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Hi! Thank you for stopping by to watch me, Leah, cook kosher. I've been the owner operator of my boutique catering firm in Seattle, Leah's Catering, for the past 14 years.

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The Rambam and Martin Buber
Posted: February 3, 2011 By: Leah Jaffee

Entering the cholent competition last month at shul, I was asked what I would bring with me if I were stuck on a deserted island. Other contestants thought iPad and Smart Phones. Hmm, I said 'tongs', as it is stated in Pirkei Avot, you need tongs to make tongs. We'll if I'm going to touch anything on a deserted island, I wanted tongs. Besides, I didn't even remember to bring a power adapter to Bali.

Bali - Statue at airport

HUGE statue outside the airport - need to look up history!

So, what did I decide to bring with me to Bali, other than a suitcase of ready-to-eat kosher food? I've brought a book of essays by Martin Buber and a book on Maimonides, a look at both sides of the Rambam's thought process; halachic and philosophical. They aren't with me as I sit in the lobby of the hotel using wi-fi so I'll reference them later. Suffice to say that I am, as a convert, always dismayed by the number of Jews who fail to see the beauty of Judaism. I've done a fair share of new-age stuff since my twenties, always headed up by a Jewish person, and my stay in Bali is no different. More on that in another posting.

I am not here on vacation, unless one considers the study of the halachic, philosophic and spiritual aspects of Judaism a thrill. I see golfers and such leaving the hotel with their clubs and visors. The swimming pool over-flows with the torrential downpour. I'm heading for hours and days of reading, study and consideration. My teacher here is Jewish but not in the conventional sense. He has family in Seattle so I'm not comfortable to say much right now. I need for the days ahead to unfold as the group tackles questions of individual spiritual growth as well as the collective.

Martin Buber figures into the picture as I'm interested in his perspective on Jewish Renewal. I don't know much to babble on at this point. Some of you may know that I was married to Dr. Martin Jaffee, professor of Jewish Studies at the UW. A religious Jew and a Torah scholar, Marty is able to dialogue on these sorts of issues. I may need is insight to clarify some of the heady language.

I feel as though the years of baking and catering have stunted my intellectual growth regarding Judaism. The halachic issues of preparing kosher food have been a preoccupation. Time has been limited. As I transition to a manageable amount of catering and upload content to the blog, I find myself in an identity crisis of sorts. Leah the BRAND versus Leah the PERSON, how do I integrate the stringent ideals associated with a brand hechsher, and me, a person who's own questioning lead me to the doorstep of Judaism? The doorstep only leads to the door and beyond is an entire world of Jewish thought, ritual and history. With much to learn, it seems prudent to take the conventional course of study but it is possibly the least interesting. One may circle back to the conventional but it seems that ownership of a ritual, thought or process should be based in ones own journey.

So, alas I am asked to supply pictures of which I am in short supply at the moment. I will make every effort to entertain but on a deeper level, this 'vacation' is about discovery of an internal landscape. In the kitchen, I have plenty of time to think about things as I do repetitive steps. Kosher food preparation requires some thought. Kosher food preparation continues a tradition. I'd like more to think about as I work.

Shabbat starts soon enough and I'm ready with my private room, candles, stack of books and packaged smoked salmon. Shabbat Shalom, Leah

Bali - hotel pool


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