There’s more to Shavuot than cheesecake!

The essence of Shavuot is not, as some would believe, entirely made out of cheese… it’s much more substantial than that – and given the heaviness of cheesecake*, that is some impressive doing!

The substance is Gemilut Hasadim – ‘acts of loving-kindness’.   These acts of loving-kindness are, as Shimon HaTzaddik (the Righteous) suggested, one of the three pillars of the Jewish faith, along with study of the Torah and service to G-d.

The Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks points out that the Jewish appreciation of and belief in acts of loving kindness inadvertently added a word to Middle English – Ruth.  Ruth’s story is told in the Megillah Ruth which we read on Shavuot in a few days time.  Her very name means kindness, to reflect her kind nature: Ruth is unwilling to leave her former mother-in-law Naomi alone and continues to support her after both Naomi’s sons die.

Today, only the negation of this word remains, the word ruthless.  But even this shadow word serves a purpose – we know that this word is the very opposite of all that is kind and caring.  A ruthless society is one where kindness, tenderness and gentleness are lacking – a poorer society indeed.  Ruth’s story shows how simple acts of kindness to others can ripple out touching and helping all of society, as well as individuals directly. Indeed, without her acts of kindness to Naomi, Ruth would never have met her future husband Boaz, had their son Obed, and so go on to become a great-grandmother to King David himself.

So when we think about Shavuot we should also be thinking about kindness.  Acts that ensure civil society is sustained.  Helping someone in need, offering support and sympathetic words, watching out for others less fortunate, are all volunteering acts of kindness that have sustained and continue to sustain us as a community.  Certainly something to chew on as well as cheesecake at this time of year.  Hag Sameach everyone!

*Leonie’s Easy peasy (cheesy) chocolate cheesecake triangles recipe

Ingredients:
For cheesecake
– Packet of Petit Buerre or Nice biscuits (flat oblong biscuit)
– 6oz Tomor, butter or regular margarine
– 4oz caster sugar
– 200g packet of cream cheese
– 1tsp vanilla essence
– Cup of milk in shallow flat bowl

For chocolate sauce
– 3 tablespoons margarine (optional)
– 11 oz chocolate, dark is good

Equipment needed:
– Foil
– Thin chopping board or flat baking tray

Directions:
Cream together the fat with the caster sugar until smooth.  Add the soft cream cheese and the vanilla essence, mix well.

Put a large sheet of foil, doubled up in thickness and put on your board/tray.

Dip each biscuit very briefly to coat in milk – don’t let go soggy, just a brief dip –  and place three across and five long on the foil – fifteen biscuits in total – no gaps allowed!

Spread half of the cheese mixture evenly on the bottom layer. Then add another layer of dipped biscuits on top. Then put on rest of cheese mixture.  You are now ready to make a triangle!

You’re going to make the outer rows of biscuits into the sides of a long, standing triangle, while the middle row of biscuits will stay where it is and be the base of the triangle.  Start lifting the two side edges of the foil, putting your hands/arms fully under the foil to support the entire length of the biscuit edges to bring the two rows together to meet in the middle at the top – your cheesecake will now be shaped like a long, standing-up triangle.

Fold and pinch the two edges of the aluminium fool together to help the triangle keep its shape while it’s setting. Put the triangle on its tray/board into the freezer for an hour to set (or a few hours in the fridge).  When your cheesecake is set, take it out.

Melt together the margarine and chocolate very gently and let cool slightly. Carefully pour the melted chocolate over the top of your cheesecake so that it’s all covered. Put your cheesecake back into the freezer or into the refrigerator to harden again.  Slice and serve, et voila!

(Piccy thanks to Chatirygirl!)

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Categories: Leonie's View

Author:Mike

Hi, I'm Mike, JVN's Youth Co-ordinator and blogger. I'll be blogging about all sorts of issues affecting the volunteering community, with a particular focus on how recent developments might affect the UK Jewish community's volunteers. I'm always interested to read the comments you make. If you have something you want to see in the JVN blog, e-mail me at mike@jvn.org.uk and I'll be happy to talk. And if you're inspired by any of my blogs to volunteer, log on to www.jvn.org.uk and register to find your perfect volunteering opportunity.

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  1. Leonie’s View: The Yoni Jesner Awards – You’re never too young to start volunteering | The Jewish Volunteering Network Blog - June 17, 2011

    […] and the people they were helping. The Chief Rabbi similarly spoke about loving kindness and its connection to Shavuot (happening later that same week) and how volunteering ran through his own family like a stick of […]

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