After the climactic Passover Countdown, another type of countdown began- the Omer! Immediately following Passover, for 49 days, or 7 weeks, the Jewish people wait and count the days until the date when they were given the Torah on Mount Sinai, leading to potential spiritual redemption. This date is called Shavuot, aka the Festival of the Giving of Torah. It is also know as the Festival of the First Fruits, since Shavuot commemorates the time when the first fruits were harvested and brought to the Holy Temple. Here's a quick guide to the holiday, plus suggestions on what to serve at your holiday meal. For a more in depth look at the holiday, check out resources available online through Chabad or Aish Hatorah.
An Easy Guide to the Holiday
- Stay up all night learning Torah
- Wake up early to pray in the morning
- Eat at least 1 dairy meal
- Study the Book of Ruth
- Hear the reading of the 10 Commandments at synagogue
- Decorate the home and synagogue with flowers
Here at JamieGeller.com, the focus is on the food, so we want to know, what's up with the dairy on Shavuot? There are several reasons to follow this custom (custom, not law! If you don't eat dairy, don't worry). These are a few given reasons for dairy consumption on this Yom Tov:
With the giving of the Torah, all of a sudden the laws of keeping kosher were in effect, especially separating milk and meat. However, the Torah was given on Shabbat, when it would be impossible to Kasher (make kosher) all the pots and pans, or cook kosher food, so they ate what was available- dairy. Dairy is often ready to eat, and a fast way to fill up (just like grabbing a yogurt out of the fridge when you're hungry, right?)
Milk = Torah
The Torah is the spiritual nourishment of the Jews, just like a mother gives milk to nourish a newborn baby. It (Torah) is necessary to grow and thrive!
WATCH: Cheese Quiche
We're Not Angels
When the angels visited Abraham in his tent, they ate milk with meat, but in contrast, the Jews, after receiving the Torah, were strict about separating milk and meat. When the Jews were given the Torah, the angels questioned why G-d would give it to people: “Bestow Your majesty upon the heavens . . . What is man that You should remember him, and the son of man that You should be mindful of him?” (Psalms 8:5-7). To commemorate the sincere dedication of the Jews to the laws of kashrut, the custom is to typically first enjoy a dairy meal, then enjoy a meat meal later.
The Significance of 40
In Hebrew, the word for milk is chalav: Its numerical value in gematria is 40, which is a significant number in the Torah (40 years in the desert, 40 days on Mount Sinai...).
Two by Two
On Shavuot, an offering of 2 loaves of bread was brought to the Holy Temple. To commemorate these 2 loaves, it is customary to eat 2 different meals- one dairy, and one meat, on Shavuot.
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Plan Your Menu
Challah: It's always yummier when you make it yourself.
Salatim: Chopped salads add more color to the table, you can never have too many.
Crostini: A fun, finger food appetizer that is so versatile.
Quiche: Always a crowd-pleaser, plus you can make it in advance and then freeze!
Fish: A gorgeous fish dish can be the focus of your meal.
Dessert: Aren't dairy desserts the best? Go crazy with the cream cheese, butter, and whipped cream. Rich, creamy desserts are always a plus on Shavuot.
What's your favorite food to enJOY on the Shavuot holiday?