In just a couple of weeks we will celebrate the holiday of Shavuot, the second of our three Pilgrimage Festivals (the first is Passover, the third is Sukkot). Originally an agricultural celebration of the bringing of the first fruits of the spring harvest, the holiday morphed into a celebration of the revelation at Mt. Sinai. In fact, the Torah reading for the first day of Shavuot is the story of the Israelites receiving the Ten Commandments.
There is a long-standing tradition to eat dairy foods on Shavuot. There are several different reasons given for the tradition. One reason given is that the Israelites had not yet been given the rules of kashrut. They did not know which animals were kosher, or how to slaughter them, and their cooking utensils were not yet kosher, so they only ate dairy foods in preparation for the Revelation. Also, Revelation took place on Shabbat, so they could not kasher their utensils or prepare meat dishes. Another reason given is the connection of the number 40 to things surrounding the Revelation. The gematria of the world Chalav is Chet =8 Lamed = 30 Vet =2 Total =40. Moses stood on Mt. Sinai for forty days receiving the Torah and ten commandments; they spent forty days repenting for the sin of the golden calf; and Moses spent another forty days receiving the second set of tablets. A third reason given is that another name for Mt. Sinai is Har G’vnonim or the mountain of majestic peaks. The Hebrew word for cheese is G’vinah, which would make Cheese Mountain. Finally, yet another midrash associated with the Exodus is that Moses was born on the 7th day of Adar and stayed home for three months before being out in the Nile on the 6th of Sivan. Moses was taken by Pharaoh's daughter but right away the question of how to feed Moses arose. With no birth mother around he would have been taken to a wet nurse. According to the Talmud, Moses kept refusing to nurse from Egyptian wet nurses. Eventually he was brought to Yocheved his birth mother. Dairy on Shavuot commemorates this miracle.
Whatever the reason, it is undeniable that we are supposed to consume dairy on Shavuot, and what is a better dairy desert than cheesecake. Everyone has their own secret recipe that has been handed down for generations. Now is the time to pit that recipe against everyone else to see who has the best!
In honor of Shavuot this year, we are holding a cheesecake baking contest. You can sign up to come prepare your special recipe on one of several dates and then we will hold the tasting on Sunday May 20th after Shavuot services.
May 14 @ 7 PM, May 15 @ 9:00 AM, and May 15 @ 6 PM
You can sign up by clicking here.