Milk, Symbol of Sivan

x-posted at PunkTorah.org It’s traditional to eat dairy on Shavuot, which begins the first week of Sivan.  Because of this, we’re going to explore dairy for the month of Sivan. Let’s start with the separation of milk and meat in the Torah.  What it actually says is “don’t boil a kid in its mother’s milk” (לֹא-תְבַשֵּׁל גְּדִי, בַּחֲלֵב אִמּוֹ). This prohibition is found tthree times in the Torah: Ex 23:19,  Ex 34: 26 and Deut 14:21, which means — seriously, don’t freaking do this we’re not kidding around!!!   Most likely this was a prohibition on mixing life and death; milk being the source of life and death being meat, very literally in this case the meat of the kid goat. It was also, according to the Encyclopeida of Jewish Symbols, a common ancient pagan practice to give an offering of a kid boiled it it’s mother’s milk as part of religoius rites.  This is also a good reason that it was prohibited in ancient Jewish practice. Like so many things in Jewish tradition walls upon walls were built up to ensure we don’t accidentally make this mistake. So let’s play out this idea of dairy and milk as a potent symbol of life.  The name of one of the rivers in Eden was Hiddekel, which may have been a derivation of the Akkadian word for “Milky Way.”  Mother’s milk is our first food and the first food of all mammals. The tradition of eating dairy products on Shavuot seems incongruous, but I think the simplest answer is from our agricultural heritage.  This month would be when traditional cultures would begin milking cattle, goats, and sheep for the summer.  Jessica Prentice, in her book Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection, points out that this is the time known as the Milk Moon for just this reason.  In The Rosh Hodesh Table: Foods at the New Moon by Judith Solomon, it’s pointed out that Chalav, the Hebrew word for cheese, has the numerical...

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Miriam the Prophetess, a Midrash

I started writing this midrash two years ago. I told it for the first time at the first Kohenet intensive, and had to somewhat channel the ending. Midrash is about filling in the gaps in the text, seeing what’s not written. This midrash tells Miriam’s side of the events of Exodus 18:1 –27, Numbers 12:6-8, and Numbers 20:12. —— Miriam the Prophetess Miriam awoke from the vision and couldn’t move. Such a short time ago she had been a slave. A slave who spoke to God, but a slave none the less. Then Moses arrived, and she became Miriam, prophetess, sister of Moses the redeemer. When Aaron had been chosen to speak for Moses, she understood. He was the eldest after all, but it had always been clear that Miriam stood equally with her brothers; Aaron ministered to the men and Miriam to the women. Now in the desert, she is to become the Priestess – keeper of the mishkan, the sacred temple of the Presence. “I must not speak of this to anyone,” Miriam said to herself. “Now is not the time to boast. This is an unimaginable burden. It’s a sacrifice, and I am willing to make it, but God will reveal it to all when the time is right.” With that, Miriam left her tent and headed to the well for water. That night Moses’ father-in-law and family would be joining them in the camp.[i] Time passed as it always does, and Miriam went about her daily life as before, but with renewed purpose. She ministered to the women as always, and began to actively listen more to the men. She also worked to better get to know and support Moses’ wife Tzipporah. As Tzipporah, was a foreigner with different ways she had a difficult time finding friends and comfort in the camp. Miriam wanted her to feel at home with Moses’ people, and so she dedicated herself to helping her new sister. Day after day Miriam and Tzipporah would walk...

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Shavuot: Seder of the Seven Prophetesses

A special seder created for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot that honors the seven biblical prophetesses of Rabbinic Tradition.

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