Shavuot celebrates the giving of Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible) to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai. To this day, Torah scrolls are handwritten in Hebrew on parchment and are wrapped on two wooden rollers called Atzei Chayim – Trees of Life – because the Torah gives us guidelines for creating a just society and leading a life of purpose.
Here are several activities that can help young children connect the holiday of Shavuot with Torah.
Create Edible Torahs
Although it’s traditional to eat sweet, dairy foods on Shavuot, there are lots of edibles that can be fashioned into a Torah scroll – so you can pick foods that appeal to your kids’ preferences. No matter what ingredients you choose, you’ll need two long cylinders and something thin and flat to wrap around them. You can also dip or adorn the ends of the rods.
Here are a few possibilities:
- Small tortillas spread with a filling of your choice, wrapped around pretzel sticks with half a grape poked onto each end. Spreadable cheese or frosting can be used on the ends of the pretzel sticks instead of the grapes.
- Dried fruit leather wrapped around crunchy cookie sticks or breadsticks dipped in frosting and adorned with sprinkles
- Peeled carrots or peeled Persian cucumbers wrapped with sliced cheese or deli meat, poke half a black olive on each end
- Cheese sticks wrapped with a tortilla. Pull “fringes” at each end of the cheese sticks.
- Veggie straws wrapped with sliced cheese
- Beef cocktail franks wrapped with puff pastry
- One more scroll that is not fully edible, but can represent undressing the Torah to get to the sweetness within
Make Butter from Scratch
The transformation of cream into butter is nothing short of magical for grown-ups and kids alike. It’s fast, requires only two ingredients, and creates no mess to clean up. Spreadable perfection!
- Glass jar with a tight-fitting lid (we used a quart-sized mason jar)
- Heavy cream to fill the jar 1/3 to half way (we used 1 pint)
- Medium mixing bowl
- ½ tsp. sea salt or kosher salt
- One clean glass marble
- Pour the heavy cream into the glass jar and add salt if desired. You can use less cream in smaller jars to comfortably fit the hands of your helpers but leave half to two thirds of the jar empty so there is room for the churning to happen. You also can drop in one clean marble to speed up the churning, if you don’t mind the sound of it rattling around. Tighten the lid.
- Shake the jar vigorously for about five minutes. The cream will initially become whipped cream. Keep shaking until the cream breaks and the liquid separates from the solids.
- Remove the butter by hand or pour the contents of the jar into a strainer. Some people like to catch the buttermilk in a bowl to drink over ice or use when making pancakes.
- Wet your hands so the butter doesn’t stick to you and transfer the solids to a bowl set in the sink.
- Knead the butter firmly to release trapped buttermilk and rinse with cold water. Repeat until the water runs clear and no more liquid is released. Stored in a container with a lid, the butter will keep for up to five days on the counter (though it never lasts that long in our house!) and up to a week in the refrigerator.