In the Torah, it is written about the Shavuot offering: “you shall take of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you will bring from your land, which the Lord, your God, is giving you. And you shall put [them] into a basket and go to the place which the Lord, your God, will choose to have His Name dwell there (Deuteronomy 26:2). Dates, figs, grapes, olives, pomegranates, and wheat were the first fruits of Shavuot.
The story of Ruth is read also on the holiday in the backdrop of the barley harvest. She gleans (gathers leftovers) from fields for Boaz, whom she later marries. Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, in commenting about Ruth’s gleaning, writes, “The good that may result from a modest act of charity should never be undervalued.” The importance of gleaning and leaving food for poor people continues to be taught and practiced in Judaism. It is further connected with the holiday as this requirement is described in a Torah passage about Shavuot. It is written, “When you reap the harvest of your Land, you shall not completely remove the corner of your field during your harvesting, and you shall not gather up the gleanings of your harvest. [Rather,] you shall leave these for the poor person and for the stranger. I am the Lord, your God” (Leviticus 23:22). Today, in Israel, the law of leaving ones fields for others to glean is still practiced. And, worldwide, Jewish communities are committed to other forms of gleaning to provide for hungry people. This includes donating produce from one’s garden and fruit trees.
Borough Market is an amazing 1,000 year old market in London. I was generously asked to write about Shavuot for their website and create a recipe, below.
This recipe includes several of the “first fruits” (bikkurim): wheat, dates and olives. The triangular shape of the bourekas is also a reminder of the three sections of the Tanach. To make it vegan, replace the cheese with organic herbed tofu or non-dairy cheese and the cow’s milk yogurt with non-dairy yogurt.
4 sheets of phyllo dough, thawed
4 oz goat cheese or non-dairy soft cheese
1 ½ tbsp finely chopped pistachios
1 medjool date
½ tsp date syrup
¼ cup plain yogurt (soy, almond, etc)
Makes 8 bourekas
- Pre-heat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Take one sheet of phyllo dough and lightly brush with olive oil. Place a second sheet on top and again brush with olive oil. Repeat the process with two more sheets of phyllo dough so that you have 2 sets, each with 2 sheets of phyllo dough.
- Finely chop pistachios and medjool date.
- In a bowl, mash goat cheese until soft and creamy. Fold chopped date and 1 tbsp pistachios into goat cheese.
- Take 1 set of phyllo dough and cut into 4-inch strips. Place 1 tbsp of cheese mixture at the bottom and fold at the corner, into a triangle. Continue folding until all of the dough is used. Repeat with all dough and cheese blend. You should have 8 triangles.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place bourekas on baking sheet and lightly brush the tops of each one with olive oil.
- Place in oven and bake for approximately 15-18 minutes, until lightly browned.
- Put ¼ cup plain yogurt in a small bowl. Drizzle date syrup on top and sprinkle with half of remaining pistachios.
- Remove bourekas from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes. Place on platter and sprinkle remaining pistachios over them. Serve with yogurt for dipping.
B’tayavon and Chag Sameach!