This week’s Torah portion begins: “And He called to Moses and G‑d spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting...”

But what my three oldest sons remember about that verse is the honey. And that’s more than okay for me.

When a Jewish boy turns three years old, he is formally welcomed into the world of education while wrapped in a prayer shawl at a ceremony known as an Arinfirnish. The young child is taught that the Torah is sweet by licking honey off of a sheet of Hebrew letters and biblical verses.

The first verse traditionally found on the sheet comes from the beginning of this week’s portion, because it teaches about the laws of sacrifices.Although we no longer have a Tabernacle or Temple – the idea of sacrifices expresses the intrinsic bond between G‑d and the Jewish people. Even when we transgress His laws, we are offered the chance to repent because He has unconditional love for His children.

But why was it necessary to build a Tabernacle in the first place?

According to the primary text of the Kabbalah, the Zohar, by using the physical materials to build the Tabernacle, Moses broke the power of the negative spiritual powers called kelipot, literally the shells, so Holiness could flow into the physical world.

Serving my family baklava – which includes both honey and walnuts – for dessert this Shabbat will hopefully serve as a springboard for a good discussion on the Torah portion. And even if some of my younger ones only remember the sweetness of the honey on the baklava, I still will have succeeded in my goal.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound walnuts, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsps. sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 pound filo dough (be sure to let thaw for at least five hours)
  • 1 cup melted shortening (I used margarine and I needed to melt another ½ cup to have enough)

Honey Syrup:

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup water
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ½ cup honey

Directions:

  1. Grease a 10” X 15” baking pan
  2. Combine nuts, sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Layer half the filo sheets into the pan (the box I used came with 28 sheets), brushing each sheet generously with the shortening/margarine. Make sure to keep the unused sheets covered with a damp towel because they dry out quickly. Don’t worry about little rips here and there; no-one will notice after it is cut up anyway.
  4. Spread the nut mixture on top of the filo sheets and then layer the second half of the sheets just like the first. Then run a sharp knife around the edges of the pan and pour the rest of the shortening/margarine on top.
  5. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  6. Meanwhile, prepare the honey syrup by heating its ingredients in a saucepan to boiling and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Don’t forget about it like I did or you’ll have quite a caramelized stovetop…
  7. Preheat oven to 350˚.
  8. Cut through the top half of the baklava with parallel diagonal lines and cross them to form diamond shapes.
  9. Bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown.
  10. Remove from oven and finish cutting through all the layers. Pour cooled syrup over warm baklava.

Have a Good and Sweet Shabbat!

Recipe adapted from Spice and Spirit, The Complete Kosher Jewish Cookbook, published by Lubavitch Women's Cookbook Publications.