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The commemoration of the giving of the Torah, and the end of the wheat harvest in Israel. Pronounced “Shah-voo-ot” (some say “Shav-oo-us” in Ashkenazi Hebrew.)

The Torah commands a 49-day counting period  (Sefirat Ha-omer, the Counting of the Omer) beginning on the second day of Passover. This counting ends on the 50th day, Shavuot. Agriculturally, the barley harvest took place during Passover, and the wheat at Shavuot. Shavuot was the concluding festival of the grain harvest, the way the last day of Sukkot was the concluding festival of the fruit harvest.Shavuot also recalls the time when the first fruits were harvested and brought to the Temple. Historically, Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, and is known as Zman Matan Torateinu (the Festival of the Giving of Our Torah). The Rabbis teach that the holiday is called the time of the giving of the Torah, rather than the time of the receiving  of the Torah because we “receive” the Torah continually, but this was the only time it was “given.” Spiritually, there is a link between Passover and Shavuot: At Passover, we were freed from serving a human master, and at Shavuot we committed ourselves to serving G-d as the Divine Master. The counting of the Omer period between the two festivals expresses a yearning (like a “count down”) for the Giving of the Torah.  

The 6th of the Hebrew month Sivan, which usually falls around late spring. In modern Israel and among Reform and Reconstructionist Jews, Shavuot is celebrated for one day. Outside Israel, the holiday is celebrated for two days by Orthodox and Conservative Jews. 

The Torah, where it is listed as one of the three pilgrimage festivals (the other two are Sukkot and Pesach.) In Exodus 34:22 and Deuteronomy 16:10 it is called The Festival of Weeks (Hag Hashavuot); in Exodus 23:16 The Festival of Reaping (Hag Hakatzir); and in Numbers 28:26 The Day of First Fruits (Yom Ha-bikkurim.) The Mishnah and Talmud refer to Shavuot as Atzeret (a solemn assembly); since Shavuot occurs 50 days after Passover, Christians gave it the name Pentecost. 

Like the other two pilgrimage festivals, we refrain from work, attend special prayer services and have holiday meals. Shavuot also has customs of its own: The Book of Ruth is read at services and Yizkor (memorial prayers) are recited; houses and synagogues are decorated with greenery; and many people engage in all night Torah study called “Tikkun Leil Shavuot.”  According to tradition the Israelites actually overslept on the morning of  the giving of Torah and so to compensate, we stay awake the whole night now! The spiritual significance of the Tikkun is to prepare ourselves all night for the awesome moment when we receive Torah in the morning, and hear the Ten Commandments read.

Because the Torah is likened to milk, and because of the special connection to the Land of Israel (“flowing with milk and honey”) it is a  custom to eat dairy foods including cheese blintzes and cheesecake. A legend suggests that before the giving of the Torah the Jews did not keep kosher, so it was on this first Shavuot, finding themselves without kosher meats or utensils, the Israelites chose to eat only dairy.

“Chag Sameach” (“Happy Holiday!”)

Shavuot Cheesecake, courtesy of Andrew Cohen, 
Gourmet Galaxy Catering


Makes 6" Cake

1 Pound Cream Cheese (room temperature)
 3/4 Cup Graham Cracker Crumbs
 1/2 Cup Sugar
 1/4 Cup 35% Whipping Cream
3/4 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup Sour Cream
1 Tablespoon Sugar
Preheat oven to 350 F
Place graham cracker crumbs in a 6" springform in an even layer
Bake 8 - 10 minutes until golden brown
Transfer to a wire rack to cool
When cool, wrap bottom of the pan with plastic wrap and place in oven for 3 minutes (shrinks plastic)
This will prevent water from the bain marie from entering the pan while baking-.(using the bain marie will prevent cracking and browning)
Return to wire rack 
With a stand mixer (paddle attachment) beat cream on medium speed until fluffy ( 6 -8 minutes)
Add sugar gradually and beat until smooth
On low speed, add eggs one at a time until they're incorporated into the mixture
Add cream and vanilla and beat until smooth (6 -8 minutes)
Strain batter through a medium mesh sieve into a bowl then pour on top of the crust
Place the cheesecake pan in a roasting pan then add boiling water reaching halfway up the cheesecake pan.
Bake 1 hour and 30 minutes until the filling is set
Remove from oven and water bath and let cool on wire rack 
Add sour cream and sugar whisked together and spread over cheesecake when cooled.
Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Transfer to a cake board with an offset spatula then serve.

Tue, February 27 2024 18 Adar I 5784