In this week’s Torah portion, we continue to learn about the various sacrifices that were introduced to us last week, but from the perspective of the priests who were commanded (Tzav literally means command) to do all the work in the Temple.

First off, G‑d commanded the priests to make sure that there be an eternal fire on the altar. The priests would add wood every morning and clean up the ashes to keep the fire going. Even when the altar was being moved from place to place, the fire would not go out— a copper bowl was placed over it to keep it burning. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, explained that this teaches us that we must always be aware of and heed our internal fire, our yearning to raise up the material by performing G‑d’s commandments.

The sin offering described in this week’s portion was given to the priests to eat after the veins of fat were removed and burned on the altar. Because it is forbidden to leave over any part of the meat, the Torah states that when cooked in an earthenware vessel, which absorbs flavors immediately, the vessel must be broken after the priests eat the offering. Rashi explains that the instant the flavor is absorbed into the earthen pot, it becomes forbidden because it is permanently lost in the vessel’s walls.

I remember learning that while some pots and pans can be koshered, a ceramic plate cannot ever be used for kosher food if it was used previously for non-kosher food.

Thus if one decides to go kosher, he must discard his ceramic plates. Some have the custom to actually break the ceramic plates. When I treifed (made un-kosher) up a ceramic plate by mistake – once I put hot chicken on a dairy plate – I remember putting the plate in a bag and throwing it on the floor. It wouldn’t break right away, but once it did, I felt so satisfied throwing it in the garbage even though my mother raised me not to waste.

So too, Hassidic though explains that when we transgress the laws, the only way to truly be forgiven is by “breaking” our heart through true repentance. Even at one of life’s happiest moments, we see this concept of rebuilding after shattering. The Jewish groom breaks the glass to remind everyone at the wedding that though the Temples were destroyed twice, we are yearning for the time of Moshiach when we can once again serve G‑d in the Third and final Temple.

Crème Brûlée seemed like the natural choice for Parshat Tzav. Literally meaning burnt cream, the burnt custard cooked and then burned in a ramekin reminded me of the eternal flame as well as the special law and its meaning for earthenware vessels. And because it will be served on Shabbat after a meat meal, I tried a coconut milk version so that it would be pareve.


  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup white sugar plus a little more for the top
  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk (After three stores, finally found a kosher brand – Native Forest)
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped (I used 2 tsp. vanilla instead)
  • For the tops: 3 Tbsp. light brown sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 300˚ F. Boil a kettle of hot water.
  2. Whisk (I used my KitchenAid) together the eggs, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Then mix in the coconut milk.
  3. Pour carefully (I poured from bowl into a measuring cup first to make it easier) into 6 5 oz. ramekins.
  4. Pour enough boiling water into a ceramic baking dish (I used my uncovered dutch oven) so that it will reach halfway up the outside of the ramekins. Place ramekins into the water bath carefully.
  5. Bake for about 40 minutes, until just barely set.
  6. After cooled, refrigerate for an hour or more (I left it in for a day).
  7. Sprinkle about 2 tsp. of the light brown sugar on top of each ramekin.
  8. Traditionally, one is supposed to then use a butane torch to burn the top. Since I don’t have a torch, I broiled it on the top rack until brown. It is best to do this part as close to Shabbat as possible (but not too close of course… I would say an hour) so that the caramelized sugar doesn’t melt into the custard before dessert time. And don’t worry about how it will stay together for the next day… there won’t be any left!

Have a good and sweet Shabbat!

Recipe adapted from the Coconut Milk Crème Brûlée recipe on The Dusty Baker website.