Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Grass is Always Greener - Parshiot Matot/Masai

This week’s double portion, Parshiot Matot/Masai will close up the book of Bamidbar, aka Numbers. That means only one book left to blog about, which is starting to sound bitter sweet to me. But I do still have the first 5 potions of Breishit (Genesis) to catch up on after the high holidays before I hopefully embark on turning this blog into a cookbook.

Poor Moses never gets a break. It seems that ever since he took the people out of Egypt they have been badgering him with complaints, concerns and challenges. They’re never really happy with their desert life accommodations, complaining incessantly about the lack of food variety (despite the heavenly manna) and the shortages of water. They’re afraid of the new land they’ll be entering and having to fight it’s inhabitants, and several times are led astray by rebellious leaders like the errant spies and the rebels who got swallowed by the land.

Aside from aggravating Moses they also are pretty good at pissing God off. At times Moses deals with these issues better than others. Last week when the daughters of Tzelofchad come with a proposed innovation, Moses goes with it. In a previous book, when others help in leading the nation by serving as judges he is not at all jealous that they too can prophesize with God. But other weeks he gets so frustrated and continually breaks down, falling on his face and needing God to pick him up by the boot straps and give him tools to deal with the situation.

This week Moses is challenged when two tribes ask him if they can stay on this side of the Jordan and not come into the land of Israel. This totally bums Moses out- what has he been working so hard for if not to delivering them safely to the promised land and now they don’t even want it? Moses himself isn’t allowed in and would kill for the chance to enter the land and here these people are willing to give up that opportunity so glibly?

Reuven and Gad are the tribes that request to stay on the fertile side of the Jordan they are now traversing. They explain that the land would be perfect for the large amounts of cattle they have acquired and now do business with. It’s bashert, meant to be, they think! Moses is really angry, and with steam coming out if his ears questions them – “So you expect your fellow tribes to enter the land and do all the fighting and dirty work for you?” "No, no," they explain, "we’ll come and fight every time we’re needed, but we want this area annexed for us." Moses fears they’ll be a bad influence on the rest of the nation and that others too will want to stay on the opposite side of the Jordan and never go into the land of Israel. It will have an effect like the negative report of the spies, and in Moses’ eyes these guys of the new generation are just as bad as their predecessors. But after more of Reuven and Gad’s assurances he relents and says that if they do fight until the end in the land of Israel they can have their request, but if not they will get the regular portion assigned to them.

I think there are several things to learn in the area of leadership from Moses and the Israelites. Number one is that the Jewish people are just stubborn complainers at the core and we shouldn’t expect anything different from them. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but it’s also what has gotten us this far. And with that understanding, leaders of the people should spare themselves the continual chain of frustration at the people’s behavior and just meet them head on to deal with the issues and be ready for some compromising.

So let’s eat meat and remember all those cattle of the tribes of Reuven and Gad that precipitated this week’s story. I want to keep it light since it’s hard times cooking in a hot kitchen mid July. I’ve got another great salad to share with you. I love the combination of sweet soft peaches and tender savory thin slices of warm meat mixed in with the greens. I first made this salad in my second Cambridge apartment, an apartment which I think of as dinky, Sam refers to it as a dump. I’m glad to be out of there and that galley kitchen, but I do have some fond food memories from it. One of them is mixing this salad in a large metal bowl, feeling like a lunch time salad chef and oh so professional. The cooked meat is a treat that I don't include too often in salads, and it's balance with the soft fruit of the peach and the tangy balsamic dressing really tastes like summer.

Grilled Peaches and Steak Salad

2 peaches

2 pepper steaks (I get mine for free from Golden West because I write for their blog)

½ seedless cucumber sliced

½ cup of cherry tomatoes

Red leaf lettuce

1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar divided

¼ cup plus 2 tbsp of water

1 tbsp of olive oil

1 tbsp of sugar

2 cloves of garlic



Marinate the steak in ¼ balsamic vinegar and ¼ of water for ½ an hour.

Slice the peaches in half and remove the pits. Keeping the skin on, place them cut side up on a broiler pan and broil for 3 minutes or until browned on top. Let them cool and then slice them into bit size pieces.

Broil the meat for 5 minutes on each side, remove from the broiler and let it rest on a cutting board. Once it has cooled a bit, slice it against the grain in thin slices.

Wash and spin dry the lettuce leaves. Toss them into a salad bowl and add in the peaches, steak, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes.

Mix up the dressing by adding the vinegar, 2 tbsp of water, olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper to a cup. Crush the garlic in and mix the dressing up. Toss over the salad and serve.


  1. I would really, really like to eat that salad.

  2. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it again!