Monday, May 21, 2007

Dairy on Shavuos

As it's been a long time since I looked up reasons for eating dairy on Shavuos, I decided to a search. I came up with
article at The second reason, which is the standard one I learned in school, was fine. I've no problem with it. It basically tells us that since the Jews came away from Har Sinai with the new Halachas of kosher meat and and had to resort to dairy. Great.

It's the first explanation with which I have a major problem. The first explanation reads as follows:

"Another custom that we have is to eat dairy foods on Shavu'os. There are many reasons give for this. The reason that the Rama (in 494:3) mentions has to do with the special offering brought on Shavu'os, the Shtei HaLechem (see YomTov # 23). The Rama says that just as on Pesach, we have food items that represent the offerings brought on that day (on the Seder plate - The Z'roa/Shankbone to represent the Paschal offering, and the Beitza/Egg to represent the Chagiga/Holiday offering), so, too on Shavu'os we should eat something to remember the bringing of the Shtei HaLechem. How is this done? The law (which is being oversimplified here for brevity's sake) is that one can not use the same loaf of bread for both a meat meal and a dairy meal. If a loaf is eaten with the dairy meal, it can not be used at a meat meal. Therefore, on Shavu'os, before we begin our meat meal, we should have dairy foods. This way, when we continue our meal and have meat, we will need another loaf of bread to eat with it. This will result in our having two loaves of bread on our table, which is a remembrance of the two loaves that were offered in the Temple on Shavu'os. The Mishna B'rura adds to this that one should make the first loaf dairy by adding butter to it, so that it will be absolutely necessary to have a second loaf when eating the meat portion of the meal.

(***A caveat - before one undertakes having milk and meat at the same meal, one should make sure that they act in accordance with proper Halacha - only meat can be eaten after dairy. Dairy cannot be immediately eaten after meat.

Also, all vestiges of the dairy meal should be removed from the table before the meat is served. As there are many other applicable laws with varying levels of complexity, many people no longer eat both milk and meat and the same meal. Some eat only dairy at the meal, or they eat two separate meals, one after another, the first being dairy, the second being meat. For any questions as to how one should conduct themselves, they should speak to their local Rabbi. ***)"

This explanation is so wrong on so many levels. First of all, you want to commemorate the Sh'tei Halechem? Great. Use rolls instead of whole challahs. You're more likely to eat them. This solution solves a whole lot of problems inherent with have a dairy-then-meat meal, such as accidentally leaving dairy on the table and eating it, or leaving a piece of bread from the dairy meal on the table and accidentally eating it.

Second, there are so many chumras we are forced to keep in the interest of not being oveir an issur, such as kitniyos on Pesach, which the Halachic authorities who came up with the halacha told us we can't have because it may have a piece of grain that could become chametz mixed in with the split peas, green beans, or whatever. They didn't trust us to check, as the Sephardim do. They just said no. But then, they turn around and allow us to be in danger of eating Basar B'Chalav! Ok, the Issurim are not necessarily comparable since chametz on Pesach involves Kareis and Basar B'Chalav does not. But the idea behind the reasoning should have been the same.

This reason, which, in and of itself, is quite beautiful in that we are commemorating the Shtei Halechem brought the Bais Hamikdash on Shavuos. However, the mechanics involved, IMHO, truly negate reasonings behind other chumras we are forced to keep because rabbanim today are too scared of their own shadows and of Kanaim to change the halacha to conform, within the confines of Torah law, to living in today's world.

No comments: