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Eating Dairy Foods on Shavuot: Why and When

Eating Dairy Foods on Shavuot: Why and When


It is customary to eat dairy foods on the first day of Shavuot. Menus range from traditional cheese blintzes and cakes to quiches, casseroles and more.

Reasons for Dairy on Shavuot

There are a number of reasons for this custom. Here are a few:

  • On the holiday of Shavuot, a two-loaf bread offering was brought in the Temple. To commemorate this, we eat two meals on Shavuot—first a dairy meal, and then, after a short break, we eat the traditional holiday meat meal. Learn more about waiting between dairy and meat.
  • With the giving of the Torah, the Jews became obligated to observe the kosher laws. As the Torah was given on Shabbat, no cattle could be slaughtered nor could utensils be koshered, and thus on that day they ate dairy. Read more about the koshering process.
  • The Torah is likened to nourishing milk. Also, the Hebrew word for milk is chalav, and when the numerical values of each of the letters in the word chalav are added together—8 + 30 + 2—the total is forty. Forty is the number of days Moses spent on Mount Sinai when receiving the Torah. Read more about what happened when Moses was up on Sinai.
  • When Moses ascended Mount Sinai, the angels urged G‑d to reconsider His decision to give His most precious Torah to earthly beings. “Bestow Your majesty upon the heavens . . . What is man that You should remember him, and the son of man that You should be mindful of him?” (Psalms 8:5-7). One of the reasons why the angels’ request went unheeded is because of the Jews’ meticulous adherence to the laws of the Torah—including the kosher laws. Not so the angels, who when visiting Abraham consumed butter and milk together with meat (Genesis 18:8). On Shavuot we therefore eat dairy products and then take a break before eating meat—in order to demonstrate our commitment to this mitzvah. Read more about whether Abraham served the angels non-kosher food.

Read more reasons for eating dairy on Shavuot here.

What to Cook and When to Serve It

There are numerous customs regarding when to serve dairy. The practice in Chabad is to serve a dairy meal immediately after morning services. Then, after reciting Grace After Meals and waiting an hour, a meat meal is served.

Important note when planning your menu: If you will be having meat within six hours of your dairy meal, make sure that you serve only milk and soft cheeses—not authentic aged (“hard”) cheese, which would warrant a six-hour wait before meat can be consumed. Read the reason for this here.

Looking for dairy recipes? We have a wide range of delicious ideas ranging from simple to sophisticated, sure to please every palate.

During the holiday meal, it is also appropriate to drink wine, which contributes to the festive nature of the repast.

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myrna solganick middleton wi June 4, 2017

Great wisdom, Jean! Reply

Jean Oakes BATTLE GROUND, WA May 30, 2017

I have always thought that G-d designed the healthiest diet for human beings He created when He gave the mitzvahs related to diet. I'm not so sure of the traditional "insurance" that has been added to Torch, nor with the modern way food is grown and prepared for the grocery store. I have often wish I could have a milch cow for unprocessed dairy products, I drank raw cow & goat milk as a kid on my grandparents farm and have very good memories of it.
When you study aerobic and anaerobic cellular respiration, you realize most of our obesity and heart problems would go away if people just walked a little after heavy meals. It is totally amazing what poor breathing habits do to your health.
So, eat G-d's diet and go for a stroll afterwards! :) Reply

Myrna Solganick Middleton, WI May 29, 2017

Please. Anything in moderation is probably OK. Most of us Boomers/Ashkenazi Jews grew up eating large quantities of meat and potatoes, high fat, whole milk, butter, cheese. Now we know that the mediterranean is one of the healthiest diets we can follow, which is a different approach to eating and allows most things in moderation but is low in animal fat. The research on the plant based diets is interesting but the jury is still out on it. Reply

Anonymous Malibu May 30, 2017
in response to Myrna Solganick:

I wouldn't say anything in moderation, we know there are foods we should stay away from for good reason, (Kosher Law) as well, there are plenty of foods we seem to think are okay to eat, even in moderation that aren't nutritious for us.

As for the jury still being out on a plant based diet, not really,
it was established years ago as one of the best ways to eat and maintain good health. Nothing has ever been found wrong or nutritionally incomplete with it.

Of course there are other things which attribute to good health, how we feed our bodies, both spiritually and physically.

The best diet without moving our bodies, getting fresh air and sunshine will cause a loss of some of the benefits of the good nutrition. It all works together.

Have you heard of the Blue Zones? The places in the world where people live not only the longest but healthiest lives. what they seem to have in common, If they eat any meat or dairy, it is in small quantities. Reply

Lisa Providence, RI May 23, 2017

Even though I'm not a fan of blintzes, I still enjoy ice cream! Reply

Michelle Bashian Cleveland May 29, 2017
in response to Lisa:

Ice cream! That is where life begins, in my book. Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for June 8, 2016

In several places in the Midrash (for example Shemos Rabbah 2:4) it describes G-d telling the angels that they have no right to the Torah because they are meat and milk together.

The source for the angels "pretending" to eat is in Bava Metzia 86b. In Tosafos there it mentions the opinion of the Midrash, that they actually ate milk and meat together. Reply

Anonymous June 7, 2016

Please post the source for that last reason about the angels eating milk and meat together. I am having trouble understanding it, as Rashi (Parshas Vayera, Ch. 18, V. 8) writes that the angels didn't eat at all, they only pretended to eat.
Additionally, where is it written that they (pretended to) ate milk and meat together? Isn't it possible that they had the dairy foods as an appetizer and by the time they slaughtered, salted and cooked the meat, the necessary wait time had passed? Reply

Tim Upham Tum Tum, WA May 17, 2013

Sambusak Recipe 2 teaspoons kosher salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperatures
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup sesame seeds
Cheese Filing:
1-1/2 pounds Muenster cheese, grated
3 lightly beaten eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1-1/2 cups sesame seeds
Pastry Dough:
Combine flour and salt. In a separate bowl cream butter with a mixer. Alternately blend in the flour mixture and water. When dough begins to come together, knead until it forms a ball. Set dough ball aside to rest and prepare filling

Place 1 teaspoon of filing in the center of the round and fold dough in half so edges meet. Tightly crimp edges. Repeat until dough and filling are used up. Place 1/2 cup of sesame seeds on a plate, to dip each sambusak in on each side. Place on ungreased baking sheets for 20 minutes in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F.

Joe S. Va., Ca. via May 16, 2013

sambusak Tim Upham
do you have the recipe for sumbusak? Reply

Anonymous australia May 14, 2013

dairy ? Heading for 76yrs,at last I have had the good fortune of reading Hulda Clarke's A Cure for all diseases.,and in her book she recommends bring raw milk to gentle boil to kill off some parasites.Having done this and enjoyed drinking the hot milk I noticed my fingernails growing strongly.Wow. Thanks Hulda! Reply

Tim Upham Tum Tum, WA May 14, 2013

Sambusak For Shavuot I make sambusak, a savory Sephardic cheese pastry. It is made with muenster cheese, so Ashkenazim should like it too. Reply

Sidney Wilson May 28, 2012

Men and angels Getting away from the whole dairy thing - a piece of cheesecake is not lethal - I take issue with the idea of men being more holy than the angels. The angels never fashioned a golden calf to worship but men 'with the meticulous adherence to kosher law' I think may have done. Shavuot may emphasize the importance of each individual but let's not get carried away. Reply

Anonymous Philadelphia, Pennsylvania May 23, 2012

Even on Shabbat? Is dairy only eaten on the first day of Shavuot even when it falls out on Shabbat? Reply

S Sanchez Los Angeles, CA May 22, 2012

Veet Vivarto It's easy to to delegitimize others' opinions by calling them old wives' tales.

I'm not fond of the so-called "scientific" studies funded mostly by the food and pharmaceutical industries. I'd rather follow the traditions of my family.

Devra Davis, PhD, who once was the director of the Center for Environmental Oncology of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, has many eye-opening books on this very same issue. Trends in Cancer Mortality in Industrial Countries and The Secret History of the War on Cancer" just to name a few.

French and Italian cuisines are full of cheese, butter, cream and milk, yet they have fewer cardiovascular disorders than most Americans, who claim to lead a healthy life with their low fat but overly sweet protein shakes and breakfast cereals. I have yet to see an obese French or an Italian with gluten issues.

I wish we all could see the direct effects of food on our bodies, but G-D keeps this as a mystery like many others things in this World. Reply

veet vivarto Kapaa, HI via May 21, 2012

Repeating old fallacies Sanchez,

You are repeating old wives tales:
We have all heard the stories about how good dairy is, and how yogurt supposedly has beneficial bacteria. Unfortunately these are all lies.

Every part of dairy is bad for you:
The lactose, the milk fat, and the milk protein.

The above statement is based on countless population studies and on controlled experiments. The biggest of them is "China Study".

Dairy causes cancer, heart attacks, diabetes, arthritis and 800 other diseases.
Diabetes type 2 is caused by too much fat in diet, while diabetes type 1 is caused by destruction of pancreas through auto-immune reaction to cow milk.

Yogurt has ZERO benefit. The bacteria in yogurt are acidophilis bulgaricus, they cannot live inside human body. The natural bacteria in healthy human colon is acidophilis bifidus.

Stop spreading your ignorance.

As for soy, it is unnecessary. It can be harmful to some people, but not nearly as much as milk. Reply

S Sanchez Los Angeles, California May 20, 2012

To Veet Vivarto from Hawaii Diary is healthy. Cow milk, cheese, yogurt are all good for our health. Particularly plain yogurt can fix all intestinal problems thanks to its probiotic cultures. Some cannot digest milk well but that is due to other health problems (like some has allergy to WATER).

Unfortunately the big food companies keep on manipulating the public to sell more and more soy products not because it's healthy but it's very easy to produce and brings much higher profit than producing and selling diary products.

And finally, It is not diary, it's sugar that causes diabetes, however no one wants to accept the obvious.

I recommend you to check out the for more information on how to live healthily. Reply

Veet Vivarto Kapaa, Hawaii via June 7, 2011

May the enemies of the Jew all eat dairy products The harmful effect of dairy is no limited to its lactose content.
The chunks of the dairy protein (peptides) entering the blood stream are confusing the immune system. The antibodies created against those dairy peptides attack various tissues in the body leading to autoimmune diseases, diabetes type 1 and cancer.
The dairy fat blocks the intake of insulin by the cells and causes diabetes type 2.
Dairy is responsible for 800 disease caused by dairy.
If you love the Jewish people, tell all your fellow Jews to stay away from dairy products.
I pray that our Arab/Muslim enemies all eat dairy; may they all grow fat, get diabetes, heart diseases, strokes, arthritis, lupus, may, and may they all suffer from impotence, due to clogging of the arteries leading to their erectile tissues!
May the Jewish people be smart enough to stay away from that poison!` Reply

Daniel san diego, ca June 7, 2011

Milk Also, I heard that "Chalav" (milk) has a "gematria" (numeric equivalent) of 40, which corresponds to the 40 days & Nights that Moses was up on Sinai :) Reply

Tamar Windsor, CA May 18, 2010

Lactose intolerance or pasturization intolerance? I have found that when I drink pasterurized milk or eat cheese made from pasteurized milk, I get sick. When I drink raw milk or eat cheese made from raw milk, I do not experience any symptoms of lactose intolerance.
As for soy, any unfermented soy is inherently unhealthy, far worse than milk. Reply

Ekk Faiga Ocala, FL via May 5, 2010

Lactose Intollerance My father was the milkman that came to your home each moring and placed the ordered millk in that little metal box. I drank lots of milk and never had problems. When I became an adult, I found out that I could not digest regular milk. Today, there are many people with this condition. The stores now have so much variety for people with lactose intollerance. It tastes great and offers the same benefits of Vitamin D and calcium which is so important especially when you age.

I do not know where these individuals are getting their infomation but as with any diet anything in moderation is good for you.

In fact, my sister could not drink milk in formula as a child so she was given soy. It takes a liitle getting use to but it is good for you. She still drinks non milk products and is enjoying it. I might add that she is asthmatic and has osteoperosis as a result of the steriod medications she had to take in order to live. So don't blame milk. Reply

Anonymous May 4, 2010

I think you missed the whole "historically" part of my previous statement :P

In a time when food wasn't so abundant, cows milk and the foods you could make from it were kind of essential.

a. Didn't I say low-fat / skim dairy was probably better for you? *scratches head*

b. Fruits. vegetables, and nuts that contain calcium weren't always available all year round.

c. Mind if you send me the link for that study? I would think that other things you eat or drink (like soda or coffee, which is infinitely more acidic) would be worse for you.

d. Yogurt = prebiotic = good thing.

3. Can I see some statistics on that?

:P Reply

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