Showing posts from September, 2015

Scaling the mountain: thoughts on Yom Kippur

This is something I posted a few years ago. 
I though of the Gemara about the difference in perspective on one's evil inclination, and by extensions, one's deeds.  I mentioned it to me my son, and he said it was the subject of ashmooze [talk] at his yeshiva (in Queens), and his menahel [principal] actually interpreted it the same way I did  while thinking  about it.  Consider, who has a bigger inclination for evil -- a good person or a bad person?  One would think it is obvious that a bad person has a greater inclination for bad.  But here the Gemara surprises us with the revelation of the future.   The source is  Sukkah 52a.  It says: "In the future, G-d will slaughter the yetzer hara [desire for evil] bring it before the righteous and the wicked. To the righteous, the yetzer hara will appear as a mountain and they will say, 'How did we conquer that great mountain?' To the wicked, the yetzer hara will appear as a hair and they will say, 'How did we fail to co…

Kreplach recipe

In addition to the mitzvah of fasting on the day of Yom Kippur, there is a mitzvah to eat on Erev [the eve of] Yom Kippur, and a festive meal called seduas hamafsekes is eaten in the late afternoon. A traditional menu for that meal consists of chicken -- not too spicy so that one would not become thirsty later -- and accompaniments. Chicken soup typically precedes the main course. Instead of matzoh balls or noods, the soup accompaniement for this occasion is kreplach -- a type of wonton. Part of the reason for this custom is the similarity of name of the food: kreplach has the same letters as Kippur. It is a bit of a patchken to make from scratch because you have to make a dough and roll it out, so if you are short on time, you can buy it ready or in frozen form. But homemade is usally best. Here's the recipe I make. Kreplach Dough 1 lb. flour 1 extra large egg 8-12 oz. warm water Filling 1 lb. ground beef 1 small onion diced small salt and pepper to taste 2-3 tablespoons oil (if you…

Baking and cooking with honey

You don't have to just dip your challah in honey; you can put honey directly into the dough. Honey is also a great ingredient to have on hand for glazing chicken. Here are some recipes:  Challah with a touch of honey The following is a favorite challah recipe of mine. It eliminates the extra step of dissolving the yeast  and also doesn’t require an excessive amount of time for kneading. You do have to some kneading, but the dough hook attachment takes the work out of that step. The entire batch fits into a standard Kitchen-Aid bowl. The honey enhances the texture, though you could substitute sugar for the sweetness. As dough rises more rapidly at higher temperatures, you cut down the rising time on a warm day. Also if you place the challahs in the oven without preheating, the challahs will have more time to rise in the warmth of the oven before they start to actually bake. If you need to slow the rising process, say if you want to make the challah dough in the morning and only bake…

A sweet,new beginning

During aseres yemei teshuva, first days of the new year, which begin with Rosh Hashan and culminate with Yom Kippur, it is customary to take on extra chumros  [stringencies]. People take on practices that are beyond the strict letter of the law even if they do not keep up such practices during the rest of the year.   It is not a matter of pretense.  G-d is not taken in by a temporary act.  Rather, it is a matter of trying to focus on improvement during these days that should be a time of introspection and spiritual growth. 
Browning said, "A man's reach must exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for."  The antithesis to growth is a sense of complacency.  We break out of out standard routine during these days to remind ourselves that we should not settle in as beynonim -- people who are in between good and bad -- content with mediocrity.  Based on the principle ofhadam nifal kefi peulathav [a person is shaped by his actions] we take action to heighten our spiritual s…

New Beginnings and Yom HaZikaron

The following is an extract from a post I put up last year.  Anyone who suggest that "forget and forgive" is what the month of Ellul is about completely distorts the way things work. 

 The spiritual work of attaining forgiveness calls for a person to remember and then to forgive. We have to remember what we've done, not call upon others to forget it to feel exonerated. This is clear from the prayer service.  There is a special prayer to be said on the eve of Yom Kippur in which a person declares s/he forgives everyone. However, those who think they can relax because the person harmed will make this blanket statement are specifically excluded, as are those who still owe the individual a debt. One of the names of Rosh Hashan is Yom Hazicharon, the day of remembering.  The prayer services are divided into sections devoted to kingship, shofar, and remembering.  We try to focus on remembering the good things, but we know that we can't simply forget about the past that was no…