Vegetarian to Avoid Being Fleishig
I have spent the past 22 years as a vegetarian. Here is why I became a vegetarian. When I was seven, I went over a friend’s house one afternoon and they served me a snack with some meat. I didn’t think anything about eating it then. When I came home, my mother was serving ice cream to the family. But she told me I couldn’t have any because I had meat. It was the first time I ever heard of the idea of being ‘fleishig’ and not being allowed to eat dairy for 6 hours. I was upset and threw a tantrum and got spanked and sent to my room. I was so traumatized by being deprived of ice cream when my siblings all were having it that I decided I would never eat meat again. At first my parents started to force and threaten me to eat meat, but when they saw how resistant I was, they finally gave in and let me be a vegetarian and started to accommodate me. From that day on, I ate fish, but never anything fleishig under Jewish law.
After I grew up, I remained a vegetarian. I now work in the plant-based food industry and travel a lot for business, which has forced me to spend some Shabbosim away from home. And when I do, I try to get invited out for meals. Wherever I go, I explain to the host that I am a vegetarian and they gladly accommodate me.
Very recently, I had my Shabbos meals with someone who happens to be an ordained rabbi in the place where I was staying. As usual, I told his wife in advance about my vegetarianism. She sounded very pleasant on the phone like she would gladly accommodate me. When I got there, the rabbi told me it is forbidden to be a vegetarian for the reason of avoiding being fleishig. Not just that, but except for a slice of gefilte fish with each meal, all the food they served was fleishig. They served chicken, meatballs, potatoes with meat gravy, and rice cooked in chicken broth, to name a few. Nothing was pareve except the meager amount of fish and some snacks. And they wouldn’t give me extras of anything to make up for the meat I wouldn’t eat because they said it is unfair to others to have unequal portions.
They were quite hostile to me about it. The rabbi told me that I am depriving myself of simcha by not eating meat, and failing to keep the mitzvah of refraining from eating dairy after meat by never being fleishig. He tried to convince me to eat meat by saying they would serve no dairy all of Shabbos. That still didn’t make me eat meat. As I said, I haven’t eaten meat in 22 years, and don’t feel I ever can again. He said if I ever come over his house again for Shabbos, I am required to eat meat. I was so happy to be out of there when…
Why is it that he would be so insistent I eat meat?