Caramel cheesecake. Strawberry cheesecake. Chocolate cheesecake. A big jar of Lactaid.
Yep! It’s Shavuot again — on May 15 and 16 — and Jews across Baltimore and the world will settle down for traditional dairy treats such as blintzes and vegetable lasagna. But Shavuot isn’t about the dairy food we eat, but rather a celebration of God’s giving the Torah to the Jewish people more than 3,300 years ago. Every year on the holiday of Shavuot we renew our acceptance of God’s gift, and God “re-gives” the Torah.
Shavuot laws are not so different than those of other yamim tovim, holy days. We light candles to usher in the holiday. From sundown on the 5th of Sivan until sundown on the 7th of Sivan, no work can be done.
There is a festive meal. However, unlike the traditional wine and meat, on Shavuot we eat dairy. One reason for this is that when the Jews received the Torah, with it came the laws of kashrut. They could not cook meat because they had not yet kashered their pots.
It is customary to stay up all night learning Torah on the first night of Shavuot and for the whole family to go to shul on the first day to hear the reading of the 10 Commandments. Most communities also read the Book of Ruth, as King David, who passed away on Shavuot, was a descendant of Ruth the Moabite.
Leading up to Shavuot, children in area day and congregational schools spend time learning about the festival. The JT asked students at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School and The Day School at Baltimore Hebrew their thoughts about this Jewish holiday.
What’s one thing you learned about Shavuot?
“When Moses was on top of Mount Sinai, the Jews made an idol. When he came down, he saw it and he was really mad, and he smashed the Tablets. He asked God for a second chance, and God said, ‘Yes.’”
— Danny Friedman Grade 3, Baltimore Hebrew
“We decorate our homes and synagogue with flowers because at matan Torah they decorated Har Sinai with flowers.”
— Miriam Marks Grade 10, Beth Tfiloh
“This was a turning point in Jewish history. Before [matan Torah] we were considered Jewish, now we have something to do or to show we are Jewish.”
— Shoshana Marks Grade 10, Beth Tfiloh
“The Book of Ruth is read. It’s about a woman who becomes Jewish, and she moves away from her family.”
— Garrett Rifkind Grade 3, Baltimore Hebrew
“We need the Torah because it is the Book of Life that tells us what to do and how to do it, so we can’t make any mistakes. Plus, the Torah was given to us by Hashem, so that is very special.”
— Ella Wohlberg Grade 5, Beth Tfiloh
Which of the 10 Commandments most resonates with you?
“Don’t curse in God’s name (No. 3). You shouldn’t say bad things about God, and you shouldn’t say mean things to other people either, such as ‘My God is better than your god.’”
— Joey Ballan Grade 2, Baltimore Hebrew
“Respect your parents (No. 5). I love my parents a lot, and I don’t think anyone should be mean to their parents. You live in their house, and you basically rely on them for everything.”
— Jacob Ozga Grade 3, Baltimore Hebrew
“Don’t kill (No. 6). If you kill someone, that person could have been a father, daughter, son or mom. You are taking away someone who someone else loves a lot.”
— Leah Messing Grade 5, Beth Tfiloh
“Don’t steal (No. 8). Stealing can cause you a lot of trouble, and it can cause you to do more bad things. Doing terrible things causes bad things to happen to you.”
— Max Goldman Grade 5, Beth Tfiloh
“Don’t covet or be jealous (No. 10). It is important to be happy with what you have and not wish you were someone else or had something else. Hashem made each of us special.”
— Ateret Frank Grade 10, Beth Tfiloh
What’s your favorite thing about Shavuot?
“Cheesecake! At my house, we make all different kinds — caramel, chocolate, strawberry!”
— Eliana Albert Grade 5, Beth Tfiloh
“I get to spend time with my family.”
— Chana Bitman Grade 5, Beth Tfiloh
“We eat dairy on Shavuot —CHEESE!!
— Livneh Naaman Grade 4, Baltimore Hebrew