Bo Means Go
Shevat, my only d'var Torah, and a chocolate mandel bread recipe.
This week’s issue is jam-packed, but before we begin, I want to acknowledge today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. While we sit around our Shabbos tables tonight, or read some Jewish reflections, take a moment to think of the six million lives lost to us. Perhaps light a candle, reflect, or read their stories.
We’ve sat in the darkness. We’ve internalized our anger. Now it’s time for some hope! That’s because this week, we hit a new moon and now it’s the month of Shevat. This is the month of trees, because the holiday that celebrates trees is Tu BiShvat, or the 15th of Shevat.
There’s another underlying beautiful message here. The French medieval commentator, Rashi, explains that Tu BiShvat is when the sap of new life begins to rise in the trees, which leads to the production of new fruit. This is growth that we cannot see, but know it will produce something great and bountiful. With faith and patience, we have much to look forward to.
What is your underlying sap that has been sitting within you the past couple of months that you have been cultivating and manifesting? What has been steadily growing within you that you will soon be ready to share with the world?
A year ago I wrote my first and only d’var Torah! Translated to “words of Torah,” this is a short speech one gives at shul or around the table or for special occasions, like b’nei mitzvah or weddings, that talks about the week’s Torah portion and connects it to a meaningful thought or question.
I’m a little Torah-shy… that’s why I don’t write about it as much as I’d like to on here, but I was asked to write one, so I wrote mine in the form of a poem, which sparked a dream of mine to write a book of d’var Torah poems, one for each parsha (don’t steal my idea!).
I had a lot of fun writing this. It helps that it was an exciting parsha. Thank goodness I wasn’t asked to write one for Leviticus. I was so proud of it that I shared it around at work and someone asked if she could bring it to her Shabbos table to read. That was a big moment of Jewish pride for me.
Some context: we are in the heart of the Exodus story! You know the one… the Israelites are slaves in Egypt. The Pharaoh is not letting Moses’s people go. Gd brings plagues upon the Egyptians, and this parsha covers the last three, then the Israelites leaves Egypt, receiving the commandment to observe Passover. Cue Michelle Pfeiffer!
It’s time for some Torah
On the Shabbat of the 15th week.
In Hebrew, it’s Parashat Bo
For those who can fluently speak.
Bo means come, or go,
And to Pharaoh Moses went
To free the Israelites from slavery,
Though the cruel ruler would not relent.
He allowed only the men
From the house of bondage to go free.
To Moses, this wasn’t good enough,
So a swarm of locusts they would soon see.
Cue the 9th plague,
After Gd turned Pharaoh’s heart hard as stone.
A thick darkness descended upon Egypt,
For three days, one felt nothing but alone.
Pharaoh agreed to free the Hebrews,
Keeping their animals, as he was so inclined.
But since sacrifices were made back then,
Moses said “No Hoof Left Behind.”
He had the last word, telling Pharaoh,
“I shall never see your face again,”
Which makes one wonder, in great suspense,
What’s behind Door Number 10.
Its post is covered in lamb’s blood
Because it belongs to the home of a Jew,
So the Lord knows to pass over when killing a first born,
Does this sound familiar to you?
He freed the Israelites from Pharaoh’s grasp,
And from Egypt they fled,
Not taking the time to let their dough rise,
Thus marking the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Moses repeated Gd’s covenant to his people
For we should always remember this day,
And how after 430 years
We were free, we were no longer slaves.
Now, this parsha sounds like Moses
is the hero and Gd is the boss.
But I see something more communal,
That to me, in Judaism, is the secret sauce.
To Moses, it’s all or nothing,
To free the Jewish people as one.
He tells Pharaoh “We shall go, with our
youngsters and elders, with our daughters, and sons.”
It wouldn’t have been enough.
Don’t start singing Dayeinu just yet,
Had the men only left to worship Gd
Leaving the rest in Egypt for us to forget.
Even in 10th plague prep,
They worked together, gathering vessels of silver and gold,
And nothing says group bonding like slaughter
In the days of old.
Yes, Gd talks to Moses often,
But has Moses speak to the entire group.
For we are all of Gd’s creation,
Of that, Parashat Bo is proof.
The first Passover feast was inside the home,
A family gathering of matzo, lamb, and bitter herbs.
A tradition to carry on through the generations
Something special that you and I today observe.
Bo is more than the story of escape,
Of grasshoppers raining from the sky.
Bo tells us that, as Jews, we must stick together
When things in life may go awry.
It’s the reason we are here today,
When times are tough or a little unplanned.
The Jewish value of helping one another
Always with an outstretched hand (just make sure you sanitize it first).
And so, on this snowy Sabbath morning
As this d’var Torah comes to an end,
Look around the room, and how we get by
With a little help from our friends. (my rabbi is a huge Beatles fan!)
Triple Chocolate Almond Mandelbrot Recipe
You didn’t think I’d write a Jewish blog without including some recipes every once in a while, did you?!
I’ve never had mandel bread (Yiddish for ‘almond bread’), the Jewish biscotti, but considering I don’t like biscotti, that makes sense! Nor do we have a family recipe for it so I didn’t have it growing up. Having said that, I’m really excited about this recipe and would consider making it! I think the chocolate helps!
I chose a recipe that includes almonds, because Shevat is the time when almond trees begin to blossom in Israel when all the other trees stay sleepy. Through the long winter, it’s preparing to re-awaken and is ready for spring. Even before it has leaves, it’s ready to blossom. Cool Hebrew word connection alert! The Hebrew word for almond is שָׁקֵד (‘shakeid’), and it shares the same root word (no pun intended) that means ‘to watch, watch over’ (שָׁקַד, or ‘shakad’). And what do almonds look like? Eyes, perhaps? Are you impressed yet? Anyway… aren’t we all like the almond tree, watching for spring? I know I am.
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup coarsely chopped or sliced almonds
1 cup chocolate chips or chunks (semisweet, dark, or white)
12 ounces dark or semisweet chocolate, chopped (for melting)
Using your electric mixer, mix together eggs, sugar, canola oil, vanilla and salt on medium high speed until well combined.
In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder.
Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing on medium low after each addition, until a smooth, sticky dough forms.
Add the almonds and chocolate chips and use the mixer to incorporate them into the dough.
Place the dough in a bowl that will easily fit in your refrigerator. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Let the dough chill for at least 2 hours. You can chill it up to 48 hours before baking.
When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice the dough into four equal sections inside the bowl.
Lightly grease your hands with canola oil. Take the 4 sections of chilled dough and form 4 long, thick rows or rectangles on the baking sheet. Each row should be about 3 ½ inches wide. Make sure you leave at least 1 inch between rows, as they will expand during baking. I usually put the fourth row on a second baking sheet so there is plenty of extra room for spreading. You can squeeze them all on one sheet if you prefer, but you might want to make the rows a bit narrower.
Bake mandelbrot for 25 minutes. I like to line my baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup. Take mandelbrot out of the oven and let the oven cool to 275 degrees F.
While oven is cooling, slice the 4 rows into ½ inch wide biscotti-sized slices.
Put the slices cut-side down back onto the cookie, then bake at 275 degrees F for another 20 minutes, or until crisp. The longer they stay in the oven, the crisper they’ll be. Keep an eye on the texture and don’t over-bake, or the mandelbrot will dry out. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a rack.
Slowly melt the dark or semisweet chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave till smooth.
Dip the mandelbrot into the chocolate. There are two ways to do this. The first way (which dries the prettiest) works best with a rack. Line the surface below the rack with paper to protect your countertop. Take a mandelbrot and dip the upper mounded half of the mandelbrot lengthwise into the chocolate.
Turn the wet chocolate-coated side up and place it on the rack to dry.
For the second dipping method, you’ll need a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Melt the chocolate in a narrow container, so the chocolate pool is deep. Dip the mandelbrot endwise to coat the lower half of each piece with chocolate. Let the excess chocolate drip off the bottom of the mandelbrot.
Place the chocolate dipped pieces onto the paper-lined sheet and allow to dry.
You’ll need to leave the pieces for at least one hour to dry (they may take longer depending on the weather). You can put the pieces in the refrigerator if you want them to firm up more quickly.
Store in an airtight container up to five days. For a longer shelf life, wrap each individual cookie in foil, place in a sealed plastic bag, and freeze for up to three weeks.
Let me know if you end up making it! Until next week. Shabbat Shalom xx