Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Hold the Meat! It's Dairy Time!

Nadene Goldfoot                                     
Erev Shavuot falls on Saturday evening this year.  Shavuot is then on Sunday and Monday.  As we in Oregon had Cinco de Mayo, a historic holiday of Mexico, we Jews have historic holidays, also, and this one coming up is historic and religious which has us remembering the actual time when Moses received the Torah, now a 2 day festival.  This is when G-d revealed Himself directly to the 600,000 Israelite and other slaves that Moses had freed from Egypt, when they had already started their Exodus , their march of freedom from 400 years of slavery in Egypt.

According to our tradition, We ALL stood at Sinai with the 600,000.  It had to have been a mind-blowing occasion as we haven't forgotten this experience.  I think of it as earth-shaking, a traumatic experience that entered our very being.

Moses was born in c1391 BCE and died in 1271 BCE at age 120.  He was not allowed in Canaan but died outside of it in an unnamed grave on purpose so as to prevent anyone from worshipping him.
From that day on, this moment or hour, or days, however long it took to receive the Torah, which are the Five Books of Moses, we remember it yearly with its special day and customs that have evolved.  One custom is to stay up the entire night of Shavuot, studying and discussing the Torah.
I had the privilege of doing just that when I lived in Israel in the town of Safed.  Our neighbor's son, about age 10 or 11, parents from the States, would come over to our house to visit, and this little boy was amazingly bright.  He spent Shavuot with us because his father was in the synagogue.  So he and my husband discussed all sorts of tidbits from the Torah.  He asked Danny questions and was more mature about the answers than most adults would be.  It was enjoyable and so educational.

The other custom is in eating cheesecake and  a dairy Kugel.  The reason this is the time for dairy items is that  after Sinai with its Kosher laws of not mixing meat with milk, the Jews could not spend a lot of time preparing a meat meal during the holiday.  This involved finding and slaughtering the animal allowed for food such as a cow, kashering the meat, which is a fairly lengthy process of salting, etc., There were other reasons.
The Torah's words are like milk and honey.
When receiving the Ten Commandments, we should not be reminded of the golden calf episode and the following breaking of the first tablets of Ten Commandments. Then we received 613 more laws, most of which we follow anyway, the same number of bones in our body. 
There is a tradition of studying a small section from every book of the Bible (Tanakh) and every section of the Talmud in order to study symbolically the entire body of Jewish religious writings.
Realistically, it's up to the group involved in studying together, they should choose.  The story for us is that the Israelites fell asleep during the night before the receiving of the Torah and had to be awakened by Moses.  To show our eagerness and because we do not have Moses to awaken us, we stay up all night.
During the Exodus, from Egypt back to Canaan
where Jacob and his sons had lived before the drought when
they had left seeking pasture and food
It is said that the heavens open  up at midnight on Shavuot, which make this time the best for our prayers and thoughts to ascend.  There is also something very special in spending an all-nighter studying such a special subject  where you can greet the sunrise and receive the Torah.
As a conservative Jew, I had never experienced this holiday, but did in Israel.  I will always be thankful of having that youngster with us which made it even more meaningful and delightful.

We did eat cheesecake, however.  And we had dairy meals instead of meat.  Part of the laws of kashrut are that we do not eat meat and dairy foods together.  Different groups have different lengths of time to separate eating them.  Some were known to wait an hour, some 6 hours apart.  If you drank milk first, you could eat meat shortly afterwards, Mama said.    The idea is not to mix the two in one's tummy and more.
 One reasoning of not eating the two together is to not hurt the cow's feelings of eating her child and then drinking her milk on top of that.  It does teach children to be aware of even an animal's feelings in how it's being treated as well as his or hers own brothers or sisters and friends.  I love this teaching and when you understand why, of course it's a beautiful thing to practice.

For Friday night, it's nice to bake twin Hallot (2 loaves of Challah) thinking of the two tablets Moses brought down from the mountain or the 2 loaves of bread which were offered in the Temple.  Some even add a ladder of 7 layers of heaven which G-d rent as He descended onto Sinai.  In Hebrew, the word for ladder is Salam.  It is equivalent in Gematria (numbers) to Sinai.  This is getting into a little of Kabbalah, I see. 

So get out the recipes of blintzes and cheesecake.

 Here's a recipe I'll share for a Prize Winning Dairy Kugel

1/2 lb medium sized noodles, cooked in salt water and drained
1/8 lb melted butter
1/2 cup sugar-make it scant
1 cup sour cream
2 cups milk,
1/2 lb cream cheese,
1 lb cottage cheese,
1/2 lb farmers cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 beaten eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients together and stir in the noodles.  Pour into a 9X13" buttered casserole dish.
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup slivered almonds
2 Tablespoons melted butter

Combine and spread on noodles or sprinkle on separately

BAKE AT  350 degrees for 1 and 1/2 hours.

Resource:  The Jewish Catalog

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