TURNING MILK INTO CHEESE ­ Article ­ BINA

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TURNING MILK INTO CHEESE

TURNING MILK INTO CHEESE

by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie

Question:
Apparently one of the reasons we eat milk products on Shavuot is that the Torah (which we received on Shavuot) is compared to milk and honey. So what is the big fuss with the cheesecake? Wouldn't a glass of milk be enough or is there something specific about the cheese?

Answer:
The Talmud tells us that when G-d designated a particular day for the Mt. Sinai experience, Moses, on his own accord, postponed the event so that the Jewish people could prepare for an extra day. Evidently G-d thought it was a good idea and only gave the Torah on the day that Moses had chosen. This is a perplexing story. Why would Moses postpone such an amazing event? On the other hand, if G-d thought it was appropriate why He didn't give this instruction from the beginning.

The answer highlights the very essence of the Mt Sinai experience. G-d didn't want us to receive the Torah as passive recipients. He wanted our active involvement. He wanted us to make the Torah ours and to turn it into something that we own. We achieve this by combining two different concepts. Firstly we guard and protect the purity and authenticity of the Torah that G-d has given us by fiercely adhering to all of its principles, values and guidelines. But at the same time we are expected to study in depth, question, interpret, analyse and to find creative and innovative ways of explaining ideas without compromising its authenticity. G-d purposely didn't spell out all of the laws of the Oral Torah because He wanted us to figure them out by becoming active partners in the process.

This is the secret of the extra day that Moses added on his own. It represented the human participation in the journey. It was always G-d's intention but it needed to be discovered by the innovative ability of Moses and the Jewish people.

This is why cheese is important. Milk is the natural gift that we receive when we milk the cow. Cheese is how we use the milk, processing and creating a new food that we can then eat and enjoy.

Milk represents the Torah in its purest form as it was given by G-d. Cheese is the Torah that we delve into and make it ours. It is still the same milk but as it evolves into a delicious product that we create.

On Shavuot we don't only commit to the milk of Torah. We commit to delving and engaging with such depth that it becomes something we own - turning the milk into cheese.

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