Shavuot At Home

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An alternative reason for milk on the first day and meat on the second is linked to Exodus 23:19, which states, "You shall not seethe a kid in its mother's milk." This was extrapolated to mean that dairy and meat and milk products should not be eaten at the same meal--one of the basic laws of keeping kosher. Another compelling reason for consumption of dairy rather than meat products on Shavuot is so that the Jews will not be reminded of the sin of the Golden Calf, when Moses was so angry with the people that he broke the sacred tablets he dictated from God's direct revelation.

Finally, there is an explanation that focuses on the reception of the kashrut (dietary) laws. It is only after the revelation that the Israelites would have been aware of laws of kashrut and thus aware that they had no immediately available kosher meat to eat. Consequently, they ate dairy products. The Torah was gained by giving up excess, showing restraint and self-control. It is thus more fitting to commemorate its reception by showing restraint and giving up meat for that day.

Two special challot are baked for Shavuot. As there were two breads offered in the Temple, so Jews eat two challot. It is a special feature of Shavuot to place a braid in the shape of a ladder on top of the bread. In Hebrew, letters all have numerical values assigned to them; the word for ladder in Hebrew, "sulam," adds up to the same number as "Sinai."

One of the old Eastern European customs associated with Shavuot is that young children between three and five were introduced to yeshivah study, the study of Torah, at this time of year. They were given cakes, honey and candy to associate Torah study with sweetness and joy.

Another dietary practice of Shavuot was to eat triangular "kreplach," or dumplings. The three-cornered shape reflects the three patriarchs by whose merit the Israelites received Torah. It also reflects the three categories of Jews; Kohen, Levi and Israel, as well as the three sections the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh), Torah, Neviim (prophets) and Ketuvim (writings).

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