Milk and the Message of Shavuot

If you’ve ever wondered what we’re supposed to eat on Shavuot, why these foods are significant, and where the tradition originated, this insightful guest post written by Dr. Chavi Goldberg from CyberSem will shed some light on this lesser-known holiday:


One of the most beloved customs of Shavuot is eating dairy foods. Many families serve an impressive spread of desserts like ice cream and cheesecake for the holiday meal. But, besides the delicious taste, there is a spiritual component influencing our dietary choices.

From the many reasons that I read, I would like to share one that has a profound message for us. Before Matan Torah (the Torah was given) several mitzvot had already been given to the Jewish people; for example, the laws of Shabbat had been given at a place called Marah. What was accomplished at Mount Sinai? A duplication? No. When the Torah was given, it nullified the mitzvot that had been taught previously. We give a brit milah to our sons not because Avraham Avinu made a brit for Yitzchak, but because we were commanded to do so when the Torah was given on Mount Sinai. The laws given at Matan Torah took precedence over any other previous instruction.

Parenthetically, it does not mean that the other commandments do not mean anything to us, just because Matan Torah over rides them. There is always an eternal lesson in every letter and detail of the Torah. In the case of the food that was served on the day that the Torah was given, any meat was rendered non-kosher because it did not conform to the Kashrut requirements, and there weren’t any Shochtim (ritual slaughterers) to prepare fresh meat for consumption. The only choice was to eat dairy.

What happened at Matan Torah that brought such a dramatic change? The Giving of the Torah was a pivotal day in the history of the Jewish people. The mitzvot that were given at Har Sinai were different than those given prior. How? Because after Matan Torah, when a physical object would be used to perform a mitzvah, it would become infused with spirituality. That did not happen before.

So while we’re all enjoying our ice cream sundaes, kugels, and cheesecakes during Shavuot, let’s not forget the symbolic importance of what these dairy foods represent.

About the Author:

Dr. Chavi Goldberg is the creator of CyberSem, an online-only women’s seminary. She first conceived the idea of CyberSem when completing her Master’s in Curriculum Development. Surprised that one could do most anything online except attend seminary, she sought to fill that void. Driven by her belief that irrespective of age, life stage or background, CyberSem can help women make learning an ongoing, meaningful part of their lives. She is passionate about sharing her own love for learning and empowering other women to excel in their journeys.

She holds a Bachelor of Jewish Education from Talpiot College and a Master of Science in Graduate Teaching and Curriculum Development from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Goldberg completed her Ed.D. in Instructional Technology and Distance Education at Nova Southeastern University.

Find more info about Dr. Chavi and CyberSem on the website.