In this week’s Torah portion, we read about rebellious Israelites, led by Korach. While his complaints about the status of Moses and Aaron might seem like the words of an early democratic activist, his intentions were actually self-serving. He is “the arch-demagogue, lusting for power to inflate his own prominence, not to serve the people” (Etz Hayim, p. 860). He led a group of Israelites in opposition to not only Moses and Aaron but “that of Torah, and ultimately, God.” (Etz Hayim, p. 860). Rabbi Samuel Barth notes, “The sin of Korah was in thinking of himself as “outside the community”; he betook himself and his followers from being part of the People of Israel, and they became a faction, catalysts for further factionalization.”
Rabbi Moshe Bryski, on Chabad.org writes that Korach lived his life yearning for a different one, jealous of others. He comments that “A person who sees the essence of life as serving the will of His Creator does not expend useless energy craving places where the grass is greener. He finds meaning, purpose, joy and fulfillment in the place where the grass is greenest of all: his own.”
It does not end well for Korach and his followers who are subsumed into a gaping hole in the Earth. Afterwards, God commands that their fire pans be made “into flattened out plates as an overlay for the altar, for they brought them before the Lord, and have [therefore] become sanctified, and they shall be as a reminder for the children of Israel” (17:3). In writing about the transformation of the fire pans from tools that were used to rebel against Moses to sacred altar pieces, Rabbi Matthew Berkowitz writes, “the potential for the blemish to become sacred in our lives. If the blemish can be used as a teaching tool, then each of us will succeed in building a more hopeful future.”
The dish I made this week–vegan pancakes with strawberry compote–is inspired by the Korach’s fire pans and the sweetness of Torah. Pancakes are a thin and humble dish, unlike Korach’s inflated sense of self (if I was making a dish representative of Korach, the person, I imagine it would be a souffle!). The strawberry compote on top represent the sweetness of Torah that withstood the challenges of Korach and his followers.
While pancakes are generally thought of as breakfast food, I think that these are so delicious and can easily be served as dessert! They are vegan and made with spelt flour, an ancient grain that has a delicious nutty flavor. It’s also strawberry season and they are so delicious right now-I can’t stop eating them! If you can’t find fresh organic strawberries, try other berries that are in season now. I find strawberries naturally sweet but if they’re too tart add a chopped Medjool date or two, to the compote.
Korach: Vegan spelt pancakes with no-sugar added strawberry compote
1 cup spelt flour
2 tbsp baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup plant-based milk (I used a combination of plain almond and soy)
2 tbsp canola or sunflower oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
coconut oil or other high heat oil for pan
1 1/2 cups organic strawberries
1-3 tbsp water
1-2 finely chopped Medjool dates (optional)
1. Thoroughly wash strawberries.
2. Add strawberries, water, and optional dates to a small pot.
3. Cook over low heat, about 10-15 minutes. Mash strawberries with a fork or spoon as they cook and stir periodically to prevent burning. When finished, remove from heat.
1. Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients together. Then, pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients bowl and lightly mix. Let sit for about 5 minutes.
2. Place a skillet on low-medium heat and add a dollop of high heat oil (I used coconut oil). Place a spoonful of batter and allow to cook on first side until it bubbles and is lightly browned. Then, flip over and cook on second side.
4. Place finished pancakes on wire rack to prevent them from getting soggy.
5. Serve with a scoop of strawberry compote on top.