Monthly Archives: May 2012

Parshat Bamidbar – May 26, 2012

This Parsha could be called Parshat Census. It gives a complete numerical accounting of all of the tribes with the exception of the Levites. Maybe that’s why the English word for Bamidbar (literally, ‘in the desert’) is… numbers!

The original plan was for the Bechor (first born male) to serve in the Mishkan/Beit Hamikdash as the designated priests. According to the Maharal of Prague, there is a special holiness in being the first, since God Himself is the first being.

However the sin of the Golden Calf changed everything. When Moshe descended from Har Sinai and smashed the Luchos (tablets) he gave an ultimatum; they had to choose between God and the idol. Only the tribe of Levi stepped forward to side with Hashem. (Shemot 32:26) As a result, the male first borns lost their priestly status and God decreed that only the Levites would be the ‘Kohanim’ – priests.

In Parshat Bamidbar we see the source of the mitzvah of Pidyon HaBen (redemption of the son).

Bamidbar/Numbers 3:47-48 you shall take five shekels per head, according to the holy shekel, by which the shekel is twenty gerahs. You shall give the money to Aaron and his sons, in redemption for the firstborns who are in excess of them.

It is a rare ritual where the first born male  is redeemed with five coins of silver from his previous obligation to serve G0d. Another purpose of this mitzvah is to remind us of the Yetziat Mitzrayim (Exodus from Egypt) and the final of the ten plagues when God killed the first born of the Egyptians but spared the first born sons of the Israelites. Another reason is to remind us that our love and appreciation for the first born is so great yet everything that is given to us comes from God.

Bamidbar 3:47 You shall take five shekels per head, according to the holy shekel, by which the shekel is twenty gerahs.

 Root Vegetable ‘Shekels’  (adapted from my mom’s recipe)

  • 1 lb. small potatoes
  • 2 lb. sweet potatoes
  • 1 large carrot (I found super fat ones in Chinatown)
  • 2 parsnips
  • 1/2 lb rutanbaga
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Italian spices
  • fresh chives, chopped, (optional, but they look great)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Cut all the vegetables into ‘coins’ that are approximately 1/2 inch thick. Toss all ingredients together and bake at 425 degrees for 45-55 minutes.

Gigantic carrots that I've only seen in Chinatown.


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Parshat Behar-Bechukotai – May 19, 2012

With apologies for this late posting. Allan Robbins suggested that since so much of this Parsha deals with Shmittah (the Sabbatical year) and Yovel (Jubilee year every fifty years)…

That I should use this week as a Sabbatical!

However, I did have a recipe that I wanted to try that rather…distantly… (ahem) connects to the Shnat HaYovel – the Jubilee year.

Shmittah is the seventh year of the agricultural cycle where the land lies fallow; the produce of the land is not consumed. The 7th Shmittah in the 49th year is followed by Shnat HaYovel which is the 50th (Jubilee) year. In the Yovel year, property reverted to its original owner. Nothing is owned in perpetuity because everything belongs to God.

I love that we grew up with a slang expression that comes directly from the Torah.

“He was scheduled for gall bladder surgery but had to wait a ‘Yoivel’ to get an appointment!”

“We went to the zoo and waited a Yoivel to see a single orangutan!”

“I went to the fish store and waited a Yoivel to buy a piece of carp!”

Here’s a Jubilee recipe. Yes this is Queen Elizabeth’s jubilee year. (Okay, so it’s a diamond jubilee, but what’s a few decades between friends?)

Queen Elizabeth II

I know I did scones a few weeks ago. But I couldn’t resist posting a really delicious recipe (not as healthy, but really, really good) in honour of the Jubilee Theme.

Yummy Scottish Scones (adapted from allrecipes)

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • dash of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 5 tablespoons margarine
  • 1/2 cup soy milk
  • 1/4 cup Tofutti pareve sour cream
  • icing sugar and water


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add baking powder to flour.
  • Add remainder of ingredients (except icing sugar and water) and mix into a sticky batter.
  • With wet hands roll into two inch balls. Press lightly.
  • Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake for 15 minutes.
  • When the scones are cooled drizzle on a glaze mixed from icing sugar and water.


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Parshat Emor – May 12, 2012

With apologies for this late posting. My writing is taking up more and more of my time so this blog is sometimes neglected. I’ll try to post next week’s recipe earlier in the week.

In Parshat Emor, three mitzvot (commandments) relate to the counting of the Omer – the seven-week period spanning Pesach (16th of the Hebrew month of Nissan) to Shavuos (6th of Sivan):

  1. the commandment to bring the ‘Omer’ (barley) offering on Pesach
  2. the commandment to bring two (wheat) loaves offering on Shavuos (‘Mincha Chadash’ – new meal offering)
  3. the commandment to count the Omer
We’ve learned already that barley represented animal feed and wheat is human food. When the Israelites left Egypt they had descended 49 levels of ‘Tumah (impurity)’. The 49 days between Pesach and Shavuos represent a daily elevation of the Jewish people from the depths of Tumah to the height of spirituality, manifested by the giving of the Torah at Sinai.
The Omer is a mourning period, for according to the Talmud (Yevamos 62B) 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s students died in this period because of their lack of respect and consideration for each other. There are many explanations, but we know that their behaviour contradicts the spiritual elevation that is supposed to be taking during this period, in preparation for receiving the Torah.
Here’s a recipe that commemorates the loaves offered by Bnei Yisrael during the festival of Shavuot – Babka. It’s a lot of steps but sooo worth the effort!

Vayika 23:17: you shall bring bread, two loaves…they shall be of fine flour,and they shall be baked leavened, the first offering to the Lord.


Basic dough:

For the basic dough you can take off part of your Challah dough (2 flour cups worth) if you have a big Challah recipe. If not, this recipe can be easily mixed up in a breadmaker:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon yeast

Place the ingredients in the bread maker in the above order and set to ‘dough’:


This is the hard part. There are a number of ways to go with this but at the very least, this is what you’ll need:

  • 12 oz chocolate chips or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup margarine
Melt margarine and add remainder of ingredients.

Egg Wash:

  • 1 egg

Crumb Topping: (optional)

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup margarine

Melt margarine and add sugar and flour and mix until crumbly.

Directions: (see pictures below)

  • Roll out dough into an approximately 18″ square shape.
  • Brush all four edges with beaten egg.
  • Spread the chocolate filling on the dough, reserving a few tablespoons for later.
  • Roll up the dough jelly-roll style. Squeeze the edges closed.
  • Twist the dough 5 -6 turns.
  • Brush the top with the egg and then sprinkle on (more like pack on carefully) the remainder of the chocolate filling.
  • Fold one side over the other (length-wise)
  • Place in a greased bread pan that’s been lined with parchment paper.
  • Brush egg on top and sprinkle the crumb topping on top.
  • Bake in pre-heated oven (350 degrees) with a piece of foil loosely placed on top for 1/2 hour.
  • Rotate the pan and bake another 20 minutes, with the foil still on.
  • When it’s cool, remove from pan.
  • Try to control yourself!

Spread the chocolate filling on the dough. If you want to be decadent, add 1/2 cup sugar with 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder also!

Now you’re going to twist it five or six times:

Fold one side over the other and place in pan.

Cover with beaten egg and press the remaining chocolate filling on top.

Bake and enjoy!


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Parshat Achrei Mot – Kedoshim May 6, 2012

Blood is mentioned numerous times in this Parsha. The Kohen Gadol (High Priest) is given detailed instruction of the Yom Kippur service which includes specific offerings related to the Kodesh Kedoshim (Holy of Holies). This service includes a number of references to the sprinkling of the sacrificial animal’s blood. In Vayikra 16:14 he ‘takes some of the bull’s blood and sprinkles it with his index finger on top of the ark cover seven times.”

Later in the Parsha (17:10) the entire people of Israel as well as ‘strangers that sojourn among them’ are prohibited from eating any blood with the severe consequence of being cut off from among His people if they do so.

Rabbenu Bahye states that blood symbolizes animals:.

“We must make a distinction between animals which devour their prey with the blood and man, who needs to be “soft and merciful”; we must take heed that the soul of man will not be “contaminated” by the animal’s blood which will lead man to inhuman activity.

The Ramban offers a different explanation. He says that God created “all the lower beings for the needs of man, since he alone recognizes his creator.” Originally though, man was only allowed to eat plant life until the Flood when God  permitted man to slaughter animals. Eating blood was a remnant of “that ancient prohibition from before the flood.” Although life is for man, the life (blood) within them provides an atonement for man “and be sacrificed before God  and not be eaten since no living creature can eat life itself because all the lives belong to God as do the lives of men.”

I chose cranberries as a visual symbol of blood. As it happens, I’m crazy for cranberries and here are two recipes. The first one is my scone recipe which I make practically every Shabbat. It’s an alternative to very sweet/processed desserts. I buy fresh cranberries in the fall and freeze them in the bags for the year.

Vayikra 16:14…he shall sprinkle seven times from the blood, with his index finger.

Whole Wheat Cranberry Scones 


  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 small snack sized sugar-free apple sauce (any flavour)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice (or not, this recipe is very forgiving)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 -2 cups cranberries
  • optional – 1-2 teaspoon sugar-free vanilla syrup


Mix baking powder with flour and add the remainder of ingredients. For this recipe I rolled them into balls and baked them at 350 degrees for approximately 1/2 hour. You don’t want them to dry out inside. They’re best when they’re moist and slightly under-done.

What I usually do with this recipe is line a foil pie pan with parchment paper and push in the batter. After 15 minutes or so I open up the oven and cut the pie-shape into ten pie-shaped pieces then continue baking for another 15-20 minutes or so.

The great thing about this recipe is that the ingredients don’t have to be exact. You can use chocolate or carob chips, cut up strawberries or blueberries. If you use berries the scone will start getting a bit moldy in two days. You can ‘dump’ in as much apple sauce as you want – same with the oil. They’re like…magic scones.

The second recipe is a Starbucks Copycat recipe from

Cranberry Bliss Bars (Starbucks Copycat)


  • 2 sticks margarine
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup craisins
  • 3/4 cup broken up white chocolate (or white chocolate chips)


  • 3 ounces Tofutti pareve cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons margarine
  • 3 cups icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • 1/3 cup chopped craisins
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange rind
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips or chopped up white chocolate
  • 1/2 teaspoon canola oil


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 10 x 15 pan with parchment paper.
  2. For the bars, beat margarine and sugars for 3-5 minutes, until light. Add eggs, vanilla, flour, baking powder and beat briefly. Add craisins and white chocolate and stir until completely mixed.
  3. Spread into pan and bake 350 for 20 minutes until light brown at edges.


Blend cream cheese and margarine until fluffy. Add vanilla, icing sugar and beat until fluffy. (You might have to add a drop of water.) Spread over cooled bars.

Garnish: Use a zester and remove rind from orange. Sprinkle zest over frosted bars. Chop 1/3 cup Craisins and sprinkle.


Mix white chocolate and oil in a glass measuring cup. Microwave until melted. (in 10 second increments). Use a fork to drizzle the white chocolate diagonally across the bars.

B’Tayavon and have a great Shabbos!




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