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Friday, May 25, 2012

Shavuot, the Dairy Holiday This Year in Portland

Nadene Goldfoot
What a special week-end this is to be!  Sunday is the first day of Shavuot which is a special Jewish holiday commemorating the giving of the Ten Commandments, G-d's revelation to Israel which turned out to be a list  of 613, and Israel's acceptance of the Torah (5 books of Moses).   One thing about our religion, you can't hardly turn around without preparing for the next holiday.  These holidays are all centered around teachable historic events that we are not to forget, and this is emphatically etched into our minds with food.  For Shavuot there are the favorite  dairy products, like cheese blintzes.

The whole theme of this holiday is centered around the fact that the release from physical bondage-which went on in Egypt for 400 years-and the political freedom that is represented by our holiday of Pesach "Passover", does not constitute complete freedom unless it culminates in the spiritual restraints, disciplines and duties represented by Shavuot.  I take it then that we just shouldn't go off the deep end with our basic carnal values but keep the restraints at least of 10 commandments, which is hard enough in our lives. Even those who only expect to keep 7 of them are doing well.  

We are to eat at least one dairy meal during these 2 days.  This may come from remembering that Israel is "a land flowing with milk and honey."  I like the commandment of  "You must not boil a kid in its mother's milk", which is the prohibition of eating meat and milk together in the laws of kashrut (kosher).  Of course a kid was a goat, not your child, heaven forbid!  Here, the meaning is very deep.  It has to do with the unity of the verse and the authenticity of our Oral law as well.  It is also something that gives us pause to reflect the very feelings of a cow for her calf, and that this cow has given us milk for our dairy products and we are not to hurt her feelings by eating her child in that very milk she herself had produced.  It is to give us feeling for all of humanity, not just for animals, but people, too.  As a result, Jews are not big on hunting.  We'll buy  meat preferably from a kosher butcher where animals allowed to us were killed as humanely as possible.  We don't dine on all animals, however.

In the states we also have Memorial Day to celebrate on the very next day, Monday the 28th which of course is the 2nd day of Shavuot.  Already many people here in Portland are driving to the coast to spend a 3 day weekend, prodded by the sun that actually shone this morning without rain clogging up the streets.  . It's a celebration of barbecuing and potlucks.  This commemorates what we used to call "Declaration Day", which was remembrance after the Civil War of the Union soldiers.  It's extended now to all fallen military men and women  in service to our country.  What with the thought of a vacation,  I wonder if people remember or honor the original meaning of this time off from work. There always are organized groups whose duty it is to do such things, however.   .  

Book:  To Be a Jew by Donin

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