Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Leave Well Enough Alone - Parshat Toldot

To quote a friend; "holy Double Portions," it's our two year anniversary here at this blog! How to celebrate? Perhaps with a full day of cooking and eating without any restrictions on picture taking. Coming soon. You could also help celebrate by making one of the past two recipes for this week's portion (see the bottom of this post).

If ever a child was destined to follow in a parent's footsteps it's Isaac in this week's portion, Parshat Toldot. Like Abraham, Isaac and his family are faced with famine and Isaac formulates a plan to seek food in another area and protect himself and his wife by claiming that she is actually his sister. Like Abraham and Sarah their scheme is revealed, but the discovery doesn't have such negative consequences at first. Instead of being banished, they receive protection from the local Philistine king Avimelech.

Isaac and Rebecca decided that it would behoove them to continue living under the reign of this king and they do quite well for themselves in his region - sowing crops and reaping abundantly. They continue to grow richer by the day, amassing cattle and building a large home. But soon the Philistines start to get jealous and take to sabotage. They stop up all the family wells, ones that we learn were actually dug by Abraham's servants when Abraham was still alive. King Avimelech sees the unrest in his people and quells the situation by asking Isaac to move away because he has become "far too big for us."

Isaac relocates his family and takes to digging new wells - but they actually seem to not be new at all. They too had previously been dug by his father's servants, and then were buried by the Philistines after Abraham's death. During the re-digging of these wells Isaacs' servants discover an underground spring of water. And it's back to conflict time - the local herders in the area insist ownership over the water. Isaac has his men keep digging and he gets a visit from King Avimelech, who explains that though his people were hostile to him in the past they now understand that God is with Isaac and they want to make a treaty with him. They agree to not harm one another and Isaac prepares a feast to enjoy together. Isaac's servants dug a total of seven wells that connected to water and therefore they called the area Be'er Sheva - which means seven wells and is a contemporary city in Israel.

If I had been tasked with preparing that reconciliatory feast I would have chosen something that looked like a well to remind them just who those wells belonged to. And that's what I'll do for our dish this week. You could make anything in a ramekin like a soufflé, a fish pot pie, or a Thanksgiving pie, the deep ceramic container invoking the image of a well. The parsha inspired me to buy mini graham pie crusts to prepare my pareve pumpkin cheesecakes in for Thanksgiving. I hope you give it a whirl and that you have some left overs for Shabbat.

Wells of Pareve Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake

1/2 can pumpkin
1 package of diary-free cream cheese (such as tofuti)
1 egg
1.5 tbsp molasses
½ tsp vanilla
½ cup sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
⅛ nutmeg and clovers
12 mini non-dairy graham cracker crusts
Candied pecans (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. 

Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients and pour into the small crusts. 

Bake for 30-50 minutes until set and golden brown on top. Let it cool and then place in the refrigerator for two hours before enjoying. Top with candied pecans if desired.

Past Recipes for Parshat Toldot:


  1. Happy blogoversary!

    Double Portions is one of my favorite blogs. I think your love of Torah study shines in your thoughtful posts and wonderful recipes. I am always thrilled to see a new post of yours.

    That's such a terrific idea using ramekins as wells for the parsha. My mom and I always cook red lentils for this week, but you've reminded me that there are so many dimensions and ways to think about this parsha.

  2. Molly thank you so much - you're cheer leading means a lot to me and helps to keep me going. Keep reading and commenting!!