Newsletter vol.1, issue 3
Cheshvan 5770/October 2009

Queen in the Kitchen

Cooking for The King

when bitter becomes a blessing

Whew! A month of holidays, a whirlwind that brought guests and gastronomical feasts, generations to our synagogue seats, and the mingled communal prayer of hope and joy. In stark contrast follows MarCheshvan. This month’s name tastes mar, “bitter” because her days are barren of holidays and the sweetness they bring to our lives.

Tishre was a month of glorious opportunities to grow ever closer to our Creator. But maybe you, like me, feel it was all a blur. I know most of my days were immersed in shopping, cooking and cleaning. Sometimes, the spiritual potency of the holidays drowned in the business at hand. The festive days just flew by, there was just too much to hold on to.

Whether you soared on spiritual wings in Tishre and are still feeling the high or, like me still digging out of the considerable responsibilities and mourn missed opportunity-MarCheshvan arrives now not as a dropping off point from the holiday season, but as a turning point. This month is not as bitter as its name first implies. In fact, the very sweetness of its potential for renewal is planted in its name.

The word mar, besides meaning "bitter," is also translated as “drop.*" This is the month the first drops of rain fall in Israel, the rains of blessing and promise for continued sustenance from Above.

Water, and rain in particular, is the source of all physical life. Geshem, rain, is the root of the word gashmius, physicality. MarChesvan is the time we leave the structure of spiritual growth Tishre afforded us and return to the mundane material world, a vast open field of choice and uncertainty.

The seeds of our growth, which we collected and planted last month, lay buried in the ground. Their fruit exists only in potential. The rain, in the right quantities and in the right places, will break apart the seeds-- and in the dark winter months, deep in the soil, something miraculous begins to happen. (top of page)

Here are your ~secret!~ links to new recipes.

I call this "Diet Vegetable Soup" because I eat often it for lunch and with dinner after my holiday weight gain. It fills me up with almost zero fat and calories-
as an added bonus, my kids actually ASK for it!
Red Bean and Barley Soup
is a favorite on a cold winter night. It's economical and still elegant enough for Shabbos and it's a most requested recipe of mine.

I'll post these recipes to eventually, but for now they are just for you: my
Queen of the Kitchen readers.

The air chills; the days shorten. We find reason to stay inside our home, our mishkan meat, where it is relatively quiet for a change. Like the seed hiding underground, the spiritual potential implanted in the days of Tishre may seem lost to us. Cheshvan is the time to nurture them and watch for the first signs of life that will begin to sprout in the coldest days of the coming winter.

This is the mission of the Jew, to flourish beneath the surface. When things look hopeless, the redemptive process is beginning. In the dark, empty month of MarCheshvan, and in the dark, empty spaces of our lives, we nourish our potential for renewal. As we slowly restore our homes to order and routine, we can either drown in the process or:

~In the mundane activities of our daily lives slip in sincere whispered prayers.

~In the emptiness of a winter of undefined spiritual goals, tend and nurture our deepest aspirations.

~In the darkness of the lonely task of running a home know there are others in deeper darkness who can feel renewed through our chesed.

The bitterness of MarCheshvan is washed away, drop by drop, in the sweetness of such actions. In fact, our Sages tell us that Cheshvan will sprout the sweetest fruit of all. This is month when we will see the dedication of the final Beis HaMikdash. Through our effort and longing, may it come speedily, in our day.

Chodesh Tov!

* Targum translated mar as tipah, a drop, in the verse “Hen goyim k’mar midli. Behold, the nations are as a drop of [water from] a bucket” (Isaiah 40:15). As such, the name means the “rainy Cheshvan,” and far from mar meaning bitter, it connotes a month of blessed rain.-Rabbi Ari Z. Zivotofsky, Ph.D, Jewish Action Fall 5761

Thank you for being a part of this new venture. I'd really like your comments and suggestions.
v'yihe no-am Hashem...aleinu, u-ma-a-say ya-deinu co-na-nay-hu aleinu...
May the pleasantness of Hashem our G-d be upon us
& the work of our hands-establish for us.
Tehillim 90

Cooking for The King: The book of Torah insights, recipes and practical tips designed to bring majesty to the mundane.