Monthly Archives: December 2007

why eating cheese is a mitzvah

Mitzvah = a good deed, for those non-Jews reading along at home.

 The custom of eating cheese on Hanukkah has kind of been overshadowed by latkes, I guess (since I wasn’t aware of this awesome tradition until um, now) but it’s real. Here’s the story:

Judith, a beautiful widow, approached the Assyrian general and all around bad guy, Holofernes, and fed him salty cheese, which made him really thirsty (salty cheese = the original bar snack?). As a result, he drank a lot of wine, got pretty drunk and passed out. Judith seized the opportunity and cut off his head. Seriously.  

This act inspired the Jews, who then rose up – aka: the Maccabean Revolt, liberated the 2nd temple, used the oil that lasted way longer than it should have, and gave us Hanukkah.

So, Jews are supposed to eat cheese during Hanukkah time (are extra credit points available for year round consumption?) to commemorate Judith’s bravery and the acts which followed that it inspired.

Technically, there are a few holes in the story – like the fact that Holofernes appears to have worked for Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon (another interesting connection to wine and therefore, to cheese) who reigned about 400 years before the Maccabees were around but never mind, let’s focus on the important part here: cheeses deserved place as a revered foodstuff.