Vegetarian: A Green New Deal?

Question

Dear Rabbi, is it okay to be a vegetarian? Thanks!

1 month

Answers

  1. If you’re a vegetarian, you’ll be pleased to know that at one time the whole world was vegetarian!

    Until the Great Flood in the time of Noah, no one ate animal meat. It was only when God gave a ‘green new deal’ to the sons of Noah – the seven Noahide laws – that Man was permitted to eat meat.

    Why? The answer to this question is intimately tied to the reasons for the Great Flood itself: The Torah teaches us that “God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupted, for all living things had corrupted their way upon the earth.” (Genesis 6:12)

    What started as private immorality and idolatry had degenerated into public licentiousness. The people of the generation of Noah had intimate relations even with animals. This perversion, in turn, infected the animal kingdom itself, and animals of different species started to cohabit.

    When God saw this breach in the fundamental division between Man and the other species (and between the species themselves), He brought the flood upon the earth.

    When Noah emerged from the Ark and civilization was rebuilt, God permitted eating animals as a way to prevent reoccurrence of the bestiality that had occurred before the flood. The idea: By permitting the eating of animal flesh, Man necessarily saw himself as different than, and separate from, animals.

    Never again would Man make the mistake of seeing himself as just another animal.

    However, it is important to note that this does not mean that a person must eat meat. If you don’t like the taste of meat, or you think it’s unhealthy, you are perfectly entitled to abstain from it. If you hate the taste of meat, you have every right to feast on mango chowder on Shabbat instead of eating chicken soup!

    Judaism and being vegetarian only come into conflict if your misgivings about eating meat are because you believe that you and the cow have equally important roles in the Creation.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team