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Showing posts from September, 2014

Apple cake that's perfect for Yom Tov

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With apples in season and holding a starring role for Rosh Hashana, why not pick up a few more to use in a cake? This is my adaption of a recipe I tried that originally called for more sugar and oil. It's perfect to make in advance of Yom Tov because it actually tastes better on the second day. Should you decide to make it for a regular Shabbos, bake it on Thursday rather than on Friday. The recipe  meets my standard criterion for recipes: it is delicious, fairly easy to prepare, and it requires no outlandish ingredients or equipment. Ingredients 1 2/3 cups sugar 3/4 c. canola oil 2 eggs 1 tsp. vanilla 2 cups sifted all purpose flour 1 tsp. baking powder 1/2 tsp. salt 2 tsp. cinnamon 4 cups peeled and thinly sliced apples *optional 2/3 cup walnuts, chopped (would be omitted for Rosh Hashana when we traditionally abstain from nuts)  Preparation: Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9x13-inch pan with Pam or equivalent or grease it to prevent the cake from sticking to the sides. Combine all …

DIY Eruv Tavshilin

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Can you boil an egg? If so, you can prepare an eruv tavshilin, all by yourself. There's no need to spend clost to $4 on a kit that contians a hard boiled egg and a roll and a copy of the blessing you can find here. If you bake your own challos, then you can set aside your own roll for the eruv. If not, you can either put aside a roll from the ones you're buying to be consumed on Shabbos or just set aside a matzah along with the egg. To cover both cooking and baking, we use a representative food for each. It's traditional to use a boiled egg for the cooked item because it's simple and inexpensive. We usually all have a spare egg around. But it's fine to also use a piece of boiled chicken, fish, or meat, as well, so long as you can put it aside where it won't be consumed until the Sabbath day. The same goes for the baked item, which can be a challah or matazh. With upcoming holiday, we will have 3 opportunities to prepare an eruv tavshilin outside of Israel and o…

Transfigured by love: tshuva m'ahava

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What’s love got to do with the power of tshuva? Reish Lakish makes two observations on the power of tshuva [repentance] in Yoma 86B. First he declares: “Great is tshuva, for through zdonos [intentional sins] are transformed into shgagos [accidental actions].” Then he declares: “Great is tshuva, for through it zdonos are transformed into zchuyos [merits].” The first instance refers to tshuva miyira [out of fear], which only subtracts the offense, while the second refers to tshuva m’ahava [out of love], which transforms the offense into a positive addition. The power of tshuva to erase what we regret having done is a great thing. Yet there is an even greater power to it, one that does not just leave a blank in place of the blot of the sin but that turns it into the mark of merit. The key difference is the motivation for tshuva. If one’s tshuva is motivated by fear of the negative consequences for deliberate sins, they are effectively erased by reclassifying the zdonos as shgagos. That …

Remembering on Rosh Hashana

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The whole month of Elul, we anticipate the holiday that marks the Jewish new year.  The shofar is blown at the prayer services throughout the month.  Sephardim have the custom of reciting special prayers late at night or early in the morning for all of Elul, while Ashkenazim begin the week before.  For the whole month through the holiday of Shmini Atzeres, the psalmLeDavid Hashem Ori is added on to the end of both the morning and evening services. People also think about the significance of this time that is designated as preparation for the High Holy Days.  One of the things we work on is earning forgiveness. That is not merely a matter of fasting and prayer. It is also a matter of earning the forgiveness of our friends, neighbors, and relatives because G-d does not offer forgiveness for offenses to other people. Each person has to consider what s/he may have done to hurt someone else and seek out the person to ask forgiveness.  While readily forgiving is the right thing to do, the bu…

The lesson of the beautiful woman

Have you ever heard anyone dismiss certain halachos as "that's for people on a really high level?" I have.  In fact, I read someone's expression of that sentiment quite a number of months back. That's when I thought of this parsha but waited until we came to its weekly reading to write about it.


This week's parsha touches on a unique halacha that seems quite inconsistent with the accounts we read about earlier in the war against Midyan. This halacha of eshes yifas toar permits a Jewish soldier who is smitten by the beauty of one of the women taken captive to marry her. There's a whole procedure that extends for a month to allow her to adjust and be seen as she is without adornment, and after that time, she either becomes his wife or is set free.

It seems so contrary to the Jewish ideal of union, which is supposed to not be a response to mere physical attraction. (See http://kallahmagazine.blogspot.com/2012/07/the-persistent-prostitute.html )There is a my…