In this week’s parsha, Naso, God says to Moses:
Speak to Aaron and his sons: Thus shall you bless the people of Israel. Say to them:
The Lord bless you and protect you!
The Lord deal kindly and graciously with you!
The Lord bestow His favor upon you and grant you peace!
Thus they shall link My name with the people of Israel, and I will bless them. (6:23-27)
This priestly blessing is said in synagogue and on Shabbat by parents to their children. How does this blessing differ than other blessings? Rabbi Shai Held explains that when we recite blessings, “We are not sources but channels of blessing. We do not create the goodness we bestow but rather pass it on.” And, Yael Shy comments, “Giving a blessing is a very active practice, and a slightly presumptuous one – bringing holiness into the space between human beings.”
Channeling such holiness can be a force for unity. Rabbi Gurkow comments, “Our sages write that the ‘vessel’ best suited to hold blessing is unity. Without unity the vessel is fractured; with unity the vessel is strong. The Hebrew word for vessel, keli, is an acronym of the three groups of which the Jewish community is comprised—kohanim, Levites and Israelites. When Jews love each other, the three components of the keli are united and our vessel is strong, enabling the kohen to successfully channel blessing to the community.”
Sadly, I feel that too often there’s dis-unity amongst Jews of different religious backgrounds. But, I had the unexpected pleasure of participating in a fantastic Shavuot learning at a community gathering hosted by Renewal, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox congregations in one Washington, DC neighborhood. It was inspiring to have such a range of observance practices and theological perspectives, learning together, for the evening.
For this Torah portion, Yael Shy challenges her readers to offer blessings to strangers, friends and family members. Indeed, I would offer that this is an extension of Rabbi Gurkow’s idea of Jewish unity: offering blessings to people, no matter what their religious stripe, as a way to create more respect and unity.
The recipe that I created this week–Ful Medames–is based on the idea of creating an inter-dependent vessel. If you omit the significant ingredients, the dish can’t exist. Indeed, an ancient text about ful indicates key components: “The fava bean porridge of the donation and the garlic and oil of daily life…”Mishna Tvul Yom 2, 3 (thank you Tori Avey for the explanation and citation on your website). This shared dish, enjoyed by Israelites for thousands of years, helps to build community.
2 cup dried fava beans
1/2 tbsp olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 generous pinch of cumin
6-7 tbsp tahini
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Soak the beans overnight. The next day, rinse the water and place in a large pot, filled with water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Cook, covered for approximately 2-3 hours, or until beans are soft. Once finished, drain beans and retain some of the water for the next step. (you should have about 2 cups of cooked beans).
2. Mince the garlic. Over low heat, add olive oil to pan. Add garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Add tahini, lemon and beans and pour about 3-6 tablespoons of cooking water. Cook for a few minutes over low heat–the ingredients should soften and become thick, like a stew.
3. Remove from heat and mash into a chunky mixture, keeping some beans still in tact. Squeeze any remaining lemon juice into mixture and add cumin and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Drizzle a few drops of fruity olive oil on top.
4. Option for additional ingredients to add on top of the ful before serving, include parsley, raw onions, eggs, tomatoes, etc.
5. Serve warm with fresh, hot pita bread.