MORAH JACKSONJudaic Specialist


June 1, 2017
Why do Jews eat dairy on Shavuot? Shavuot is a harvest holiday that also commemorates the giving of the Torah. Many would agree that the food of choice for Shavuot is cheese, especially cheesecake. Here are two explanations for this Jewish custom: Some derive the practice directly from the Torah, saying Jews eat dairy to symbolize the “land flowing with milk and honey” promised to the Israelites (Exodus). Or that “milk and honey are under your tongue” (Song of Songs 4:11). These passages, along with “The precepts of the Lord are… sweeter than honey” (Psalm 19:9-11), also indicate we should eat honey, which is customary in some communities. Another explanation for this custom is that after the Torah was given, the Jewish people learned its laws, including those governing the dietary practice (kashrut). Since their meat has not been prepared according to kashrut laws, they ate dairy instead. Along with blintzes and bourekas, typically a Sephardic food, cheesecake is a widely popular Shavuot item. Some eat kreplach, three-cornered dumplings that are often filled with meat but can be cheese-filled or even vegetable-filled. They are supposed to remind us of the Bible, which is comprised of three sections (Torah, Nevi’im and Ketuvim / Torah, Prophets, and Writings), which was given to Israel through Moses. As the saying goes, Got Milk? Enjoy whichever dairy food you like and Chag Sameach.