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Eat Cheesecake; G-d wants you to!

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein

  

Library » Holidays » Shavuot » Essays | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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When you hear the words “Jewish holiday,” what is the first thing that comes to mind?

If you answered food, you are not alone. As a matter of fact, most people associate holidays with food.  Even Yom Kippur, the holiest of Holy-days, is associated with food (albeit in a negative sense).

The origin of this practice -- the association of holidays with food -- can be traced back to the Torah where G-d commands us to be joyous on holidays. Now since food is a key enjoyment factor -- from business lunches to leisure cruises, we are always excited over food -- it is no surprise that we celebrate our holidays in part (some times in large part) by eating.

What is surprising is that out of all the holidays, the one you would think should have the least emphasis on food actually is the most associated with it. Incidentally, it is also the least famous of the holidays, and surprisingly so -- not only because of the food, but more importantly, due to the cause of the holiday and its connection with whom we are. It is the holiday of Shavuot, on which G-d gave us the Torah.

Even Yom Kippur, the holiest of Holy-days, is associated with food (albeit in a negative sense)
While the rabbis are all in agreement that food is an enjoyment factor, they argue whether food on a holiday is a must. After all there are other ingredients for joy, especially on a Shabbat or holiday when one might look for a more refined and spiritual form of enjoyment. However, when it comes to the holiday of Shavuot -- the holiday celebrating the giving of the Torah which is arguably the most spiritual part of our religion -- all are in agreement that in order to celebrate it properly, one must eat!

Food is so important to this holiday, that on Shavuot in addition to the four regular meals (over the course of two days) -- each containing a fish course and meat course, and all that comes with it -- traditionally there is also a fifth meal. As an extra treat we add a dairy meal featuring any or all of the following: cheesecake, lasagna, cheese blintzes, and ice cream.

Now I know the sound of this already tastes good, but as food for thought, does it really make sense?

Imagine a rabbi saying the following: “Today is the holiday on which we received that which is most dear to our people. Life should revolve around it. Smart choices are influenced by it. It is studied, examined, and explored. It is found in books, on CDs and made into movies. It is revered, sanctified and glorified. It is the Torah! And so, ladies and gentleman, now that you’ve heard the Ten Commandments, go home and eat cheesecake!” -- You can’t imagine it? Well, you don’t have to; our rabbis actually said it.


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Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
Kosher
Literally means "fit." Commonly used to describe foods which are permitted by Jewish dietary laws, but is also used to describe religious articles (such as a Torah scroll or Sukkah) which meet the requirements of Jewish law.
Moses
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Shavuot
Early summer festival marking the day when the Jews received the Torah at Mount Sinai in the year 2448 (1312 BCE).
Solomon
Son of King David, and succeeded him on the throne of Israel in the year 836 BCE. he was the wisest man to ever live. He built the first Holy Temple and authored several books of the Bible.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.