I’m a vegan so I eat neither dairy nor meaty dishes. Yet, I see nothing wrong with learning about our Holy Traditions, especially if learning could take the place of an impossibility to be doing.
Also, I’m not so sure that at the present being a vegan would be so good for most people, so we’d better learn about this to pass it on to our students and the next generation.
However, it seems an excellent idea for the average carnivore to starkly reduce consuming animal produce. Most people eat much more meat and milk produce than would be good for their: health, wealth, moral conscience, the environment, solving world starvation, etc.
Jews traditionally eat meat at Festivals (if you don’t like meat, you’ll eat something you do like). But on (the first day of) Jewish Pentecost we consume first some dish containing milk, before continuing with the Festival meat. (Eating dairy after meat in one meal is forbidden by Jewish Law.)
Why dairy dishes? Here are 25 reasons that I found (some of them inside my head):
- We did not have animals slaughtered in accordance with our new Jewish Law (see also 2, 3, 4, 5), and we got the Torah on Shabbat, so we had no meat to eat, so we had dairy meals (at least in the daytime). We also did not know how to slaughter animals as that is part of the Oral Torah. This kind-of resembles us leaving Egypt. Then we had to discontinue the old bread from before; now we needed to terminate our previous meat. We only left Egypt to receive the Torah, so there is a strong connection between the two Festivals (see also 9, 17, 20). Passover Night and Pentecost are like similar bookend Festivals with 50 Intermediate Days between them (see also 20).
- All our meat utensils from unauthorized meat products first had to be made kosher, so we could not eat from the old meaty pots, dishes or cutlery (see also 1, 3, 4, 5).
- Milk does not need preparation (slaughtering, salting meat, making utensils kosher – see also 1, 2, 4, 5) to be allowed – only non-dairy pots. The only non-kosher milk there, would have been milk milked on Shabbat, but we were already many weeks obligated to keep Shabbat, ever since the encampment at the Bitter Waters.
- Until we heard Jewish Law, we assumed that milk was forbidden for human consumption, because maybe it should be considered a (liquid) limb taken from a still alive animal – which would be forbidden to all people, not just Jews. (That this was not a problem was known to Abraham, who fed his three guests meat and dairy (see also 14). This knowledge may have been lost until we got it back in Genesis.) So how did we get milk that Shabbat, since milking is forbidden on the Day of Rest? We already had it from before Shabbat, to feed young animals. So when the old meat became forbidden (see also 1, 2, 3, 5), the old milk became allowed.
- Yet, didn’t we in the desert just eat the providential manna and drink the miraculous spring water (and occasionally raw quail)? Maybe our main staple was manna, but we could have added meat for Shabbat and the Festivals. And when we couldn’t eat meat on that first Pentecost (see also 1, 2, 3, 4), we might have supplemented dairy instead. (The point is not to reconstruct what would have happened at Sinai, since the Torah is not a police or historic report. Rather it’s a Guide to a moral life. We only try to pin our understanding and custom of eating dairy on Scripture’s accounts.)
- Torah is to us like milk to a baby (see also 7, 9). The baby never says: milk again, today? Every time it tastes new and great; such is learning Torah.
- Just like milk may suffice all our bodily nutritional requirements (as we see in those fast-growing babies – see also 6, 9), the Torah gives all the necessary spiritual nourishment for the human soul.
- After receiving the Torah we were like newborns. Our beginners’ Torah learning equals their beginners’ food: milk.
- Just like on the first Night of Passover (see also 1, 17, 20) the children stand (sit) at the center of our attention, here too the day is catered to the food preference of the young ones (see also 6, 7).
- Studying or unconditional acceptance of Torah is poetically compared to honey (see also 16, 18) plus milk under our tongue. Especially the study of the esoteric aspect of the Torah, which we should keep to ourselves (not on our tongue).
- He who devotes himself to the study of the Law will be greeted in the Future World with sixty cups of milk, besides many other delicious beverages. From this we see that milk was regarded a delicacy and a drink of prominence. At Sinai we became a prominent People of Priests. (The opposite we find in 23 and 24.)
- To honor Moses, who at three months old was picked up from the Nile at the Sixth of Sivan, the date for the giving of the Torah, 80 years later, and who refused to drink mother milk from any non-Jewish wet nurse – so that he ended up being nursed by his own mother.
- Each one of the 365 days of the year corresponds to a specific one of the Torah’s 365 Prohibitions. The first day of Pentecost we must bring our first fruits (see also 15, 16) to the Temple and the second half of the verse (in Exodus) forbids cooking a kid in milk. Precisely therefore, we consume milk too, to show that we do take care not to mix dairy and meaty (see also 14, 17).
- We demonstrate that we are careful not to mix meat and milk stuff (see also 13, 17), unlike the three Angels who ate at Abraham’s table and who were not (see also 4). When the Angels later complained to G-d against Humans receiving the Torah, Moses replied: You are not careful separating meat and milk, so the Torah is not for you to keep. (Maybe Abraham served them plant-based vegan (coconut, almond, soy) milk or milk from a non-kosher animal and (vegetable oil, avocado) butter, which we can serve Gentiles mixed with meat. Then reasons 4 and 14 do not work.)
- Another Torah verse (in Numbers) mentioning the bringing of the first fruits (see also 13, 16), also commands us the offering of a sacrifice that is: New, To-G-d, On-your-Festival-of-weeks. The single acrostic of the Hebrew for New, To and On spells chalav (see also 18, 19) – milk.
- Yet another Torah verse (in Deuteronomy) that mentions the first fruits (see also 13, 15), describes the Holy Land as flowing with milk and [date] honey (see also 10, 18).
- Just like on Passover (see also 1, 9, 20) when we eat at least two cooked dishes to commemorate the two Sacrifices (Pesach and Festival), so here too we eat at least two separate dishes, now to commemorate the two loafs of fine flour (see also 18) brought as Offering on Pentecost. Some say to have separate breads for each part of the meal (an extra precaution for not mixing anything from the meaty and the dairy part of the meal – see also 13, 14), bringing the concept of two loafs even closer to our table – although every Festival we start the meal with two loaves anyway, as on Shabbat.
- Tradition tells us that the Torah, which we received at Mount Sinai, contains 613 Commandments, (almost) exactly the numerical value (see also 19, 20, 22) of the Hebrew words honey (see also 10, 16), milk (see also 15, 19) and fine flour (see also 17) together.
- The numerical value (see also 18, 20, 22) of the Hebrew word for milk, chalav (see also 15, 18), is 40. Forty days Moses spent on Mount Sinai receiving instruction in the entire Torah. Later he prayed there for another 40 days for forgiveness for the Golden Calf. For a third time for 40 days he was up there before returning with a new set of Stone Tablets. Also, there were 40 generations from Moses who recorded the Written Torah, until the generation of Ravina and Rav Ashi who arranged and edited the Masterwork of the Oral Torah, the Babylonian Talmud. The Talmud begins with the letter Mem – numerical value 40 – and ends with Mem as well, further alluding to the fact that the Written Torah (here spoken by G-d) and the Oral Torah (now written down) form one body of text. (“You can’t have one without the o-o-o-other.”)
- The numerical value (see also 18, 19, 22) of the Hebrew word for dairy, chalavi is 50. We went from Passover to Pentecost in 50 days (see also 1, 9, 17), to the 50th, the highest possible Gate of Knowledge and Purity (see also 1).
- Maybe at this highest moral level (see 20), we returned to the ethical plane of Adam and Eve before the Original Sin, not killing animals for food. And then later, the not eating meat on Pentecost was remembered by a custom to consume dairy?
- Mount Sinai is also called the Gavnunim Mount – with majestic peaks. Gavnunim looks like the Hebrew word for cheese, gevina. The Mountain was pure as white goat cheese. Further, the numerical value (see also 18, 19, 20) of gevina is 70, corresponding to the (at least) 70 ways everything in the Torah can be understood.
- G-d chose Mount Sinai precisely because it was not so tall to teach that Torah knowledge is like water, streaming towards someone humble and running away from someone haughty. A dairy meal is also more modest, which is appropriate for the day that we received the Torah. (The opposite we find in 11.)
- Milk products are kept in simple clay and glass vessels and they spoil when kept in silver and gold vessels. So, too, the Torah is found among poor Jews who are lowly and modest, not [so much] among the rich and haughty. (The opposite we find in 11.)
- Perhaps, we also have dairy dishes because Pentecost falls in the calving season when there is an abundance of milk. Milk was available principally in spring and summer, once calves were weaned and when fresh fodder was plentiful.
There are many more traditional Jewish Pentecost dishes: special breads, honey or other sweet stuff, Seven Species, flower petals.
Have a delightful Festival!