Shavuot & Dairy

It is traditional to eat dairy products, such as cheesecake and blintzes, on Shavuot. Many reasons have been cited for this custom, including which of the following?

Cheesecake by Susanne Nilsson  is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

AIn the Hebrew tradition of Gematria, where the numerical value of words is considered for interpretation, chalav, meaning milk, has a value of 40, which corresponds with the number of days Moses remained on Mt. Sinai when receiving the Torah.

B. Shavuot is referenced in the Torah portion Pinchas, in Chapter 28, verse 26, which reads “In the day of the first fruits, when ye bring a new meal-offering unto the Lord in your feast of weeks, ye shall have a holy convocation.” In Hebrew, this sentence includes the phrase “Chadasha L'Hashem V’Shavuoteichem.” The first letters of those words–Chet, Lamed, Vetspell chalav, the Hebrew word for milk.

CWhen Moses led the Jewish people out of Egypt and through the desert to the Promised Land, the people referred to him as Moshe ha-Yisraeli, ha-Levi, v’ha-melech. In English, this means Moses, the Israelite, the Levite, the King. Because the first letters of these words are M-I-L-K, the custom developed of serving dairy food on Shavuot, commemorating Moses’s journey to the top of Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments.

DThe connection of dairy foods to Shavuot was actually a marketing creation. Tnuva, the Israeli dairy cooperative, was started in 1926 when kibbutz leaders came together to find ways to work jointly to produce and sell their products. As part of that effort, in the early 1930’s they published recipes for cheesecake and blintzes under the heading “Tnuva, the dairy cooperative from the land flowing with milk and honey, wishes you a Chag Shavuot Sameach.”

E. When baby Moses was rescued from the river by Pharaoh’s daughter, he needed to be fed. Moses refused to suckle from the Egyptian wet nurses that Pharaoh’s daughter hired. Only when the Hebrew slave Yocheved, who was actually Moses’s mother, was chosen for that task, would he nurse. Eating dairy on Shavuot commemorates Moses’s holding out for his own mother’s milk.

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