Judaism and Vegetarianism

In his book, Rabbi David Wolpe wrote: “Judaism emphasizes the importance of good deeds because nothing can replace them. To cultivate justice and decency, to resist cruelty, to thirst for righteousness – this is our human destiny. 

In the words of Rabbi Fred Dobb, “I see vegetarianism as a mitzvah – a sacred duty and a noble cause.”

Despite the fact that it is often very difficult, each of us can find the strength to give up destructive habits and step onto a better path in life. Vegetarianism involves a lifelong path of righteousness. The Torah and Talmud are rich in stories of people being rewarded for showing kindness to animals and punished for treating them carelessly or cruelly. In the Torah, Jacob, Moses, and David were shepherds who took care of the animals. Moses is especially famous for showing compassion to the lamb as well as to people. Rebecca was accepted as a wife for Isaac, because she took care of animals: she gave water to thirsty camels, in addition to people in need of water. Noah is a righteous man who took care of many animals in the Ark. At the same time, two hunters – Nimrod and Esau – are presented in the Torah as villains. According to legend, Rabbi Judah Prince, the compiler and editor of the Mishnah, was punished with years of pain for indifference to the fear of a calf being led to the slaughter (Talmud, Bava Meziah 85a).

According to the Torah from Rabbi Mosh Kassuto, “You are allowed to use an animal for work, but not for slaughter, not for food. Your natural diet is vegetarian.” Indeed, all the food recommended in the Torah is vegetarian: grapes, wheat, barley, figs, pomegranates, dates, fruits, seeds, nuts, olives, bread, milk and honey. And even manna, “like coriander seed” (Numbers 11:7), was vegetable. When the Israelites in the Sinai desert consumed meat and fish, many then suffered and died from the plague.

Judaism preaches “bal tashkit” – the principle of caring for the environment, indicated in Deuteronomy 20:19 – 20). It forbids us to uselessly waste anything of value, and also says that we should not use more resources than necessary to achieve the goal (priority to conservation and efficiency). Meat and dairy products, in contrast, cause wasteful use of land resources, topsoil, water, fossil fuels and other forms of energy, labor, grain, while resorting to chemicals, antibiotics and hormones. “A pious, exalted person will not waste even a mustard seed. He cannot watch ruin and waste with a calm heart. If it is in his power, he will do everything to prevent it, ”wrote Rabbi Aaron Halevi in ​​the 13th century.

Health and safety of life are repeatedly emphasized in Jewish teachings. While Judaism speaks of the importance of sh’mirat haguf (preserving the resources of the body) and pekuach nefesh (protecting life at all costs), numerous scientific studies confirm the relationship of animal products with heart disease (the No. 1 cause of death in the US), various forms of cancer (the cause of No2) and many other diseases.

The 15th century rabbi Joseph Albo writes “There is cruelty in the killing of animals.” Centuries earlier, Maimonides, a rabbi and physician, wrote, “There is no difference between the pain of man and animal.” The sages of the Talmud noted “Jews are compassionate children of compassionate ancestors, and one to whom compassion is alien cannot be truly a descendant of our father Abraham.” While Judaism opposes the pain of animals and encourages people to be compassionate, most agricultural kosher farms keep animals in terrible conditions, mutilate, torture, rape. The chief rabbi of Efrat in Israel, Shlomo Riskin, says “Eating restrictions are meant to teach us compassion and gently lead us to vegetarianism.”

Judaism emphasizes the interdependence of thoughts and actions, emphasizing the vital role of kavanah (spiritual intention) as a prerequisite for action. According to Jewish tradition, the consumption of meat was allowed with certain restrictions after the Flood as a temporary concession to those weakened who had a craving for meat.

Referring to Jewish law, Rabbi Adam Frank says: . He adds: “My decision to abstain from animal products is an expression of my commitment to Jewish law and is an extreme disapproval of cruelty.”

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