Thursday, June 07, 2012

Jewish Holiday: Shavuot, aka Cheesecake Holiday

Cravings: commandments and cheesecake

Rant: Most Americans (and probably other countries) associate Chanukah as an important Jewish holiday. This ticks me off as it is not even one of the holidays in the Torah (the Pentatuach, or first five books of the bible), let alone the Old Testament! Of course Chanukah is important and has profound historical significance. Maybe "ticking me off" is a bit strong. It's a very easy answer as to why people have this association - it falls around the same time as Christmas. It was a hard decision to make about having a Christmas tree last year. Charlie asked if we could have a "Chanukah bush" and I said absolutely not. But, I allowed a Christmas tree. I know this sounds confusing, but hear me out. For Charlie, Christmas is a tradition that he loves, and he celebrates it in a secular way. I reasoned - I am devoutly Jewish (I am reform but I still incorporate it into my life), and I would rather participate in a secularized tradition from Christianity than Judaism.
(Sorry the picture is dark!)

Moving on...

Lesson: There are actually 3 pilgrim feasts - "shalosh regalim" which is when Jews at the time of the first and second temple in Jerusalem would make a pilgrimage for the holiday. Since the destruction of the 2nd temple, we do not make the pilgrimage anymore, but the importance of the holidays has remained.  The three holidays:
1. Sukkot
2. Pesach (Passover)
3. Shavuot

I very briefly blogged about Sukkot here, but realize that I did not go into detail at all. Wait for the fall and get an explanation and my take! (If you clicked on the above post, you'll see I recommended the book Mudbound - it's so good!)

Shavuot literally means "weeks" in Hebrew, and is celebrated 7 weeks after Pesach (Passover). Shavuot has agricultural, historical, and biblical significance, as do most of the Jewish holidays. The biblical significance is that we were given the Torah (first five books of the bible) at Mount Sinai.
*Note, we say we were given the Torah, not that we received it, because we are constantly receiving it throughout our lives*

You may have noticed that I called this post the Cheesecake holiday. Well, if you grew up in Israel, this is what you know! You could grow up completely secular, but you still know that on Shavuot, you have picnics and eat dairy meals including blintzes, cheese, and light and fluffy Israeli style cheesecake!

Why? You have no idea, but you do it! Wouldn't you?

Unfortunately, I don't have a recipe for Israeli Cheesecake right now. I will ask some of my Israeli friends and post one asap, because it's amazing! I found this recipe on "Haaretz" and it looks stellar. If anybody tries it let me know!

So why do we eat dairy meals? In the Torah, specifically in the book of Deuteronomy, we are given all the laws. Judaism believes there are 613 commandments (mitzvot). Included in these laws, are all the dietary and purity laws. It reasons that when the Jews were given the Torah at Sinai, they had not been following the laws of kashrut (noun for kosher) since they did not know them. Because the laws of kashrut are strict about the pots you can use for meat, and they had not slaughtered their animals in the kosher way (considered to be a humane way), they could not cook meat until they got new utensils. Thus, for their journey, they only ate dairy or parve (parve is neutral), and so we follow in their footsteps on this holiday.

We have been doing picnics in the park with our Israeli friends for the past several years on Shavuot. I posted the picture of the food the other day.

Here is my friend Yifat with her son.

I feel like Yifat was just pregnant yesterday!

The only other picture I snapped that day was this one. Once the sun was setting it was actually COOL in Vegas.

I guess I must have been too busy eating yummies to take pictures.

For anybody interested, my mom sent me a really great article that is more in depth and takes Shavuot beyond its basics. I hope you enjoy.

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