Just like kosher secular Jew, Sharon Lapidot, in Pinnacle Lust, I celebrate all Jewish holidays. Like many others, I’m not always well versed in the reasons behind some traditions… like this one—why do we eat dairy dishes on Shavuot.
Shavuot is upon us, and I already find myself researching it. Here is what I know: Shavuot is a Jewish holiday celebrating the giving of the Torah to the Jews. In biblical times, this holiday also commemorated the beginning of a new agricultural season, and was also known as Hag HaKatzir--“The Harvest Holiday.” Shavuot is also known as Hag HaBikurim--“The Holiday of First Fruits,” as well as “The Feast of Weeks.” Shavuot was an event in which people brought fresh fruits to the Temple in celebration of the holiday.
When the Temple was destroyed in the year 70, rabbis connected the Jewish holiday to the Revelation at Mount Sinai, when God gave Moses and the Jewish people the Ten Commandments. Today, Shavuot celebrates God’s gift of the Ten Commandments and the Torah to the Jewish people.
You can be sure that the meaning of the holiday is drilled into every Jew from childhood. If you come across a Jew who does not know the meaning of Shavuot, please let me know by sending me an email. However, things are different when it comes to knowing the reason for eating dairy on Shavuot.
Every holiday comes with its tradition and symbolic food: Fried foods at Hanukkah for remembrance of the miracle of the small amount of oil for lighting the lamp that lasted eight days, unleavened bread at Passover for the remembrance of how the Jews left Egypt in haste with no time for the bread to rise.
Shavuot is no different; it has its own tradition. But why dairy dishes on Shavuot? That’s exactly the part that many people do not know the answer, including myself. This year I finally took the time to research the subject.
Surprisingly, I found several very different explanations for my question. Hence, I picked the one that appealed to me the most; A concept thought to be related to Shir HaShirim (The Song of Songs, also known as the Song of Solomon) explains the reason for dairy products during Shavuot. One line of this poem reads, “Honey and milk are under your tongue,” a concept believed to compare the Torah to the sweetness and nourishment of milk and honey. The Torah is likened to milk, as the verse says, “Like honey and milk, [the Torah] lies under your tongue” (Song of Songs 4:11). Just as milk sustains the human body (a concept portrayed most clearly by nursing babies), so too the Torah provides spiritual nourishment for the human soul.
Sounds to me like a good excuse to go back to my kitchen, and get ready for Shavuot. I’m thinking cheesecake….my favorite one…. And to make it more special I’ll share it with you.
For the Crust
3oz Butter, let sit on counter for 30 minutes
1/3 cup granulated sugar
½ cup all purpose flour
1 egg yolk, reserving the white
Pre-heat oven to 350F. In the meantime combine all ingredients in a bowl using your hands to form smooth dough. Spray the bottom of a 9 inch spring form pan with cooking spray and spread the dough evenly on the bottom. I find it more delicate if the crust is very thin.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
For the Cake
16oz cream cheese, let sit on counter for 30 minutes
6 egg yolks, reserving the white
2 tbsp. of potato flour (Bob’s Red Mill works well)
¾ cup granulated sugar
2oz butter, let sit on counter for 30 minutes
8oz sour cream
7 egg whites (reserved from earlier)
½ cup granulated sugar
In a mixer combine first 5 ingredients and mix well until no lumps remain.
In a clean mixing bowl beat the 7 egg whites for 1 minute and gradually add ½ cup sugar. Continue beating for at least 5 minutes or until mixture is firm and can hold its shape. If you turn the bowl upside down and nothing spills out you have done a good job.
Fold the 2 mixtures together until mixed evenly. Pour mixture over crust and use a spatula to level the top. Bake in 350F for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave for another 15 minutes. Open the oven door, pull the oven rack out slightly and let the cake cool down for another 30 minutes.
For the Topping
16oz sour cream
½ cup granulated sugar
Whisk ingredients together until sugar dissolves and mixture is smooth and shinny. Pour the mixture on top of cake. Refrigerate cake for 12 hours prior to cutting.
Strawberry Sauce - Optional
1 16oz bag of frozen strawberries
½ cup granulated sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Drizzle on cake upon serving.