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Parshat Vayeitzei

And he encountered the place (Bereishit 28:11)

Here’s a very short vort for the Parsha. Why it’s so short…it’s a micro-vort!

Yaakov leaves Bersheva and travels to Charan, where his uncle Lavan lives. En route, he encounters “the place” – Mount Moriah. The Pasuk describing the place, is one of the sources for Maariv, the evening prayer.

According to Rabbi Joshua ben Levi in Midrash Rabbah, the patriarchs established our three daily Tephillot (prayers).

Avraham instituted Shacharit, the morning prayer, because in Bereishit 19:27 it says, “And Avraham got up early in the morning to the place where he had stood before God.”

Isaac instituted Mincha, the afternoon prayer, because it says in Bereishit/Genesis: 24:63) “And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening.”

Jacob instituted Maariv, the evening prayer, as it says , “And he encountered The Place… because the sun had set.”

Here’s a dish with three vegetables.

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Three Salad

  • 1 lb green beans
  • 4 red peppers
  • 1/2 lb mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic (to taste)

Directions:

  1. Trim green beans. Cut peppers in strips and slice mushrooms in half.
  2. Drizzle oil and spices on the vegetables and bake in the oven at 400 F for 20 minutes.

Enjoy!

B’tayavon and have a great Shabbat.

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Parshat Noach

Among other items, this Parsha includes the famous story of Noach, the ark, and the rainbow. As it says in Bereishit/Genesis 9:13.

אֶת קַשְׁתִּי נָתַתִּי בֶּעָנָן וְהָיְתָה לְאוֹת בְּרִית בֵּינִי וּבֵין הָאָרֶץ

My rainbow I have placed in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Myself and the earth.

Bereishit 9:13 My rainbow I have placed in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Myself and the earth.

Bereishit 9:13 My rainbow I have placed in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Myself and the earth.

“Keshet B’anan” literally means a ‘bow’ in the ‘cloud.’ Many Meforshim (commentators) explain that the word ‘keshet’ throughout Tanach (Bible) means ‘bow’ as a weapon. Ramban points out that it lacks a bowstring and that the shape points Heavenward, showing that God will not aim it at us again.

Rav Amnon Bazak points out that the word קֶּשֶׁת keshet in the Parsha is not mentioned without עָנָן cloud and this combination of words is mentioned three times in Parshat Noach. He explains the combination of the bow with the cloud signifies the covenant. Since clouds throughout Tanach are mentioned as a screen, the bow is hiding in the cloud. Rav Bazak explains that Hashem is covering one of His weapons, like “returning a sword to its scabbard,” and His promise is that the bow will be ‘covered’ and will not be used against all flesh.

This week’s recipe is a rainbow-inspired spinach salad.

Bereishit 9:26 And it shall come to pass, when I cause clouds to come upon the earth, that the rainbow will appear in the cloud.

Bereishit 9:26 And it shall come to pass, when I cause clouds to come upon the earth, that the rainbow will appear in the cloud.

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Rainbow Spinach Salad

Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 package spinach, washed, checked, and cut
  • 1/2 yellow pepper
  • 1/2 orange pepper (use carrots if you’re stuck)
  • 1/3 cup red tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup blueberries,
  • 1/2 cup snow peas, cut in half, (if you have avocado that would be delicious)

Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup red wine vinegar (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Lay out the salad ingredients in order the colour wheel. Mix dressing ingredients well and dress right before serving.

Enjoy!

B’tayavon and Shabbat Shalom.

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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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Parshat Chayei Sarah

This week’s Parsha offers the story of Avraham’s servant Eliyahu searching for a ‘shidduch’ for Yitzchak. Eliezer asks God for a sign that Yitzchak’s intended should display chessed by offering him to drink. As soon as Elizer arrives in Nachor, he immediately meets Rivka, whose kindness and modesty goes above and beyond his test. They return to Rivka’s house and by the next morning, the deal is sealed and he begins his journey with Rivka back to Avraham.

The story is not a long one but is told in tremendous detail – 67 p’sukim to be exact. Chazal were puzzled by the amount of space devoted to this interaction, given that the wording of the Torah is usually so economical. One of the answers is found in Breishit Rabbah 60:

The conversation of the patriarch’s servants is superior to the Torah of the descendants” 

That poses a further question though. Is the everyday conversation of the Avot actually more significant than the Torah and its law? Rav Kook answers this.

These ‘conversations’ of the Avot (patriarchs) were also a form of Torah. This Torah was more elevated than the later Torah of their descendants, as it reflected the extraordinary holiness and nobility of these spiritual giants. Rav Kook explains that the reason Chazal referred to their words as ‘conversations’ was because that’s a term that refers to natural speech. He writes that

“the Torah of the Avot was like a conversation, flowing naturally from the inner sanctity of their lives and aspirations. Holy ideals permeated the day-to-day world of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to such a degree that these ideals were manifest even in the everyday discourse of their servants.”

The Torah of their descendants, on the other hand, lacks this natural spontaneity. It is a more conscious process that’s dependent on law to control all aspects of our lives. So the words and deeds of the Avot and Imahot are like living Torah, inspirational, and beloved by Hashem.

This week’s recipe is related to Eliezer’s deed in relation to negotiating for Rivkah’s hand in marriage. It says in Genesis  24:53. And the servant took out silver articles and golden articles and garments, and he gave [them] to Rebecca, and he gave delicacies to her brother and to her mother.

This was clearly a disappointment to Lavan, Rivkah’s brother. According to Rashi these delicacies refer to sweet fruits (מְגָדִים), that Eliezer had brought with him from the Land of Israel.

Since the most well-known fruit export from Israel is the orange I’ve chosen a recipe incorporating oranges.

Genesis 24:53 And the servant took out silver articles and golden articles and garments, and he gave them to Rivka, and he gave delicacies (fruit) to her brother and to her mother.

Citrus Spinach Salad

  • spinach
  • red onion, sliced
  • sliced oranges or canned mandarins
  • handful of soy nuts

Dressing:

  • 3/4 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons Dijon salad
  • 3 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Mix and dress salad right before serving.

B’tayavon and have a great Shabbos!

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Parshat Noach

This week’s Parsha includes an accounting of the story of Noach and the flood. The Parsha also tells us about the ‘Keshet B’Anan’ – the bow in the cloud. The rainbow acts as a sign of God’s promise – He will not destroy the world again. There are some questions concerning the rainbow though…

If rainbows are a natural phenomenon resulting from the reflection of light in water droplets in the  Earth’s atmosphere, than surely this would have occurred before the flood. If that’s the case – than how could the rainbow suddenly become a sign?

There is some disagreement about this issue among the commentaries. The Ibn Ezra holds that God only created the rainbow after the flood. The Ramban holds that the rainbows existed before the flood but was only assigned as a sign of God’s promise not to destroy the world after the Mabul. According to the Kli Yakar, rainbows did indeed exist before the Mabul (flood) but they weren’t really noticed very much. After the Mabul however, the rainbow assumed  critical significance because they understood the consequences of their sinning. So when they did Aveiros (sins) they were reassured by the rainbow that God wouldn’t destroy the world.

It does seem interesting that this Parsha comes so close to the Yamim Noraim (High Holydays) when God invites us to return to Him and assures us that any step toward Teshuvah will be welcomed. It’s a sign of reassurance in a time of reassurance.

In honour of the ‘Keshet B’Anan’ – the rainbow – I’ve done two rainbow recipes:

9:13 My rainbow I have placed in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Myself and the earth.

 

Bereishit 9:14 And it shall come to pass, when I cause clouds to come upon the earth, that the rainbow will appear

 

Here’s another one – I used 1 1’2 tubs of vanilla yogurt mixed with gel colours. Place each layer in the freezer for ten minutes before pouring on the next one. It’s a bit labour-intensive but isn’t this gorgeous!

Bereishit 9:16 And the rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will see it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and between every living creature among all flesh, which is on the earth

B’Tayavon and have a great Shabbos!

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Parshat Bereishit

Happy new year. Or as my dad says, ‘you should have a good Kvittel.’

This week’s Parsha tells us about the beginning of our world. In 1905 Rav Kook was already dealing with the question of evolution, science, and the geological age of the world. His letter, written in Jaffa, appears in  Igrot HaRe’iyah and offers four basic arguments.

  1. Prior to our counting of our era there were worlds that God had created and destroyed. (Midrash Bereishit Rabbah 3:7) The Zohar (Vayikra 10a) also states that other species existed beside Adam of the Torah.
  2. Scientific theories are not absolute and subsequent research can result in their discrediting or disproving.
  3. In Melachim Aleph 6:2 it refers to “the house that King Solomon built.” This does not include the process of  building the Beit Hamikdash whereby consultants, architects, designers, craftsmen, and workers actually put it together. As Rav Kook says: So too, if God created life via the laws of evolution, these are details irrelevant to the Torah’s central message, namely, the ethical teaching of a world formed and governed by an involved Creator.
  4. The Torah reveals the story of creation in a way that is almost impossible to decipher. According to Rav Kook: Creation — which the mystics refer to as Ma’aseh Bereishit — clearly belongs to the esoteric part of Torah (see Chaggigah 11b).

Whether the six days of creation represent days, eras, or epochs, the unit of seven is a standard one in the organization of the world and of Torah. Seven days of the week correspond to seven  years of Shmittah and seven Shmittahs of the Yovel (Jubilee year.)

In honour of the number seven here’s a seven layered salad that would be perfect for Seudat Shlishi – the Third Meal.

B’tayavon and have a great Shabbos!

Genesis 2:2 And God completed on the seventh day His work that He did, and He abstained on the seventh day from all His work that He did.

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Parshat Pinchas – July 7, 2012

In Numbers 27:1-11 the five daughters of  Tzelaphchad – Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah – approach Moshe, Eleazar, and the other leadership of the Israelites. Their father has died and although they are daughters, they wish to inherit their father’s inheritance. Moshe consults with God who tells him that the daughters ‘speak justly’ and their father’s inheritance should indeed be transferred to them.

Rabbi Benjamin Yudin discusses the contrasting opinions of two commentators. The Yalkut Shimoni states that this incident took place in the second year of the desert, immediately following the sin of the spies. Another opinion holds that it took place in the 40th year following the death of Aaron the Kohen. According to Rabbi Yudin:

Following Aharon’s demise, they [Israelites] started traveling in the opposite direction, away from Israel back towards Egypt… what is most exemplary on the part of these five righteous women is that at a time when the popular tide and trend of the nation was “let us appoint a leader and let us return to Egypt” (Bamidbar 14:4) they requested an inheritance in the Land of Israel. 

The Yalkut derives a most important principle from the above: one who lives in a society that is practicing evil, but has the integrity and commitment to buck the system and do what is right, not only receives his due reward, but also all the potential reward and blessings that could have been accrued by the generation. Thus the daughters of Tzlofchad not only received their reward for their love of the Land and pining, but received the reward that was potentially awaiting the rest of the generation.

The women’s request for their father’s inheritance leads to a series of guidelines from God to Moshe on this issue. The story of these righteous women is truly an inspiring story.

This week’s recipe simply had to honour the five daughters of Tzlaphchad.

I decided to look for a recipe that combined women and Israel. “How to Cook in Palestine” written in 1936 is considered the first Israeli cookbook. Unfortunately it’s out of print. But I did find something fantastic, written by Lady Judith Cohen Montefiore in 1846 called The Jewish Manual: or Practical Information in Jewish Modern Cookery, with a Collection of Valuable Recipes and Hints Relating to the Toilette, edited by a Lady. The best part of this book is that it’s available digitally for free through Project Gutenberg.

Sir Moses Montefiore was an outstanding Jewish philanthropist who became Torah-observant after his first visit to Eretz Yisrael in 1827 and even traveled with his own personal Shochet. (ritual slaughterer)

I’m a bit of an afficionado for historical ‘ladies’ magazines. I love Good Housekeeping from the 1940’s “Oh my, how will I ever become a bride living with the pain of halitosis!”  Lady Montefiore’s cookbook is fascinating even though it’s completely impractical.

Here’s an example:

DIET-BREAD CAKE.

Beat together five eggs and half a pound of white sugar, then add six ounces of flour well dried and sifted, a little lemon-juice and grated lemon-peel; bake in a moderate oven.

See what I mean?

  • ingredients aren’t really measured
  •  ingredients are limited (butter, milk, almonds, flour, basic veggies) and sometimes…strange
  • No oven temperatures: just put things ‘on the fire’
  • The entire animal is used ‘take the head of a calf’
  • Pheasants, pigeons, partridges, venison, galore!
  • butter, butter, and more butter!

There’s a recipe for apple sauce for goose in which she says, ‘the acid of the apples is reckoned a corrective to the richness of the goose.

Okay, that’s just plain yuck. 
Here’s an example:

DIET-BREAD CAKE.

Beat together five eggs and half a pound of white sugar, then add six ounces of flour well dried and sifted, a little lemon-juice and grated lemon-peel; bake in a moderate oven.

The beauty trips are great too. (how to remove a tan – let’s just say that it involves lots of cucumber, you can also learn how to remove freckles, etc.)

Here’s this week’s recipe taken straight from 1846! (I used bar-b-q turkey and beef)
ITALIAN SALAD.

Cut up the white parts of a cold fowl, and mix it with mustard and cress, and a lettuce chopped finely, and pour over a fine salad mixture, composed of equal quantities of vinegar and the finest salad oil, salt, mustard, and the yolks of hard boiled eggs, and the yolk of one raw egg, mixed smoothly together; a little tarragon vinegar is then added, and the mixture is poured over the salad; the whites of the eggs are mixed, and serve to garnish the dish, arranged in small heaps alternately with heaps of grated smoked beef; two or three hard boiled eggs are cut up with the chicken in small pieces and mixed with the salad; this is a delicate and refreshing entrée; the appearance of this salad may be varied by piling the fowl in the centre of the dish, then pour over the salad mixture, and make a wall of any dressed salad, laying the whites of the eggs (after the yolks have been removed for the mixture), cut in rings on the top like a chain.

B’Tayavon and have a great Shabbos!

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