Issues in Practical Halacha

Issue Number 19 --- Erev Shovuos, 5755

Compiled and Published by Kollel Menachem - Lubavitch (Melbourne, Australia)

in the zechus of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, o.b.m.

Eating Milchigs (Dairy Foods) On Shavuos

The following aspects of the custom of eating milchigs (dairy foods) on Shovuos are treated here:

  1. Source
  2. Reasons
  3. Halachos associated with the custom


The first source for the custom of eating milchigs on Shovuos is found in the Kol Bo [1] which states: "There is an established custom to eat honey and milk on the Festival of Shovuos since the Torah is compared to honey and milk, as it is written 'Honey and milk beneath your tongue'".

The Remo [2] writes of the universal custom to eat milchigs on the first day of Shovuos. He explains it as being analogous to the custom of having two cooked foods on the Seder plate, one to commemorate the pascal lamb and the other the festival offering (chagiga). In order to commemorate the distinctive offering of Shovuos, the Sh'tei HaLechem (two breads), we eat first a milchig and then a meat meal. As the Machtsis HaShekel [3] explains, this necessitates bringing to the table two distinct breads for each meal, through which we have remembrance of the Sh'tei Halechem.


Some of the reasons for this custom cited in Poskim are as follows:

(1) the reason of the Kol Bo (that the Torah is compared to honey and milk)

(2) the reason of the Remo, in order to bring two breads, and thus commemorate the Sh'tei Halechem have already been cited.

(3) The Mogen Avrohom [4] states another reason, based on the Zohar, that the seven weeks which the Jews counted before receiving the Torah are analogous to the seven clean days counted by a woman in preparation for purification from the state of niddah; and it is a principle of halachah that milk results from the decomposition of blood.

(4) The Toras Chayim on Bava M'tzia [5] writes that the custom is observed so that the angels should see how carefully we observe the halachos of separation of meat and milk (to eat first the milchigs then to clean and rinse the mouth, together will all other rules), so that there should be no accusation from above, as there was at the time of the giving of the Torah that the Torah should not be given to man but to the angels.

(5) The Mishneh B'rura [6] gives the reason that when the Jews returned from Mount Sinai to their homes, they were able to eat only milchig foods since the vessels with which they would have to prepare meat dishes, had become forbidden to them in view of the kashus prohibitions of Torah which had just been given. (See, however, Likkutei Sichos [7] which raises questions on this explanation.)

Halachos Associated With The Custom

The issues in halachah associated with different ways of carrying out this custom may be subsumed under several general headings:

The Requirement of Eating Meat on Yom Tov

With regard to the mitzva of simchas Yom Tov (rejoicing on the festival), we find differing opinions among the Poskim as to its status and content. The Rambam [8] writes that there is a Torah obligation to eat meat, even when one cannot fulfil the mitzva in the manner referred to by the verse, namely through eating the meat of the Yom Tov sacrifices.

Tosafos [9], on the other hand, states that the mitzva of simchas Yom Tov (and so also the obligation to eat meat) is nowadays only Rabbinic.

The Alter Rebbe in his Shulchon Oruch [10] writes that nowadays the Torah obligation of simchas Yom Tov is fulfilled (for men) specifically thorugh wine, although there is a mitzvah to eat meat (see Likkutei Sichos [11] for further analysis of the Alter Rebbe's position).

According to the Rambam and the Alter Rebbe, one will therefore not eat milchigs instead of meat meals on Shovuos since there is at least a "mitzva" (if not according to the Alter Rebbe, a Torah obligation) to eat meat on Yom Tov.

The Toras Chayim [12], moreover, based on the words of the Zohar that one may not eat meat all the rest of the day on which one has consumed milchig foods, finds reason to desist from the custom of eating milchigs on Shovuos altogether (in view of the accusations of the angels, mentioned earlier in connection with the reason for the custom, cited in his name).

From all the foregoing, one sees the great importance of eating meat on Shovuos, even if one has already earlier eaten milchigs.

The Sequence of Milchigs and Meat Meal

The Minchas Ya'akov [13] quotes the Kol Bo that one may employ leniencies to fulfil the custom, to eat milchigs after Mincho on Shovuos, when less than six hours have elapsed since the meat meal after Shacharis, provided one has cleaned his mouth from the meat between his teeth. Yet, he concludes that it is better not to do so.

The consensus of the Achronim is that one should first eat milchigs and afterwards the meat meal.

The Sh'lo [14] adds that one should be "particular, especially on a holy day like this, which is the day of the giving of our Torah, to clean and rinse one's mouth thoroughly, to 'interrupt' between the milchigs and meat meal with bircas hamozon and to wait an hour, and afterwards put on another table cloth and to set the table."

The Darkei T'shuva [15] quotes the Orach Mishor as questioning the Sh'lo's requirement to say bircas hamozon after the milchigs before eating the meat meal. Bircas hamozon is meant to function as a separation or interruption between a dairy meal and a meat one. If one is saying bircas hamozon in order to eat a meat meal, how could it be said to be an interruption? It is in fact a preparation for the meat meal. Moreover, since one will also have to say bircas hamozon again after the meat meal, the first bircas hamozon would seem to be in the category of an "unnecessary b'rocho", which is forbidden. Both the Darkei T'shuva and the P'ri M'gadim [16] respond to uphold the custom with bircas hamozon between the milchig and meat meals.

The Requirement to Eat Meat on the Night of Yom Tov

The Darkei T'shuva [17] cites a practice to eat milchigs exclusively on the night of Shovuos and to eat only a meat meal the next day. He disapproves of this custom in that he maintains that the mitzva of simchas Yom Tov applies also at night and with it the requirement to eat meat.

The Sha'agas Arieh [18] states that the mitzva of simchas Yom Tov at night is only Rabbinic. And since, he maintains, one can satisfy the Torah obligation of simchas Yom Tov with kinds of simcha other than eating meat (- simply that eating meat is the best way to fulfil it -) one may be lenient on the night of Yom Tov to eat milchigs only and satisfy (its) Rabbinic requirement of simchas Yom Tov with other kinds of simcha.

A number of Achronim, however, are of the opinion that there there is a Torah obligation of simchas Yom Tov, (and cosequent obligation to eat meat), also on the night of Yom Tov.

The conclusion of the Darchei T'shuva is to preserve the custom which he received, namely, with kiddush after the morning t'filla, to eat a light meal of milchigs without bread, to say a b'rocho achrono after it, wait an hour and then (after cleaning one's mouth properly) to eat a meal with meat and wine. With this "one fulfils his obligation according to all opinions".

[1] 52
[2] Orach Chayim 494:3
[3] 494:7
[4] 494:6
[5] 86 s.v. d'kama kama
[6] 494:12 and similarly the sefer G'ulas Yisroel
[7] 18, 365ff.
[8] Hilchos Yom Tov 6:17, 18
[9] Moed Katan 14b s.v. Osoh
[10] 529:6-7
[11] 33, pp. 62, fn. 30
[12] Chulin 83 s.v. V'Erev
[13] 76:5
[14] Mesechta Shovuos s.v. b'haftora
[15] Yore Dei'a 89:19
[16] ibid. M.Z. 3
[17] Ibid.
[18] 65 and 68

The above is not intended to decide halachic questions, but rather to clarify them in a clear and concise form. Please refer all your practical questions to your local Rabbi.

Index of Practical Halacha Pages

Please note: Many hours of research is put into compiling "Issues in Practical Halacha" and we request that you do not reproduce them in any magazine, journal, newspaper or the like. If you wish to reproduce any issue please contact us.

Information on joining the Practical Halacha mail list may be found here.

The original hard copy and softcopy of this publication was produced on computer equipment purchased with a grant made possible by the Belfer family.

İMelbourn Kollel Menachem, June 2000

Melbourne Kollel Menachem
92 Hotham Street, East St Kilda, Vic., 3183 Australia

Havienu L'Shalom Home Page

Havienu L'Shalom is pleased to host these Practical Halacha Web pages.

If you would like to support our efforts with a tax deductible donation, please send e-mail to:

İPage Layout and Design Havienu L'Shalom, June 2000