This week’s parsha, Tzav, includes more details about sacrifices, including the Korban Todah (Thanksgiving offering). Again, I wrestled this week about what the sacrifices mean to me and how to translate the parsha into a recipe (though the Korban Todah “consisted of forty loaves of bread”)?
Dr. Tali Loewenthal on Chabad.org explains that this offering “was brought as expression of thanks to God by someone who experienced any of four specific kinds of danger: a captive who was freed; a person who crossed the sea; one who traversed the desert, and someone who has recovered from an illness.“ And, none of it could remain until the following day.
Rabbi Brad Artson, in The Bedside Torah, comments that “the Korban Todah is a celebration of life and its wonder.”
Rabbi Shai Held offers an explanation about the Korban Todah and “why the thankful person needs to invite others to share in his meal: The nature of gratitude is such that it is inherently outward-looking.”
He continues, “When one has been the beneficiary of God’s kindness, one is expected to bestow kindness oneself. . . .Deep joy is meant to be shared. In this instance, it is not just one’s family or friends who must be included, but also (and perhaps especially) those who are socio-economically vulnerable. . . .Joy that is not at least somewhat outward-looking, Maimonides forcefully suggests, is merely self-indulgence”
Indeed, this Shabbat HaGadol and Pesach next week will be times of indulgent, abundant meals as part of celebrations of our gratitude for our liberation from Egypt. But, they are also opportunities as Rabbi Held argues, to act on behalf of those who are less fortunate. “The prohibition on leaving over any part of the paschal sacrifice is intended, at least in part, to remind us that those who are hungry are our responsibility, that we are to open both our hearts and our homes to them. Both laws tell us: Open your hearts, and open your doors.”
Hungry doesn’t care where someone lives, the color of their skin or their religion. Nearly 50 million Americans are hungry. No one should be punished for being hungry. Each of us can be part of the solution to addressing this national problem.
There are countless examples of groups whose mission is to provide for those who are hungry. One is Brooklyn-based Masbia, a kosher soup kitchen and pantry, which has served over one million meals. Also in New York is the 25-year old student run Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Soup Kitchen. Project Chicken Soup in Los Angeles provides kosher meals to people living with cancer, HIV/AIDS and other illnesses.
The dish I prepared this week is a lemon lentil-Swiss chard soup. I’m still using the delicious lemons from the La Cienega Farmers Market that I stocked up on a couple of weeks ago. Soup is one-pot, nourishing dish that can be shared with friends, family and strangers. As you enjoy this soup, let it be a reminder (or share it) of someone who is hungry. Offering someone soup is an outward-looking joy and way to make a simple, but significant difference in someone’s life.
1 medium shallot, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup lentils, rinsed
2 cups Swiss chard, chopped
1.5 cups vegetable broth
3.5-5 cups water (depending on how much liquid you want)
juice of 1 lemon + grated rind (grate first and then juice the lemon)
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste (this is a great use for last week’s lemon salt)
1. Dice shallots, celery and garlic. Pour 3/4 tbsp olive oil into pot on medium heat. Add shallots, celery, garlic. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
2. Add lentils and mix well and cook for 2 minutes. Add vegetable broth and water. Cover pot with lid and bring to a boil. Then, reduce heat and let simmer, approximately 15-20 minutes (lentils should not be fully cooked).
3. Add chard to soup and mix thoroughly. Let cook for about 5-7 minutes.
4. Once lentils are fully cooked, remove from heat. Add lemon juice and lemon zest. Add remaining olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.