We’re working on a wine and cheese party menu and we want to know what’s most important to our NewKosher readers!
“Why do the Jewish farming projects get all the grants?” A friend of mine asked me over coffee one day.
I did that thing where I sound like I know what I’m talking about but I’m really just pulling it from out of thin air. “Oh, because of Parshat Behar.”
“What’s that?” She asked.
“Oh, you know it’s about how the Hebrews are tied to ha-aretz (the land) and how we have to give the earth time to heal itself after the harvest and how we have to leave the corners of our field for strangers and the poor. Stuff like that.”
“OK, but what does that have to do with locally sourced turnips in urban neighborhoods?”
This conversation about locally sourced, organic and free range-ness reminded me of a sketch on my new favorite TV show Portlandia…
I don’t think that Parshat Behar’s original intention was to make us work at a food co-op and get masters degrees in eco-psychology from hippie liberal arts colleges. Remember, this parshah was written by people who survived on subsistence farming and herding animals. The ancient Israelites weren’t shopping at Whole Foods and blogging about genetically modified corn.
But Behar does tell me something important about the Jewish People: we’re ahead of the trends. Our strength, whether its in farming, learning, praying, surviving, fighting, or what have you, is that we look ahead at the future to try to figure out the right way to do things. The Torah is filled with things that the Jewish people rejected (child abuse, idolatry, needless animal cruelty) and replaced those “pagan” trends with something better.
So while I laugh at nerdy kids from Brooklyn trying to grow radishes on land that once was a crack den, I have to check myself and realize that they are a lot smarter than I am. One day, I hope to be the kind of person who will lend a hand.
We’re thrilled to announce that NewKosher is back and better than ever! With a new mission statement, new volunteer director and new, delicious recipes, NewKosher is not your bubbie’s Jewish food website.
NewKosher is all about making delicious food for you, your friends and your family. We fully back the idea that anything can be kosher if you put the thought and creativity into it! We offer many vegetarian, vegan and healthy options.
At NewKosher we promise:
- All of our recipes are pork, shellfish and other non-kosher animal free
- No recipes or menus will mix meat and milk
- All of our recipes are tried and tested
- That when the ingredients of certain products (fish sauce, baked beans, etc.) are potentially not kosher, we will suggest a known kosher-certified brand.
- To post any and every (kosher) recipe you send in!
We have two different parts of the website. The first is full menus for events, parties and everyday meals. The second is our Recipe Box, which is an archive of all the recipes on NewKosher. We have different bloggers who contribute to NewKosher on a regular basis and we also encourage you to submit your own recipes and menus. We provide recipe cards for all set menus and also include a printable shopping list.
Additionally, we feature Jewish parties and events. Do you and your friends throw amazing Shabbat dinner parties? Let us know! Do you and your parents make a special meal for a certain holiday? Send it in! Throwing a party for a holiday, bridal shower or birthday? Check out NewKosher for special menus, party themes, and custom invitations. For more information, click on the Host a Party tab.
We hope you use NewKosher as the resource for all your kosher cooking!
A NY Times article titled “Eating disorders on rise for Orthodox Jewish girls” caught my eye, and I wanted to offer an opinion on the subject of Jewish food habits in general as well as fasting.
Briefly, it goes like this: We cannot – as individuals, as families, and as a community – allow our religious observances to become a form of idol worship itself. That is, to hold the observance in higher esteem than God. It is one thing to cling to the mitzvot and allow them to inform our actions and inspire our lives. It is another to allow them to consume us entirely.
Not Evil, but Un-Restrained
The Yetzer ha-ra (the evil, or more accurately un-restrained, inclination) speaks in two voices. The first is the one we immediately think of – the voice that says “skip it (a mitzvah). You don’t need to do it today. You’ll do it twice tomorrow.”
But the Yetzer ha-ra’s other voice is more insidious. It says “You call THAT observing? HA! If you can’t do better than that you should just not try at all. Do it better or you are nothing.” This voice, cloaked in the disguise of greater piety, causes us to give more than we can afford, to wear the badge “workaholic” with pride, to study to the detriment of work or family, and to fast even when it damages our health.
Fasting as an Idol
Fasting – and especially fasting on Yom Kippur – is challenging for everyone, but moreso for those plagued with eating issues because of the weight placed on the day.To help combat that, common sense (as well as a clear message from religious leaders) must prevail.
I don’t think we need another Rabbi Yisroel Salanter who (rumor has it) ate a sandwich on the bima during Yom Kippur. (There was a cholera epidemic and he was trying to make the point that people needed to remain healthy. He also insisted that Jews work during the holiday that year to assist in relief efforts.). But I believe we need to foster in people the same passionate he had for the health and well being of everyone in the community.
Our leadership has to be clear with the community, even if it requires a rebuke. This story comes from my friend Jeff:
A congregant who was in poor health s asked his Rabbi whether or not he should fast for Yom Kippur. The Rabbi was emphatic, telling him it was neither required nor was it a good idea.
“I’ve fasted my whole life,” the man replied, “I wouldn’t feel right eating. I think I will fast anyway. I’ll probably be fine.”
The rabbi looked him in the eye and said, “If you fast, I will issue a cheremagainst you . You will never have an aliyah in my shul again. Nobody will have anything to do with you.”
“You can’t do that! I haven’t sinned to deserve a cherem.” exclaimed the man.
The Rabbi replied, “You most certainly have. You are worshipping an idol – in this case, you are worshipping the fast itself. You are putting its importance higher that God’s desire that we live – not die – by the commandments.”
Not Blaming the Victim
None of this should be taken to mean that people who live (and God willing, continue to live and recover and thrive) with eating disorders are somehow at fault. Instead, I want to express my opinion (based on the article) that these conditions can be made worse by the combination of the emphasis eating (and not-eating) gets in Judaism as well as a lack of emphasis in on realistic expectations; on the “real point” of these big-ticket observances (kashrut, fasting, et al); and the general avoidance to the entire subject of eating disorders that pervades not just the Jewish community but our society as a whole.
Sometimes, We Should Understand Before We Do
At Mt Sinai the Israelites said “Naaseh v’Nishmah” – “We will do and [then] we will listen [attempt to understand].”
But the implication, the underlying teaching, is that the Israelites had the willingness to take on the mitzvot even before they had the full list of what they were. They wanted to do the commandments even if they didn’t make internal sense. That kind of eagerness is commendable.
Nobody said they actually started performing mitzvot without understanding how to do them. In fact, midrash shows how they avoided actions until they could better understand the related mitzvot – one of the reasons given for only dairy meals for Shavuot is because those Israelites – having JUST received the commandments – were so concerned about violating the laws of kashrut which they barely understood that they simply avoided meat entirely.
This is important because I think we sometimes go off eager and enthusiastic but uninformed when it comes to mitzvot, and that can lead us to make mistakes both when we perform the mitzvah and when we teach it to others.
As my friend Phil teaches:
“As always, this is my lay opinion, but I truly believe that it is universally and always a bad idea to take on a new observance without a basic understanding of the mechanics thereof. Note that I do not say “the philosophy” or “the derivation” or “the origin” thereof – the mechanical, operational, “how-to” of a mitzvah is that to which I’m referring. All those other things are important – but you will make yourself nuts if you don’t learn WHAT to do. Once you learn the basic steps – in our context here, for example: “What time does the fast start? What time does it end? What am I not allowed to do on this particular fast? What about medicine?” – and begin to practice them – then go find out what it means. In that order, always.”
The fast Asara B’Tevet is this coming Friday. Ta’anit Esther (the fast of Esther) is a little less than 100 days away. Passover – with all of it’s additional food restrictions – begins 20 days later. Looming large on the calendar’s horizon is Yom Kippur 5772, just 300 days from now.
Let’s use the intervening days to ensure these moments – along with all the other important dates on the calendar (Jewish, secular and personal) – are celebrated in a state of full health by our community, our family, and ourselves.