Category Archives: Chukat

Parshat Chukat

In this week’s Parsha, the Israelites are attacked by Canaanites from Arad. Bnei Yisrael prays for God’s help and the Israelites subsequently experience a military victory over their attackers. They continue their journey but “the soul of the people was discouraged along the way.”

Once again they complain to God and Moshe, demanding to know why they were brought out of Egypt.

Right. Glorious, glamorous, luxurious Egypt.

Sometimes Parsha can get downright depressing.

Anyhoo, Hashem sends venomous snakes, and many of the people die from their bites. A classic Teshuvah (repentance) ensues and Moshe prays on their behalf. The response?

Bamidbar 21:9  Moses made a copper snake and put it on a pole, and whenever a snake bit a man, he would gaze upon the copper snake and live.

In  Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 29a, the logical question is asked. Did the brass serpent actually cure the snake bites? The answer is – of course not. The snake is a symbol for mankind to look upward to our Father in Heaven, for it is He who heals.

Another question remains, though. Why would a serpent be a symbol of repentance? 

According to Rabbi Mordecai Kamenetzky Moshe experienced a terrifying incident in his first meeting with God. Moshe threw down his staff which then transformed into a snake. Hashem then told Moshe to ‘confront the snake and grab it’. As Rabbi Kamentzky says,

Miraculously, it conformed back into a very benign stick (Exodus 4:1-5). Moshe now teaches that very lesson to Klal Yisrael. It is easy to run from your fears and horrors. Sometimes you may be running from the very monster that bit you. But if you confront the monster with fire in your eyes and sincerity in your heart, then you have nothing to fear. For with the right frame of mind, the very animal that took control of you is not only harmless, it becomes a source of strength.

This week’s recipe is inspired by the snake on the stick. Think ‘flesh’ on a stick – a kabob stick, to be exact.

Bamidbar 21:9  Moses made a copper snake and put it on a pole, and whenever a snake bit a man, he would gaze upon the copper snake and live.

Bamidbar 21:9 Moses made a copper snake and put it on a pole, and whenever a snake bit a man, he would gaze upon the copper snake and live.

Grilled Chicken Kebab

Ingredients:

  • 9 skinless, boneless, chicken thighs
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons crushed garlic
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon hot sauce (depending on your taste)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder

Directions:

  • Cut each thigh down the middle and pound as flat as possible.
  • Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl.
  • Place chicken in bowl to marinade. The longer the better! (Try for at least an hour.)
  • Thread two pieces of chicken along the kabob sticks, one after the other.
  • Spray bar-b-q with Pam or oil spray.
  • Bar-b-q until brown.
  • Enjoy!

B’tayavon and have a great Shabbat!

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Parshat Chukat – June 30, 2012

Here it is! My first webisode for my series, ‘Burnt Offerings.’

For the first webisode my featured cook is our wonderful friend Chanoch Ephraimson who very generously agreed to share some of his chef’s tips with us. My old friend Allan (literally, since I was 12 years old) assists him. We shot this in my kitchen a couple of decades after I first proposed a kosher cooking show with Allan to a local cable station. (Anyone remember Newton Cable? They said yes, but I was in the process of moving to NYC.)

I decided to do sushi for Parshat Chukat because the parsha opens up with the issue of ‘Tum’at Ha’met’. (Isn’t that sooooo obvious? Tum’at Ha’met: ergo…sushi!) Allow me to explain:

A person who is ritually impure because of their contact with a dead person is purified through the ashes of the Parah Adumah – the red heifer. (Parah Adumah cake here.) A huge chunk of Torah deals with laws of Tumah (impurity) and tahara (purity). According to Rabbi Moshe Grylak:

The truth is that when we talk about tahara, we’re really talking about immortality. They are two sides of the same coin. Tumah is equated with mortality – the natural as opposed to the supernatural, submission to the forces of nature that eventually end all human life.

Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsh defined Tahara as:

the freedom of the soul even as it is ensconced in an earthly body. Tahara affirms that even on Earth the soul is not bound by the forces of nature, and is completely free.

Tumah on the other hand reflects the reality of those natural forces and their dominion over our lives. The ashes of the young red calf are used as a vehicle to elevate people from tumah to a state of tahara, and according to Rabby Grylak, “in limiting and directing our own natural tendencies, our physical bodies can facilitate tahara as well.”

The yin and yang of Tumah and Tahara, the physical versus the spiritual, the finite versus the infinite; these are the forces that we’re commanded to harness in order to elevate ourselves from Tumah to Tahara.

Sushi is delightful to the palate because it combines distinctive flavours and textures into bite-sized treats. The sensation of biting into a piece of sushi is particularly pleasurable because of the balance of textures. The avocado’s creaminess, the paper-like feeling of the nori, and the chewiness of the rice, come together to create a singular culinary experience. I thought of the Parah Adumah and how it might be represented by the salmon, red pepper, or mock-crab, but really it’s the separateness of the ingredients that reminded me of Tumah and Taharah.

Here are images of Chanoch’s sushi artistry: (thanks to Aliza for these awesome photos.)

I’m not going to write up a recipe since it’s contained in the video. Please do watch it – I guarantee you’ve never seen a kosher cooking show like this one!

Enjoy your sushi.

B’Tayavon and have a great Shabbos!

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