Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Shavuot Offers Lactose Intolerant Jews Much Needed 'Spring Cleaning'

Note: this was originally intended (and may still appear in) YU's satire newspaper, thequipster.org.

Still reeling from the pangs of Passover, many Jews' innards seek relief in a milchige' menu. Some use cheesecake, others lasagna, crepes, homemade mozzarella sticks, a cold cup of chocolate milk during an otherwise ordinary Yumtif meal, but all have the same intent. This holiday will send me to the bathroom. And I don't care for how long.

Shavuot, like most Jewish holidays, is known almost exclusively for its dietary requirements. The laws might not be quite as liberal as Rosh-Hashana's or Chanuka's ('let's add a cup of sugar/oil to every recipe!'), but they do allow for eating leavened (read: digestible) products and allow them to be eaten inside a permanent (read: not-being-blown-away-by-ungodly-October-winds-just-as-I-step-out-to-eat) dwelling. Shavuot food is, just, well, different.
Shavuot food provides us with challenges in its preparation (as opposed to, say, difficulties with its elimination). We can't just substitute potato-starch for flour in the Yerushalmi Kugel (OK, so maybe that never really worked anyway). We can't just serve the chicken soup cold, and sprinkled with a little bit of evergreen. Chulent doesn't even make sense. Instead, we have to make new soups. We have to put cheese in the Kugel. We have to figure out how to prepare fish that hasn't already been gefilte'd. But no one said holiday cooking was going to be easy.

Luckily, there's a happy ending. One might go as far to say that Shavuot is a happy ending to a long seven weeks. No, I don't mean that Lubavitchers can finally listen to music. I mean that for some (possibly none), dinner of Leil Shavuot is what finally gets all that Matzo stagnant since Pesach out of their system. Seven weeks is, according to a recent article in BSMJ (Bio-Scientific Medical Journal), the longest any non-gum food can remain in one's digestive tract. And perhaps, this release of a seven week bowel-buildup resulted in the other well-known Shavuot tradition. The custom of staying up all night on the first night of Shavuot probably didn't originally involve any Torah learning at all.

But the original intent of the Minhag doesn't matter as much as how it is put into practice in our lives. And just as eating copious amounts of cheesecake and listening to our Chavrusas sporadically yell at us to stay awake while we fall asleep to the soothing aroma of a Daf of Chulin (Talman edition) has become the focus of staying up all night, perhaps, even in our days of Lactaid, Lactagen, and bananas, we can still find meaning in the custom of consuming dairy. Perhaps, Shavuot tells us to switch it up a bit, cast aside our carnivorous souls, and accept the Torah with new ones, which are still kinda shy about killing animals to eat them, except fish, because fish are Parve. Or, something like that. I'm sorry. You'll have to excuse me. I'll be back in half an hour.

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