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 Why We Eat 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.