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Eating Dairy Foods on Shavuot

Eating Dairy Foods on Shavuot


It is customary to eat dairy foods on the first day of 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Click here for traditional Shavuot dairy recipes

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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

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

Tim Upham
do you have the recipe for sumbusak? Reply

Anonymous australia May 14, 2013

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Vivarto kapaa, hi via May 4, 2010

1. Majority of Jews cannot digest lactose.
2. The statement "historically, animal milk was good thing ..." is misguided:
a. Nobody who is not starving (with the exception of some alcoholics) suffers from protein deficiency. We need very little protein per day, and we get it easily from any source. We need to worry about excess not deficiency!
b. Cow fat in milk is main cause of arteriosclerosis.
c. While dairy products do contain a lot of calcium, they do not improve bone density, they are decalsifying the bones. This has been shown in several population studies. The more dairy intake the more neck of femur fractures.
d. Yogurt is just as harmful as milk and cheese is many times more harmful as it is much, much fat and and has more of the harmful proteins. (Dairy proteins cause cancer, and destroy pancreas in the babies.)
3. Dairy is definitely killing many times more Jews than all the Arabs and other antisemites combined.
4. Low-fat dairy may be slightly less deadly.
Stay away! Reply

Anonymous May 4, 2010

Historically, animal milk was a good thing: lots of fat, protein, and calcium. It was easily stockpiled. Also, it allowed for the creation of dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt, each having its own unique benefits toward human health.

Do we need all of the fat from whole milk in today's day and age? Probably not. Is it going to kill us? No. Is low-fat or skim milk better for you? Probably. Was cow's milk ever meant to be a substitute for human milk in infants? No, recent advances in baby formula ingredients prove that. Does the consumption of milk lead to health problems in some individuals? Yes. Should everyone avoid drinking milk because of those individuals? No.

Just my two cents. Reply

Veet Vivarto Kapaa, Hawaii via May 26, 2009

Indeed, your evidence is only anecdotal. I am happy that you are healthy. On the other hand there have been tens, perhaps hundreds of studies showing the detrimental effects of dairy on our health.
And the detrimental effects are not caused by "non-organic" cows. It is caused by dairy as such, even from the healthiest cows.
Dairy is simply not for humans, it is for little bulls and cows. It is designed to make that little calf to a huge bull in just one year. It is also likely to make anyone who takes them, fat and unhealthy.
The biggest study on that subject is the "China Study", or "China Project". The statistical error in it is virtually ZERO due to the excellent design and a huge size of the population.
There have been huge studies in other countries: Finland (where they traced people from birth to past 20 and found direct correlation between dairy intake and diabetes.) United states and Australia studies of total 100,0000 women shows that dairy INCREASES osteoporosis. Etc, etc... Reply

CShulter via May 26, 2009

Veet Vivarto, I don't doubt that you believe what you are saying is true, but I happen to consume a LOT of dairy and I don't have the same medical problems you point out. I did notice a big improvement in my health when I reduced my meat intake (note: REDUCED, not eliminated). Things to consider giving up include artificial colors and flavorings and things containing excessive caffeine. I sincerely doubt consuming dairy JUST for Shavous would have any long-term health effects. After all, I drink on Purim and on Pesach and nothing bad happens. If I drank that way every day, I'd certainly have some liver trouble, I'm sure. Before you go cautioning people off observing rich traditions and customs, consider the positive effects of eating kosher. Look it up. There's plenty of evidence. Reply