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Avocado is Back in the Headlines
Parshat Pinchas

Avocado is the headline hogger of the fruit world. There are about 2,000 species of fruit eaten by human beings, from pedestrian fruits like the apple, banana, clementine, and date, to the more exotic ones like the atemoya, bignay, calabash, and durian. But no fruit manages to push itself into the headlines as often as the avocado. It’s not that avocado is not worthy of the occasional headline, avocado is creamy and delicious, fatty yet healthy, velvety goodness that can be spread on bread, eaten by itself with salt, or bring volume to any salad. But to push itself into headlines every year? That’s not fair.

The banana only gets a headline when the Cavendish is facing extinction, the apple when a new Honeycrisp competitor is cultivated, the kiwi when the Mighties come out to challenge the mandarin Halo’s and Cuties. But the avocado? It grabbed headlines during the “Millennials are spending more on avocado toast than on their retirement” outcry. It was back when researchers discover new ways to ship avocado to China without spoilage. It sneaks back in every time avocado prices rise, and they do that a lot, and now finally they’re back in the headlines again, this time for nefarious reasons. It turns out avocado is such a hot commodity that restaurants are switching out the pricey avocados for fauxvacados. Imitation is the best form of flattery, but conning customers into thinking they’re eating avocado when they’re eating zucchini, not so kosher.

There are three reasons for the rapidly rising prices of avocado, which currently costs more than double what they cost last July. The first is exploding global demand. Avocado used to be something you ate a few times a year, usually at a party where there was a guac and chips platter. Now, it is a fruit that many of us eat all year round, at least once a week. In addition, due to recent innovations in shipping materials, avocado can make it by boat to Southeast Asia while still fresh, and demand is surging from China and India.

Supply has been weakened as well this year, with California reporting a record low avocado crop, and cartel control over parts of Mexico causing a low harvest there as well. Demand is up, supply is down, and even the economics professor at the community college will tell you that means prices are going to soar…

The good news is that a skilled cook can make guacamole with zucchini and it will taste and look almost like the real thing, easily conning most unassuming consumers, and often baffling experts in taste tests. You boil the zucchini to take away the crunch, then combine it with green tomato, coriander, and chili pepers, and whip it to a creamy texture, and it has all the characteristics of a good guacamole; bright, spicy, rich, and very satisfying. The main giveaway is that the zucchini has a slight sweetness while the avocado is more earthy. But being that most people can’t tell the difference, fauxvocado is Most Ascendant Fruit of 2019 (at least in my books). Taquerias all over Mexico and the US are serving up their guac bowls with zucchini, and so far most people seem happy.

If everyone is happy, what is the danger? For starters, anytime you start claiming a food is something it is not, you are going down a really dark rabbit hole. The world has seen far too much false advertising and food dilution to be OK with any of it. In Victorian England, alum and plaster of Paris was regularly added to bread, boraic acid and chalk to milk, and iron sulphate in beer. Even today, olive oil and honey are commonly adulterated, and in some parts of the world, even milk and flour is still adulterated. So anytime you sell something as one thing and it is really another, you are opening the door to a whole truckload of problems.

But there is another problem with fauxvocado guacamole, and that is that is simply isn’t as filling. It may taste good, and almost be undetectable when facing regular guacamole, but the dietary benefits are nowhere near the same. The avocado is loaded with oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that is super healthy, and actually promoted heart health, unlike most other fats that are mostly detrimental to heart health. It’s not that zucchini has a lot of unhealthy fats, it’s almost fat-free, it’s simply that people are missing out on all the health benefits of avocado when they work their way through a bowl of fauxvocado guacamole. It’s time to bring back the real thing; #NoMoreFauxvocado

The Jewish people is currently going through a period known as the Three Weeks, a period of mourning over the destruction of the two Batei Mikdash, the two great temples that stood in Jerusalem, both of which were destroyed on Tisha B’av, the final day of the Three Weeks.

One of the most miraculous facets of Jewish history is that we are still here as a nation, despite the loss of those two temples, despite having been exiled from our land for thousands of years, despite the fact that over 98% of Jews lived far from their homeland for eighteen centuries. Not only have the Jews not disappeared, we’ve actually thrived, with Jews being awarded roughly a sixth of all Nobel Prizes, and their innovations in science changing the world. Jews were or are at the forefront of Hollywood (SKG Dreamworks stands for Spielberg, Katzenberg, and Geffen. MGM is Metro Goldwyn Mayer.) Jew feature prominently in the US fashion industry (Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, etc), and the US economy (Alan Greespan, Ben Bernanke, Janet Yellin, Goldman Sachs, etc). We’re everything a nation aught to be, bright, spicy, bold, rich, and very satisfying, so what is the problem? Why do our missing temples bother us so much?

We may be rich, spicy, and bold, but where we are deeply lacking is in the heart healthy connection to G-d that we are supposed to have, and supposed to bring to the world. The nation that wad taken out of Egypt by G-d with such incredible wonders, the nation that stood at the bottom of Mt. Sinai as G-d appeared to millions of people and thunderously proclaimed, “I am the Lord your G-d who took you out of Egypt,” the nation that the prophets told us was ordained to be a Light Unto the Nations, is not fulfilling its destiny by making great movies, fashionable blue jeans, or great financial arbitrage options. We are supposed to be deeply connected to G-d, and live lives that make other people want to be connected to G-d as well. The names Weinstein, Epstein, and Cohen should not be names filling the headlines with darkness, but filling them with light.

Our Judaism is being co-opted by Fauxdiasm and we desperately need to get back to what we are supposed to be as a people. We need to bring back the incredible moral strength of a people who brought the world monotheism, universal education, the love of peace, and the value of every human life. This three weeks as we mourn over and contemplate the loss of our temples, let’s remember what our true role in the world is, and how the Jew is supposed to bring spiritual heart health to the whole world. And when we start putting in the extra effort to once again play our role in the world, G-d will bring back our temple, and once again make Jerusalem the ethical and moral center of the world, as a bright and shining light unto the nations.

 

Parsha Dvar Torah

This week’s parsha opens with G-d rewarding Pinchas. “Therefore say: Behold I have given him my covenant of peace.” (Numbers 25:12) Why does Pinchas get a covenant of peace specifically in reward for this act? (I probably would have just asked for a Corvette! No, no. That’s not going to look good. I probably would have asked for a Sefer Torah!) This question is strengthened by the fact that the Torah introduces his reward with “Therefore,” as if the reward is directly linked to the act. What is the link between the two?

There is much debate about how one defines him or her self. Some say, “You are what you wear.” Now, I know this is going to be controversial, but I believe that to a certain degree that is true. We do choose our clothing, and often we elect to wear certain clothing because we want to send a message of how we see ourselves in the hope that others will begin to see us in that way as well. Other people will tell you, “You are what you eat.” There is a little less truth to that statement, because if it were true I would be half wheat and half cow hooves (I just had a hot dog in a bun).

In Judaism we believe that you are what you do. By nature, we may be languid, lazy, lackluster, languorous, and lethargic, but if we energize ourselves and become active people, then we have changed who we are and we are now vigorous, vibrant and vivacious people brimming with vim and vitality. This is due to our actions entering our psyche, and transforming our very essence.

Using this line of reasoning, Pinchas, who had just committed a violent act, would become a more violent and aggressive person, no matter how noble his intentions. But G-d would never allow a negative result to be the outcome of a virtuous act,; therefore, G-d gave him a special covenant of peace to protect him from any character defects he may have acquired through his violent action.

This idea is very empowering, as it allows us out of any box we may have placed ourselves in. So often, we live our lives believing that we are selfish, lazy, or disorderly. But we learn from here that all we have to do is to act selflessly, energetically, and in an orderly fashion and we will become different people! Most of you are probably thinking, “Sure, easier said than done!” but that is just the lazy part of you speaking. Instead, we must simply follow the Pinchas strategy, and get up and do, because that is what changes us.

 

Parsha Summary

This week begins with the reward given to Pinchas for his glorification of G-d by eradicating one of the leaders of the tribe of Shimon who was publicly committing adultery with a princess from Midian. The Midianite people had sent their daughters to seduce the Jews. At the moment of their highest vulnerability, the women would entice the Jewish men to serve the Midianite Gods. Pinchas, with his quick action, brought the people back to their senses. The reward Pinchas received was the ability to join the ranks of the Kohanim, the people whose entire raison d’etre is to bring people closer to G-d by cleansing them of the negative effects of their sins. After this incident, the Jews went to war with the Midianites, in retribution for the spiritual war the Midianites waged against the Jews.

As you probably recall, in the beginning of the Book of Bamidbar (Numbers), there was a major census taken of all the Jews. That was at the beginning of the Jews’ forty years in the desert. Now, at the end of their 40 year journey, G-d commands Moshe to take another census. Why was another census necessary? A number of 585reasons are given. First, just as a shepherd counts his sheep after a wolf attacks, so too, G-d, after forty years and a number of punitive plagues, counts the Jews to see how many remain. In addition, just as Moshe counted the people at the beginning of his leadership, now that his watch is about to end, he counts them again before returning his flock to their master.

Another purpose of the census was to count the people by family, as this would determine their portions of land when they entered Israel. At this point, the daughters of Tzelafchad came before Moshe to make a request. They were from a family with only women, five of them to be exact. Their father had died, and they were concerned that with no men to represent them, their family would get no portion in Israel. Moshe, after a quick consultation with G-d, told them not to worry, as they would get a portion of the Land of Israel in lieu of their father.

(Here is an interesting note: 2000 years ago, Jews were the most liberal nation in the world in regards to women’s rights. They gave women land, offered them many forms of protection in the case of divorce or death of a spouse, and gave them equal protection under law. Today, people look at Orthodoxy and claim that it represses women. It is important to try to understand the Orthodox position before judging them, in light of their record of being the foremost champion of women’s rights for thousands of years.) Once dealing with laws of inheritance, the Torah here summarizes the Jewish laws of bequest and inheritance.

The Torah, now close to wrapping up the narrative of the Jews’ desert experience, tells of G-d informing Moshe that he will die imminently and he therefore has to pass the mantle of leadership onto his principal pupil, Joshua. The Parsha then concludes with a list of the sacrifices brought on all the various festivals. That’s all, Folks!

Quote of the Week: Time is what we want most, but we all use worst. – William Penn

Random Fact of the Week: “Dreamt” is the only English word that ends in the letters “mt”.

Funny Line of the Week: Money talks, but all mine ever says is “goodbye.”

Have a Noteworthy Shabbos,

R” Leiby Burnham

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