This week’s parsha Tazria-Metzora, offers a detailed explanation of purification steps for someone who is ritually impure (tumah). It includes the following instruction: “And he shall slaughter the guilt offering lamb, and the kohen shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering’s and place it on the cartilage of the right ear of the person being cleansed, on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot“ (14:25). Tumah is not bad. As commentary in Etz Hayyim explains: “We can see the notion of tumah, then, as growing out of a sense of reverence for the miraculous nature of birth, the awesome power of death, and the mysteries of illness and recuperation” (p. 649).
The wonderful book, In My Flesh I See God, Rabbi Avraham Yaakov Finkel gives his translations of commentaries and teachings about the body. It’s been invaluable to my studies about embodied Jewish wisdom and Torah and the body. Reading sections of the book this week helped me to understand the significance of the right ear, foot and hand, in the purification process.
Rabbi Finkel writes, “One of the greatest benefits bestowed on man is that he has been provided with hands and fingers with which he can draw, write, embroider, kindle fire, and do other things and perform precision work” (p. 11).
Regarding the ear: “With the 248 limbs of the body; they all are vivified by the ear. From where do we know this? Because it says, ‘Incline your ear and come to Me; listen and you shall be revived (Isaiah 55:3). The Holy One, Blessed be He, said, ‘If you bend your ear to hear the Torah you will inherit life.” (Devarim Rabbah 10, p. 116 in In My Flesh I See God).
And, perhaps the most famous commentary about feet is Hillel’s “whole Torah while standing on one foot.” Rabbi Finkel’s translation is as follows: “A certain heathen once asked Hillel to teach him the entire Torah while he (the heathen) stood on one foot. Hillel answered him: What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor, that is the whole Torah: the rest is commentary. Go and study it!” (Shabbat 31a, p. 204 in In My Flesh I See God)
I’ll admit that this was one of the more challenging Torah portions for me to find inspiration and create recipe. The recipe is based on sentence about the role of the right ear, hand and foot in the purification process. The ingredients I used are inspire by everything sprouting and the abundance of early Spring harvest offerings at the farmers market.
The dish includes orecchiette (which means ears) pasta. I had the great fortune to find an enormous radish at the farmers market in the shape of a foot! And, there was also lovely spinach leaves that were long and spiny, like the fingers on a hand.
8 oz orecchiette pasta
1 cup finely sliced radishes cut into pieces about the size of the pasta
3 large bunches of spinach leaves, washed
2 tsp chopped walnuts
1/2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste (using lemon salt is a great addition)
1. Bring water to a boil. Add orecchiette pasta and cook until al dente. Remove from heat.
2. Heat 1/2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add thinly sliced radishes and cook for about 5 minutes. Add spinach and continue to cook until spinach is wilted. Add walnuts. Cook for another 1-3 minutes, stirring well so that the walnuts don’t burn.
3. Remove from heat. Add extra olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
4. Toss with pasta and serve.