Vegetarian

Question

I heard somewhere that the Rambam says one who doesn’t eat meat because it is cruel to animals, or “G-d wouldn’t want us to eat animals” is a mumar, but if he is vegetarian because he feels it is more healthful it is fine. What’s the story?

16 years

Answers

  1. Judaism believes that the purpose of the natural world is to serve the human — the only creature with free-will, created similar to G-d If the human uses the world correctly for the right reasons then he spiritually uplifts all elements of creation and brings them to the
    realization of their spiritual purpose. In Genesis 9:3 it states that G-d said to man, “All the creatures of the world I have given to you to eat, as the herbs of the field they shall be for you”.

    As Rav Shneur Zalman of Liadi, states in the Tanya Ch.7 ” If a G-d fearing individual eats meat or drinks wine… in order to fulfil the
    mitzvah of pleasure on Shabbat and YomTov… then that flesh has been affected by a measure of radiance, and goes up to the Almighty One as a sacrifice.”

    On the other hand, if a person misuses the animal and the world then he is not justified in killing an animal for food. As the Babylonian Talmud states in Pesachim 49b “”This is the Torah of the animals and the birds etc. [Leviticus 11]”- Whoever engages in Torah may eat meat, whoever does not engage in Torah may not eat meat.” A person may not use animals merely for entertainment and even when one does benefit from an animal there should not be rejoicing.

    As for instance the Code of Jewish Law rules in Orach Chaim 223:6 Ramah ad loc. “It is customary to say to someone who has bought new clothing, “May you wear it out and renew it.” And there are those who wrote that one should not say this for shoes or clothing made of leather, for if he does wear it out, another animal will have to be killed to make a new garment, and it states, “His mercy is upon all His creations.”

    Now, although this reasoning is not conclusive, many people do not to say this [blessing over leather clothing].” Also the great decisor Rabbi Yechezkel Landau in Responsa Nodah Biyehudah, Yoreh Deah 10 ” I am amazed by this activity [hunting], we have not
    found hunters in the Torah except for Nimrod and Esau. This is not the way of the sons of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaacov… one should not say “wear it out and renew out” to someone who has bought clothing made of animal skin, since it is written “His mercy is upon all his creatures.” If so how can an Israelite kill living beings, without any other need than in order to pass his time by hunting?!…

    Therefore this matter contributes to a negative trait – cruelty, and is forbidden and dangerous, and also causes G-d to judge the person for his sins… However, if someone requires it and his livelihood depends on hunting – the prohibition of cruelty is not applicable here.” Judaism does not necessarily look at vegetarianism as the ideal state. The kabbalistic idea of realizing and elevating the spark of sanctity in the animals is very well accepted among Jewish philosophers throughout history.

    Having said all of that a person who becomes vegetarian because of any health related reasons is not transgressing any kind of prohibition. In fact, being vegetarian could even be a Mitzvah if someone refrains from eating meat on doctor’s instructions.

    May Hashem bless you with a year of health and contenetment!

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team