Can You Eat Meat & Serve God Too ?
One of the most outstanding facts that
amazed Mark Twain was the immortality of the Jewish nation. Here is an excerpt from an essay he wrote entitled “ ON
THE JEWISH PEOPLE”.
Egyptian, the Babylonian and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream stuff
and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed and made a vast noise, and they were gone; other peoples have sprung
up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them
all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts,
no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces
pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality ?”
When Mark Twain wrote this essay 100 years ago, the Jewish nation’s eternal covenant with God had
been in effect for about 3400 years. And its equally eternal mission had been in effect for about 3900
years. The mission was to bring God’s blessings to the earth. And the covenant called for this particular people to
be a nation of priests, holy and in God’s service so God would bless them before the entire world for living in harmony
with His eternal will. Among the many commandments which God set forth was the system of dietary laws which allowed a people,
unwilling to give up meat eating, to do so in a way which might lead ultimately to the vegetarian diet originally desired
by their Creator, i.e., a diet rich in nutrition, easy on the planet, kind to animals and more healthy than the flesh based
diet which they whined for after leaving Egypt.
One hundred years ago only God new that Elsie the cow and her children were going to suffer unspeakably
cruel changes in their pastoral lives. Instead of grazing peacefully they would endure cruel, denigrated lives in feed lots
full of their own excrement No one knew that the cattle industry would damage the world’s water supply,
air supply and be the cause of degenerative diseases. And only God could have known that cattle and poultry were going to
be eating the rendered corpses of their fellow creatures and endanger the health of the planet with bovine
In the past when Jews failed to
serve God purely, He would punish them according to the curses written in the Torah and the words of the Prophets. Our people
had a job to do and punishment was the correction that the Lord of the covenant employed to get us back on track.. Today there
is no more illiteracy, and no more lack of awareness of the dangers facing the nation of Israel and the planet itself. There
is no possibility of being a comfortable Jew in a distressed world. To “love God with all our hearts, souls and might”
is our credo, our mission, our destiny, and the secret of our nation’s immortality.
Some of us have seen the writing on the wall. We know that meat
tastes good, but is it possible to go on eating meat and serve God in today’s world ? The Talmudic writer who wrote
“there is no joy without meat” would see that in today’s world there is plainly no joy with meat.
For how can the Creator of all life be pleased with factory farming which destroys the rights of His creatures to live as
He intended them to live ? And how can God delight in the holiday festival where veal is served ? For how
can anyone serving God think that a new born calf is meant to be placed in a stall no bigger than its body and be fed milk
for six months until he is ready to be removed from his prison and prepared for a feast to honor God ?
Today when McDonald’s burgers enjoy a rabbinic
hechsher in our holy land and when every burger sold means that another square yard of precious God - made rain forest is
destroyed can a Jew still remain dormant and ignorant of the responsibility to respond with a vegetarian alternative ? The
Macabees responded when God’s Temple was desecrated. Today, Jewish vegetarians respond when His entire creation is being
soiled. The Jewish response today cannot fail to bring about a transformation in the minds and hearts
and palates of Jewish people. For we were chosen to bring light to the world addicted with self destructive habits.
Today there simply is too much danger to the creation itself for us to respond weakly or insufficiently.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said that if God is not of utmost importance in your
life then He is of no importance at all. The Jew who eats meat and waxes fat is not the Jew who brings salvation to a desperate
world. Nor is he one who truly serves his God with all his God - given talents, power and means.
As a child grows to maturity his illusions fade away one after
another. Hopefully faith in the Creator inspires him/her to live a rich and fulfilling life. For a nation to mature it is
no less imperative to give up addictive, convenient illusions. The survival of our people and our planet depend on the ability
of the Jew to transform his appetite for meat to suit the will of His God, the needs of the world, not to mention the true
needs of his/her own body. Yet despite the Divine preference for a vegetarian world, which was most beautifully expressed
by the Prophet Isaiah, the Jewish establishment remains against vegetarianism.
In Israel this preference for meat is creating the basis for the next war with Syria and possibly
even Jordan. Both military experts and politicians agree that the next war will break out as a result of the shortage of water
flowing from the Hermon and Golan regions in the north of Israel. Our religious establishment is fully aware of this fact.
How a simcha can come to Israel from meat eating when producing 450 kilograms of meat (that’s just 990 lbs.) requires
the amount of water it takes to float a naval destroyer is beyond comprehension or rationalization.
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch said regarding the injunction not to waste God’s
resources, i.e., “bal tashchit” taken from Deuteronomy 20:19-20; that we should use God’s property wisely
and with a sense of awe. He said we should waste nothing. Not from America where 70 - 80 % of grain is grown to feed animals
for slaughter nor from Israel where a dunam (1/4 acre) which can grow 5000 lbs. of potatoes is used instead to produce a shamefully
wasteful 41 lbs. of meat, does any light or blessing reach the 20 million human beings who die every year
from hunger and related causes.
The father of our
nation, Avraham, was told by God that his mission was to be a blessing (Genesis 12:2,3). I strongly doubt whether He would
feel proud at the sight of Jews with stomachs full of tortured flesh in total oblivion of God’s suffering
creatures. As a friend of God, our father Avraham loved and served God with all his
heart, soul and might to repair and shape the world around him to suit the will of his God. Today the Jewish nation is a powerful
force for repairing the Creation. We have abundant resources of every kind. We are influential in every field of human endeavor.
If we decided to be committed to being the kind of Jews which would make our father, Avraham proud, we could bring the world
into the next world which our Prophets describe. In order to do this in today’s world we must return to the diet which
God first gave mankind and the one which our Prophets and sages say will be our final one. Vegetarianism is the ideal. It
is the diet without which tikkun haolam cannot be accomplished. To think that our modern meat based diet and repairing the
Creation and being a praise to the Lord God of Israel is a workable and acceptable formula for Jews is simply a delusion based
on the ancient and primitive lust for flesh. Our people have been thinking with their stomachs for centuries. It is time to
wake up and be holy and think with our minds and our hearts.
King David who sang, “Seek peace and pursue it” (Psalms 34:15) , was a warrior yet I believe he would
prefer our ancient traditional fair of barley and lentils to meat, if a war with Syria over such suicidal reasons as burgers,
shnitzels and steaks from degraded and tortured animals could be averted.
So why do we eat flesh when it destroys our bodies and our planet; tortures God’s creatures;
and angers Our God ?
jerk response to the vegetarian argument begins with a false interpretation of Genesis 1:28. The critical words of God say,
“Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and
over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that creepeth upon the earth.” The rabbinic establishment’s
claim is that the terms “subdue” and “dominion” indicate God’s intention for mankind to eat
animals. Either our sages stopped reading the Torah after this verse or some other influence caused them to ignore the very
next verse which clearly proves God’s intention for a vegetarian and preferably a vegan diet for His creatures. “And
God said: ‘Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree
in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed - to you it shall be for food: and to every beast of the earth, and to every
fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is a living soul, I have given every green
herb for food.’ “, Genesis 1: 29.
How our leaders, who brought us voluminous commentaries delving into the most minute details of life,
can read these two verses and conclude that God wants us to eat meat, is a case for pathological rather than for clerical
study. And for the Kabbalistic commentary that eating meat elevates the soul of these animals to be promoted as a rationalization
for our meat based diet is simply an abdominal view of mysticism and discredits the Torah’s mystical knowledge which
will evolve our nation to its true state of holiness when it is truly understood and applied.
When Moses cried to God in Numbers 11 that he cannot take the people’s whining
for meat, the following verses 11:19-20 should have made warning lights go off in the minds of literate carnivores: “Ye
shall not eat one day, ... but a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and be loathsome to you; because that ye
have rejected the Lord who is among you...” And God’s response to the meat eating of the nation
should have brought the entire issue of meat eating to the establishment’s conference table. “While the flesh
was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord smote the
people with a very great plague” (Numbers 11:33). There was definitely no joy in meat eating on that day.
For a nation which has received less of the blessings than
the curses from its God, the intelligent members must take a good look at what they are doing and what God says He wants them
to do. Responsible Jews must pick up the Torah and take a fresh look at the issue of meat eating. By themselves, the health
imperatives for a vegetarian diet are so overwhelming that religious belief alone needn’t be the issue which affects
a change to a vegetarian diet. And the humanitarian, ecological and political reasons, are no less an impetus to transform
our diets. But for a nation whose chief Prophet, Isaiah says in Chapter 66:3, “He that killeth an ox is as if he slew
a man; He that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he broke a dog’s neck,” there is sufficient and clear proof of the Divine
imperative to adopt a vegetarian diet.
Chief Rabbi of Israel understood God’s desire for a vegetarian world. And in his book, A Vision of Vegetarianism, Chief
Rabbi Avraham Isaac HaCohen Kuk advocated the adoption of a vegetarian way of life. His best student, Rabbi David Cohen, known
as the Nazir became a vegetarian and his son, Chief Rabbi of Haifa, Sha’ar Yeshuv Cohen, has never tasted flesh. The
former Chief Rabbi of Israel and also of the I.D.F. Rabbi Shlomo Goren was a vegetarian. They shared the messianic vision
of the Prophet Isaiah in which God says, “And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, And the leopard shall lie down with
the kid; And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the
bear shall feed; Their young ones shall lie down together; And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child
shall play on the hole of the asp, And the weaned child shall put his hand on the basilisk’s den. They shall not hurt
nor destroy In all My holy mountain; For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, As the waters cover the sea”
Sharing a vision of the world to
come has earthly responsibilities. There is an adage that a person who is truly free knows the relationship between his destiny
and his responsibilities. When God gave Noah the permission to eat meat after the Flood in Genesis 9:3-6, there were consequences
which produced the enmity between the human and the animal kingdoms. The vision of Isaiah is a clear reversal of this ancient
war. And the Jews who actively share Isaiah’s vision and are involved in our mission to repair the Creation, know that
a vegetarian lifestyle is prerequisite to this Divine service.
Pikuach nefesh, i.e., saving a life, is the loophole which allows Jews to break most laws in the Torah. Daniel did
not want to defile himself with the food or wine of our Babylonian captors. He proposed in Chapter 1:12 that he and his men
eat a vegetarian diet. Verse 15 of that chapter proves that Daniel’s was the healthy choice. Today’s degenerative
diseases, the destruction to the environment, the inhumanity of factory farming, and the obvious desires of the God of Israel,
should allow even the hard-core carnivore to use pikuach nefesh as the loop-hole to saving him/herself, his family, his community,
to chose life (Deuteronomy 30:19) and to share in our national vision as proclaimed through the
mouth of the Prophet Isaiah. Vegetarian living is pikuach nefesh today more than ever before. And guarding our lives and souls
(Deuteronomy 4:15) is a basic commandment. When the Food and Drug Administration and the rabbinic councils allow us to eat
toxic “foods”, the time has come for Jews, in particular, to develop a new standard for kosher foods which are
actually in tune with the Torah.
behaviors have a cultic kind of hold on all groups. But Jews have never enjoyed the luxury of Divine approval for cultured
contradictions of Divine priorities. The insistence that flesh eating is in anyway representative of the Will of God is simply
bearing false witness to the Creator Himself and amounts to nothing less than blasphemy. And while the
Torah speaks of animals we are permitted to eat and the sacrifices we made before the last destruction of the Temple, these
were concessions. God allowed a stubborn people to eat meat in a limited way, but it was not His desire.
This view is supported by our greatest sages, Rashi, Avraham Ibn Ezra, the Rambam (Maimonides), the Ramban (Nachmanides).
In K’lee Yakar, Efraim Lunchitz explains that the laws of kashrut were meant to raise us to give up meat entirely. And
Rabbi Joseph Albo joins many other Torah Greats who support the belief that in the days of the Messiah people will return
to the vegetarian diet which God originally wanted us to eat.
Jews have typically ignored the writing on the wall announcing an impending disaster. Our punishment was cruel. Nevertheless
we always maintained that our way was Divinely inspired and that our punishment was inflicted because of the apostate Jews
who do not follow the orthodox way of life. That literacy opened the eyes of many Jews to the many absurdities of our religious
establishment is a known fact. That these absurdities turned many Jews away from their Torah is a tragedy that resulted from
the discrepancies between the Torah and the established religion. Our establishment’s refusal to take a stand on the
crucial environmental /Torah issues which motivate Jewish vegetarians is one of the reasons so many young Jews become alienated
from our faith.
than ever Jews need to reestablish their lives and identities as Jews. This will take courage and wholehearted use of our
keen mental faculties. And it will take a courageous and sincere application of the teachings of our greatest sages whose
vegetarian views have been swept under the table by an establishment more eager to curry favor with the lowest natures of
our masses than to guide and exhort us to finally become the true Jewish nation which fears, loves and wholly serves our Creator,
and at long last, enjoys the limitless blessings He is waiting to bestow upon us and the entire world.
It is true that we have brought the world the knowledge of God, but we have a mission
beyond what we have yet accomplished. We are called upon to bring to the world a knowledge of what
God truly desires. The Torah is easy to understand (Deuteronomy 30:11-14) and any wholehearted reading
of our covenant will bring into fine focus the absurdity of claiming that eating flesh is a part of our Divine mission. The
Torah goes on to give Divine perspectives on all aspects of private, commercial, professional, community and national life.
It is our responsibility to learn what these perspectives are, to build our identities accordingly and to build our lives,
our communities and our nations upon them. When controversy over meaning arises we would do best to use our energies to understand
the will of God rather than to hide our primitive cravings in a garment of mythology, the likes of which only rapacious tailors
would weave for an equally foolish emperor. The great Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch said in commenting on Moshe Rabbenu’s
request to see God (Exodus 33:13-22), that seeing God is not our goal but seeing human and worldly affairs from God’s
perspective should be our goal.
The Bible is the guide for our people and by the Prophet Isaiah, God tells us that we are dying for lack of knowledge
and that our leaders are leading us astray (Isaiah 3:12). And to help us transform the sentimental view of our typical Jewish
lifestyles into a truer and more dynamic one, in synch with our national calling, it is worth contemplating another passage
of the Prophet Isaiah. Chapter 29:13 - 14 says, “And the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near, And with their
mouth and their lips do honor Me, But have removed their heart far from Me, And their fear of Me is a commandment of men learned
by rote; Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work and a wonder; And the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
And the prudence of their prudent men shall be hid.” Empire Kosher Chicken has stopped feeding “rendered”
animals to its chickens because of recent legislation. Congressmen heard the news about this link to bovine encephalitis and
did what was sensible and intelligent to prevent an epidemic. If not for secular leadership our religious establishment would
still be giving a hechsher to a clearly certifiable threat to our lives.
It is difficult to wean a child, both for the child and for the mother, but the Jewish people must
wean themselves from the comfortable myth that our establishment is feeding us the complete and unadulterated word of God.
The failure of the establishment has put our people on the critical list so many times throughout history that it behooves
us to use their knowledge as a reference for study rather than to trust them with the critical decisions which can affect
our lives and the fate of the world at large.
Whether or not Judaism has strayed from the Torah or not is a giant question requiring serious study for anyone who
is interested. However, when it comes to its attack on vegetarianism, our establishment is simply in denial because there
is no logical, biblical, social, environmental or scientific basis for denying the truth and righteousness of a Jewish vegetarian
lifestyle. And with so many Torah true reasons and advocates for beginning a vegetarian life added to the life threatening
reasons; anyone who uses any religious reason to prevent his/her family from becoming vegetarian is simply practicing sentimental
In conclusion, given the nature of established
orders to evolve a life of their own, which may not necessarily be in concord with their original purposes, it is incumbent
upon the Jewish Vegetarian Societies to immediately embark on the development of a new code of kosher laws.
As difficult as it is to convince someone of the obvious, the
task remains for Jewish vegetarians to convince our establishment that this new and higher order of kashrut must be employed
immediately. Pikuach nefesh demands that our finest minds be turned to the task of decertifying heretofore-kosher foods containing
known carcinogens and life threatening substances as unfit for consumption by Jews. Furthermore, any heretofore-kosher foods
which are produced in ways which are cruel to animals and destructive of the environment must be reclassified as not kosher.
So what’s a Jew to eat ? We started with manna, but
failed to develop ourselves as a vegetarian nation. Now after 3500 years of evolution and the benefit of biblical, biological
and environmental reasons for transforming ourselves to a vibrant nation of vegetarians, our next evolutionary step is to
finally get God’s message and enjoy the world of delicious, healthy and truly kosher, vegetarian foods.
Manna is no longer available, however there is a cornucopia
of meat and dairy analogues which taste and feel like real meat and cheese to help in the transformation to a vegetarian diet.
And of course there is a limitless supply of delicious recipes for the most healthful and satisfying meals.
Our greatest leaders understood God’s messianic vision
as described by Isaiah. The tikkun is left for our generation to put this vision on our agenda and our energies into its fulfillment.
May our efforts be worthy of our covenant and of our ancestors’ efforts to bring us to this challenge.
his commentary on Genesis 8 : 20 and 21, the great sage, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, says that Noah's bringing of the
sacrifices was in compliance with God and was what influenced God to say "to His heart" that He would no longer
punish the earth. My personal belief is that God saw in Noah as with Able an innate impulse to bring animal sacrifices to
God. So when God said that He would no longer punish the earth for man's sake; it was not because of the pleasant sacrifice,
BUT INSPITE OF IT !!!. God was looking at His children as somehow incapable of overcoming his impulses. Hence we read God's
statement to His heart, "the impulse of man's heart is evil from his youth". God understands this and will tolerate
it and in the case of Israel in the Sinai Desert institutionalized it to keep the new nation insulated from the pagan sacrifices.
the time when the governorship of the world is under the guidance of God through His chosen messiah, the eating of animals
will come to a conclusion.