Tzav: Recipes

hamentashenI have some recipe cards from my grandmother that I cherish.  Grandma wasn’t all that great a cook, although she did make some pretty mean matzah balls and brisket, and we all love her Passover muffins.   Her salmon patties…..not so much. That could have been because I really didn’t used to like fish, but I digress.  I cherish the cards less for what the recipes are for and more because they’re written out, in her handwriting, on those old fashioned ones that say, ‘From the Kitchen of……”  Those cards are a direct link to my grandmother, her tiny kosher kitchen that somehow held two sets of everything.  I remember the African violets on the windowsill, and the seat where my grandfather sat and did the crossword in pen (my mother and I still do) and the entire layout of the apartment near Damen and Peterson.  Few things are as personal as our handwriting, and when I see those cards, I see her.  We miss a lot when we download our recipes instead of passing them down.

This week’s parasha is Tzav, and there are a lot of recipes in there.  “A handful of the choice flour and oil of the meal offering shall be taken from it, with all the frankincense..” (Lev 6:8)  “A tenth of an eifa of choice flour….shall b prepared with oil on a griddle.  You shall bring it well soaked, and offer it as a meal offering..” (Lev 6:13-14)  These were the instructions on bringing offerings to God in the Tabernacle.  These were the ways people were instructed to bring themselves closer to God – the word for offering is “korban”, from the root “k-r-v”, to come closer.  In Leviticus language, this was the way to come closer to experiencing God’s presence.

I am not much of a baker.  I’m good with main dishes and things, but the exactness required of good baking is difficult for me.  There is an actual chemistry to baking, something that eludes me on most occasions.  I can have all the ingredients laid out, ready to be combined, but that doesn’t mean it’s all going to come out.   Maybe the really good recipes are the ones that have to be demonstrated, not just read.  Last year, I finally got to watch and help my mother make the strudel that has been passed down from my dad’s mother, to her.  That grandma didn’t use a recipe for the strudel; at last, one year my mom and aunt sat at her side and measured everything that went into the bowl.  Still, it took years to get it just right, which it is.

Aaron and his sons were told exactly how to handle the offerings in the Tabernacle.  Granted, it was new for all of them, but it must have been intensely collaborative between them as they took on their new roles as Priests.  “How did that work for you?”  “That was a pretty uncooperative sheep.”  “Hey, try this next time.” The instructions may have been there, but it took the doing to make it right.

Just like life.

By the way, since Purim starts this Saturday night, go find your family’s recipe for Hamentashen.  Don’t have one…here are some links to some Hamentashen recipes (I know what I just said, but you have to start somewhere!)  For fun, write them out. One of my favorite sites, Shiksa in the Kitchen ( has a lot.

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