Eikev: The Right Recipe
When a person depends on his own logic rather than heeding the Torah's proven formula of success, he can't expect to see lasting success...
by Rabbi Lazer Brody
"The entire commandment that I command you today, you shall observe and perform, so that you may live and increase, and come to possess the Land that Hashem swore to your forefathers." (Deuteronomy 8:1)
Everyone in the neighborhood knew that Mrs. Siegel baked the best spelt challas in town. Not only were they healthy and low in gluten, but they were light as a feather and tasted fantastic. Even children who would never dream of touching whole wheat or spelt readily ate Mrs. Siegel's challas, when their families were fortunate enough to be invited to the Siegel home for a Shabbat meal.
Five-year old Moishie Marcus was having terrible digestive problems. He was also suffering from digestive irregularities and a stubborn inexplicable rash. His mother took him to the pediatrician, who quickly identified the little boy's ailments as allergic reactions to wheat flour. "Will my son never be able to eat bread or pastries?" she asked.
The doctor replied, "Your son is better off never eating pastries and cakes. But, the good news is that his system can tolerate spelt. Give him spelt bread."
"Doctor," the mother protested, "my son will never agree to eat spelt."
"Don't say 'never'", implored the pediatrician. "Do you know Mrs. Siegel?"
"Sure – everyone in the community knows her. She bakes those fantastic challas that we're sometimes fortunate enough to enjoy when she caters a festive meal in the synagogue."
"Would you believe that she makes them from spelt? She's such a special lady that if you ask her for the recipe, she'll give it to you," the doctor said.
Mrs. Marcus called Mrs. Siegel and asked for the recipe. Mrs. Siegel was more than happy to help a little boy's health, so she willingly handed over her spelt-challa recipe to Mrs. Marcus.
As Mrs. Marcus was preparing the dough for the first time, everything seemed logical. Not a newcomer to baking, she liked the recipe's ratio of the spelt flour to the water, the eggs, the natural cane sugar, the yeast, the salt and the order of mixing the ingredients. But, one ingredient seemed illogical – the bit of vinegar that was supposed to be added to the dough and the end of the mixing process. "Vinegar in the dough? That's ridiculous!" she said to herself. So, she left the vinegar out of the recipe.
The challas came out of the oven heavy and course, as is normally expected of spelt. Moishie of course refused to touch them. His mother called Mrs. Siegel and bitterly complained. Patiently, Mrs. Siegel asked Mrs. Marcus to reenact the exact way she prepared the challas. When it came to the half-bottle cap of vinegar that she was supposed to add as the last ingredient to the dough, Mrs. Marcus admitted that she thought it was ridiculous and needless. Indeed, she thought that the bit of vinegar would ruin the challas.
Mrs. Marcus said, that's my secret ingredient! That's what makes my spelt challas rise so beautifully and become as light as a feather, to the extent that they're just as light as white-flour challas..."
By Mrs. Marcus depending on her own logic rather than heeding the Mrs. Siegel's proven formula for success, she didn't attain the desired result.
How many people are just like Mrs. Marcus? They set aside certain commandments that don't seem to be logical to them or relevant to today's day and age. They end up making the wrong decisions and in turn blaming Hashem for their misfortune, just as King Solomon says: "A fool's folly skews his way, and his heart fumes against Hashem" (Proverbs 19:3).
Our Torah portion teaches us in the above-mentioned passage that no person has the right to pick and choose whichever commandments are to his or her liking and to set aside the others. Although Hashem promised a whole package of abundance to the Jewish People, these blessings are contingent on their acceptance of the entire Torah, which is the key to their success. What's more, the Rambam rules that a person who denies a single letter of Torah, all the more so a commandment of Torah, is a complete heretic.
Arrogance and foolishness go hand in hand, for when a person is arrogant enough to cast aside Divine wisdom in favor of his or her own logic, they are none other than fools. Therefore, we are behooved to cling to the entire Torah, which is the tree of life and the secret of our success.
Rabbi Lazer Brody was born in Washington, D.C. in 1949. After receiving his bachelor's degree in agriculture from the University of Maryland in 1970, he moved to Israel and joined the Israel Defense Forces regular army, and served in one of the elite special-forces units. He is a decorated combat veteran of two wars and numerous of counter-insurgence and anti-terrorist missions on both sides of Israel's borders.
Rabbi Brody is the English-language editor of Breslev Israel's highly popular English-language website at www.breslev.co.il, and the founder and director of Emuna Outreach. Between Breslov Israel and Emuna Outreach, he devotes his time to spreading emuna and particularly the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev around the globe.
"Lazer Beams," Rabbi Brody's award-winning daily web journal, has been instrumental in helping tens of thousands of people around the globe find joy and fulfillment in their lives.