In this week’s parsha, Ki Tisa, an epic moment occurs when Moses descends Mount Sinai with the tablets inscribed with the 10 Commandments and finds the Israelites worshiping the Golden Calf. He throws down the tablets, shattering them. How can one understand the Israelites creation and worship of the Golden Calf? Were their actions actually predictable and expected?
Yael Shy of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality describes the Israelites feelings then as “The Fire of Anxiety.” She writes, “When Aaron throws the gold in the fire, the people are filled with terror and anxiety. Moses has been gone for over a month. They are terrified of being abandoned, of being alone.“
The Israelites anxiety and panic is not unique and we can empathize with them. She continues, “Most of us have probably had experiences very similar to [the Golden Calf]. Times when the heat and discomfort of fear is so intense it’s almost intolerable. . . . Underneath the fear, of course, is vulnerability. We have so little control or knowledge of how things will turn out and admitting that is very hard.”
The Israelites vulnerability, fear and struggles are human experiences. I am at a moment in my life where I feel like I’m waiting for a huge answer to appear—like the Israelites impatiently waiting for Moses to come down the mountain with the 10 Commandments. After 15 years of living in California, I just left the state. My belongings are in storage, I said good-bye to friends and family and celebrated one last time with my community at Purim last night. We are driving across country to the East Coast. Ironically, the first stop is the ultimate city of idol worship (and one of my least
favorite places): Las Vegas. The full route hasn’t even been planned yet. My new home location is TBD—the East Coast or Israel. It’s a huge challenge and the process has been dotted with spurts of anxiety. There will be mistakes made and lots of challenges along the way as I figure out my next steps.
During such a period, Yael Shy asks, “How do we use our fires to create careful and holy work when our bodies are going crazy with anxiety?” The answer, she suggests, is stillness, found through observing Shabbat. She describes the flip side of the Fire of Anxiety (the Golden Calf) as the Fire of Desire (the solicitation of gold by Moses in next week’s parsha). I’m moving physically (quickly) and internally (more slowly) from the Fire of Anxiety to the Fire of Desire as I transition out of Los Angeles to a quiet Shabbat in the mountains of Durango, Colorado.
And, of course I will continue writing Neesh Noosh no matter where I am, and look forward to sharing with you the new farmers and markets that I encounter on my journey!
The recipe for Ki Tisa is made with smashed potatoes and sprinkled with turmeric. The smashed potatoes represent the Tablets. The Golden Calf was burned and ground into a powder by Moses, represented in the dish as turmeric sprinkled over the potatoes.
Smashed potatoes with turmeric
1/2-1 tbsp turmeric
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1. Scrub potatoes and pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Place into a pot of boiling water and cook until tender, approximately 30-40 minutes.
3. Once finished, remove from water and let drain on dishtowels to cool.
4. Using your hand or a knife, press on potatoes to flatten them.
5. Transfer the potatoes to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil, and add a pinch each of salt and pepper. Place in oven and roast until crispy brown, approximately 30 minutes.
6. Once done, remove from oven, transfer to a platter and sprinkle turmeric powder over them.