Rabbi Ilan D. Feldman
Congregation Beth Jacob
Food is so much more than it is cooked up to be. From man’s first moment of existence, the relationship between him and his Creator has been expressed through diet, “from all trees of the garden you shall eat; only from the tree of Knowledge of good and evil shall you not eat.” By creating man as a creature dependent on food, we are given regular opportunity to remember our Creator and know Him as our benevolent Provider.
It is for this reason that so much of Jewish life takes place around the dining room table. What would Shabbos be were it not for the Shabbos table? Would Yom Tov have its impact if it were not celebrated over an elegant, stately dinner in honor of the special day? Indeed, it can safely be said that Judaism’s most precious mesorah—that from parent to child--- takes place primarily in close proximity to food.
And it is around food that the essence of our people emerges. We are those who see the physical pleasures of this world as gifts from G-d, designed to be used to discover Him and to be used in His service. We look to release holiness into the world not through aestheticism, but through proper dedication of the physical universe for its original purpose—to know our Creator. And by proper structuring our relationship to physical pleasure, we discover yirat shamayim, the fear of Heaven, and develop character traits that bring us to the highest level of human refinement, and of intimacy with G-d.
Cooking For The King is based on this principle: there is nothing mundane in a world created by G-d. “All that I created was designed for My glory.” G-d intends to found, and served, in the kitchen, as well as in the bais hamedrash.
Mrs. Renee Chernin models the essence of this book in her life. In her home is found the crossroads of, elegance, hospitality, and sanctity. This book is not the result of her work, but rather of her being. Now the public has the opportunity to benefit from what is clearly an expression of her soul. Through these pages, the homemaker, the chef, the hostess will be transformed into servants of the Divine, constantly reminded that through her creations she will be blazing a trail that leads to the source of all creativity, the true pleasure hiding in food. I invite you to join our author in having that secret unveil itself in your kitchen.
Ilan D. Feldman
Rebbetzin Feige Twerski
Congregation Beth Jehuda
One of the basic premises in Judaism is that we don't negate the physical dimension of our existence. On the contrary, the Torah is replete with G-d mandated commandments that for the most part can only be observed through a physical medium. Curiously, the Almighty, who wants us to reach for spiritual goals, has seen fit to place us in a context of blandishments and temptations where we might easily lose sight of the ultimate purpose of our lives.
The implicit challenge is to maintain balance, to enjoy the beauty that G-d has provided for us, using His blessings wisely in the service of His will.
Clearly, eating is one of the great physical pleasures in life. One can engage it in its most basic form, simply indulging at will--or use it to build a bridge between heaven and earth. Renee Chernin, in her book Cooking for The King, proves to be an expert in building this bridge. I know Renee personally, and she is a consummately spiritual individual. She is also a great cook.
Her recipes have been tried and tested and her Torah insights have the capacity to transform food preparation from a mundane activity to the service of heart and soul. Indeed, in using this book, one will find that there need be not contradiction or conflict-that culinary delights, so clearly physical, can also be supremely spiritual-truly heavenly delights.
Cover Art: "A Mother's Prayer" ~artist Leslie Naveh