Ruth and Cheesecake: A Symbiotic Relationship
Shavuot was originally an ancient harvest festival celebrating the grain crop. In Hebrew, Shavuot means “weeks” and the holiday is celebrated seven weeks after Passover begins. But Shavuot is also recognized as the anniversary of the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai and most Shavuot celebrations are centered on Torah study and other Jewish learning. On the first night of the holiday many people stay up all night studying Jewish texts.
There is a custom of eating dairy foods–especially cheesecakes and blintzes–on Shavuot. The reason for this tradition is not entirely clear, but one popular explanation is that immediately after the Israelites received the Torah and learned about the laws of keeping kosher, it was too complicated for them to begin butchering and preparing fresh kosher meat. So they stuck with eating dairy–and now we do the same on Shavuot to commemorate this.
In synagogue on Shavuot the Book of Ruth is read. Ruth is a non-Israelite who embraces Judaism, and her personal acceptance of the Jewish faith is considered analogous to the Israelites’ communal acceptance of the Torah at Sinai. In keeping with the conversion theme, many congregations hold programs on Shavuot that welcome new converts, or discuss the laws of conversion.
Cheese Cake Recipe
2 8-oz bars of cream cheese, softened
1 ¾ teaspoon vanilla, separated
1 cup sugar, separated
1 pint sour cream
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Make cracker bottom for springform pan by melting the butter and combine with the graham cracker crumbs, then pressing the crumbs into the bottom of the pan.
3. Combine cream cheese, eggs, ½ cup sugar and ¾ tsp vanilla – beat until smooth.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Let cool. Meanwhile, turn your oven to 475 degrees.
5. Combine sour cream, ½ c sugar and 1 tsp vanilla. Mix well and pour over cooled cake.
6. Bake at 475 degrees for 10 minutes.
From Wella’s Kosher Kitchen by Denise Marcellus-Brody.