Customs and practices
Little kids love
Shavuot because they can drink chocolate milk at a
holiday meal. Unlike traditional Shabbat and holiday
meals where meat or chicken is served, thereby excluding milk,
the custom developed on Shavuot to serve dairy foods.
Some say this
practice is because the laws of kosher food that came with
the Torah immediately disqualified the meat and dishes the
Jews had with them. Others say it's connected to the verse
describing Israel as "a land flowing with milk and honey."
Still others say it's a vegetarian thing.
Adults, on the
other hand, have loftier spiritual goals in mind: cheesecake.
This desert has become to Shavuot what apples and honey
are to Rosh HaShanah. Kind of ironic for a people whose
DNA makes them particularly susceptible to lactose intolerance.
Also popular on
Shavuot is the Tikkun Leil Shavuot, the custom
of staying up all night to study Torah on the first night
of the holiday. This commemorates the giving of the Torah
on the night of 6 Sivan. Many synagogues and schools
sponsor all-night learning programs that are followed by sunrise
morning services. Sounds difficult, we know, but there are
usually breaks every hour for stale cookies and flat pop.
The sunrise service
moves quickly, but it is slowed down by the recitation of
special prayers for Shavuot. Ashkenazic Jews recite
"Akdamut," an Aramaic poem that praises God and is
read immediately before the Torah reading. Sephardim,
on the other hand, recite "Ketuvah," a love song that
describes the "marriage contract"-Ketuvah is the name of the
contract read at modern-day Jewish weddings-between God and
the Jewish people.
In keeping with
the Torah study theme, many congregations hold their graduations
and Confirmations on Shavuot, as a way of linking Jewish
schooling with future participation in Jewish study and involvement.