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Only a few hours ago Anthony Bourdain was tragically found unresponsive in his hotel room in eastern France, near the Rhine river. Bourdain was known the world over for his shows and books on international cuisine, especially French.

He was also Jewish from his mother's side, and actually visited Israel, Jerusalem and the Kotel during a show in 2013, even putting on Tefilin at the Western Wall.

I'd like to spend a few moments on cooking in his honor - no, I won't be giving you recipes, unless you're looking for the recipe for bagels and lox - but about something that we can really take as a personal lesson in our daily lives, outside of breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Cooking is a real art, like Anthony Bourdain would say. It's a true art because, like art, it's all about taking something that while standing alone can be plain, bland or outright unpalatable, and altering or mixing it until it becomes a delicacy. Art, too, is the same. One solid color is not and cannot be art. Yet that same color, when mixed with others by the perfect stroke and touch of the artist, becomes art.

This is also the lesson of a beautiful Mitzvah (commandment) which we read about in this week's Torah portion: The Mitzvah of Challah. 

The original Mitzvah is to take a piece of each batch of dough we make and give it to charity. But we also use the name for the special bread which we eat on Shabbat and special occasions.

Chalah is made of flour, water and several other ingredients. These ingredients, while standing alone, are hardly edible. Yet when we take them and mix them together in proper amounts they become the delicious Challah that we know. 

This is a life lesson that is at the very heart of Judaism:

Life is a large accumulation of many ingredients. Just like cooking, each ingredient alone can be bland and meaningless. Our job is to blend them, to mix them all together in perfect harmony until a beautiful Challah, crème brûlée or gefilte fish come out of the oven. 

The Torah gives us the gift of inner purpose and meaning, enabling us to take the hodgepodge of unconnected, chaotic details and blend them altogether into a beautiful mosaic of meaningful living. It enables us to find inner peace and direction on even the most chaotic of days. It's the glue that can bring our whole life together and transform our many 'ingredients' into a culinary masterpiece.

Bon appetit!

May Anthony's Neshama find true peace in Gan Eden and may his mourners be comforted. 

Shabbat Shalom, 

Rabbi Avrohom