The Torah was given to the Jews on Shavuot, seven weeks after Passover. Shavuot is also when the wheat harvest occurs in Israel. These two events, the rituals and customs, have forever intertwined to become the Shavuot holiday we celebrate today. Share this holiday with your children. There are many different activities that you can do with your children to prepare for the day. Here are several suggestions you can ponder:
Have a discussion with your family about the reasons dairy foods are eaten at Shavuot. There are many thoughts. For example:
After receiving the Torah and the laws of kashrut, all the meat and cooking utensils were not allowed to be used because they were not kosher. Dairy foods were eaten instead since no prior preparation was required.
Another explanation comes from Song of Songs : “Like honey and milk [the Torah] lies under your tongue.” This explains that milk serves as sustenance, the source of life, and honey represents sweetness. So Jews the world over make dairy-based sweet dishes to enjoy on Shavuot.
There are several other explanations about the Shavuot dairy foods to research, let the older children Google them.
Have a discussion about the wheat harvest. Google every aspect of wheat, from the farming and flour production, to the baking of all kinds of breads Explore a variety of breads like challah and flatbreads. Consider the attachment of different types of bread to Jewish people all over the world. Bake bread with your family, especially sweet challah. Baking challah makes the house smell amazing. Serve the fresh baked breads at your Shavuot celebration.
Discuss the Festival of the First Fruits, Chag HaBikurim. Shavuot is a harvest festival. Wheat, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates were brought to the Temple. Have children taste some of these foods. Then let the children help with plans to incorporate them into the Shavuot meal.
Go into the kitchen with your children, now that they understand about the special foods. Include them in the preparations of your dairy holiday meal and desserts.
Explain that since Mount Sinai was blooming with colour at Shavuot, the kids could decorate the house with greenery and flowers.
Storytelling is a valued tradition at Shavuot, and a great activity for children. Stories contribute to shaping Jewish values. Using stories can help children learn the significance of charity, tzedakah, good will, generosity and compassion. Talk about stories from the Torah and share family stories. Encourage your children to read age appropriate literature, possibly while staying up late, another common custom of Shavuot.
For younger children, crafts are always fun. Shavuot colouring pages showing different aspects of the holiday can be Googled and printed out. Explain exactly what the pages represent. Then they can be coloured with crayons, watercolours or markers.
Enjoy these two delicious dairy desserts this Shavuot:
Orange cream cheese mousse
o 1 cup low fat cream cheese
o 2 tbsp. orange zest
o ¼ cup orange juice
o 3 tbsp. Grand Marnier or
o 1 3/4 cups icing sugar
o 3 cups whipping cream
• Candied orange peel or orange slices
• Chocolate covered candied orange peel
• Additional orange zest
Bring the cream cheese to room temperature. Pour the whipping cream to a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Add the cream cheese to another large bowl, and with an electric mixer beat until light and fluffy. Add in the orange zest, orange juice, orange liqueur and icing sugar and beat in. Add the whipped cream to the cream cheese mixture and fold in. Spoon into trifle dish or fancy bowl. Chill four hours or overnight. Garnish before serving. Serves 10-12.
Sour cream cake
o 1/2 cup butter or margarine, chilled and chopped into small pieces
o 1 cup flour
o 1 cup ground almonds
o 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
o canola oil spray
o 1⁄4 cup canola oil
o 2 tbsp. butter, melted
o 1 cup sugar
o 2 tsp. pure vanilla
o 3 large eggs
o 2 cups flour
o 1 tsp. baking soda
o 1 tsp. baking powder
o 1/2 tsp. salt
o 1 cup low fat sour cream
o 32 oz. of cherry pie filling or 3 cups semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
o 1 cup low fat sour cream mixed with 1 tbsp. sugar as garnish – optional.
Combine crumble topping ingredients in food processor and pulse until combined. Remove from processor to a bowl and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350.
Spray a Pyrex baking dish with canola oil.
Combine 1/4 cup oil and melted butter in processor. Add granulated sugar, vanilla, and eggs. Run processor, with feed tube cover removed, until combined. Add in flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt alternating with sour cream and pulse with feed tube cover in place.
Put half of batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly over pan. If using cherry pie filling, spoon one half of the cherry pie filling over the batter. Sprinkle one half of topping over cherry pie filling. Repeat with remaining batter then cherry pie filling, and topping. If using chopped chocolate, use the same method.
Bake at 350 for 55 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean.
Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; run a knife around outside edge.
When completely cooled, cut into squares and remove squares from pan with an off-set spatula. Freezes well in freezer container. Separate pieces with layers of parchment paper. Serve lightly sweetened low fat sour cream on the side if desired. Serves 10.