming she was Sephardi, although there was nothing exotic about these ingredients. She told me how simple it was and gave me instructions. I promptly purchased the ingredients, went home, and cooked up three pans of yummy stuffed peppers.

When Rosh Hashana rolled around, I served them to a table-full of our dear friends. The peppers were delicious and since none of us tend to cook that dish, it was a bit of a treat. What’s the recipe they said?

“I don’t know,” I said. Sadly, I’ll never find that recipe again. You see there was never a real recipe. But more than that, I had virtually no memory of how I had made them. In the hustle and bustle of preparing for Rosh Hashana, it was just one of many dishes I cooked up. I’m never going to find that lovely lady again, I don’t even remember what she looks like.

So why do I tell you this story? Because at the supermarket a few days ago, a woman behind me at the checkout had a food item that I had never cooked before.

“What are you doing with that,” I asked. She happily gave me complete instructions on what to use and how to prepare it. Of course I didn’t write it down, but you knew that by now, right? By the time I cook it tomorrow it’ll probably morph into something completely different, because after all I’ve got Pesach-Brain right now, but I’ll experiment and play with it and hopefully it’ll be tasty.

Please do not fear seeing me at the supermarket – I don’t accost everybody.

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