Russell P. Subin

Let Them Eat Cheesecake

Cheesecake. Yum! Unless you’re lactose intolerant, on a diet, or vegan, still yum but you’ll pass. It’s customary to eat cheesecake on Shavuot, the holiday celebrating the giving of the Torah. Unfortunately, sometimes people pass on the delicious passages of the Torah.

It is written that Pharaoh said “let them eat cheesecake.” Well, not really, but you get the point that he didn’t care about the plight of his Jewish slaves.  But the Jewish slaves got their exodus and the celebration of Passover. Count the omer to the end, and you get to the holiday of Shavuot. The Holiday celebrates the giving of the Torah.  Some Jews eat cheesecake as part of the custom to eat dairy, harkening back to the idea that we did not know the laws of Kashrut prior to the giving of the Torah.

Wow! The giving of the Torah – let’s all learn, sing, and dance for joy.  Unfortunately, not all of us feel that way.  Just like cheesecake, some overindulge, others take it in moderation, some can’t stomach it, and others believe there is another option.

Let’s consider overindulging. Anyone can see that overindulging is deleterious to your health.  Sitting and learning all day leads to a loss of awareness of your surroundings and the people in it. You needn’t overindulge in the study of Torah to learn that your surroundings and the people in it are important things.  It is in the Torah in the very first parsha, Bereshit.  It’s all about the creation of the world, Gan Eden, and a lonely man called Adam who gave his heart (actually, his rib) to Eve. Going out and enjoying nature and being sociable is good for your physical and psychological health.  Exercise and fun too. These things matter. If you just move onto the next parsha, you will see what happens when you overindulge – Noah got drunk, and, let’s just say, it wasn’t pretty.

Moderation as with most stuff seems to be the key.  Moderation is a huge range and some people can enjoy more than others.  But in all cases, people look for the right mix to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

Some simply can’t stomach it.  But just because they can’t stomach it doesn’t mean they don’t think it is Supremely good.  They go about their adult life without any discussion of Torah.  But they remember what Hillel said about standing on one foot. The essence of Torah – What is hateful to you do not do unto others, the rest is explanation, go and learn. They just have an up-HILL-el battle to learn more.

Some think there are other options like secularism, a different religion, or something else.  They may or may not have heavenly goals but it works for them, but it will never be the real thing, Torah.

Regardless of your choice, we must all go together peacefully to the desert table. OK, that was a cheesy comment.

About the Author
Russell Subin is a retired US tax lawyer living in Ra'anana, Israel.
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