A Cheesy Jewish Holiday

Miami's Community Newspapers

At a unique crossroads between religion and cuisine, the Holiday of Shavuot, celebrating the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai some 3,331 years ago, has become a celebration of fine dairy cuisine as well. Shavuot is celebrated for two days, this year beginning at sundown on Saturday, June 8, 2019 and ending at nightfall of Monday, June 10.

50 days after leaving Egypt on Passover, the Jewish people received the Torah from G-d at Mount Sinai on the holiday of Shavuot. Shavuot literally means “weeks” and marks the completion of the seven-week counting period between Passover and Shavuot. Shavuot customs include all-night Torah study, listening to the recitation of the Ten Commandments, the reading of the Book of Ruth, eating dairy products and adorning the home with flowers.

With the giving of the Torah, the Jews became obligated to observe the kosher laws. As the Torah was given on Shabbat, no cattle or poultry could be slaughtered, nor could we make sure that the animals insides were healthy and then properly cleaned out as is required in order for the meat to be kosher. In addition, utensils could not be koshered, and as such we ate dairy. Exquisite cheesecakes, pesto pastas, lasagna, souffles and of course, cheese blintzes all take center stage during this ancient celebration.

When thinking Jewish Holidays, Passover, Chanukah and Yom Kippur come to mind. Nevertheless, Shavuot is considered one of Judaism’s major holidays and was in fact a “pilgrimage” when all of Israel would travel to Jerusalem to celebrate in the Temple.

No, it isn’t all about the food, What is important is that the community is joining together, hearing the Ten Commandments and celebrating the Torah. But the good food certainly helps!

The tradition to learn all night has been practiced ever since we received the Torah. On the very night before G-d gave the Torah, we went to sleep, waking late in the morning. As a symbolic rectification for this, Jews customarily stay awake studying Torah until the morning, on the first night of Shavuot.

Since we all stood at Mount Sinai, we must all reaffirm our commitment. On Sunday, June 9th, the Ten Commandments will be read aloud from the Torah. Special emphasis is placed on including the entire Jewish family, including little babies, the way the Torah’s giving was attended by every Jewish man, woman and child.

The word Torah means “instruction” or “guide.” The Torah guides our every step and move through its 613 mitzvahs. The word mitzvah means both “commandment” and “connection.” Through the study of Torah and fulfillment of mitzvahs, we connect ourselves and our environment to G‑d. G‑d’s purpose in creating the world was that all of creation be sanctified, imbuing it with holiness and spirituality.

Since Shavuot is also called the “Harvest Festival,” it is customary to adorn the home with fruits, flowers and greens.

To learn more about Shavuot and the many customs associated with it visit www.ChabadChayil.org/Shavuot. I encourage you to check out the schedule of your local Chabad or synagogue. Of course you can always join us at The Family Shul for All Night Study on Saturday night, an Ice Cream Party & Dairy Buffet Kiddush on Sunday morning and Yizkor on Monday morning. We will also offer catered holiday dinners Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, we just ask that you RSVP in advance at (305) 770-1919 or TheFamilyShul.com.

Aside for the dinners, which we ask whomever can to help pay their cost, the Shavuot celebrations are free of charge and all are welcome to join, regardless of affiliation or background.

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  1. I love the fact that in Israel all of the cheese companies give out free recipe booklets in the super markets and in the newspapers. I’ve got 7 different cheesecake recipes to try. But the most exciting part about being in Jerusalem for Shavuot is staying up all night with my kids and walking with thousands of people to the Kotel (Western Wall) for sunrise.


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