COLUMN SHAVUOT CELEBRATES THE MOST SIGNIFICANT JEWISH EVENT

BY ELLIE GROSSMAN

All these years I thought the most important Jewish holidays were the most celebrated ones, such as when we dip apples in honey at Rosh Hashanah, cleanse our souls at Yom Kippur, and retell our history at the Passover seder. Let’s not forget about the most beloved ritual of all–when we light the menorah at Hanukkah and our heads spin like dreidels from all the gift exchanges.

Actually, turns out that the most significant Jewish holiday has no rituals, no songs, and really no symbols to call its own. Yet the upcoming holiday of Shavuot represents the most momentous event in Jewish history–when the Jews were given the Torah at Mount Sinai. Without Shavout, Jews would be wandering the desert still. This early summer holiday is definitely worth learning more about, otherwise Jews miss another wonderful opportunity to celebrate their heritage with special study get-togethers, the transformation of your home into a lush garden, and the enjoyment of sweet and creamy treats.

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Shavuot is one of the three pilgrimage festivals from the Torah (the other two are Passover and Sukkot). The word shavout means “weeks ” and occurs seven weeks from the second day of Passover, known as the Sefirah period. The first night of Shavuot is a traditional time for Tikkun Leil Shavout, a late-night Torah study session in which Jews gather together in the community to discuss a wide selection of Jewish texts, from the Ten Commandments to the story of a convert in the biblical Book or Ruth. Even the kids get to stay up past their bedtimes!

In addition to spiritual observances, the agricultural origin of Judaism is recognized on Shavuot. To recall the spring harvest in Israel, it’s customary to turn your living room into the green pastures at Mount Sinai by bringing the outdoors inside. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, decorate your home and synagogue with flowers, greenery, plants, fragrant spices, and fruit trees. Shavuot commemorates the offering of wheat loaves and bikurim (first fruits), so gather your own crops and make a beautiful vegetable and fruit centerpiece with a miniature Torah tucked inside. In Israel, children get into the spirit of Shavuot and wear garlands of flowers, such as daisies or honeysuckle vines, around their heads.

Shavuot is a unique Jewish holiday, and so are the foods that go along with it. In honor of the land of “milk and honey, ” dairy delicacies with a touch of sweetness are on the menu. Now is the time to splurge on cheesecake, blintzes, bourekas (Sephardic filled leaf-dough pastry), and other cheese-filled delights, such as this favorite kugel recipe:

Cheesy Apricot Koogle

one 8-ounce package of fine noodles

1 cup apricot nectar

one half cup sugar

3 eggs

3 ounce cream cheese (softened)

one half cup milk

three fourth stick of butter (softened)

Boil noodles – don’t over cook.

Combine all above ingredients in a bowl, then pour into a greased 13 x 9 glass dish.

Mix together the topping and spread on top: half cup brown sugar, half stick melted butter, 1 cup cornflake crumbs.

Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.

“Mishegas of Motherhood ” is the creation of Ellie S. Grossman, a St. Louis freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom who never stays home. Her stories are inspired by the real life of her family, including her two children, toy poodle named Luci, and her husband, but not necessarily in that order. Feel free to send any comments, prayers or recipes to: [email protected] or visit her new website at www.mishegasofmotherhood.com.