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Mordechai Soskil

Celebratory Pastries

People turn to my Divrei Torah for hard insightful analysis of current events that isn’t afraid to speak truth to power and for intriguing and novel ideas on Jewish learning and practice, and so it should come as no surprise that I’m ready to ask the hard questions no one else is. When this is all over, when Hashem has granted us miraculous victory over our enemies, when the period of mourning comes to an end and it is time to create our next holiday, what will be the celebratory pastry of choice?

As you undoubtedly know, we Jews take our symbolic food very seriously, so this is clearly a question that required some thinking. You see, we have our sufganiyot and our hamantaschen. We have our matza and our kreplach. Rosh Hashanah is so filled with symbolic foods there is practically a seder before the meal. We have our fruits and appropriately maligned baksar on Tu B’Shvat. That’s why this is an appropriate question. When this is all over, and Hashem has one again blessed His people with peace, when the miraculous victory that is sure to come has been come to pass, what will we eat?

My friends, might I suggest that we get ready to chow down on an unprecedented number of black and white cookies.  Friends, the disunity, vitriol, and ferocious division that preceded this horrible moment is a memory we can’t lose even as we feel the bond of brotherhood stretch across time and space. We have to finally learn that even if we are politically and religiously “opposites” our enemies don’t see that. We’re all the same cookie to them. Our enemies don’t differentiate between chiloni girls dancing at a music festival on Chag that falls on Shabbat and a streimel wearing chassidishe yid walking down the streets of Geula. They can’t tell the difference and neither should we. We’re all the same cookie. We have to find a way to make sure that we keep this unity a part of who we know we really are. Undoubtedly our miracle will come because of the unity of heart and brotherhood that we all feel and will continue to feel in the days ahead. So I say, black and white cookies.

Now because I’m an Orthodox rabbi I already know what the questions will be, and I would like to get these out of the way.

Q: What is the minimum amount of cookie a person needs to eat?

A: Each individual of cookie eating age should eat a kezayit – an olives amount – at least. But you should be sure to eat at least a little bit from both the black and white sides of the cookie. The best way to fulfill the mitzvah is to each a whole cookie at least. One who eats more cookies is praiseworthy.

Q: Is it better to eat one big cookie or lots of little cookies?

A: To qualify as a “cookie” the pastry has to be at least a Keyait – an olives size. Before deciding the answer to this definitively, we should wait to see if the miracle is one big miracle or lots of small miracles and eat accordingly. I assume that we will eat lots of little cookies. Our more religiously observant friends will try to fulfill both requirements and eat a lot of big cookies. They should be careful to do so during a hamotzie meal lest this cross the threshold of being koveah seudah on pas habah be kisnim. (If you don’t know what that is, just move on.)

Q: Does it have to be literally BLACK and WHITE or is it enough to have two different colors? Can it be a rainbow cookie? What about two shades of white or two shades of black?

A: Though one can fulfill the mitzvah with a cookie that has any two colors, Ain Daas Chachomim Nocheh Heimenu – the spirit of the sages is unsatisfied with this. Part of the message is that we are all eating the same cookies, not creating different cookies for each niche group.

And let me just head the next questions off – you don’t need to own the cookie before you eat it, you can’t fulfill the mitzvah with a stolen cookie or a non-kosher cookie, you can fulfill the mitzvah with a “diet” cookie as long as it’s somewhat sweet, and you can fulfill the mitzvah with a gluten free cookie, as long as it’s rauy l’achilas kelev, but I doubt it.

It has long been said that our holidays are all the same. “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat!” And I for one look forward to adding one more to the list.

Lest you say that my outlook is overly optimistic, and we have no right to look forward to a victory, miraculous or otherwise, I offer this Parshat Breishit themed idea. There is a rabbinic tradition that says that actually, Adom and Chava were able to spend Shabbat in The Garden and they weren’t kicked out until after Shabbat. At that moment, as they are leaving, darkness falls. A deep darkness of physicality as they move from the loft spiritual status of their creation to something more fit for this frail and broken world. As darkness envelopes him, Adom, fearful that the end of all creation is neigh, calls out to G-d for help. And at that moment, Adom is gifted fire. This is the reason given for why we make a bracha on firelight at Havdalah Saturday night. It was gifted to mankind as darkness fell after Shabbat.

Let’s just break this midrash down for a moment. Adom sat in the dark terrified that his deeds had caused a return of Chaos and Void – utter destruction. And he wasn’t wrong to think that. In fact, there was no “natural” solution. Light was gifted him from the Creator. You know what we call it when G-d personally intercedes to solve a problem? A miracle. Adom needed a miracle to move on. He sat alone in darkness and G-d miraculously, personally, intimately gifted him light.

And we so desperately need that miracle too. For peace, for our family, for our soldiers, for our land.

And so next year on Simchat Torah, we can all eat way too many black and white cookies.

A previous post that explains why Achdus of Klal Yisrael is so vital can be found here.

About the Author
Rabbi Mordechai Soskil has been teaching Torah for more than 20 years. Currently he is the Director of Judaic Studies at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School. He is also the author of a highly regarded book on faith and hashkafa titled "Questions Obnoxious Jewish Teenagers Ask." He and his wife Allison have 6 children. And a blessedly expanding herd of grandchildren.
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