The Shavuot Seder – Experience Report

I finally was able to do my Shavuot Seder with a group of people.  An amazing thing is that it was done with people who were all over the world thanks to   I give the experience a pretty big thumbs up.  I think I’d give a good 1.5 hours in the future, and I’d want to have a little more time to prep the study sections.

Get the Text: Shavuot Seder Haggadah

This seder uses cheese, which is a traditional food for Shavuot.  For each of the prophetesses in the seder I picked out a special cheese.  Here’s my list of cheeses, prophetesses and why — other than it was available at the store.

Shavuot Seder Cheese Plate
Shavuot Seder Cheese Plate

Sarah:  Labne 
This is a middle eastern goat’s milk “spread.”  I chose this because it’s a simple cheese made from goat’s milk and it seemed it this case like the place to start and also the kind of food that Sarah might have actually eaten.

Miriam: Goat’s Milk Brie from Wellspring Creamery
The name is why I chose this one.  Miriam is deeply associated with water and wells, so it was a natural choice when I saw it.

Devorah (Deborah): Big John Cajun Cheese from Beehive Cheese
This one was chosen for the spicy nature of it, because there’s a line I use from Leah Novick in the seder, which refers to Devorah’s “fiery spirit.”  After I picked it up, I realized there was a bee aspect too — and since Devorah means bee — it couldn’t be more perfect!  In writing this post, I realized this creamery also makes one of my other favorite bee-themed cheeses called “Barely Buzzed” and “Sea Hive.”  So yummy!

Hannah: Vintage 5 Year Aged Gouda
Hannah’s life seemed dry and hard, but you never know what can come from truly heart-felt prayer.    Aged gouda looks dry and hard, but it’s so tasty and delicious — like Hannah’s child, it was something worth waiting for.

Abigail: Midnight Moon from Cypress Grove
How do you not choose a cheese called “Midnight Moon” for the prophetess who sees the future, even if she is just following the obvious signs?

Hulda: Mitica Raw Goat from Murcia Curado
Strong, simple, clear and biting.  That feels like the lesson of Hulda

Esther: Ash-coated Chèvre 
Esther was hidden away until it was time for her to be revealed.


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Adar: Food as Transformation

My latest post over at explores the transformational power of food, especially during the Jewish month of Adar and the Purim tradition (mitzvah) of sending Mishloach Manot — baskets of food to family, friends or those in need.  I explore the history of the tradition, the possible earth-based roots, and modern ways to think about how and why to do this.   This post will have you thinking beyond hamentashen this Purim!

Ever thought of this tradition as a social justice issue?

Maybe you will…. Read on at



Milk, Symbol of Sivan

Milk 2 by Andrew Magill, used by CC-A permissions
Milk 2 by Andrew Magill, used by CC-A permissions

x-posted at

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.

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Barley, Symbol of Iyyar

Barley Field in Autumn by Nick Page (nicksie2008) used by CC-A Permissions
Barley By Dag Endresen Dag Terje Filip Endresen used by CC-A Permissions
Barley By Dag Endresen Dag Terje Filip Endresen used by CC-A Permissions

I’m not sure there can be a more potent symbol of the month of Iyyar, which generally falls between April and May, than barley (שְׂעֹרָה). Many of us are disconnected from the agricultural cycles of our world, and especially disconnected from the agricultural cycles that part of Jewish tradition.  But in the ancient world, and for a few of us moderns, Passover is the beginning of the barley harvest.  Pesach, when we clean out our cupboards of barley and all other grains and refrain from eating chametz (fermented grain) is really a time of sacrifice and cleansing before the new harvest begins on the second day of Passover.  The period called “the counting of the omer,” which begins on the second day of Passover was literally a time of counting the barley harvest in ancient Judea. An “omer” was simply a measure of barley.

Over on PunkTorah, I’ll talk more about the whole “counting of the omer,” but here we’re going to talk about barley (including yummy recipes)!

Continue reading “Barley, Symbol of Iyyar”