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Parshat Matot-Massei

This week’s Parsha includes a continuation of the saga of the daughters of Tzelafchad. Their situation is significant to all Israelites because it leads to a discussion about the general laws of inheritance. In fact Chazal repeatedly refer to this episode as “Parshat Nachalot” (the portion dealing with inheritance matters).

Having secured their father’s inheritance in the previous Parsha,  they’re now concerned about marriage. It’s important to note that the daughter’s claim occurs right after the census (26:2). Rav Elchana Samet explains that since only men were counted, and their father was dead, the daughters stood to lose their father’s inheritance in the land of Israel. Because the tribal borders were to be based on this census.

They married within the shevet of Menashe but future generations of women who inherited land were allowed to marry ‘out’ of their tribe. In this generation only they had to marry within their tribe so that Menashe’s property wasn’t diminished.

I wanted to do a recipe that was connected to Shevet Menashe. I thought of the B’nei Menashe, a small group of people in North-Eastern India who believe that they are descendants of Menashe and are part of the ten lost tribes. They’ve been practicing Judaism for over 27  years and many have them moved to Israel. They are situated close to Myanmar – Burma. I’m assuming that there is a similar cuisine because of the close geographic proximity. Here’s a Burmese recipe for Beef Potato Curry. I think that next time I cook this recipe I’ll substitute cauliflower for the potato.

Beef and Potato Curry: a recipe from Burma

Beef Potato Curry from Burma

  • 1 lb beef, cut into strips or cubes
  • 5 potatoes, cubed
  • 2 onions
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons, chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • salt
  • 2 cups water

Put the garlic, ginger, turmeric, onion, and chili powder into food processor and process until it’s a paste. Heat oil in a sauce pan and add the paste. Cook for 5-10 minutes, adding water if it starts to dry out or burn. Add cumin and continue cooking until golden brown. Add meat until browned. Season with salt and add water and potatoes. Cover pan and continue cooking until the potatoes are soft.

Chazak chazak V’Nitchazek.





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Parshat Bo – January 28, 2012

In the earlier plagues, Paroah’s heart was hardened. From the sixth plague onward, the Torah states that Hashem hardened Paroah’s heart. The obvious question then, is how can Paroah be punished for his deeds if his free will was removed by Hashem.

There are a number of explanations. Rambam focuses on the removal of free will as a punitive act of G-d.  Rabbi Yosef Edelstein offers the following answer from the Chafetz Chaim:

The Chofetz Chayim explains that Hashem did not, in fact, take away Pharaoh’s free will.  When the Torah says that He hardened Pharaoh’s heart, it means, simply, that G-d took away the divine assistance that is usually offered to a person who sincerely wants to repent. In the fifth blessing of the Shemoneh Esrei, which deals with teshuva (repentance), we ask Hashem to “…influence us to return in perfect repentance before You.” (Artscroll Siddur, p. 103; emphasis mine.) In choosing this wording, our Rabbis wanted to teach us that we need help from G-d Himself if we want to achieve complete repentance. By hardening Pharaoh’s heart, Hashem is, in effect, saying to Pharaoh, “If you want to repent, you’ll have to do it on your own.  I withdraw My helping hand from you.” Pharaoh’s free will is not taken away, then; he can still choose to change his ways, and act righteously. But the path will not be so smooth.

This week’s recipe is a nod to Hashem’s act of hardening Paroah’s heart.

A heart-shaped potatonik with a ‘no’ strip on top. Potatoniks are a bit starchier than regular potato kugel. This recipe reminded me of  the potatoniks we used to buy at Moishe’s bakery for Shabbat when we lived in the East Village of Manhattan.  If you live near a dollar store somewhere in Galus, Valentine’s Day has a strange proximity to Parshas Bo. That gives you a good shot at picking up a heart shaped pan for almost nothing at the Dollar Store. Once again – way to go, Dollar Store!

Paroah’s Hardened Heart Kugel

Put 1/4 – 1/3 cup vegetable oil in the pan. Place on the bottom rack of the oven set to 420 F.

  • 5 potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking power
  1. Chop potatoes into small chunks in food processor with steel knife. Empty potatoes into a bowl of water so they don’t get brown.
  2. Place eggs and onion in food processor and grind until smooth and creamy. Stop the food processor and add salt, pepper, flour with baking powder sprinkled on top.
  3. Process for another five seconds.
  4. Add the potatoes and process just until all the ingredients are mixed. Pour contents into hot pan and spoon some of the extra oil on the sides, to the top of the potatonik. Bake in over for 40 minutes or until it’s brown on top.
  5. Top with a diagonal strip of salami or corned beef that you can cut with a meat knife.
Happy Birthday Dad!
This Parsha is a special one. I just discovered that it was my dad’s bar mitzvah Parsha. (Hello Mordechai Aharon Ben Shneir Zalman HaKohen!) He was able to recite part of his Parsha and the Haftorah when I asked him about it yesterday. His bar mitzvah was at the old Machzikei Hadas in Ottawa. He remembers a Kiddush at their home on Stewart Street right after davening. This took place in 1932. He’s been making wine for almost 70 years now and in recent years has been making delicious liqueurs. Here’s a recipe of one of our favorites:
Delicious Coffee Liqueur (Imitation Kahlua) 
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup instant coffee (or 1/2 cup cocoa powder for chocolate liqueur)
  • 3 cups vodka
  • 3 tablespoons vanilla extract
  1. Boil water.
  2. Add coffee (or cocoa) slowly, to avoid lumps.
  3. Add sugar and boil for an additional five minutes.
  4. Remove from stove. When cooled, add vodka and vanilla.
  5. Mix thoroughly. Bottle and close cap tightly.
  6. Store in a cool dark place for a minimum of two weeks.
Shake well before using. This recipe should make around 40 oz. of 25% alcohol. My dad says not to bother using expensive vodka – it won’t make a difference.
He also says: Enjoy…Ober mit Rachmonos!!

Have a great Shabbos and B’tayavon!

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