Sapiens means “wise,” but are we?

This morning, as so often happens, I was alerted by @JewishVeg, to an excellent book by Yuval Noah Harari, an Israeli historian and a tenured professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  The book is Sapiens:  A Brief History of Humankind, companion volume to his more recent Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. Because I’m preparing to teach a class and suspected it might provide some good background material, I downloaded a summary of Sapiens to read this morning.

This is a book I recommend for anyone interested in the development of humanity and in particular, our relationship with our planet and other life on it. This relationship is my focus in my own study project as I work my way through the Torah this year and probably for a number of years to come as I begin to add in interpretive traditions.

The statement that first drew my eye was in the image with the @JewishVeg post (please visit the JewishVeg website at jewishveg.org for lots of great information and resources:

In reading the summary version of the book this morning, I discovered other thoughts and ideas that I’m excited to explore further with Prof. Harari, among them:

  • His thought that wheat domesticated humans and not vice versa, reminiscent of Michael Pollan’s idea about apples in his book In Defense of Food.
  • His statement that religion is a fundamental feature in the development of humanity and that it unifies, not the reverse. He says that the ability to imagine a reality is what creates and binds social groups. This corresponds to my own thought that everything is a construct including language itself, and our existential reality is that to become fully human, we must choose what will shape our perception  or risk being shaped willy nilly without our participation.
  • His statements about capitalism, based on the idea that the future will be better than today, and that capitalism is a “religion,” positing that economic growth is essential because freedom, justice and happiness need growth in the economy. As I challenge assumptions and constructs in other areas of my life, I’m inspired to challenge this one.

Most of all, I was drawn back to the quote @JewishVeg highlighted, and I went to read more. These two articles focused on Prof. Harari’s idea that human beings are catastrophically destructive to life on the planet, utterly contrary to what the Torah prescribes for us:

http://www.ynharari.com/topic/ecology/

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/sep/25/industrial-farming-one-worst-crimes-history-ethical-question

If time is short, read the summary, but consider the important information and perspectives Prof. Harari brings to the decisions you make every day.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

A little of this, a little of that…an alphabet of things to make with CSA veggies

This post was published in Bob’s Fresh and Local newsletter 7/25/2017

It was fun to have so much variety last week and even more variety this week. I thought I might share a few things I made as well as what I plan to make with this week’s veggies. Some of these things aren’t recipes per se but just “throw-in-what-you-have” type dishes.

Beets. See the recipe I shared earlier for a great beet salad!! I sometimes make beet soup with these as well, a simple purée of peeled cooked beets, onions, a bit of ginger and seasonings.

Cauliflower & Broccoli. I didn’t make them this time, but maybe next week I’ll include recipes for a spicy Middle Eastern style Cauliflower and Chickpeas…or for Cream of Broccoli Soup.

Chard. We’ll probably get this again soon. I made something inspired by “koshari,”, a popular Egyptian dish, a layering of pasta, chickpeas, black lentils, rice, and a richly flavored tomato sauce with petite diced tomatoes and lots of garlic. I had an extra layer of sautéed chard and onions. I topped it off with a garlic scape garnish.

Cucumbers. I made a beautiful Israeli/Jerusalem Salad with these. I’ll share a recipe at a later time.

Fennel. This week we’re getting Bulb Fennel, such a wonderful, flavorful veggie. While I was still in the cafe, I made up an absolutely delicious Fennel Salad to go with Dill Potato Salad and No Meat Loaf (a chickpea base). The Fennel Salad is on the upper right corner. It is made up from the fennel bulb, sliced, some sliced tomato, sliced red onion, minced fennel top, extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt and pepper. The fennel brings unique flavors and texture to the salad.

Kale. Kan’t get enough of them!! Smoothies!!! Huge ones! Every morning!! The smoothies — or better yet, Greenies, I make for Andy and me pack a wallop of nutrition and help us start the day super-charged. Would you believe, I make a half-gallon — and we each enjoy a full quart of this nourishing breakfast.

Summer squash. I do many different things with summer squash, but when I have a lot coming in fast, I usually end up making a quick and easy soup. This week I had leeks left from last week so put some extra virgin olive oil in the pan, added cleaned and sliced leeks, petite diced peeled potato (more or less depending on how thick you want it), petite diced summer squash and garlic. My veggies came to about one gallon. I sautéed them for a bit and added 6-8 cups of water (to barely cover). I added a TB of salt to start and 1/4 tsp. hot paprika. I simmered until everything was soft, then ran on low in my blender. You can adjust the thickness to your liking between the amount of potato you use and the amount of water. I put it all back in the pot, added 2 cups of any kind of unsweetened milk (I used rice milk), brought back to simmer, added in some snipped rosemary and turned off the heat. You could replace the rosemary with any available seasoning…like fennel? Alternatively…squash Napoleons?

If you’re still looking for ideas, check out my page in Pinterest, where I go for inspiration. My files are under LeslieCooks.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Torah Ecology: Devarim (Deut. 1:1-3:22)

Deuteronomy (Devarim, “things” or “words”) is attributed to Moses, his final words to his people in which he summarizes their experiences over 40 years wandering. Since it is presented as a repetition of material in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, it invites intra-textual comparison.

What interests me about this book is its different tone and theology. Perhaps one of the places Deuteronomy’s distinctive theology is most apparent is in the Ten Commandments, and the distinction is clear when we compare it with the Ten Commandments of Exodus:

Ex. 19:11 – And be ready against the third day; for the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai (וְהָיוּ נְכֹנִים, לַיּוֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁי:  כִּי בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁלִשִׁי, יֵרֵד יְהוָה לְעֵינֵי כָל-הָעָם–עַל-הַר סִינָי).

Deut. 4:12 – And the LORD spoke unto you out of the midst of the fire; ye heard the voice of words, but ye saw no form; only a voice (וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֲלֵיכֶם, מִתּוֹךְ הָאֵשׁ:  קוֹל דְּבָרִים אַתֶּם שֹׁמְעִים, וּתְמוּנָה אֵינְכֶם רֹאִים זוּלָתִי קוֹל).

While there is a palpable sense of a corporeal presence in the Exodus passage, Deut. makes it clear that there is no form, only a voice. By skillfully manipulating the verbs, Deut. doesn’t contradict Exodus, but it is clear that this G-d is conceived as a more abstract phenomenon. For more on the idea that the biblical G-d seems to have a body, according to some parts of the text (primarily priestly), check out “The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel,” a fascinating podcast by Prof. Benjamin Sommers.

While Judaism generally, outside the sphere of Jewish mysticism, posits that G-d has no body, Christianity is founded on the idea that G-d did take on a body. The Torah suggests both/and through skillful literary strategies.  Intra-textual comparison demonstrates that both ideas derive from the biblical text.

In this portion, we see a less layered communal arrangement, really just Moses and the Israelites. In addition, the Israelites consistently bear responsibility, good and bad, that was distributed in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers.

In Exodus, Moses’ father-in-law Yitro (Jethro) observes Moses judging the people and tells him his burden is too great — that he should appoint judges:

Ex. 18:22 – And let them judge the people at all seasons; and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge themselves; so shall they make it easier for thee and bear the burden with thee (וְשָׁפְטוּ אֶת-הָעָם, בְּכָל-עֵת, וְהָיָה כָּל-הַדָּבָר הַגָּדֹל יָבִיאוּ אֵלֶיךָ, וְכָל-הַדָּבָר הַקָּטֹן יִשְׁפְּטוּ-הֵם; וְהָקֵל, מֵעָלֶיךָ, וְנָשְׂאוּ, אִתָּךְ).

In Deuteronomy, Moses makes this recommendation himself:

Deut. 1:12: How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife? (אֵיכָה אֶשָּׂא, לְבַדִּי, טָרְחֲכֶם וּמַשַּׂאֲכֶם, וְרִיבְכֶם).

Deut. 1:13: Get you, from each one of your tribes, wise men, and understanding, and full of knowledge, and I will make them heads over you’ (הָבוּ לָכֶם אֲנָשִׁים חֲכָמִים וּנְבֹנִים, וִידֻעִים–לְשִׁבְטֵיכֶם; וַאֲשִׂימֵם, בְּרָאשֵׁיכֶם).

In Numbers, the responsibility for Moses (and Aaron) not entering the Land is placed squarely at the feet of Moses and Aaron themselves based on their action at Meribah:

Num. 20:12 – And the LORD said unto Moses and Aaron: ‘Because ye believed not in Me, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them’ (וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל-אַהֲרֹן, יַעַן לֹא-הֶאֱמַנְתֶּם בִּי, לְהַקְדִּישֵׁנִי לְעֵינֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל–לָכֵן, לֹא תָבִיאוּ אֶת-הַקָּהָל הַזֶּה, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר-נָתַתִּי לָהֶם)

In Deuteronomy, Aaron disappears from the equation, and Moses attributes the fact that his entry is barred to the people of Israel:

Deut. 1:37 – Also the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, saying: Thou also shalt not go in thither (גַּם-בִּי הִתְאַנַּף יְהוָה, בִּגְלַלְכֶם לֵאמֹר:  גַּם-אַתָּה, לֹא-תָבֹא שָׁם).

In addition, while Moses accepts his fate without complaint in Numbers, in Deuteronomy, this exchange occurs:

Deut. 3:25 – Let me go over, I pray Thee, and see the good land that is beyond the Jordan, that goodly hill-country, and Lebanon (אֶעְבְּרָה-נָּא, וְאֶרְאֶה אֶת-הָאָרֶץ הַטּוֹבָה, אֲשֶׁר, בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן:  הָהָר הַטּוֹב הַזֶּה, וְהַלְּבָנֹן).

Deut. 3:26 – But the LORD was wroth with me for your sakes, and hearkened not unto me; and the LORD said unto me: ‘Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto Me of this matter’ (וַיִּתְעַבֵּר יְהוָה בִּי לְמַעַנְכֶם, וְלֹא שָׁמַע אֵלָי; וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֵלַי, רַב-לָךְ–אַל-תּוֹסֶף דַּבֵּר אֵלַי עוֹד, בַּדָּבָר הַזֶּה).

Once again, blame transfers to the Israelites — and after the extraordinary and intimate relationship between G-d and Moses described in Exodus and Leviticus, it is surprising to hear this sharp rebuke at the end of their journey together. The flattening of Israelite society with the disappearance of the priests (and Yitro, a “priest of Midian”) is also noteworthy.

Even as the priests are thrown out of the story and Moses becomes the solitary leader, Moses own stature decreases as he blames the people he leads and begs G-d for a reprieve. In addition, we get less sense of the “personality” of the Israelites, their passions and fears, even as G-d becomes a more abstract entity. What can these differences in the telling of the story mean?

Certainly there is the explanation of source criticism, that Deuteronomy derives from another source, one not favorable to the priestly tradition. On the other hand, priestly texts in the other books direct profound criticisms at the priests through the Golden Calf episode and the Rebellion of Korach, and even in the episode in Num. 20:12 where Aaron is criticized along with Moses. These criticisms are potentially more damaging than simply eliminating the priests from the story.  In addition, scholars generally agree that the Torah was redacted in the 5th century by priests whose imprint is on the entire document.

Several thoughts occur to me: first, that while the Deuteronomist may have been antagonistic toward the priests, the priests were probably less than positive toward the Deuteronomist. As texts were both preserved and synthesized, it resulted in a diminution of all leaders. At the same time, failures in leadership transfer to the people of Israel, satisfying both those who would exalt Moses as the supreme leader and those who would exalt the Aaronides or priests.

These thoughts assume acceptance at some level of the documentary hypothesis, and I have always preferred to view the received text more holistically. Clearly there are differences of style, tone and content in Deuteronomy — but I like to think about how this book integrates with the whole Torah.

One way to think about it is as the story of Hebrew scripture itself presents it, Moses’ words at the end of his life. In this case, the changes in style and tone become a function of Moses’ age and perhaps exhaustion, his somewhat dispassionate reflections on his life and forty years of wandering with this people, his passion and devotion to a cause and his tragic disappointment that results from one impulsive moment. It is a glimpse of the same story through another lens.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org,  “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Torah Ecology: Mattot (Num. 30:2-32:42) / Massey (Num. 33:1-36:13)

This double portion that concludes Numbers begins with regulations related to women’s vows and ends with regulations related to women who inherit. As attractive as it might be to our modern sensibility to view these sets of regulations as a bold statement for women’s rights and responsibilities, it is equally tempting to comment that these rights and responsibilities are circumscribed by relationships to men. Women’s vows have validity only to the extent a father or husband permits; and a woman’s right to inherit is for the purpose of preserving the inheritance of her father in the absence of a male heir.

I like to view these passages in a different way, though, by setting aside, to the extent possible, my own cultural preoccupations with equality and the rights of the individual, in this case, women. Biblical culture emphasizes community and roles in ways we don’t. The primary ideal is not individual liberty and responsibility but communal harmony and interdependence. Men have a role in this culture and women have a role. Without each fulfilling their role, the whole cannot survive. When necessity dictates it, people move beyond their prescribed roles to maintain the whole.

Preservation of a mission-directed community also dictates the form vengeance against the Midianites takes. This vengeance on behalf of G-d and division of the spoils of war is Moses’ final act before he is gathered to his people. Moses delegates 1000 from every tribe to “avenge” the Lord and Phinehas, son of Eleazar the priest, to carry the holy vessels and trumpets into war. Phinehas already demonstrated his zealotry on behalf of the Lord when he thrust a spear through two individuals, Zimri, an Israelite man, and Cozbi, a Midianite woman. Now his zeal will lead this community devoted to the Lord against a community devoted to Ba’al Peor, a proxy war in a sense.

When the Israelites prevail, they kill all the men and take captive all the women of Midian, their little ones, cattle, flocks and goods and burn all their encampments. Moses holds these women accountable for distracting and leading the men of Israel astray at a critical moment in their history and orders every woman who has lain with a man killed along with every male child. In this way, the threat to the Israelite community and its mission is neutralized now and in the future as the remaining women and girls are absorbed into the Israelite community.

The fighting force is admonished to carry out their mission with similar thoroughness as they enter the Land to take it: “But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then shall those that ye let remain of them be as thorns in your eyes, and as pricks in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land wherein ye dwell” (Num. 33:55).

The Hebrew word translated here as “harass” (וְצָרְרוּ) means bind, pack or wrap. In some contexts, it means to make narrow. It is associated with hostility and enmity. צָרְר is the root in “Mizraim,” that is, Egypt, the narrow place. In this sense, leaving the inhabitants of the land in it returns the community of Israelites to their condition of servitude, the condition they left behind in the exodus from Egypt. What a strange thing it would be to begin the Israelite story with leaving one narrow place, enduring the trials of 40 years wandering in the desert, and finally returning another narrow place.

Freedom is the basic existential requirement for establishing right relationships with G-d, one’s fellow human beings and the rest of creation. It is a prerequisite for recreating the Garden in the Land, the task of this community. Ironically, the text presents the case that creating a blood-free zone requires shedding blood: “So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are; for blood, it polluteth the land; and no expiation can be made for the land for the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it” (Num. 35:33). In this instruction, we return to the real world mystery of animal sacrifice, in which blood generates impurity and purifies, in which the blood of an animal substitutes for the blood of a human being, in which there is a profound sense of human responsibility and guilt for introducing death and bloodshed to creation and in which more bloodshed somehow atones for that sin.

In this way we return to the ongoing effort of this community to work out the paradox that sustaining life requires taking life and to consider how a transcendent G-d can enter a finite community and live within it: “And thou shalt not defile the land which ye inhabit, in the midst of which I dwell; for I the LORD dwell in the midst of the children of Israel” (Num. 35:34).

A WORD ABOUT STRUCTURE

I have struggled some as I’ve worked my way through Numbers to discover structural mechanisms. While I’ve read various passages in Numbers many times, this is a first attempt to analyze it systematically, and it will require some percolation before those mechanisms become clear to me.

Thanks to the comments of a friend, I notice that there are two censuses, the first of the Exodus generation, the second of the generation that will enter and take the Land. I also notice three location divisions, the encampment around Mt. Sinai followed by the march toward Kadesh-Barnea; the encampment at Kadesh-Barnea and the march toward the plains of Moab; and the encampment in the plains of Moab preparing to enter the Land. Chapter 33 of Numbers recounts the entire journey.

The complaints and various rebellions occur on the 38 year march to and in the encampment at Kadesh-Barnea: the murmuring about meat in Num. 11, Miriam and Aaron’s murmuring against Moses in Num. 12, the negative report of the spies and Israel refusing to take up its mission in Num. 13 and 14, the rebellion of Korach and the levites in Num. 16, the complaint about water and Moses striking the rock in Num. 20, and the complaint about lack of food and water in Num. 21. The final acts of fear and faithlessness occur in the plains of Moab in the incidents with Zimri and Cozbi and with Ba’al Peor.

All of the leaders’ complaints center around issues of power and jealousy. All but two of the peoples’ complaints center around issues of food and water. Only the last two incidents on the plains of Moab are direct affronts to G-d, Zimri and Cozbi at the door of the Tent of Meeting and finally, eating with the Midianite women before Ba’al Peor.

The second census follows these last events, telling us that those not ready to begin the next part of a mission that requires complete focus and devotion to a purpose have been purged. The instrument of this communal purification is the earth itself, as the fires, plagues, serpents and dramatic earth opening to swallow perpetrators demonstrate an ethical consciousness pervading everything. Through it all, the relationship of G-d and Israel is passionate and volatile but is also sustained and sustaining.

I hope to come back to these structural elements in the book of Numbers in more detail at a later time.

AND A WORD ABOUT CONTENT

Numbers presents two strategies for forging Israel into a fighting force with an unswerving focus on mission: purging within and extermination without. Like animal sacrifice, these practices are horrifying today. How can this be an expression of the love story embodied in the Exodus from Egypt? How can the stories in which these techniques are used inspire us today?

In curriculum writing as in grant writing and mission statement writing, goals or basic principles are general and something you hope will last the life of the organization. Measurable objectives are slightly more flexible. Strategies are completely changeable. If a strategy doesn’t serve to meet objectives, it is common sense to change it. I imagine G-d might use different strategies in today’s world based on the principles the Torah teaches.

These strategies the Torah reports in Numbers are time- and location-specific even if we accept them as historical (factual) events. As I come to understand some of the basic principles, I can see how they might work. Pinchas and Mattot-Massei, for example. As I thought about the events of those portions, I can see how they might shock me into razor-sharp consciousness about my purpose and mission going into battle, how they would eliminate distracting, counter-productive thoughts and activities. I can see how they might have the effect of a Plan A that must succeed because there is no Plan B other than to languish in the desert and leave the world as they found it, according to the text, purposeless, greedy, ruthless, violent, enslaved to the wealthy and powerful.

The world is before you and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in. – James A. Baldwin

There is a major restriction on the right to the land, however, and this is the next stage of the Israelite mission, after they take it and settle in it. There is even a powerful restriction on the right to life, to not become “prey,” and that restriction is that Israelites are to use the land and life itself to build a just community, a holy community, spreading holiness in the world. Failing that, they “merit” nothing more than the people before them, nothing more than other animals in fact. In the plains of Moab, they are still on the boundary of hope, hope that they will create that sacred community.

I can also reject these strategies for my own life because in my current existential situation, they run utterly counter to other principles in the Torah that are critical in our world.  Ethical decision-making is often complex, involving multiple “goods” and “bads” that are difficult to disentangle. Doing a good thing, like preserving life, can involve taking life, but if it doesn’t have to, why would we?

I believe that in Judaism, we are not meant to follow a set of practices slavishly regardless of the circumstances. This is why Jews and Jewish scholars discuss and analyze in every generation, applying eternal principles and adapting strategies to ever-changing places and times. An excellent article by Rabbi Rosen, former Chief Rabbi of Ireland, shows this idea in action with regard to kashruthttp://blogs.timesofisrael.com/is-any-meat-today-kosher/

Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.  – James A. Baldwin

Modesty

I happened to see a short segment on Asian Muslim women creating fanciful hijabs. I started to think about Jewish modesty, which requires married women to cover their hair and all females to dress modestly — skirts well below the knees and arms and shoulders covered.

Many liberal women, Jewish and non-Jewish, view this and related practices as expressions of a patriarchal culture. I’ve never seen it that way.

One of the things that is immediately apparent in reading Hebrew scripture is that the first chapters of Genesis present an ideal world, a world which doesn’t even require taking life in order to survive. All of creation is vegan. With a catastrophic human decision in that environment, death enters the world, and every creature is possible prey. The rest of the text works out a plan, with several revisions along the way, for how to live in the real world. With regard to food, the minute meat-eating enters the world, proscriptions enter along with it, showing how to navigate on some basis other than impulse and opportunism.

I’ve formulated several different opinions about modesty along my own path through Judaism, but this morning, this occurred to me: what if female dress simply recognizes a reality and mandates a way to negotiate it, through practices that protect men from their impulses and women from abuse? What if these mandates are simply a bow to evolutionary and biological realities? This view of it is consistent with my understanding of the basic orientation of Hebrew scripture.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Torah Ecology: Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1)

The book of Numbers continues to elude me structurally. Neither an overall structure nor micro-structures within certain passages have revealed themselves yet.

There are so many dramatic passages like the Sotah (wife accused of acting unfaithfully), Naziriteship, consecration of the Levites to the Lord instead of the first-born, the second Passover, the marching order, the unrest of the people over “flesh” to eat and the quail that rains down upon them, Miriam and Aaron’s rebellion, the report of the spies and the ascendance of Caleb and Joshua, preliminary skirmishes with the Amalekites and Canaanites, a stoning of a man who gathers sticks on the Sabbath, the rebellion of Korach, the story of Zimri and Cozbi, the Midianitish woman, the daughters of Zelophehad. Threaded through it all are the murmurings, the plagues and judgments, the food theme, the numberings and namings and allocations. The structural mechanisms that support the texts of Leviticus and Genesis don’t seem to be present in this book, though.

Perhaps Numbers is more of a flow, a fitful movement forward, directed to forging the Children of Israel into a mission-focused marching force. One of the strongest clues to this overall direction is the phrase in Num. 15:39, when G-d commands fringes on the corners of Israelite garments so “you do not go about after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you used to go astray.”

Numbers, then, is a book about forging a people with a mission, a single-minded purpose, to remember and do all the Lord’s commandments and be holy to their G-d (Num. 15:40).  The Children of Israel must develop the strength and sense of mission they will require to enter the Land of Israel. The time of wandering is coming to an end. Restiveness and distraction are luxuries they cannot afford.

Perhaps this urgency explains in part the horrific story of Numbers 25, when the people “go astray” after the daughters of Moab and then are further lured into worshiping their gods. G-d instructs Moses to hang the chiefs of the people up in the face of the sun, and Moses instructs his flock to kill those around them who went astray. Can we imagine the scene?

And then “one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, while they were weeping at the door of the tent of meeting” (Num. 25:6). What could possibly have inspired this action in the context of what was already occurring? Certainly it was not a casual act but rather an action springing from rage or despair.

The action stirs Phinehas to grab a spear and go “after the man of Israel into the chamber” where he “thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly” (Num. 25:8). Even more startling, Phinehas’ rage and the action that results from it are rewarded as G-d recognizes him for saving his people.

Following a communal purging, a command to smite the Midianites with whom the Israelites recently fraternized, a recount of the people, the episode with the daughters of Zelophehad which asserts the importance and birthright of every part of the remaining community, and the appointment of Joshua, when all is in place for the next step — there is a section on sacrifice, described like this: “My food which is presented unto Me for offerings made by fire, of a sweet savour unto Me, shall ye observe to offer unto Me in its due season.” This thematic element is important, and I am noting it here to follow-up with on another occasion. The Midianites “called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods; and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods” (Num. 25:2). Phinehas acts so that G-d does not consume the Israelites. The imagery of food and eating is central to the meaning, but this requires a separate analysis.

It is difficult for us to connect with the violence, even intra-communal violence of this text. Imagine living with a close-knit community of people for forty years, sharing the joys and tragedies of life with them, births, deaths, hardships and celebrations. You are at a resting place prior to entering the promised land and face formidable obstacles, possibly death, before you will rest again.

Your young people in particular want moments of enjoyment and relaxation before embarking on this final thrust into an unknown future. They party. They enjoy sexual liaisons. They share food. They relieve themselves of the burden of a mission and let their minds wander. Ultimately they lose any sense of purpose and mission. Suddenly the community is in the vortex of a bloodbath, one act of rage or despair stimulating another act of rage followed by a community turned on itself to eradicate the purposeless activity that threatens to destroy it.

I imagine an intense mix of emotions in this situation, but most of all I imagine being shocked into the strong sense of purpose and mission that the coming days will require. And immediately G-d commands another census, numbering all those of the Children of Israel twenty and older “able to go forth to war” (Num. 26:2). Those in the count are the most mission-focused of their people, the strongest and least susceptible to distraction. They are a chastened and hardened fighting force gathering in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho at the edge of the Land.

While it seems tragic that Moses is denied the opportunity to enter the Land with his people, Moses doesn’t dispute the decree but asks that the Lord appoint a man over the congregation, a man appropriate to lead the people on this segment of their mission. Joshua, a man who already demonstrated his commitment to the task before them, receives the commission.

The conscious choice theme of earlier chapters in the story of the Children of Israel has become a sharpened, mission-specific theme focused on entry to the Land. There the Children of Israel are expected to fulfill the most difficult task of all, remaining true to their covenant and establishing right relationships with their neighbors, the rest of their world and their G-d within the borders of the Land.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

My favorite time of year…no, my other favorite time of year.

Published this week in my CSA Newsletter, Bob’s Fresh and Local.

This is my favorite time of year, when all the beautiful summer veggies come from the fields into my kitchen. Oh, wait, I think I said that about early spring and the first greens. OK, ok, I just love the whole year in any year that I can have a part in bringing beautiful veggies into the world.

So let’s talk about this particular favorite time of year. Summer squash. Early cucumbers. Cabbage. Broccoli. Cauliflower. And of course that beautiful kale (hasn’t Farmer Bob’s kale been gorgeous this year?)

I saved my summer squash from last week, so with what’s coming in this week, I’ll have plenty to make a soup to share. This squash soup is a lovely recipe with a very slight sweet flavor.

SUMMER SQUASH & CORN SOUP

Ingredients
• 1 pound yellow summer squash
• 2 ears corn
• 3 large shallots (or use some of the leeks)
• 2 large garlic cloves (or use some garlic scapes)
• 1 fresh jalapeño chile
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
• 2 1/2 cups water

Instructions
1. Cut up summer squash into cubes, and cut corn kernels away from the cob. Mince the garlic and finely chop the shallots or leeks.
2. Add some extra virgin olive oil to the bottom of a soup pan.
3. Saute the garlic and shallots or leeks.
4. Add the veggies and water to just barely cover, no more than 2-1/2 cups.
5. Return to simmer, add seasonings (I usually bump them up).
6. When done, pulse soup in a blender, preserving texture.
7. Pour back into the pot, check and adjust seasoning, and hold warm.
8. At serving time, garnish with jalapeno slices and/or sour cream or yogurt. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over the surface.

I originally found this recipe at loveandoliveoil.com. I’ve used it many times with groups, and it always gets great reviews! I usually at least double it and bump up the seasonings a little.

We’ll enjoy cucumbers again this week as well. Of course, anything you don’t use right away can be pickled. Last week I pickled the rainbow chard stems along with a garlic scape (if you love garlic flavor, these scapes deliver a powerful punch). Can’t wait to see how that comes out! The cucumbers this week can also be pickled — just use the recipe I provided for refrigerator pickles.

But here’s another way to try them, and it’s delicious! A Hungarian friend shared her recipe with me many years ago — would you believe more than 40? It dropped out of my recipe repertoire somehow because I’ve just been doing vegan recipes. Sadly, I will have to wait on this one until Perfect Day perfects its milk, which they promise will have all the properties of cows’ milk but without using a cow. I’ve already translated most of my former cafe recipes.

Lots of yummy salads! The Creamy Cucumber Salad is at 5:00 in the right picture.

CREAMY CUCUMBER SALAD

Ingredients
• Cucumbers, 4, washed, sliced in half lengthwise, deseeded, thinly sliced across (thin slicer blade on mandolin or processor)
• Salt, 1 TB
• Garlic, 1 fresh clove (or some garlic scape)
• Sugar, 2 TB
• Vinegar, white, 1/4 cup
• Middle Eastern Labne or Greek yogurt, 3 TB – 1/2 cup

Instructions
1. Mix the deseeded thinly sliced cucumber in a bowl with the salt and minced garlic (or garlic scape).
2. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, overnight if you wish.
3. Remove from refrigerator and drain accumulated liquid, squeezing it from the cucumbers.
4. Return drained and squeezed cucumbers to the bowl. Mix with sugar and white vinegar.
5. Cover and refrigerate for at least another hour.
6. Remove from the refrigerator and drain accumulated liquid, again squeezing it from the cucumbers.
7. Return drained and squeezed cucumbers to the bowl, and fold in Middle Eastern Labne. Greek yogurt, preferably full fat, makes a good substitute.

Just two weeks ago, our beautiful yellow summer squash was a small yellow flower.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

It’s no use boiling your cabbage twice…Irish Proverb

So let’s just boil the cabbage once or even not at all! Oh, those beautiful cabbages, the red one, the green one. The humble cabbage turns out to be one of my favorite veggies. I make red cabbage slaw, green cabbage slaw, potato and cabbage soup with fresh dill, cabbage steaks with mustard sauce…and tonight I’m making stuffed cabbage rolls. This is an easy recipe as well as delicious. I use this filling in other stuffed veggies as well — grape leaves, summer squash, peppers. It has happened on occasion that the filling never made it into the veggies, but tonight I’m determined.

STUFFED CABBAGE ROLLS

Ingredients 

  • Cabbage, one head
  • Brown Basmati rice, 3 cups cooked
  • Mushrooms, sliced and pan roasted, 1 lb.
  • Salt, 1/2 tsp.
  • Za’atar, 1-1/2 tsp. (Za’atar is a Middle Eastern mix of herbs, available in bags at Butera, Garden Fresh and online – substitute with thyme and oregano to taste)
  • Olive oil, 1/4 cup
  • Tomato juice
  • Lemons, juice of 1-2

Directions

  1. Cook 1 cup of dried brown Basmati rice (which will make 3 cups cooked)
  2. Pan roast the sliced mushrooms until the liquid cooks off.
  3. Put the rice, mushrooms, 1⁄4 cup of olive oil, seasonings and lemon juice to taste in the processor, and pulse a
    few times.
  4. The mixture should be gravelly and cohesive.

To prepare the cabbage:

  1. Bring water in a large pot to simmer.
  2. Cut the core out of the cabbage and place the whole head in the simmering pot for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Take the head of cabbage out, remove outer leaves carefully and set aside to use.
  4. Place the remaining head of cabbage back in the pot for a couple of minutes, and again take out and remove leaves. Repeat this process until you have removed all the good-sized leaves.
  5. Chop the remaining cabbage to add to the bottom of your cooking casserole.

To make up the rolls:

  1. You can shave away some of the thick rib to make the cabbage leaves easier to roll.
  2. Place 2-3 Tb of the filling across the base of each leaf, and roll from the stem end up tucking in the
    edges along the way.
  3. Place in casserole with seams down.
  4. Add tomato juice to almost cover the rolls.
  5. Squeeze lemon over the rolls
  6. Cover withfoil, and bake 350°F for 45 minutes.
  7. Garnish with a bit of parsley.

This week we’ll receive kohlrabi again. I’ve tried it now stuffed and as a low carb “potato” salad — and I’ve pickled it. I think my favorite way to eat it is just sliced and used to dip into delicious Middle Eastern spreads like hummus or Muhammara. The bok choy made its way into a delicious stir fry my son made for us — and a soup with soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles. If you make a double batch of the mushroom and rice filling, you’ll be able to stuff the summer squash with them as well. Middle Easterners use an apple corer to hollow out the middle of the squash lengthwise, which makes a very pretty dish. Save up your garlic scapes for more of that pesto recipe I gave you a couple of weeks back. Use lots of basil with it and some summer greens. Speaking of greens, we’re still enjoying our summer chard omelets, and we can’t get enough of those greens like kale and kohlrabi greens — even cabbage and sometimes bok choy — in our morning smoothies. What a wonderful way to start the day!

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Eat your pesto spread on bread or saucing up a cabbage head…

Published in Bob’s Fresh and Local CSA Newsletter, 7/5/2017

I’m excited to know that we have garlic scapes coming through again this week along with Bok Choi, kale, cabbage and Swiss chard, all favorites among my family and friends.

My son makes a dynamite chard omelet for us all every Sunday as part of our traditional shared meal (and why not — he grew up on them!). Last week I made garlic scape pesto, and it was so good I’m looking forward to trying it again this week to slather on homemade bread or mix into pasta.

Bok choi I like to chop roughly, keeping the stems separate from the leaves. I stir fry the stems with loads of onions, green onions if I have them, thin-sliced regular onions otherwise. I add in the leaves for a moment and season. It’s a delicious part of lunch for me. Alternatively I add carrots Julienne to the stir fry and cook up brown Basmati rice to add to the mix with Asian seasoning. The peas coming in this week will also make a nice addition to that stir fry or to salads.

Here’s a delightful kale salad with a light, slightly sweet, slightly salty flavor. This recipe is from Israeli Chef Yotam Ottolenghi, and Palestinian Chef Sami Tamimi, co-owners of stellar restaurants in London and co-authors of some beautiful cookbooks.

Kale Salad with the spelt challot I cook at the shul on Fridays, see what I can come up with to add to Shabbat dinner or kiddush on Shabbat morning…

KALE SALAD

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch Tuscan kale, ribs removed and roughly chopped into ribbons or shreds (about 8 cups)
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and finely grated (about ½ cup)
  • 1 crisp apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • ¼ cup sliced raw almonds
  • 3 tablespoons pitted oil-cured olives (about 9 olives), halved
  • Black pepper to taste

Directions

Note: Instead of steps 1 and 2, especially if I am short of time, I make a dressing of the olive oil, juice of the lemon and seasonings, drizzle it over the kale and toss in.

1. In a medium bowl, combine kale and olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Using your hands, massage kale until olive oil coats the leaves and they begin to wilt, about 1 minute.

2. In a small bowl, whisk lemon juice, cumin and turmeric. If you like these seasonings, you can add more, but begin with the recommended amounts. Add mixture to kale and continue to massage the leaves until well combined.

3. Add carrot, apple, raisins, almonds, olives, and toss until just combined. Season with salt and pepper. Let the salad rest for 10 minutes, then serve.

GARLIC SCAPE PESTO

Great to spread on bread, and in thinking up a title, it occurred to me it could make a great “sauce” for cabbage steaks.

Ingredients

  • Any sweeter flavor leaves, 2 very big handfuls (I use spinach when available — this week I used kohlrabi greens
  • Basil leaves, 1 very big handful (I tried it without the basil since I shared it with someone who doesn’t like basil, and it was good, though I prefer it with basil)
  • Pine nuts, 1/3 cup
  • Garlic scapes, woody stems and all, 6
  • Salt, 1 tsp.
  • Pepper, 1/2 tsp.
  • Crushed red pepper, 1/2 tsp.
  • Lemon, juice of one small (about 1/8 cup)
  • Extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup

Instructions

  1. Cut up the scapes and process them briefly in a food processor.
  2. Add all leaves and pulse until even and granular.
  3. Add everything else and pulse, then blend, to uniform texture — but do leave texture.
  4. When plated, top Middle Eastern style with a little additional extra virgin olive oil for garnish.
A few root veggies and some kohlrabi, washed and ready to cut up for dipping in hummus and muhammara. I’ll take a platter to a July 4 party…

If you’d like more information about the CSA, please visit Bob’s Fresh and Local (produce) and All Grass Farms (livestock, chickens, milk and cheese).

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

From the farm. Love seeing all those beautiful greens coming in: