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Parshat Vayak’hel-Pekudei

Meet the Sisterhood of the Travelling Freilachs

Alex, Jackie, Channah, and Arielle: the sisterhood of the travelling freilachs

Here are four young women who have all changed their lives.

Three are in public school. One transferred to a Jewish high school. Their journey back to Judaism brought them together and much of that path was centred on Shabbat. (This week’s Parsha opens up with the mitzvah of Shabbos!) They celebrate every Shabbos together, all over the city, in different people’s houses. (I had to book them two months in advance – that’s how popular they are.) Next year they’ll be studying (together) in a seminary in Jerusalem. One day this is going to be a book, because this is one inspiring story.

It’s not an accident, that there’s a theme of FOURS this week.

The double parsha here is almost an identical repeat of the parshas Trumah and Tetzaveh. Four Parshas that deal with the design and construction of the Mishkan. (Sanctuary) But the repetition occurs after a significant event occurs – Eigel Hazahav – the golden calf.

Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky describes the meaning of the difference between the two double parshas. Terumah-Tetzaveh gives instruction for building the Mishkan, while this week’s Parsha recounts the actual construction. Rabbi Sobolofsky writes:

The area of the mishkan endowed with the highest level of kedusha was the kodesh hakodashim (holy of holies) which housed the aron containing the luchos.(tablets) While the aseres hadibros (Ten Commandments) appeared on both the first and second luchos both, the essence of the two sets was different. The first set is described as “v’haluchos maaseh Elokim – the work of Hashem”, whereas the second set was carved out by Moshe Rabbeinu, with only the letters being carved out by Hashem.

This loss of holiness corresponds to the two Batei Mikdashot (Temples).

The first Beis Hamikdash resembled the original plan for the mishkan – present were the shechina, the urim vetumim, and prophecy. It had all the qualities of “maaseh Elokim – the work of Hashem.” On the other hand, the second Beis Hamikdash, devoid of the urim vetumim and nevuah (prophecy), was built by the Jewish people and endowed with sanctity through human effort and fervent prayer that the shechina rest upon it to some degree.

Continuing the theme of four

There are four Shabbatot during the year, which are unrelated to holidays or Rosh Chodesh, but feature two portions. (The Maftir and Haftorah are read from different Parshas). These Shabboses are:

  1. Shekalim
  2. Zachor
  3. Parah
  4. HaChodesh

The first Shabbos after Purim is Shabbat Parah – the Parah Adumah. (red heifer -Bamidbar/Numbers:19)

The ashes of the of the red heifer were used for the purpose of ritual purification before making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Pesach. (Passover). This particular Mitzvah (commandment) is a Chok, meaning that it is practiced on the basis of faith and not logic. Between Moshe and the destruction of the second Temple there were only eight or nine red heifers.

According to Rabbi Frand:

The Be’er Yosef offers a powerful insight. The reason G-d hid the understanding of Parah Adumah from us, is to teach us a vital lesson. The lesson is that there are things in life that are inexplicable. We must learn the lesson that things will happen in life that we will never be able to understand. We will come across things that will be terrible paradoxes, things that have apparently no rhyme and no reason.

In honour of this being Shabbat Parah, I bring you the following recipe… Red Velvet Cake.

Bamidbar/Numbers 19:2 This is the statute of the Torah which God commanded, saying; speak to Bnei Yisroel that they shall take to you a red, perfect cow without a blemish, upon which no yoke was laid.

This one baked and decorated by my daughter Aliza!

Bamidbar/Numbers 19:2 This is the statute of the Torah which God commanded, saying; speak to Bnei Yisroel that they shall take to you a red, perfect cow without a blemish, upon which no yoke was laid.

Red Velvet Cake


  • ½ cup or margarine
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • red food coloring
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa (heaping)
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar


  1. Cream shortening or margarine, sugar and eggs.
  2. Mix the red food colouring and cocoa.
  3. Add to the margarine mixture.
  4. Add soy milk, flour, salt, and vanilla.
  5. Mix soda with vinegar, and add to the batter.
  6. Pour into a greased and floured 8″ cake pans.
  7. Bake at 350°F for 35 -40 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.Read more:

Here’s another four in the Parsha:

The Shulchan (table) and Aron (ark) each had four rings on the corner, with which the rods could be threaded through. But the poles were never removed from the rings. Why? To teach that the no matter where the Jewish people travel, the Torah must always be with them.

Here’s a dessert with four rings:

Shemot 37:3 And he cast four golden rings for it upon its four corners, two rings on its one side and two rings on its other side.

I used a cookie cutter that was the same size as the dessert cup to cut out the fruit. Four rings for four colours.

Here’s another ring recipe:

Frozen ice rings with fruit.


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Parshat Beshalach – February 12, 2012

Note: Both recipes are up – see below.

This week’s Torah portion includes some spectacular moments. Hashem parts the sea for B’nei Yisrael, the sea closes on the pursuing Egyptians, Moshe and Miriam sing a song of praise for G-d with the entire nation, G-d sweetens the waters of Marah, Moshe brings water from a rock, manna rains down every morning, and quails are available every night.

So many miracles. So many recipes.

So little time.

The first one is based on Pasuk, (Shemot 15:24). After three days of wandering in the desert without water they arrive at Marah where B’nai Ysrael complain that they can’t drink the water because it’s bitter.

G-d showed him a tree and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

There’s a Chassidic tradition that says, because they — the Children of Israel — were bitter, everything they tasted was bitter to them.

The Zohar describes the tree as  actually being the Tree of Life whereas the Midrash says it was bitter to the point of poisonous. This contradiction is explained by Rabbi Schneerson, the 7th Lubavitcher rebbe as representing the different stages of overcoming evil. Controlling behaviour while still experiencing evil urges is the first step that leads to eliminating these urges and then ultimately channeling them to do good. The tree thrown in the water transforms the water from bad to good, representing G-d’s desire for us to change the physical world to a spiritual one.

Shemot 15:25 God showed him a tree; he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet

This recipe is a literal interpretation of Moshe throwing a tree inside the water and transforming it to sweetness.

Lemon Grass Lemonade

  • three stalks of lemon grass, rinsed, checked, and cut in half, lengthwise
  • eight cups water
  • one cup sugar (adjustable to taste)
  • one cup bottled lemon juice
  • one lemon, sliced

Mix ingredients in translucent or clear pitcher, and place in fridge a few hours before serving.  If you can’t get lemon grass, use mint or peppermint as a substitute. The drink will still be lemony and refreshing, and most of all, will have the tree-in-water effect. Add ice right before serving.

Recipe Number 2: Miriam’s Drum

Shemot 15:20. Miriam, the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women came out after her with timbrels and with dances.

According to the Mechilta, Moshe sang and the Israelites sang back to him. Then Miriam, his sister sang to the women and they responded. Why did the women have ‘timbrels’ or ‘drums’ (Hebrew word: ‘Tof’). It was because they were so sure that they would witness God’s miracles. So they took their instruments out of Egypt. I assumed the translation of “Tof” is drum, but I see it also translated as ‘timbrel’ or tambourine. I’ve done the cake as ‘drum’ but it can easily by done as a tambourine by horizontally attaching Oreo-type cookies around the sides of the cake.

Miriam, the prophetess...took a drum in her hand, and all the women came out after her with timbrels and with dances.

Miriam’s Drum Cake

(this can be done as a tambourine by horizontally attaching Oreo-type cookies around the sides of the cake.

I’m rushing off to the OLA Super Conference now so I’ll just post the most important part of this recipe. The cake is a basic chocolate one with a butter cream icing on the sides. The top (when done properly, not the way I did it this morning as I’m rushing to get to the conference) is a beautiful and smooth glaze.

  • 1 part margarine
  • 2 parts chocolate chips
  • optional: 1 teaspoon vanilla flavouring

Melt in a microwave for 30 – 60 seconds. Pour on the top of cake and allow to drip down sides.

Have a great Shabbos and Betayavon!


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