In Israel, Shavuot is both a practical, agricultural holiday celebrating the first harvest and a spiritual holiday remembering the giving of the Torah (Law) on Mount Sinai. It reminds us to be thankful for God’s Word and to delight in it. As the Word is read, it should bring joy, sweetness and happiness. This is why we eat sweet dairy things like cheesecake or blintzes (crepes or pancakes with a sweet cheese filling inside) on Shavuot. These foods help us remember that “honey and milk (God’s Word) are under your tongue” (Song of Solomon 4:11).
As Shavuot falls in the spring, people often decorate their homes and synagogues with fresh greens, flowering plants and floral arrangements. Children weave stems together to make flower crowns. All this is done to remember the thanksgiving offering brought to the Lord in gratitude for providing the first harvest after the winter. Also, since the Lord provided the Torah for His people to be better able to obey His will, His people brought Him the first of the springtime harvest as an expression of gratitude for this sign of His election of the children of Israel.
On Shavuot, most synagogues are open all night long for a special reading of the book of Ruth, one of the five megillot (scrolls), along with the Song of Solomon, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther, that are read on special holidays. The message is about a young woman who relied on the Lord to provide for her and her widowed mother-in-law’s basic needs. Ruth gleaned in the harvest fields as she hoped for her kinsman-redeemer to marry her. Although Ruth was not Jewish, she believed in the God of Israel and was rewarded for her faith. In fact, her great-grandson was none other than King David.
Shavuot shows us many examples of how the Lord provides for His people – in both practical and spiritual ways. As dawn approaches, you can find Jewish people walking home, having stayed up all night, ready for a little sleep and looking forward to a Shavuot brunch!
As we remember Shavuot, we are also reminded that believers in Messiah also know it as Pentecost, which celebrates the giving of the Holy Spirit as described in Acts 2. Can you imagine a celebration of Israeli believers from all over the country getting together for brunch, eating cheesecake, with the children running around with flower wreaths in their hair? This actually happens! Every year, a picnic takes place where hundreds of believers get together to fellowship and enjoy each other’s company.
There was a time, many years ago, when these gatherings were just a couple dozen people. The harvest is slowly coming in and now at these gatherings, it is quite possible you won’t know everyone’s name, because the numbers have grown so large. What a good “problem” to have – let us rejoice in the harvest of believers among God’s chosen people in Israel!
SHAVUOT RECIPE: CHEESE BLINTZES
Filling recipe provided by Mitch Forman, Vice President of U.S. Ministries.
Mitch’s mother used a filling as follows:
- 1 lb. farmer’s cheese*
- ½ cup cottage cheese
- 2 eggs
- dash of salt
- sugar to taste
Mix all ingredients together.
*Farmer’s cheese is an Eastern European cheese. If you have difficulty getting this, you may substitute cottage cheese or even ricotta cheese, but we recommend purchasing it or even making it yourself.
Blintz recipe from The Art of Jewish Cooking by Jennie Grossinger, published in 1958.
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup milk or water
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons salad oil
- ¾ cup sifted flour
- Butter or oil for frying pan
Beat the eggs, milk, salt and salad oil together. Stir in the flour.
Heat a little butter or oil in a 6-inch skillet. Pour about 2 tablespoons of the batter into it, tilting the pan to coat the bottom. Use just enough batter to make a very thin pancake. Let the bottom brown, then carefully turn out onto a napkin, browned side up. Make the rest of the pancakes.
Spread 1 heaping tablespoon of the filling along one side of the pancake. Turn opposite sides in and roll up like a jelly roll.
You can fry the blintzes in butter or oil or bake them in a 425° oven until browned.
Serve dairy blintzes with sour cream. Makes about 18.