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    There is a widespread custom to eat dairy products on Shavuos. What is the source of this custom? What are the reasons for


    The Source

    The earlier authorities who mention this custom say to eat dairy foods with honey. The reason is that Torah is compared to milk and דבש -וחלב תחת ,honey, as it says in the posuk Just as milk has the ability to sustain . לשונך the human body, so too the Torah gives us our spiritual nourishment.

    However, the custom in all places is to eat dairy foods even without honey. The Shulchan Aruch does not bring the custom to eat dairy on Shavuos, but it is mentioned in the Rama.


    There are numerous reasons offered for this custom One reason for eating honey and milk on Shavuos was mentioned above.

    Another reason is based on the posuk that says: is interesting to נחה חדשה- לה’ בשבועותיכם note that the beginning of the last three words spell out chalav (milk) in Hebrew.

    The Rama explains that there is a special offering on Shavuos, which consists of two loaves of bread. Just as we bring two dishes on the night(s) of Pesach as a remembrance of the korbon Pesach and korbon chagigah, so too we bring two loaves of bread to the table, which is in place of the mizbe’ach. In order to bring two loaves, we eat dairy and then meat since the same loaf of bread cannot be used

    for both a milk meal and meat meal.

    The Magen Avraham says that the seven weeks from Pesach to Shavuos correspond to the seven days which a woman requires to become ritually pure. Blood, which represents judgment (din), becomes milk, which represents mercy.

    Similarly, the Aruch Hashulchan says that when we received the Torah, we were elevated from the impurity of Mitzrayim to kedusha. Therefore we drink milk, which comes from blood that turns into milk.

    The Mishnah Berurah explains that when Klal Yisroel accepted the Torah, they could not eat meat immediately. Numerous preparations were needed, as they had to check the knife, remove the blood vessels, wash and salt the meat, and cook it in new pots, since the old pots were not kosher. They were thus forced to eat dairy instead. As a remembrance of this, we eat dairy.

    The Moadim V’zmanim bases the custom on the Gemorah that questions why drinking milk is not a concern of eiver min hachai – eating from a live animal. The Gemorah permits it based on a posuk in the Torah which refers to Eretz Yisroel as the land flowing with milk and honey. If milk were forbidden, then the Torah would not have praised Eretz Yisroel with milk. Milk was not permitted until after Matan Torah. Therefore, the Jews had their first opportunity to drink milk on Shavuos. To commemorate this, we drink milk and eat dairy foods on Shavuos.

    The Bais HaLevi says the following: The malachim protested when Hashem wanted to give the Torah to the Bnei Yisroel. Hashem responded that they ate meat and milk together when they visited Avraham. The malachim did not actually eat meat and milk, but were not careful to separate between meat and milk. From this arose the custom of eating dairy on Shavuos, to show that we can be meticulous in keeping the Torah by

    The numerical value of chalav (milk) in Hebrew is forty, which represents the number of days in which Moshe Rabbeinu was taught the Torah. Therefore, we make a remez to this and eat milk on Shavuos.

    As an infant, Moshe Rabbeinu did not want to drink milk from a non-Jewish woman. We make a remez to this by eating dairy on Shavuos.

    At the time of Matan Torah the Jews were in a sense “born again.” Therefore, we eat dairy on Shavuos since newborns drink milk.

    Har Sinai is called “gavnunim” which is a loshon of gevina- cheese.

    of the omer has concluded with Shavuos, we make a seuda. A meat seuda would not suffice, since we always eat meat meals on Yom Tov. In order to indicate that the meal is for the conclusion of the mitzvah, we eat a dairy meal on Shavuos.

    Practical Difference Between the Reasons

    According to the Rama, the dairy
    food is simply a pretext to have two
    loaves of bread. There is no actual
    reason to eat dairy. According to
    the other opinion regarding the pesukim of honey, milk is connected to the Torah. In addition, the latter reason requires both honey and milk, while the Rama only requires dairy.

    When to Eat the Dairy?

    Many poskim say that dairy should be eaten on the first day of Shavuos. Others bring the custom without mentioning any specific time to consume dairy. The custom of most places is to only serve dairy on the first day.

    Some eat dairy in the morning for Kiddush, while many others eat a dairy meal on the first night of Shavuos. Some suggest that according to the reason of the Rama one should have the dairy meal during the day and then a meat meal.

    Eating Meat as Well

    One of the aspects of Simchas Yom Tov is to be happy by eating meat and drinking wine. Some say that this obligation is not applicable today, as there is no real joy of eating meat without the Bais Hamikdosh to offer korbonos. Others say the obligation is a d’rabbanan today. According to many poskim one would have to eat meat, and eating an all dairy meal on Shavuos would be problematic. Others say that one can be lenient with this obligation at night and not eat meat, but most poskim do not agree with this.

    The custom of many is not to be concerned about this at every meal. Nonetheless, it is preferable to have the milk meal and then meat, and not miss out on this aspect of Simchas Yom Tov (see below). This can be accomplished by eating some milk at Kiddush in the morning, and then to do the proper separation and eat meat.

    There are opinions that hold that one fulfills his obligation with any tasty food, even if it is not meat. For example, a good tasting fish brings happiness as well. In any case, one should have wine at the meal.


    Based on the opinion of the Rama, bread should be served with the dairy meal. However, the widespread custom is to eat dairy even without a full meal (i.e. Kiddush). Others simply drink a cup of coffee before davening. This leniency fits nicely with the

    opinion of the Bais Halevi, since having a separation is enough to prove our commitment to the malachim.

    Others explain that the Zohar prohibits eating both milk and meat at the same meal. This stringency was not practiced during the time of the Rama. Today, however, we practice this stringency, and cannot practice the custom of the Rama. Therefore, the custom of most people is just to have dairy mezonos products and not a meal.

    Dairy Foods or Milk

    The poskim rule that drinking milk is enough, and there is no need to eat cheese.


    One should be careful to follow all the separations that are required between eating milk and meat.

    When eating milk and then meat, one should have a separate tablecloth.

    Waiting after Eating Dairy – Beracha Achrona

    According to the letter of the law, one who ate dairy does not have to wait before eating meat. The only requirement is to wash his mouth out well as explained in the Shulchan Aruch, and to rinse his hands. Some poskim say a beracha achrona or bentching is required before eating meat, while others disagree. Some have the custom that no beracha achrona is required on Shavuos, but they do recite a blessing at any other time of the year.

    Based on the Zohar, some say that one should wait an hour between dairy and meat. (Some poskim say that if one merely drank milk and wants to eat meat, even the Zohar would agree that no waiting is required). However, the custom of many in klal yisroel is to only wait a half hour. Several explanations are given for this custom. Some say that it is a compromise between the poskim who say one does not have to wait at all and the Zohar that requires an hour. Others say that the Zohar’s hour is not literal, as we find in many places that an hour simply means a period of time. Therefore, it is sufficient to wait a half hour.

    Those who have the custom to wait a half hour must rinse out their mouths properly before eating meat.