Dairy on Shavuot - Thursday, May 17

Thu, 05/17/2018 - 3:23pm -- Rabbi Dan Dorsch

2016_rabbi_dorsch_headshot.pngThe irony of a largely lactose intolerant people celebrating a holiday whose menu is entirely dairy does not escape me. As I write this eblast, I am looking at a PJ Library Book on the side of my desk entitled Cheesecake for Shavuot.  Last night, I read another book to Zev at bedtime about a young girl named Sadie whose classroom makes blintzes at school in preparation for the holiday.  

Interestingly, the development of the practice to eat dairy for this holiday is largely a custom whose origins are spotty at best.  I was always taught that its origins had to do with our symbolically “not having received the Torah,” with its laws of kashrut.  Therefore, to be on “the safe side,” we eat dairy.  Unfortunately, this logic hardly holds up, because if we are “pretending not to have received the laws of Kashrut,” one might just as easily argue that we could eat a bacon-cheeseburger in the days leading up to the holiday (just kidding).  In any case, you can read my teacher from Schechter Institute, Rabbi David Golinkin’s best guess about the origins of the practice here: https://www.schechter.edu/why-do-jews-eat-milk-and-dairy-products-on-shavuot/.

Instead, in what is an act of almost certainly further irony, what we should be doing is the opposite practice: Ein Simcha Ela Babasar Ve-Yayin, teach our rabbis: true joy only comes from eating meat and wine (BT Pesachim 109a).  This is especially true of the chagim, and has therefore led some in frum circles--despite the plethora of children’s books to the contrary--to abandon the practice in favor of fleischiks on Shavuot.

This year, I’ve decided I am going to split the difference.  I am going to grill a veggie burger to celebrate.

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