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May 13, 2010 - Image 27

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2010-05-13

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Options, Too
With those tips, you should be
fine not only making your own
cheesecake, but trying some-
thing a bit funky, like a savory
cheesecake with pesto or an
ethnic theme (Markofsky created
a Mexican version; see recipe
below) or a fruit-topped version
("If you're running short on time,
pie fillings are always a quick and
easy topping. I recommend blue-
berry and cherry.")
Or you can do mini-versions
with a graham-cracker bottom,
cooked in muffin tins.
And for the health-conscious:
A lower-calorie, but still deli-
cious cheesecake is indeed pos-
sible, Markofsky says. Just replace
about half the cream cheese and
sour cream with low-fat versions
of each. Or try using Neufchatel,
mascarpone or ricotta, all of which
have a similar taste and consis-
tency to, but fewer calories or fat
grams than real cream cheese.
By all means, though, skip the
non-fat stuff, Markofsky says, or
you'll have a tasteless cake. "I'm
willing to give up certain things,
but I won't give up flavor:' she adds.
Besides, she says, some of those
non-fat items contain utterly mys-
terious, but very chemical-sound-
ing ingredients, "and if I can't
pronounce it," Markofsky says, "I
don't want to put it in me.


A Limerick for Shavuot

On Shavuot we received our holy
So have no fear Jews, zayt nisht
No matter where we go
Tayere Yidn you must know,
Di Toira is our beste skhoira.

Zayi nisht- don't be
Tayere Yidn-dear Jews
Di Toira-the Torah
Beste- best

Rachel Kapen of West Bloomfield

prepared this limerick in memory

of the late Martha Jo Fleischmann,

Giving Of Our Torah

The Holiday: Shavuot, or "weeks," in
Hebrew, lasts for two days outside of
Israel, but for one day in Israel. On the
Jewish calendar, Shavuot is celebrated
on the 6th and 7th of Sivan, which this
year comes out on Wednesday, May 19,
and Thursday, May 20.

Why We Celebrate: The origins of Shavuot
are biblical, found in Leviticus 23:15-21.
This passage does not identify the holiday
by name. Instead, it describes the process
by which the holiday is created:
God commands the Jewish people to
count each day, beginning on the second
day of Pesach (Passover) and continue
counting, day-by-day, for seven weeks.
Verse 21 of the passage states that the
50th day is a holiday.
Shavuot has the distinction of being
the only Jewish holiday whose start is
not set by calendar date, but rather by
calculating time after another holiday.
In English, Shavuot sometimes is called
Pentecost, derived from the Greek word
for 50 (not to be confused with the
Christian holiday of Pentecost, the 50th
day after Easter).
Shavuot is known by other names,
alluding to its agricultural significance.
In Exodus 23:16, the Torah identifies the
holiday as Chag Ha Katzir, or Festival of
the Harvest. In Numbers 28:26-31, the
Torah calls it Yom Ha Bikurim, Day of
First Fruits. These are references to the
offerings from the crop of new wheat
brought to the ancient Jewish Temple in
Jerusalem on Shavuot. (Until Shavuot,
all grain offerings were made of flour
from previous harvests.) In Deuteronomy
16:9-12, God again commands the Jews
to observe the holiday, but here it is
called Shavuot.
From early on, the rabbis viewed
Shavuot as much more than an agri-
cultural festival. With its relationship
to Pesach, and the commandment
to remember our slavery in Egypt
(Deuteronomy 16:12), which is stated
together with the laws of the holiday, the
rabbis ascertained that on the day now
called Shavuot, God gave the Torah at
Sinai. In the liturgy of Shavuot, the day
is referred to as Z'man matan Torateynu,
"The time of the giving of our Torah."



Inside the Synagogue: On the first day
of Shavuot, after the kohen has been
called to the Torah for the first aliyah
(Torah reading) and before he recites the
blessing, the Torah reader, chazan (or

a synagogue member with good vocal
skills) chants a poem called Akdamut.
The Aramaic work was composed by
Meir ben Yitzhak, an 11th century rabbi
of Worms, Germany.
The 90 verses speak of God's majesty,
the suffering of the Jewish people and
their ultimate restoration to Jerusalem
and the Land of Israel, and the glory of
the messianic era.
On the second day of Shavuot, after
the reading of the first verse of the
Haftarah, another Aramaic poem, called
"Yetziv Pitgam," also is chanted. This
poem features 15 verses, with a theme
similar to that of Akdamut. It was com-
posed by Yaacov, the son of Rabbi Meir
Levi, whom some scholars believe is, in
fact, Rabbi Yaacov ben Meir (also known
as Rabbeinu Tam, 1100-1171), grandson of
the preeminent French Jewish scholar,
Another feature of the second day is
the Book of Ruth. There are a number of
reasons for including Ruth on Shavuot:
the pastoral setting of the story, which
fits in with the harvest-celebration theme
of Shavuot; just as Ruth accepted the
Torah and became Jewish, so did the
children of Israel at Sinai; Ruth's descen-
dant, King David, was born and died
on Shavuot. (Because Jewish tradition
regards David as the author of the Book
of Psalms, some recite the entire Psalms
on Shavuot.)
Traditionally on Shavuot, the syna-
gogue is decorated with flowers and
greenery, based on the belief that when
the Torah was given, Mt. Sinai was lush
with vegetation (Exodus 34:3 states that
livestock grazed on the mountain).

How to Celebrate: The only rituals the
Torah specifies for this holiday involve
grain and animal sacrifices which
were performed in the Temple. Today,
our prayer services substitute for the
In the 16th century, a group of Jewish
mystics led by Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz
(the author of "Lecha Dodi," sung in the
Friday-night Shabbat service), studied
the Torah the entire night on the eve
of Shavuot (Tikkun Leil Shavuot). Since
then, this has become a widespread
practice, although almost exclusively
among the Orthodox. Synagogues hold
all-night study sessions on a variety of
Jewish topics. The learning ends around
5 a.m., followed by morning services.
After catching up a night's sleep, it's

time for food. The featured cuisine on
Shavuot is dairy, including such tra-
ditional favorites as cheese blintzes,
cheese kreplach and cheese cake.
Exactly why dairy foods are prominent
on Shavuot is unknown, but tradition
offers a number of explanations.
Some point out that until our ances-
tors received the Torah they ate non-
kosher meat, but once they were given
the Torah — which includes the laws
of kashrut — they could no longer use
their old dishes and utensils. Thus until
they could make their vessels kosher, or
make new implements, they had to eat
uncooked dairy foods. Others note the
proximity of the Torah verses that dis-
cuss the first fruits with the command-
ment to separate meat and dairy.
Also, the Song of Songs (4:11) states,
"Honey and milk are under your tongue,"
interpreted as suggesting knowledge of
Torah. Each letter of the Hebrew alpha-
bet also carries a numeric value, and the
Hebrew word for milk, chalav, has the
value of 40, the number of days Moses
stayed on Mt. Sinai before bringing down
the Torah to the Jewish people.
Mindful of the talmudic precept that
Jewish holidays are to be celebrated with
meat and wine, there is an opinion that
says dairy foods should not comprise
the major part of the meal. Instead, the
procedure should be to have a short first
course of dairy foods or a dairy appetizer
and after a brief interval, go on to a main
course of meat. (The laws of kashrut
state that one may eat meat after dairy,
but not the other way around.)
Because there are no special cer-
emonies or rituals performed on
Shavuot, its observance over the
decades in America has diminished, and
among non-Orthodox Jews, it is prob-
ably the least-known Jewish holiday.
Nonetheless, because Shavuot often
coincides with the end of the school
year, the Reform movement instituted
the confirmation ceremony on the holi-
day. Some Conservative congregations
also have their religious-school gradua-
tions on Shavuot.

longtime JN Yiddish limerick writer.

May 13 • 2010


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