Shavuot can provide a meaningful workout


Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Cathleen Kronemer

The Jewish holiday of Shavuot — also known as the Festival of Weeks — has agricultural roots as it commemorates the time when the first fruits were harvested and brought to the Temple. From a historic viewpoint, Shavuot celebrates the giving of the 10 Commandments at Mount Sinai.

Although no recorded documentation exists to outline the origins of the practice, traditional Jews celebrate Shavuot by preparing and eating dairy dishes. Perhaps this honors the land of Israel, promised to the Jewish people as a place “flowing with milk and honey.”

Others claim that the tradition acknowledges the sacrificing of meat consumption by the Israelites, as they wandered through the Sinai desert. Those who study the kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) claim that dairy products possess a special purity.

Jews refer to this holiday as the giving of the Torah, rather than receiving it. The sages point out that a lifetime spent studying and practicing Judaism means we can receive the Torah on a daily basis, but that pivotal moment at Mount Sinai marks the original giving of G-d’s word. Thus, Shavuot allows us to reflect upon how we should focus upon giving throughout our lives, instead of receiving.

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Shavuot celebrations often include all-night learning sessions. Each year, the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Connecticut takes a dedicated group of individuals on a midnight hike, symbolizing Moses’ ascent to Mount Sinai where he received the Ten Commandments. Hikers proceed as quietly as possible, without the use of flashlights, to a scenic overlook. Moving in absolute darkness transforms a ¾-mile hike into a 2 ½-hour adventure.

If you or your community seek meaningful ways to highlight this holiday, the fitness buff in me suggests a contemplative hike followed by a nutrient-dense dairy meal. Smoothies containing nonfat Greek yogurt, skim milk and whey protein fit the bill perfectly. If you prefer chewing your food as opposed to sipping it, consider a low-fat cheese sandwich, loaded with fresh veggies, on a delicious high-fiber grainy bread. Nourish your physical being as well as your spiritual soul, and allow the treasured significance of Shavuot to elevate your spirits!

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center of St. Louis.