Mar 17, 2010

The mitzva to not be a vegetarian

I'll take any excuse to eat meat, though I do not feel the need to justify it.

Rav Dov Lior has written an article about why it is wrong to be vegetarian in today's world. I would assume he is not referring to someone who wants or needs to be vegetarian for health reasons, but he is referring to vegetarians who do so out of sympathy to animals.

Rav Lior says that the time for mercy on animals as a reason for vegetarianism has not yet been reached. Right now we should first be concerned with being merciful to humankind. Only when the world is "raised" and reaches a higher level will we strive for the level of mercy to animals and promote vegetarianism.

We are meant to take the physical and imbue it with holiness. When a person eats, if he does it for holy purposes and in a holy way, he imbues the food with holiness. (source: ynet)

As I said, any excuse to eat more meat is good by me...


  1. Rav Lior's comments (which I haven't seen directly) sound like they are in keeping with the teachings of Rav AY Kook and the Nazir, Rav David Cohen. See the Nazir's summary of Rav Kook's ideas in Hazon Hatzimhonut V'hashalom. Vegetarianism was an original ideal at creation; but the return to it has to be gradual and evolutionary and in synch with the state of human affairs.

  2. Once, a vegetarian roommate of mine argued to me that eating meat was a concession to yetzer hara like eshet yefat toar. Even when eshet yefat toar was practiced, for any given person it would be better not to use the "heter".

    This argument almost convinced me, but in the end I decided that from this logic, vegetarianism must be a kind of chumra, not an accepted halacha. And I have a general policy of not taking on chumras until I perfect myself to the point of keeping all the halachot that ARE required.

  3. Wasn't Rav Dovid Cohen a vegetarian? His son, Rav Shear Yashuv Cohen, is a vegetarian and promotes this lifestyle. Not sure what his arguments are though.

  4. I learned that eating meat was a concession (as Beisrunner said) to the yetzer hara, after the time of the mabul and Noach.
    Which would mean that our 'higher state' of being, is not eating meat, as in Gan Eden--which state we have not yet achieved.

    I heard something very interesting, though (but haven't actually learned it yet), that Rav Kook said that when the 3rd Bet HaMikdash will be built, we will not be doing animal sacrifices anymore, just the mincha and ketoret sacrifices.

    Of course, this is da'at yachid, but nevertheless I found it very, very interesting...a portent for the future of Judaism?

  5. (-so I guess you're just a "meat-potatoes-man", like my older son!)

  6. I am a meat and potatoes guy...

    in the article on ynet that I linked to Rav Lior says that this is the intention of Rav Kook - that in the future, and not until then, we will be vegetarians, when the world will be perfected...

    I know plenty of people and rabbis are and have been vegetarians. It is not uncommon.

  7. And Korbon pesach...?

  8. the reason the Beis Hamikdash would go vegetarian, if it does, is because having meat would be too difficult - if they use one hashgocho, those people wont use the BH. If they use the other hashgocho, the others won't. etc.

  9. As president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America, I would like to add that Rav Lior is ignoring the many negative effects of animal-based diets and agriculture to people, in terms of health, hunger, pollution, climate change, inefficient use of water, energy and other resources and more.

    I wonder if he or any other Jewish scholar would be interested in a respectful dialogue/debate on "Should Jews Be Vegetarians?

    For further information, please visit, where I have over 140 articles and 25 podcasts of my talks and interviews and, to see our acclaimed documentary “A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World."

  10. Having a respectful dialogue/debate on "Should Jews Be Vegetarians?" would be a kiddush haShem in showing the relevance of Judaism's eternal teachings to current issues.

  11. as I said, he is seemingly not talking about being a vegetarian for health reasons. He seems to only be discussing those who promote vegetarianism for the purpose of being kind, or perhaps not cruel, to animals...

  12. I am studying Judaism and the issue of vegetarianism is a fascinating discussion. I am myself a vegetarian, partly because of concern for animals, partly because of environmental concerns, and partly due to health concerns. I may also add that even before becoming vegetarian, I did not find much pleasure in the consumption of meat. From a viewpoint of culinary pleasure, I find vegetarian food to be simply heavenly. It was the lure of such good cuisine that sealed the deal on my being vegetarian!

    It seems to me that while a valid argument could be made that human suffering must be of a higher concern than so-called animal rights, I believe an equally valid argument could be made that in many instances, human suffering and animal suffering go hand in hand:

    1. Abuse or killing of one life form on a regular basis can harden one's heart against the suffering of other life forms. One warning sign of potential serial killers is that of animal cruelty. Think of animal suffering as the equivalent of bicycle training wheels.

    2. Raising animals for human consumption is a huge drain on important resources such as water. Much of humankind suffer from drought conditions.

    3. Much of the Amazonian rain forest has been destroyed to make room for cattle grazing. This has a direct effect upon the planet's ecosystem and climate. Science is clear: climate change can bring floods, storms, and drought across the planet, increasing human suffering exponentially.

    4. Excessive intake of protein -- especially animal protein -- can be attributed to a rise in cancers, obesity, and liver failure, among other ills.

    I find much wisdom in the writings of the rabbis mentioned in this discussion, but in this instance, I find much to be lacking. Their opinions, much like my opinions are just that: opinions.


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