What do the Hebrew Bible and cheesecake have in common?
If you guessed the Hebrew month of Sivan, then you’re correct!
Sivan (סִיוָן) is the current name of the third month of the Hebrew calendar, adopted during the Babylonian exile. The name first appears in the Book of Esther (Esther 8:9)
In Sivan, the wheat fields in the Land of Israel turn golden, and the summer fruits start ripening. The youthful bliss of spring transforms into the solid maturity of summer.
It’s also the month when the Jewish people received the Torah at Mount Sinai, celebrated as the holiday of Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) on the 6th of Sivan.
But what in the world does cheesecake have to do with this?
The holiday of Shavuot, meaning Weeks, is the culmination of a seven-week period that begins on the second day of Passover. These seven weeks are a continuation of the Exodus, since the ultimate purpose of being freed from slavery in Egypt was to accept the Torah (the Written and Oral components together) from God at Mount Sinai.
During Temple times, Shavuot was one of the three pilgrimage festivals. Hundreds of thousands of Jews would travel to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer sacrifices, bring their fields’ first fruits (bikkurim), and enjoy God’s radiant presence.
Since the Second Temple was destroyed, Jews celebrate Shavuot through prayer, staying up all night studying the Torah, and eating festival meals, customarily with dairy foods like cheesecake.
The custom of eating dairy foods comes from several sources. One is from Song of Songs (4:11): “Sweetness drops from your lips, O bride; Honey and milk are under your tongue.” Since milk is a traditional metaphor for the Torah, the custom emerged to honor the holiday of the giving of the Torah by eating dairy foods.
The Book of Ruth
The Jewish people also publicly read the Book of Ruth on Shavuot, which tells the story of Ruth and Boaz, the progenitors of King David. One reason this Book is read is to commemorate King David, who died on Shavuot in 970 BCE.
As a side note, the Book of Ruth emphasizes that one’s paternal line determines their tribal membership. For example, a person can only claim descent from the Tribe of Judah if their father was from the Tribe of Judah.
Sivan is also a month of gratitude, as Jews worldwide give thanks for the gift of the Torah, which guides and enriches their lives. They reflect on the teachings of the Torah and how to apply them to their daily lives so they can become better and more successful in their spiritual journey.
So, whether it’s staying up all night to study the Torah, enjoying some delicious cheesecake, or reflecting on your past and working toward self-improvement, Sivan is a meaningful and inspiring month to celebrate.
May the month of Sivan bring you spiritual growth, joy, and blessings.