Don't Dessert Me!
by Rabbi Aron Moss
Shavuos is when G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people at Mt Sinai. So why is it celebrated by eating cheesecake, rather than something a little more spiritual? Is it not ironic that the holiest event in history is acknowledged by indulging in cake?
Some have suggested that eating cheesecake on Shavuos is based on a spelling mistake. An early English Bible read, "And G-d spoke to Moses in the middle of the dessert..."
But I think there's more to it.
Spirituality existed long before Judaism. People prayed and meditated, brought sacrifices and served their deities many centuries before Moses climbed Mt Sinai. Judaism didn't invent spirituality. It was around before.
But what was not around before was the idea that your physical life can be made holy. People knew that G-d was in heaven, but never dreamed that you could find Him on earth. All pre-Sinai religious thinking went along the same lines: we are physical beings in a physical world, G-d is a spiritual being in a higher world. To reach G-d, we must negate our physical self and reach toward heaven.
Suddenly the Torah came along and said something no one ever thought could be true. G-d can be found in cheesecake too. You can't limit G-d to being only in the spiritual. He is infinite, which means no place is too low for His presence. You can find G-d right here in the physical world. It may take some work, but that's what we are here to do, to transform our bodily self and our physical world into a home for G-d.
While other spiritual traditions emphasized abstinence, celibacy and other-worldliness, Judaism emphasizes this-worldliness. The commandments of the Torah enjoin us to create sanctity in our family life, to view the home as a sanctuary, and the workplace as an arena for kindness and integrity. Don't seek G-d in the heavens, reveal Him right down here on earth.
So we celebrate the giving of the Torah by eating cheesecake, one of the most physical and indulgent activities you could possibly imagine. Because to find G-d in the middle of a meditation is nice, but to find G-d in the middle of dessert, that's our mission.