THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
On this holiday, the yuntif of Shavuois, we celebrate two things: the giving of the Toirah by the Aimishteh, and lactose intolerance.
Why do we stay up all night to learn Toirah -- also known as Tikkun Layl Shavuois? According to RASHI, we do this to commemorate the fact that Klal Yisroel stood earnestly at the bottom of Har Sinai as Moishe Rabeinu met the Reboinoisheloilum face to face at the top of the mountain, and all that could be heard were bolts of lightling, claps of thunder, the rustle of the wind, and the sounds of concessioners looking to make a buck: "Hot dogs, get your kosher hot dogs!" "Get your program -- Mattan Toirah commerative program!" "Bring home a stuffed Toirah to you kids! One of a kind! They'll never be available again!"
But according to the Bais Yoiseph, Shavuois is essentially a test of Klal Yisroel's commitment to Toirah values. And to celebrate this, we stay up all night to cram for the test.
And as you stay up all night, you had better pay attention. A braisah in Bubba Basra tells a story of the Tannah Kamma, who was learning all night in the bais medrish with his students. Suddenly, one of the talmidim pointed out the window and said, "Look -- it is light outside. It is time to recite the Keriyas Shma!" The Tannah Kammah, with a very serious look on his face, rushed over to the window where his student was standing, grabbed him by the ear, and twisted it until it started to bleed. "Stop looking out the window during my shiur, you schmendrick!" the Tannah Kamma declared. He then forced the student to recite Pesukai Dezimrah in front of the congregation for a week.
The RADAK has a beautiful interpretation of Tikkun Layl Shavuois, which takes a completely different approach. According to the RADAK, Shavuois night gives us the opportunity to initiate an extramarital affair, continue it over the summer while your family is away in the bungalow colony, and break it off just in time to repent on Rosh Hashana.
As proof, the RADAK cites a medrish in the Medrish Tanchumah that tells how Rabbi Akiva used to "visit" the wives of his talmidim at their homes on Shavuois night, while the talmidim were up all night listening to a shiur delivered by his assistant rabbi on exactly which shoe to put on first every morning.
But what does all of this have to do with eating dairy? In a gemarrah in Maseches Soitah, Abaya suggests that we eat dairy lehachis, because it is almost summer and the goyim have all started to barbecue in their backyards and WE DO NOT ACT LIKE THE GOYIM!!!
Rava disagrees. He suggests that we eat dairy to commemorate the miracle of Yehudis killing an enemy general by seducing him, giving him salty cheese to make him thirsty, getting him drunk, and then cutting his head off. (On this itself there is a disagreement of interpretation. RASHI holds that the general was killed because he was an enemy of the Jews; but TOISFOIS holds that Yehudis killed him because he left her "unsatisfied" at the end of their encounter, if you know what I mean. Rachmanah letzlan.)
But according to the Brisker Ruv, there is actually a direct correlation between the receiving of the Toirah at Har Sinai and our preference for dairy on the holiday. 3500 years ago our ancestors longingly stood at Har Sinai, as Moisheh ascended the mountain to receive the Toirah from the Reboinoisheloilum. As the time whiled away and Moisheh did not return, the Jews began to panic. To help resolve the crisis, Moishe's minuval brother, Aron Hacoihain, demonstrated his loyalty by inciting Klal Yisroel to worship the Eigel. In other words, just as they were receiving the Toirah, the Jews were immediately rejecting it.
Was it that they were inherently evil? Was it that they didn't understand its significance? Was it that they were ungrateful, "stiff-necked" good-for-nothings like you, you amhaaretz? No! They really wanted the Torah, but they found it too much to handle. Indeed, they craved it, looked forward to it, and viewed it as the capstone, the "dessert" if you will, of Yetzias Mitzrayim, the exodus from Egypt. But, alas, they found it difficult to digest. Sadly, this is how many of us are with dairy products. And therefore, to commemorate our experiences at Mattan Toirah, we eat blintzes, cheesecake, and all things dairy.
But we should look at this as a blessing, not a curse. After all, if we eat some nice, light dairy meals, along with a small salad, we might lose a couple of pounds, which will put us in a better position to keep up that affair all summer long.
Ah Gutten Yuntif, You Minuval.
Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess