Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Parashat Beshalach Addendum

Into the Sea

Several years ago we established the family tradition of serving tofu and honey cookies for this past parashah to symbolize different descriptions of the taste of the manna. This year I found myself on a fifth grade shabbaton for Parashat Beshalach. Of course, as an organizer of the event, I put those manna stand-ins on our shabbaton menu and even had an activity Friday afternoon to allow the students to bake the cookies themselves. That wasn't enough for my students, however They demanded some dish even more connected the parashah; unfortunately, I had a difficult time thinking up a food that would fulfill their request. Leave it to my amazing students, though, who have begun looking at their Shabbat meals through the parashah lens. One of the most sacred traditions in our school is one school lunch. So beloved is this meal that our student begged to have it served on the shabbaton: seashell pasta. Bless the child who yelled out at Kiddush on Shabbat morning, "I know why you're serving seashell pasta. It must be for the splitting of the Yam Suf. " I'm adding this new food to the family tradition.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Parashat Vayeitzei

Reaching for the Stars

It has been a while since I published a new post, but the ideas have been percolating nonetheless.
This week's parashah includes the story of Yaakov's dream of a ladder ascending to heaven. We are going to enjoy edible ladders for our first course--fashioned out of skewers of fruit. We'll use whatever we can find in the store (lots of oranges and apples, I'm sure) with slices attached between the skewers to serve as rungs of the ladder. Our ladder meal will include asparagus crossed with steamed carrots and string beans to form a ladder and a salad made of towering (or laddering) jicama slices and avocado (from one of the Kosher by Design books).

For the main, I am borrowing an idea from cookbook author Gil Marks. On his web site in the section discussing parashat hashavua, he explores food in each week's parashah. For Parashat Veyeitzei he explores the prevalence of sheep in the parashah and delineates the different types of sheep in the Torah. In the parashah, Yaakov meets Rachel as she is bringing the family flock to the well, Yaakov shepherds Lavan's sheep, and Yaakov amasses wealth of his own in the form of sheep resulting from a genetics experiment at the end of the parashah. Sheep are the livelihood and sustenance and currency of the time. Even Lavan's daughter is named Rachel(which means ewe) because she is his most precious commodity (Just like our own precious Rachel). So, it looks like lamb stew will be our shabbat dinner.

For dessert, our lamb will once again take the shape of a cake and it will be speckled with chocolate chips. I'll also visit our new local kosher candy store and buy some of the amazingly realistic looking candies in the shape of rocks to remind us of the rocks that Yaakov gathered under his head at the beginning of the parashah.

Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Parashat Bemidbar

Camping Gear

This week’s parashah begins with details about Bnei Yisrael’s travels in the desert. After Moshe conducts a census of the adult males in Bnei Yisrael, the Torah maps out the encampment that would be “home” for them throughout their journey to the Land of Israel. With the tabernacle in the middle surrounded by the tribe of Levi, the remaining twelve tribes (yes, twelve--Yosef is split in two) built their camps on the four sides of the Mishkan. The Torah delineates the positions of each of the tribes. Our Shabbat table and our Shabbat dinner will both, hopefully, be replicas of the encampment. To set the table, the challot will be in the center of the table covered by beautiful cloths, representing the Mishkan. I will tie red, white, and black ribbons around small vases of flowers to and place them around the challot. (Shevet Levi's flag is described as one third red, one third white, and one third black.) Then, although our table isn't square, I will set three settings on each of the four sides and label the sides with the four directions. At the place settings, I will fold a napkin in the color associated with the given tribe for that location.

To the East:
Yehudah (light blue), Yissaschar (dark grey), and Zevulun (white)
To the South:
Reuven (red), Shimon (green), and Gad (grey)
To the West:
Binyamin (rainbow), Ephraim (black), and Menashe (black)
To the North:
Dan (sapphire blue), Asher (pearlescent), and Naftali (deep red)

The meal itself will also replicate the encampment. When it is time to serve, we will lay the food out in a similar fashion. In the center of the table will be the protein—to symbolize the sacrificial offerings brought in the Mishkan. The serving pieces for the meal will be arranged around the meat, representing the Leviim who served in the Mishkan. For each tribe surrounding the Mishkan, there will be a food that either relates to the tribe’s color or the image on its flag. Each food will be placed in the appropriate direction:

Yehudah—a blue mocktail; Yissaschar—sunburst of yellow and orange veggies; Zevulun—white potatoes
Reuven—red gazpacho; Shimon—green broccoli; Gad—cucumber chunks standing at attention
Binyamin—tossed salad; Ephraim and Menashe—blackened chicken
Dan—pareve blueberry jell salad; Asher—olives (for the tree on his flag); Naftali—deep red beet salad

That’s the ambitious plan for this Shabbat.
Have a Shabbat shalom,

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Parashat Behar

Shoe Polish, Shemitah, and Shabbat

When I was a little girl, my Saba z"l would polish my patent leather Mary Janes every erev shabbat. He would carefully apply a thin layer of what I thought to be magical white cream and meticulously buff away the previous week's scuffs and stray marks. Why, you may ask, am I writing about polishing shoes for parashah? (Or in more Rashi terms: What does polishing shoes have to do with Har Sinai?) Saba's "polish" of choice, his wonder cream, was called "Jubilee," and I cannot learn or read about shemitah and yovel without thinking of Saba and his painstaking efforts every week, Jubileeing (his verb) my shoes.

So, jubilee it will be this week. The menu is simple for Friday night--Jubilee Chicken (a recipe can be found here: http://www.food.com/recipe/the-queens-golden-jubilee-chicken-official-recipe-331068. Of course, I'll be using a pareve substitute for creme fraiche) and Cherries Jubilee for dessert (without the flambe, unfortunately). During the meal we will talk about the shemitah cycle, which is mirrored in the omer cycle, and practice counting by sevens. We will discuss what happens in the shemitah year and how the Torah promises bumper crops in year six to compensate for the fallow land in year seven and the regrowth in year eight. Then, we will get to yovel. What does freedom have to do with the cycles of seven? If the end of the omer cycle culminates with Shavuot and celebrating matan Torah, how is yovel similar in its culmination? If seven is a natural cycle, how is the 50th day or year something that is above and beyond the natural? How does the commandment to set all slaves free during yovel demonstrate the themes of yovel and how does it relate to the land? [Ultimately, we are all servants to God, and all we have belongs to God.]

Wishing you a jubilant Shabbat,

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Parashat Emor

Let's Face It!

This week's parashah continues with the holiness code, aspects of Jewish law that help the Jewish People distinguish itself from other nations and strive to reach a level of holiness in its worship of Hashem. In addition to delineating the times on the calendar designated for festivals and holy days, the parashah also details various aspects of the tabernacle service, including which disabilities disqualify a kohen from direct service, which blemishes on an animal disqualify it as a sacrfice, and how to display the lechem hapanim, translated as show-bread (but literally, face bread), in the mishkan. The lechem hapanim will be the featured item on this week's menu. Simply speaking, the show-bread was 12 loaves that were constantly present in the mishkan, arranged prominently on the shulchan, golden table opposite the menorah. Of course, these twelve loaves generate much discussion: Were they leavened or unleavened? How did they not grow moldy if they were layered atop each other? What do they represent? Why are they called lechem hapanim? At our table we will certainly discuss some of these questions. {Answers???: Most say they were unleavened, but not matzah; They rested on a special device that separated them sufficiently as to inhibit mold from growing and/or the shape of the loaves themeselves prevented mold growth; The twelve tribes??} To represent some of these answers, we will serve twelve small pita or lafah loaves, because that is most closely what the lechem resembled. Also, we will talk about the word "panim," a word even my younger kids recognize. For starters, we will have various cut vegetables and spreads with which the kids can create pita faces. We will talk about the elements of a face and discuss how some say the vessels in mishkan were arranged in the shape of a face as explained clearly by food writer and scholar Gil Marks:

"Each of the four major objects of the Tabernacle corresponds to a specific human organ and sense of the face. The aron (Ark of the Covenant) is linked to hearing and the ears, for between its two cherubs God spoke to Moses (Exodus 25:22) panim to panim (Exodus 33:11). The menorah (candelabra), the source of light, correlates to sight and the eyes, while the golden altar of incense to smell and the nose. The shulchan corresponds to taste and the mouth. The alignment of these objects even mirrors the human face -- the altar (nose) in the center, the menorah (eyes) to the south, the table (mouth) towards the other end, and the aron (ears) behind. The aron symbolizes God’s presence, the menorah represents wisdom/Torah, the golden altar denotes enlightenment and joy, and the shulchan symbolizes sustenance and material prosperity. The golden altar was a synthesis of the two – wisdom and material endowments. The lesson of the Tabernacle is that all of our physical senses must also have a spiritual dimension, that all of the organs that we employ to function in our everyday lives must also be utilized to serve God, in the sanctification of the world."

These are beautiful and lofty ideas, symbols that will resonate for our oldest child and fun finger food that can help our younger ones understand the layout of the mishkan.

Have a shabbat shalom!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Parashat Metzora

I would like to dedicate this post in honor of a refuah shleimah for Frumet bat Brachah.

Spice up the Cooking, Not the Gossip

Tzara’at (often translated as leprosy), the physical manifestation of spiritual disease, does not make for very appetizing menu planning. Between last week’s and this week’s descriptions of the lesions afflicting the metzora (person suffering from tzara’at), it’s as if we’ve enrolled in a crash course on bizarre dermatological conditions. Nonetheless, I am back on track trying to figure out how to transform the parashah into a Shabbat meal. According to the text of the parashah, the metzora must bring an offering to the mishkan after he or she is cleansed from the condition. The offering includes animals (which type is determined by one’s economic status), scarlet wool, cedar wood and hyssop. Traditionally, tzara’at afflicts those who have spoken lashon harah. The Midrash uses this rationale to explain the various components of the offering:

[Why must the metzora bring cedar wood as part of a purification sacrifice?] Because the metzora became haughty like a cedar tree, the metzora was afflicted withtzara’at.... [And why hyssop?] Because among all the trees none is lowlier than the hyssop, and since the metzora has become lowly he or she will be cured by the use of the hyssop.


Luckily, cedar and hyssop provide some culinary opportunities as well as discussion possibilities. I will get cedar chips and do some grilling for Shabbat. As for the hyssop, much of our menu will be seasoned with Za’atar, made of hyssop. We like Za’atar sprinkled on chummus, baked into foccacia (I may just do a “garlic bread” with za’atar—no baking as it is erev Pesach), and on our chicken. I will set the table with pictures of cedar and hyssop and ask the kids what the differences are between the two. Hoepfully, the visuals will help get us into a discussion that leads into the above-cited Midrash. We will also talk about lashon harah and brainstorm great discussion topics that steer away from gossip and negative speech.

Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Parashat Vayikra

Xie Xie, Cam On, Merci, Gracias, Todah, and Thanks

After reading this week's parahsah, I was concerned about what I would present at our table. Other than creating a meat fest with various sources of animal protein, I was stumped. Thankfully, when our nephew was serving in the IDF several years ago, he sent an email update including a d'var torah on Parashat Vayikra that I held onto for inspiration. He wrote about the sacrifice offered as an act of thanksgiving to God for a personal miracle. According to the midrash, this is the only sacrifice that will be reinstated in the future, because we will never lose the need to recognize the good God does for us or to gratefully acknowledge God's benevolence. In addition, the Netziv explains that a festive meal should accompany the korban todah, thanksgiving sacrifice, to celebrate God's goodness and to share the reminiscences of God's salvation with others.

Hakarat hatov, expressing appreciation for the gifts in our lives, is a value we cherish in our family. For shabbat we will be borrowing from our U.S. vernacular and celebrating a Thanksgiving feast (turkey, cranberry, yams, etc.). However, we will be talking about the things for which we would like to thank God--the ways we recognize God's hashgachah in our lives. And for decorations: thank you signs in all different languages!

Have a Shabbat Shalom!