7th Post for Vegan Marathon: The Plumbing Problem, the Instalator, Drying Almonds and Tofu to Form Cheese Desserts

Today’s blog is about release and water. I read a powerful book many years ago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn called Cancer Ward, a masterful work of the oppressive Soviet regime. I read parts of it the other day.

 One paragraph among many grabbed me: “The cells of the heart which nature built for joy die through disuse. That small place in the breast which is faith’s cramped quarters remains untenanted for years and decays.”. If you’ve never been to Israel you may have no idea what exile is like. It’s the old expression, “You don’t know what you are missing.” That’s what living in the diaspora is.. exile.. …..living in Cadman Plaza, Brooklyn overlooking the new piers  or on the Upper West Side.

Only in Israel does a Jew feel totally himself. For about a year, every morning I jumped rope outside in an area between my building and the next. It’s very cool, the birds are out. People are leaving for work. Everyone stops and say Yashar Koach, Kol Ha Kavod. Because when we see others happy, we feel happy. We see things in a little different way.

 Just a little anecdote… We live in a very old historic building, the first in Jerusalem to boast an elevator. Repairing indoor pipes often means breaking into ceramic tiles. Over the decades metal then plastic exterior pipes have replaced the corroded interior metal ones. Sometimes the metal pipes were left and the new plastic pipes are joined to them. That’s very difficult because metal expands and contracts and positioning them to coincide next to plastic is at best a patch-job.

The plastic pipes are connected into the system in a most peculiar way. You’ve heard about arterial bypass. Doctors have perfected the arterial bypass, where a blockage prevents the flow of blood. A blocked artery will result in a heart attack. The surgeons graft a section of artery to bypass the blockage.

A similar idea is behind the grafted pipes that float on the outside wall of my building. When for some reason a new pipe could not merge with the main line as is the case on the fourth floor, a new pipe was is installed parallel to the main and connected to it with a sharp turn on the ground floor. It’s all pragmatic.

It’s a metaphor for the Jewish people. There have always been Jews immigrating to Israel . Then there was an immigration blockade  followed by pressure to re-open. World events make it possible. The opening widens and the new streams  connected to the old pipe, the life blood of the Jewish people the Torah. It’s a lot of hit or miss. The first generation struggles. It’s the drive to find the connection. Sometimes it’s a thread, but it is still there. The wound, the surgical connection gets healed. The old pipe  is just a long distance away. If you know the whole system including the old pipes you can understand how and where the  new sections emerge.

Practically speaking, everything works fine until the line in the pipe, the pipe-line is broken. Every building has a nosey neighbor who walks around and checks to see if there are leaks. She looks for water on the sidewalk. We have such a neighbor. One day, I was outside talking to her when she pointed out water flowing out of the pipe at the joint. It was smelly water too, and from the looks of it,  the leak was gushing for quite a while.

The pipe watcher came closer to me. She tried to describe the exact source contributing to the tributary down the building wall. As soon as she was sure that I understood and agreed on the origin of the problem, she prompted me to go up and talk to the owner. I lifted my shoulders, “Me? I’m not even a neighbor”. Then I offered to tell my Vaad (manager) about this acute problem threatening everyone in the building’s health. I was so thankful that I would not be accused of a lethal environmental spill. I could not help but resent that owner on the fourth floor.

Several e-mails were sent off to my Vaad (manager), describing what I had witnessed and still no “instalator”, (plumber) arrived to fix the rift, only now soapy water was spilling out. Then one day later I looked up and saw the pipe bypass. The instalator, (plumber) had done a lateral arabesque and the new length of pipe connected to the ground floor waste line. Guess that pipe is cheaper than labor.

The story isn’t over yet. On a Friday night a few weeks later, I was  on my way to services at Rishimu, a beautiful synagogue nearby, that holds Friday services out-of-doors. I planned to hear Shlomo Katz and the gardens were so beautiful, it really was a great way to begin Shabbat. I was stopped by a lady carrying a Kheill cosmetics bag. She wanted to know the location of the nearest garbage pack. First I pointed to our parking lot and I turned to walk the opposite way. I realized she would never find the pack as it was behind a barrier. I ran back to the parking lot and caught up with her and pointed out the barrier, then turned to resume my steps to Rishimu.

I saw Yehudit, the pipe watcher. I said to myself, “something must be up on the outside of the building.” She walked up our parking lot’s incline to me, and raised her hand pointing to a flow initiated above where a waste pipe from inside the building was jutting out, totally disconnected from the outside waste line. 

It was far more noticeable that the one that was discovered and described earlier. That was a mere crack. I looked up. She commented. “It’s from that new apartment.” It was from our apartment!  The water was streaming out after my grandson’s last minute shower! I was so thankful that I was with Yehudit at that time  because I was not aware of the leak. I was guilty of “spillage” and didn’t know it!

As I mentioned, she and I spotted such a leak last month. That break has since  been corrected. I waited a day and then informed my husband about our leak. I didn’t want to ruin his Shabbat. We decided  that we would narrow down the problem and then try to find the  plumber that fixed our neighbor’s leak.

Early on Sunday, we heard a knock on our door. It was our upstairs neighbor Mrs. Ettinger. It was a first time that she ever came to our door. She said in Hebrew “You need an instalator  losing a lot of water.” Mrs. Ettinger is a Holocaust Survivor and my dear up-stairs neighbor. She spends many hours at her window where she probably spotted the flow.  

This was a true hemorrhage. We couldn’t put this off. We called our Vaad Ha Bayit, our volunteer building manager. Our water gush occurred about the same time as the big oil spill in the Gulf. The difference is, our leak is already fixed. By the way, that Oil Spill in area covers a region about half the size of Israel.

 Here’s a worthy quote from Rabbi Nachman of Breslav, also immortalized in song:

“Kol ha’olam kulo

Gesher tzar me’od….

Veha’ikar, veha’ikar

lo lefahed klal.”


“The whole world

is a very narrow bridge

And the main thing to recall –

is not to be afraid,

not to be afraid at all.”

We were all in it together, Yehudit,  the pipe watcher, my upstairs neighbor, Mrs. Ettinger and I, and the entire world. I like to end with something upbeat, to conclude the pipe story. We didn’t have use of our bathrooms for a day.

We didn’t want our neighbors to see our waste-pipe dripping muck. I had entertained negative thoughts  about the family on the forth floor. I didn’t want to give my neighbors food to spread negative thoughts about me.

I will always remember the actual day that the pipes were -re-connected. The building’s instalator climbed on a very long extension ladder to the height of the second floor and started knocking on the pipe to force the separate pipes together. My apartment was  re-connected to the main.  I thought that I was going to have a heart attack watching my plastic pipe being bashed.

People stopped to watch.

He did the job! And so far it’s holding! In NYC all plumbing is the building’s responsibility. In Israel it’s different. The whole thing seems to work. This all happened a few years ago. There’s just one loop-hole. You don’t have to believe everyone who comes to your door who says that your waste-pipe is gushing waste-water. Unfortunately, some neighbors are jealous for whatever reason and wish you problems. I’ve learned that if a neighbor pronounces you at fault, get outside and trace the water. Inspect before you ring up the instalator.

Another pipe problem? Our building manager informed us that we had a pipe problem. Her source was information from a neighbor. We shivered to think that it was a repeat of the earlier pipe problem. Nevertheless,  oldsters, human or building, break-down. As it turned out,  we called our plumber, and he proclaimed the problem was  a false alarm, for us.

There is still a leak, but it is not OUR leak. The building’s pipe was made with a shoddy connector, perhaps plastic to metal as described above, and most likely the birds ate through the pipe. That alone was the source of the dripping water. Our plumber, (he’s an English speaker so he goes by that),  refused to take the job because he would not want to be blamed for breaking any other pipes hanging on the outside of our “Historic” building. He also refused to take any fee. He’s a real mentch. Plumbers often turn down work in older buildings because the whole system is breaking down.

The recipes continue the water theme: or in this case the dry theme:

1-Simple Almond Ricotta Cheese

Author: Beard And Bonnet

Serves: Makes 2 cups


  • 2 cups raw blanched almonds, soaked in filtered water to cover overnight then rinsed and drained.

  • 1 cup filtered water

  • ⅓ teaspoon acidophilus, if desired but not necessary

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil-to your taste

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice-to your taste

  • 1 clove garlic (can omit)

  • pinch Himalayan Salt


  1. Combine the soaked  almonds, water, and acidophilus powder, if using, in a high speed blender. Puree until the mixture is smooth with some texture left to it, but there are no large chunks of almonds remaining.

  2. Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and line with cheesecloth. Then add the almond mixture to the strainer and allow it to drain for 8 hours at room temperature.

  3. Add herbs and spices immediately to taste to achieve desired taste for the recipe you are creating and store any unused ricotta in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

 2-Cheese-less Cake

Crust: (From Scratch)

4 Cups Rolled Oats
½ Cup Nuts Or Seeds Of Choice (Example: Almonds, Walnuts, Pecans, Sunflower Seeds)
¼ Tablespoon Cinnamon Powder
½ Cup Sunflower Oil
½ Cup Maple Syrup

Pre-hear oven to 350 Degrees, 200 C. Combine Dry Ingredients In Mixing Bowl. Transfer To Well Oiled Baking Sheet. Bake For ½ Hour Stirring At 15 Minute Interval. Remove From Oven And Allow To Cool For 15 Minutes Or So. Add Dry Ingredients To Food Processor And Drizzle Wet Ingredients In As You Coarsely Pulse. Loosely Press The Crust Into The Base Of A 9 Inch Spring form Cake Pan.

 Tofu Cheesecake Filling

2 Pounds Firm Or Extra Firm Silk Tofu
1 Cup Brown Rice Syrup
2 Cups Maple Syrup
3 Tablespoons Tahini
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
½ Tablespoon Almond Extract
1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
2 Tablespoons Arrowroot
2 Tablespoons Agar Agar (Flakes)
1/2  Cup Milk Of Choice (Example: Soy Milk, Rice Milk, Almond Milk, Hemp Milk, Coconut Milk, Oat Milk)

Continue To Preheat Oven To 350 Degrees.  Add Tofu, Tahini, Arrowroot, Agar Agar, and Sea Salt To Food Processor. Pulse a Few Times. Add Remaining Wet Ingredients And Continue to Blend Until Smooth And Creamy. Adjust Sweetness and Thickness – The Mixture Should Be On The Verge Of Too Thick To Pour. Spoon – Pour Mixture Over The Crust Being Careful Not To Disturb The Crust. Bake For 45 – 50 Minutes

Allow to Cool And Set Before Topping With Carob Ganache or Your Choice Of Topping.

3-Carob Ganache Icing

1 Bag Grain Sweetened Dairy-free Carob
¼ Cup Grain Coffee or Coffee Substitute like Greenfield’s
½ Cup Carob Powder
1 Cup 
Milk Substitute Of Choice (Example: Soy Milk, Rice Milk, Almond Milk, Hemp Milk, Coconut Milk, Oat Milk)|
½ Cup Brown Rice Syrup Or Maple Syrup Or Half Of Each or pureed fruit
1 Teaspoon Orange Extract (Optional)

Heat Milk In Large Sauce Pan Until Ready To Boil. Turn Down To Low Simmer. Wisk The Grain Coffee And Carob Powder In Until Fully Dissolved.  Add Additional Carob Powder To Achieve a Thick But Stirable Consistency.  

Add The Sweetener Mixing Until Blended. Turn Off Heat Completely.  Add The Carob Chips And Wisk Until Smooth. Add Orange Extract If Desired.  Allow To Cool Until Luke Warm.  Spoon a ¼ To ½ Inch Layer Of Ganache Over Cooled Cheesecake.  Leave Cake In Pan And Refrigerate.  Allow Entire Cake To Set Completely – About 2 Hours Minimum.

When Cake Is Fully Cooled, Place On Serving Platter, Remove Outer Ring Of Cake Pan, Serve, And Enjoy!

 Recipe and Photo By, Kushi Level Graduate, Gayle Stolove
Le Hitraot,



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