By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER
We customarily celebrate Shavuot (commemorating the Revelation of the Torah at Sinai) with a dairy meal. Blintzes, cheesecake – for some, lasagna – are holiday favorites. The Chofetz Chayim explained this practice as recalling that our ancestors, upon receiving the Dietary Laws at Sinai, discovered they had no kosher meat… and were constrained to eat dairy products. Others link the distinctive menu to Song of Songs 4:11 – “Honey and milk are under your tongue” – understood allegorically as a reference to the Torah.
Some argue that dairy meals facilitate vegetarianism – the Biblical ideal prescribed in the Eden and anticipated in the Messianic Era. The Torah permits consumption of meat only as a moral compromise. Or, perhaps, nice cool cheesecake is simply gastronomically indicated when celebrating a summer harvest festival.
Hindu meditative master Paramahansa Yogananda, author of the bestselling “Autobiography of a Yogi,” offers an alternative insight into celebrating the gift of Torah with dairy fare: “A true yogi” — an exemplar of spiritual discipline and seeker of ultimate truth – “may remain dutifully in the world; there, he is like butter on water and not like the easily-diluted milk of unchurned and undisciplined humanity.”
By “dutifully” indulging in Shavuot cheesecake, Jews are reminded of the sweet spiritual discipline to which that holiday, and the Torah it celebrates, beckon us.
(Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey and the National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.)