The “Cheesecake Festival”

Question

Dear Rabbi, why is there a custom to eat cheesecake on Shavuot? Thanks and happy Shavuot!

3 months

Answers

  1. Thank you and “happy Shavuot” to you as well!

    The widespread custom is to eat dairy products in general on Shavuot, and it seems that many choose cheesecake in particular for this holiday, although other dairy products such as ice cream and blintzes are also popular choices!

    Many reasons have been offered for this delicious custom, and I will cite three of them. All of the reasons, however, share a common theme, that dairy products are connected to some aspect of the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai on this day. Therefore, eating dairy on this day is a symbolic manner of the re-enactment of the “Sinai experience”.

    1. Having just received the laws about kosher food at Sinai, the Jewish People had no choice but to limit themselves to dairy or plant-based foods. They could not eat meat right after Sinai since that would require kosher slaughtering, salting and other preparations necessary before meat could be eaten.

    So all they were left with was dairy food, such as delicious cheesecake!

    2. Torah is compared to milk in the verse, “Like honey and milk it (the Torah) is under your tongue” (Song of Songs 4:11). Just as milk has the physical nutrition needed to sustain the physical body of a human being, so too the Torah provides all spiritual nourishment required by the human soul.

    3. The Hebrew word for milk is “chalav”, which has the numerical value (gematria) of 40. We eat dairy foods on Shavuot to commemorate the 40 days that Moshe stayed with God after ascending Mt. Sinai to be taught the entire Torah.

    I hope you find these reasons as tasty additions to the cheesecake that you enjoy on Shavuot!

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team