Lactose Tolerance - Got Milk?

Thursday, 18 May, 2023 - 4:19 pm

I recently read an article in a popular Jewish publication featuring a proponent of a vegan approach to Shavuot, while playing down the popular custom of eating dairy foods, a practice that is anathematic to vegans. One of the arguments offered was that if we get back to basics, Shavuot is depicted in the Bible as a “wheat harvest festival,” while the focus on dairy is a newer-fangled custom.

There is no question that the Torah associates the festival of Shavuot with the wheat harvest, and in fact, mandates that an offering be brought in the Temple from the new crop of wheat. However, Shavuot is undoubtably also connected to the anniversary of Revelation at Sinai, and is referenced in the prayers of the day as Zman Matan Torateinu – the season of the giving of our Torah.

Now the practice of eating dairy on Shavuot is certainly not a Mitzvah. The wheat offering most certainly was a Mitzvah. Yet, chronologically, the practice of eating dairy on Shavuot actually precedes the wheat offering, because it was done by the Jewish people standing at Sinai, while the wheat offering did not take place for at least another year, if not 40 years. See for more on the custom of eating dairy.

So, while I definitely respect the right of vegans to not eat dairy, even on Shavuot, I would be hesitant to downplay it as an insignificant custom. Indeed, the “big deal” we make about eating dairy on Shavuot highlights the preciousness of mere customs and the valuable role they play in our connection to Hashem.

Another custom is learning all night on Shavuot eve. And yet another, very important, custom is to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments on Shavuot day. Please join us at Chabad (all locations) for these uplifting celebrations. For more information, see below or

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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