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Parshat Shoftim

In this week’s Parsha, Sefer Devarim/Deuteronomy 20:19 we learn a commandment about trees, fruit, and the material things of this world.

When you besiege a city for many days to wage war against it to capture it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them, for you may eat from them, but you shall not cut them down. 

The apple tree in our back yard. It never really took off but for some reason it's full of apples.

The apple tree in our back yard. It never really took off but for some reason it’s full of apples this year.

This prohibition is about a lot more than fruit trees and wartime. This commandment applies during times of peace and is  known as Bal tashchit gratuitous destruction and unnecessary wastefulness.

Talmud Bavli provides numerous examples of  Bal tashchit, including purchasing overly-expensive foods, unnecessary tearing of cloth, wasting oil or fuel, using furniture for firewood, and the killing of animals.  

Rambam says that we are forbidden to “smash household items, tear clothing, demolish buildings, plug a spring, or destroy food items.” The Medieval sage, Rabbeinu Yerucham spoke against wasting water. 

The Torah is very clear about not engaging in wanton destruction and waste. But why?

In Sefer Chorev, Rabbi Shimpshon Raphael Hirsch explains that Bal tashchit is a reminder of God’s dominion over Creation, that all objects and creatures are His property. Objects beneath mankind are meant to be used “for wise human purposes, sanctified by the word of [His] teaching.”

According to Rav Hirsch, God is telling us, “I lent them (objects) to you for wise use only; never forget that I lent them to you.”

So here is what it comes down to: The physical world is a manifestation of the spiritual one. Therefore our stewardship of the physical world, is an expression of our relationship to God.

The care and protection of the environment is good and holy precisely because it is not an end to itself. But rather it’s a vehicle for our function as ‘tselem Elokim’  (man is created in the shadow/image of God) and the fact that every physical thing on this planet is His creation that we must use according to His will. The Torah (and Talmud and commentaries) gives us a very strong message about protecting the environment, but ultimately we do not worship the environment. We worship God. God gives us the gifts of this physical world and through the Torah instructs us on their stewardship. And in that way we serve Him.

And on that note….this week’s recipe is inspired by fruit–specifically the fruit that are in season now. Fresh blueberries and peaches. Yum. 

Devarim 20:19: When you besiege a city for many days to wage war against it to capture it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them, for you may eat from them, but you shall not cut them down.

Devarim 20:19: When you besiege a city for many days to wage war against it to capture it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them, for you may eat from them, but you shall not cut them down.

Peach Blueberry Crisp

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups peeled sliced fresh peaches
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Topping:

  • 1 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons margarine
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

  • Place fruit base in casserole dish.
  • Mix topping and cover fruit base.
  • Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. (I put a loose piece of foil on top so it doesn’t harden.)

B’tayavon and have a great Shabbos!

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Parshat Shelach

In Bamidbar 15:38-39 God says to Moshe:

“Speak to the children of Israel and you shall say to them that they shall make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments, throughout their generations, and they shall affix a thread of sky blue [wool] on the fringe of each corner.  This shall be fringes for you, and when you see it, you will remember all the commandments of the Lord to perform them.”

First of all, lets take a look at Tzitzit. (fringes or tassels)

 Rav Kook has a beautiful vort about the connection between Tzitzit and the soul. He explains that the soul functions on three levels: a) the actual soul, b) the soul’s character traits (compassion, tolerance, humility, etc) and c) the soul’s actions and conduct.

The deepest level is the actual soul. It’s completely removed from the physical world and can only be seen through the second two levels, characteristics and actions. The character traits act as the soul’s ‘clothing’ or ‘garment’ and indicate the deeper nature of the soul.

The last level of the soul are our actions. Our actions and behaviour are reflections of our character traits, and like the Tzitzit that emanate from the four corners of a garment, they represent endless variations and possibilities.

One thing we must remember, just as people judge us based on the choice of clothing, we are evaluated based on our traits. Like clothing though, they are external and can be changed.

Let’s talk about  Techelet, the dyed sky-blue thread which is a the stunning shade of indigo. According to the most recent research, the  source of the ancient Techelet dye was the murex trunculus snail.

According to Rav Kook the colour is reminscent of the sublime; the oceans, the sky, and God’s Holy Throne (Sotah 17a):

Sky-blue is the background color of the universe. The techelet thread connects us to the very Source of life, from whom all forces flow. Together with the other threads, which correspond to the color of the garment and represent the diverse range of human activity, the techelet thread complements and completes the function of the tassels.

The Torah teaches that the mitzvah of wearing tzitzit corresponds to all 613 mitzvot:  By wearing a garment with these special tassels, we envelop our souls in the Torah’s magnificent fabric of values and deeds.

Here’s a recipe that’s inspired by the colour blue, although this colour obviously does not come close to the sublime nature of  Techelet.

Bamidbar/Numbers 15;38 Speak to the Israelites and tell them to to make tassels (tzitzit) on the corners of their garments for all generations. They shall include a thread of sky-blue [wool] in the corner tassels.

Bamidbar/Numbers 15;38 Speak to the Israelites and tell them to to make tassels (tzitzit) on the corners of their garments for all generations. They shall include a thread of sky-blue [wool] in the corner tassels.

The dressing is such a beautiful colour, plus Merav really enjoyed it! (Hello, Merav!)

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Spinach  Salad with Blueberry Poppy Seed Dressing

Spinach Salad:

  • 1 bag of spinach
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 package enoki mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, or blanched almond slices
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup blueberries

Layer above ingredients in the order of the recipe.

Blueberry Poppy Seed Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup sugar, (next time I’m going to try this with Stevia/xylitol. If you’re interested in the results leave a comment or shoot me an email)
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup  oil
  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Puree ingredients in food processor. Drizzle on salad and enjoy!

B’tayavon and have a great Shabbos!

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