Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The promised cheese

There's a holiday coming up called Pentecost, and it's all about cheese. What kind of cheese? Any kind you like, but it should be in cake form. Why? Because I said so, that's why. To celebrate, I'd like to share a little Shulchan Oruch with you.
First of all, the Beis Yosef only has three Halachos about Shavuos, one of which says that it's forbidden to fast on the day following Shavuos. So basically, there's a grand total of two laws about Shavuos, both of which deal with the Davening and Torah reading for the day. The Alter Rebbe has twenty Halachos in his Shulchan Oruch, and goes into some interesting issues, like the Halacha that says that it's forbidden to sniff things between Baruch Sheomar and the Amidah. Why would this be a problem on Shavuos? Well it turns out that the Shelah says that some people bring fragrant grasses into the Shul on Shavuos. I assume that they do this to wake people up, or perhaps to remind them of what Mount Sinai smelled like before the giving of the Torah. Anyway, as I promised, I'm going to write about cheesy bits now.
The Rema starts off by saying that it's the custom for all Jews to eat milk products on Shavuos because of the two cooked foods we eat on Pesach. Yeah, it's not the world's most illuminating answer, is it? The Magen Avraham explains, as does the Alter Rebbe, that there are many reasons for this, and proceeds to list one. After the Israelites left Egypt they entered a cleaning process that lasted for seven weeks, which is compared to a woman's seven clean days following Niddah, at which point blood turns to milk, which is Din (strict judgement) turning into Rachamim (mercy). If you want more info on this, don't ask me, because I don't know these things yet. Point is, I wanted to write a nice long post about cheese and Shavuos, and I failed miserably. Sure, I could search google for some shtuff, but you could do that too. I wanted something new, exciting, and possibly very controversial. And what did I get? A man who was looking a lot like me, that's all.

Well, as the old saying goes, when life gives you lemonade, make sorbet with them. Actually, I'm really not a big fan of lemon sorbet-I much prefer coconut or raspberry. So how shall I rise triumphant, stand strong against the tide of human affairs, hold forth through the threats that are currently engulfing whatever it is we hold sacred? Simple. I'll go learn some more.

25 comments:

Nemo said...

It says in Seforim that the reason we eat milk products on Shavuos is because the Jews were unable to Kasher their utensils in the desert on Yom Tov. Since they were now commanded to separate milk and meat, those utensils were unusable.

But this reason is questionable in so many ways, so I dunno...

My guess is that it just adds a little flavor to an otherwise dull holiday; even the Rama and B"Y seem to have trouble finding much to say about it.

Eliezer said...

A perfunctory search of chabad.org did not yield anything on this topic, although they do have 645 dairy Shavuot recipes. Either I didn't look well enough, or chabad.org didn't finish preparing the shavuot section for the holiday.

Nemo said...

http://www.askmoses.com/article/594,88522/Why-do-we-eat-dairy-foods-on-Shavuot-Day.html

The Real Shliach said...

Nemo, a better version of that answer is that the Jews kept Kosher, and they couldn't use the Fleishig Keilim because the meat had been shechted by goyim (i.e. themselves). No meat, since you can't Shecht on Shavuos, and voila! Cheese danishes for everybody. Of course, the question remains, why were they bichlal hungry, they had the man (mun). As for you Eliezer, yes, I noticed that chabad.org was lacking, and I'm quite shocked to see that askmoses, you're greatest competitor (wink, wink) has such a good answer.

Nemo said...

"the Jews kept Kosher, and they couldn't use the Fleishig Keilim because the meat had been shechted by goyim (i.e. themselves)."

This, I believe, is a misnomer (AskMoses had it too). Rambam (Hilchos Shechita 4:14, IIRC) says that for the entire while that the Jews were in the desert, they were permitted to eat "stabbed meat." According to him, the obligation to Shecht according to the laws of Schita only began after leaving the dessert.

Eliezer said...

One is allowed to shecht on yom tov.

Nemo said...

That aside, another couple questions:

1. Why did they "have to" eat dairy? Couldn't they have eaten Pareve or nothing at all. It was only a few hours until the end of Shabbos (parenthetically, the issue was that it was on Shabbos, not YT), they surely could have waited if there was NOTHING else to eat.

2. What utensils did they eat their dairy foods with if everything was TREIFE?

The Real Shliach said...

I didn't know that Rambam. Interesting. But nevertheless, could they eat meat that had been "stabbed" by Goyim, or did they need it to be done by a Jew? As for you Eliezer, the Gemara clearly states that the original Shavuos fell out on Shabbos, when no slaughtering (except in the Mishkan or Beis Hamikdash) is permitted. As for Nemo's next two questions, the answers are obvious. They had to eat dairy because the womenfolk made a ton of cheesecake and blintzes, and they'd be really angry if the guys didn't partake. As for what it was served upon? Simple. Plastic.

Eliezer said...

Way back when I was in kindergarten, it was assumed that milchigs could be eaten with minimal keli involvement, but fleishigs needed keilim to be cooked in.

The Real Shliach said...

Wasn't there an issur of cholov akum, since any milk they had would have been from before Shabbos?

Eliezer said...

So now the Israelites are already for choshesh for chshoshos d'rabannan? Moreover, the issue of chalav akum is not because goyim are essentially unable to milk kosher milk (as in shechita); rather the rabbis did not trust goyim. I'm pretty sure the post-mattan Torah Israelites could trust their former selves. To borrow TRS's example, If I could go back in time to Moses kitchen before mattan Torah, I would eat his milchigs.

Eliezer said...

"They had to eat dairy because the womenfolk made a ton of cheesecake and blintzes, and they'd be really angry if the guys didn't partake."

That fits with chabad.org's having bajillions of milchig recipes, but no explanation as to why we eat milchigs. The whole minhag was invented so the women could cook milchigs.

Nemo said...

TRS- My Hilchos Shechita is not what it used to be, but I don't think the Jewish factor should have mattered. Stabbed meat is a euphemism for anything killed in a way different than Shchita. No matter the method, it is still Treifos U'Nveilos.

Also, look at the actual Lashon of the RMB"M: כשהיו ישראל במדבר, לא נצטוו בשחיטת החולין, אלא היו נוחרין או שוחטין ואוכלין, כשאר הגויים. The last part would imply that it doesn't matter whether its done by Jew or gentile.
---

There's no problem of Cholov Akum because Cholov Akum isn't an Issur Min Hatorah, rather G'Zeiras Chachamim from many years later. It's irrelevant.

There could have been problems with Cholov Treife (milk from an animal with a mortal wound) from before Shabbos, but this problem is easily rectified:

1. It's likely that they knew the laws of Kashrus even before Matan Torah- they knew Kol Hatorah Kulah, no?

2. They knew where the milk came from and could distinguish between the Kosher and Treife milks.

Eliezer- I too admit that I eat cheese with my hands, and I'm sure the Jews in the dessert could have had their Matza-pizza as finger food. But I don't know if we can say with any bit of authority that people didn't take their meals more seriously back then.

Nemo said...

"Euphemism"- bad term, sorry.

(Gotta be careful before the English-language police arrive)

Nemo said...

Warning: Satire coming up!

"They had to eat dairy because the womenfolk made a ton of cheesecake and blintzes, and they'd be really angry if the guys didn't partake."

We're talking before Matan Torah, before the Torah suddenly brought un-foretold morality to earth. Prior to Matan Torah women were treated as belongings and second class citizens. Do you think the men really cared about the women's feelings? Or was it Davka on that day that the mindset of the age was reversed and suddenly the woman became queen of her household?

"As for what it was served upon? Simple. Plastic."

The Torah is a timeless document, knowing the wisdom of ages, because it was endowed by the omnipresent creator of the universe. Do you really believe that these people who just received the Torah had no environmental concern?

Eliezer said...

Of course they had no environmental concern. All the hareidi fundamentalism and religiocentrism from which the secular world is suffering until today is founded on that Revelation. Do you think they actually gave a flying a rat's backside about the environment?

The Real Shliach said...

Nemo, I know that a Lubavitcher you ain't, so you probably aren't aware that in fact all Jews were Lubavitchers back in the day, and hence extremely makpid on cholov Yisroel. Well, that's what they taught us in Lubavitch nursery school.

Anyway, let's go through this whole scenario: Jews get Torah, it's Shabbos, no killing of animals, they had no refrigeration, so they couldn't eat old animals (good one, huh?), which also means that they didn't eat day-old dairy either. Unless they made it into cheese or something. Can you make cheese over night? Maybe curds. Point is, the whole thing makes no sense, much like the stories of Chanuka and Purim. But that's okay, I still love Judaism.

The Real Shliach said...

Oh my, the comments sure are flying back and forth here. Don't worry Nemo, on TRSblog, we're always cynical. Environmentalism? Are you kidding me? Do you have any idea how much fertilizer it must have taken to transform that mountain from a barren wasteland into a veritable garden? And this whole thing of visible thunder and audible lightning; must have taken a huge amount of electricity to manage that one. Yes sirree, those Jews were polluters with the best of them. As I suddenly recall (from Rashi), the mun had some major runoff problems, infecting local animal populations and eventually people as well.
As for women's lib? Before the Torah, they could cook and bake all day, and the men could ignore their efforts, no problem. After the giving of the Torah though, with the coming of freedom (al tikrei charus elah cheirus), the men were very afraid of their wives, and therefore had to eat the dairy that had been prepared.

Nemo said...

"Nemo, I know that a Lubavitcher you ain't"

I don't know if this is part of the local cynicism, but in the spirit of the Alter Rebbe who couldn't verbally deny his connection to the BSH"T to save his own life, I must stand tall and declare my Hiskashrus to the Nosi Hador!

And not only that, but I also have the strange habit of putting Yechi Kippahs on when I picture all the Biblical characters in my mind!

Eliezer- You didn't know that they had Yeshiva U. back in Goshen. Don't let the pundits let you believe it was all about Kedusha back then... that's Hareidi revisionism for you! You think science was a strictly Egyptian thing? Jews, from time immemorial, been the leaders of their fields in science, medicine, law and the arts.

You know what else... the Hebrews back then were also ardent Zionists!

Nemo said...

Guys, I don't know about you folks, but I refuse to believe that the Jews were the cause of environmental catastrophe. The Jews, along with inventing the wheel, were the first hippies. They lived in massive communes, didn't use birth control, never changed their clothes, and at least according to one Israeli academic, the entire Revelation was one massive group trip. I'm inclined to believe that some psychotropic drug led them to envision thunder and lightening, beautiful flowers in the middle of the desert, a mountain lifted over their heads and expand their minds to understand some new Law given to them by an otherworldly being. Pretty radical dude!

The Real Shliach said...

The Jews aren't the causes of environmentalist catastrophe? Are you kidding me? Next you'll be saying that there isn't a world Zionist by the bankers, bakers, and bloggers to take over the world!

Nemo said...

We choose our battles wisely.

The Real Shliach said...

Some of us, anyway

Nemo said...

Ok, so I directed my question to the purveyors of all Jewish answers at AskMoses.com and I got a satisfying answer. In the ancient Jewish tradition, it just depends on which Talmudic point of view you chose to champion for the given issue. So, for the benefit of all those whom I might have made non-believers, I'll paste the answer that I received here:

This reason is brought by the Taamei Haminhagim in the name of the Geulat Yisrael.

You are right about the Rambam, as he follows the opinion of Rabbi Akiva as stated in tractate Chullin 16b, But according to Rabbi Yishmael there, they were not permitted to eat meat without Shechitah even in the desert.

Rabbi Shimshon Refael Hirsh states that most Poskim (codifiers of Jewish Law) disagree with the Rambam and follow Rabbi Yishmael's view.

To add one more more point. Even according to the Rambam, that there was no need to ritually slaughter the meat, yet there were other kosher laws which would preclude them from eating any meat from the day before - like the removing of the blood and certain fats.

If you have further questions, please click reply or logon to AskMoses and ask a live scholar. Thank you for coming to AskMoses!

Simcha Bart
AskMoses

The Real Shliach said...

And now everyone's happy, huh?