May 26, 2005

5/26/05 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

This update/Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) Online Newsletter has the following items:

1. JVNA’s Goals and Objectives

2. Some Strategy Ideas for JVNA

3. Update on Rabbi Dovid Sears’ Book, "A Vision of Eden: Animal Welfare and Vegetarianism in Jewish Law and Mysticism"

4. Series of Messages on Jewish Teachings on Animals Announced

5. Challenging Misconceptions About Verses in Genesis

6. "A Case for Jewish Vegetarianism"

7. JVNA Leaflets

8. Spiritual Teachings on Environmental Protection

9. How Would the World Change if Hamburgers Were replaced by Veggie Burgers?

10. ACTION ALERT: Help Urgently Needed on Foie Gras Bill in New York State

12. Jewish Quotations on the Proper Treatment of Animals and Vegetarianism/Suggestions welcome

13. Undercover Video Reveals Torture at Tyson Slaughterhouse

14. Could There Be a Global Bird Flu Pandemic?

Some material has been deferred to a later update/newsletter to keep this one from being even longer.

[Materials in brackets like this [] within an article or forwarded message are my editorial notes/comments.]

Opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the JVNA, unless otherwise indicated, but may be presented to increase awareness and/or to encourage respectful dialogue. Also, information re conferences, retreats, forums, trips, and other events does not necessarily imply endorsements by JVNA, but may be presented for informational purposes. Please use e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, and web sites to get further information about any event that you are interested in.

As always, your comments and suggestions are very welcome.


1. JVNA’s Goals and Objectives

Since I have been asked to indicate my and JVNA’s agenda and goals, I will try to do so in this newsletter. This is a work in progress, so please send your comments and suggestions. Thanks.

Three of the main points that we are trying to make people in the Jewish community more aware of are:

* The mass production and consumption of animal products is causing an epidemic of human degenerative disease and is contributing significantly to global warming, rapid species extinction, the destruction of tropical rainforests and other habitats, a global fresh water crisis and many additional threats to humanity.

* Animal-based diets and agriculture violate basic Jewish mandates to take care of our health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, help the hungry, and pursue a more peaceful world.

* Because of the above two major points, a switch toward vegetarianism is both a societal imperative and a Jewish imperative. This does not mean that every person has to change his or her diet, but that these issues should be on the agendas of the Jewish community and other religious and secular groups and that there needs to be a shift by a substantial number of people.

We also are trying to get Jewish leaders (and others) to not only discuss Jewish values, but to also apply them. For example, while Judaism stresses the uniqueness, sanctity, and dignity of every human life, there are moral issues related to animal-based diets that the Jewish community does not seem to be considering sufficiently:

* What about the dignity of the over one million Americans stricken annually with heart disease, stroke, various types of cancer and other chronic degenerative diseases strongly connected to the consumption of animal products?

* What about the sanctity of the lives of an estimated 20 million people who die annually from hunger and its effects and of the hundreds of millions of people who are chronically malnourished, while 70 percent of the grain produced in the United States and almost 40 percent of the grain produced worldwide is used inefficiently to fatten confined animals for affluent people’s tables?

* What about the unique value of every human being who is, or soon will be, threatened by global warming, severe water shortages and environmental destruction secondary to the mass global production of 50 billion food animals every year – over ten billion in the United States alone?

We also want to respectfully challenge Jews (and others) to apply Judaism’s very powerful teachings on compassion to animals to the many ways that animals are currently mistreated on factory farms and in other places. In view of the Jewish teaching of tsa’ar ba’alei chaim (the Torah mandate against causing unnecessary pain to animals), can we justify such routine and legal horrors of factory farming as:

• The force-feeding of ducks and geese to create foie gras.
• The separation of calves from their mothers within one or two days of birth to be crated in darkness for sixteen weeks, then slaughtered for veal.
• The infanticide of 250 million newborn male chicks in American egg-laying hatcheries every year because layer chickens are genetically incapable of being converted into chicken meat in six to eight weeks.
• The confinement of egg-laying hens inside filthy rows of wire cages so small and crowded they can’t raise a wing and must be painfully “debeaked” (without the costly benefit of painkillers) to keep them from pecking each other to death.

We want to respectfully challenge the Jewish community with questions such as -- Since we Jews are called to be rachamanim b'nei rachamanim (compassionate children of compassionate ancestors) and to worship a compassionate God, Whose mercies are over all of His creatures, can we continue in good conscience to follow diets that involve so much cruelty to animals?

Clearly, Jewish values and the consumption of animal foods are in serious conflict. If Judaism is to remain relevant to many of the great problems of today, I believe that all Jews must seriously consider adopting a more humane and sustainable plant-based diet. We should stress that this is a moral, social and ecological imperative.

Jews comprise only a small percentage of the world’s people. We are responsible for only a small portion of the problems resulting from modern intensive livestock agriculture. However, it is essential that we Jews strive to fulfil our challenge to be a light unto the nations and to work for tikkun olam – the healing and repair of our imperfect and unjust world. This mission must include the lightening of the immense burden of our diets on animals, the environment and the world’s poor and hungry. To do so is to demonstrate the relevance of Judaism’s eternal teachings to the problems of the world today.

Once again, your suggestions re JVNA’s objectives and issues that should be on our agenda are most welcome.

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2. Some Strategy Ideas for JVNA

I plan to continue working with JVNA to take every opportunity to continue trying to get our message, including the points discussed above, out to as many people as possible.

I would welcome suggestions re how we can get our issues onto the Jewish agenda. I am far from a talmud chachom (Torah scholar), but it seems that there are no rabbis (except Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld of the OU, who did not really address the issues when we debated) willing to debate me.

Here is one example. I recently provided much background material for JVNA member Ivan Kessel who debated a rabbi in Australia. Ivan used our basic arguments and did a great job. (I have a tape cassette.) The rabbi was very sarcastic and insulting and very critical of vegetarians and our arguments. Some of his statements include (paraphrased): the Jewish vegetarian case is so weak that he would argue with just half his mind; we are very dishonest in distorting/misusing Torah teachings; most vegetarian activists don’t know the difference between a cook book and a Rav Kook book; we do not have even a chicken leg to stand on. Many in the audience seemed to appreciate his sarcastic approach, judging by the background laughter. He based his complete case on objections of Rav Kook to vegetarianism before the messianic time, using material from Rav Kook’s “A Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace.” When I respectfully emailed the rabbi and asked if he would be willing to have an email debate that would be published in Jewish weeklies, he responded that he did not have the time, but that he would be interested in knowing how I would respond to his arguments. I have sent him some articles, including a draft of an article responding to Rav Kook’s points. After I contacted him more than a week later, he responded that while he disagrees with my arguments, he admires my enthusiasm and passion. He stated that the basic point of contention between us is that he bases his view of what Torah wants from us on the teachings of the sages of the past and present and he defines morality as being what the Torah sages deem right and wrong. On the other hand, he states that while I quote those sages, I feel comfortable extending, extrapolating and assuming positions that they never held.

I responded:

Shalom Rabbi,

In view of your general position, I would like to get your take on a few questions:

Since you indicated in your debate presentation that Jews may choose to be vegetarians, shouldn't dietary choices consider how the production and consumption of animal products impinge on basic Jewish teachings?

If so, should Jews consider that animal-based diets

* are causing an epidemic of human degenerative diseases;

* are currently produced by very cruel treatment of billions of animals on factory farms;

* are contributing significantly to global warming, rapid species extinction, the destruction of tropical rainforests and other habitats, a global fresh water crisis and many additional threats to humanity;

* require far more land, water, energy, and other increasingly scarce resources that plant-based diets;

* involve the feeding of almost 40% of the grain produced worldwide for animal feed, while about a billion people suffer from chronic hunger and malnutrition.

In summary, since animal-based diets and agriculture violate basic Jewish mandates to take care of our health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, and help hungry people, shouldn't Jews seriously consider switching toward vegetarian diets?

Looking forward to your response,

I believe that we should respectfully challenge people like the Australian rabbi who properly discuss Judaism’s powerful teachings on compassion toward animals and other issues but ignore the many ways that Jewish values are being violated by animal-based diets. In this regard, I think it is essential to emphasize that we believe that Jews have a choice in their diets and that this choice should take basic Jewish teachings into account. Suggestions on this welcome.

Some important tools that can help us become better informed and hence more able to promote vegetarianism are discussed in the next items.

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3. Update on Rabbi Dovid Sears’ Book, “A Vision of Eden: Animal Welfare and Vegetarianism in Jewish Law and Mysticism”

The book can now be ordered from Micah Publications, the publishing arm of the Jewish vegetarian movement, a company founded and directed by scholar, author, editor, and JVNA advisor Roberta Kalechofsky. Micah’s web site is

Please consider submitting a review of the book at the following web sites:

* Barnes and Noble:

* Amazon:

For the many new JVNA readers, I am including my review of Rabbi sears’ book below. I am expecting a review soon from scholar, author, and JVNA advisor Rabbi Yonassan Gershom that will appear in an upcoming issue.
David Sears. The Vision of Eden: Animal Welfare and Vegetarianism in Jewish Law and Mysticism, Spring Valley, NY: Orot, 2003

Reviewed by Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.

Currently most Jews eat meat and other animal products and relatively few Jews seem concerned about the cruel mistreatment of animals on factory farms and in other areas. However, David Sears landmark book, with its many examples of Jewish teachings about compassion for animals, has the potential to change all of this.

The Vision of Eden is a compilation of translations from various sources, ranging from the classic texts of Judaism to contemporary rulings in Jewish law, much of which has never before been translated to English. It also includes a number of essays by Sears that serve as prefaces to the translations and provide general overviews that discuss and analyze the source material. It is a companion volume to the author’s book, "Compassion for Humanity in the Jewish Tradition: A Source Book," which was published by Jason Aronson, Inc., in 1998.

This book has great potential to start a respectful dialogue on vegetarianism, the proper treatment of animals, and related issues in the Jewish community. Here are some reasons:

1. Rabbi Sears has the background, wisdom, sensitivity, compassion, and commitment to effectively raise the consciousness of the Jewish community concerning Jewish teachings on animals. As a Breslav Chassid, his commitment to Jewish law and tradition cannot be challenged. No one can claim that he is just one more animal welfare advocate who doesn’t care about Judaism and is not concerned about human problems.

2. The author's knowledge of Hebrew and Kabbalistic, Chassidic, and other Jewish sources has enabled him to find teachings that are not commonly known. His book will enable religious communities to discover the rich treasures of material about compassion to animals that will challenge them to live up to the highest ideals of Judaism.

3. His book goes beyond those of other Jewish scholars who have written about Jewish teachings on animals because he combines his extensive knowledge of Judaism with an awareness of how far realities related to how society treats animals differ from the demands of Jewish teachings, and he is committed to making others aware of the need to end these discrepancies.

4. Because of its scholarly merits and firm grounding in Torah and rabbinic tradition, The Vision of Eden will be a respectful but powerful message to the Jewish community that it will not be able to easily ignore. Because of the authenticity and authority of his sources, no intellectually honest person who reads his book would be able to say, "Animals, animals -- why don’t you worry about people first?" While not a polemic (in working for completeness and objectivity, Sears discusses some passages that favor meat-eating), his book shows that the vast majority of Jews, including those who take Jewish law seriously, are negligent with regard to important Torah teachings related to animals. Many in the Jewish community will be interested in the book because of the uniqueness of a Chassid writing about Jewish teachings on animal welfare. Hence, it has the potential to raise the consciousness of the Jewish community with regard to animal-based diets, wearing fur coats, animal experimentation and other animal-related issues, and to get these issues onto the agenda of the Jewish community.

4. David Sears’ book also has great potential to eventually influence other religious communities and the general public.

As Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen, Chief Rabbi of Haifa, stated in an approbation in the book, “Every reader of this unique and holy book will benefit extensively from it. Indeed, this book, The Vision of Eden, makes one feel that he has been handed a key to open the closed gates of the Garden of Eden that were shut to us ever since Adam was expelled …”

It is essential that rabbis, Jewish teachers, and other influential members of the Jewish community and other communities become aware of the teachings in Sears’ book and put them into practice. The revitalization of Judaism and the sustainability of our imperiled planet depend on it.

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4. Series of Messages on Jewish Teachings on Animals Announced

I was asked to include the following announcement by scholar, author, and JVNA advisor Yosef Hakohen:

"Hazon - Our Universal Vision" is an e-mail study program which explores the universal vision of the Torah and the universal role of the Jewish people. It also explores how the mitzvos - precepts - of the Torah enable us to reach our universal goal. We will now begin a series on our relationship to other creatures. If you would like to be on our mailing list, write to the e-mail address which is listed on our website:
I am looking forward to this series of articles, because I am sure that it will provide much information and valuable insights which will be helpful in our efforts to improve conditions for animals. I strongly recommend that you sign up for these free messages. The first in the series of messages is below. Suggestions on how we can make the Jewish community more aware of the important Jewish teachings re our relationships with animals are welcome.

The Journey to Unity - 112

The Relationship of Human Beings to Other Creatures:

Rabbi Akiva used to say: "Beloved is the human being who was created in the Divine image. It is indicative of a greater love that it was made known to him that he was created in the Divine image, as it is said (Genesis 9:6): 'For in the image of God He made the human being.' " (Pirkei Avos 3:18)

The Chofetz Chaim, a leading sage of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, conveys the following message regarding the potential of the human being to emulate the universal lovingkindness of Hashem – the Compassionate One: "Scripture records (Genesis 1:27) that 'God created the human being in His image.' The commentators take the statement to refer to His attributes. He gave the human soul the capacity to emulate the attributes of Hashem, the Blessed One - to do good and act with lovingkindness with others, as Scripture states: 'Hashem is good to all, and His compassion is on all His works' (Psalm 145:9), and 'He gives food to all flesh, for His lovingkindness endures forever' (Psalm 136:25). The existence of the entire world then depends on this virtue." ("Loving Kindness" chapter 2)

Dear Friends,

Each human being that is born into the world is beloved, for each human being is created in the Divine image. Every human being therefore has the capacity to emulate the universal Divine love and compassion. The Compassionate One did not only give us the gift of being in the Divine image; the Compassionate One lovingly made us aware of this gift through the Torah - the Divine Teaching. For without an awareness of the great spiritual potential within us, we could make the mistake of thinking that we are just another species of the animal world; thus, we could mistakenly conclude that our main purpose on this earth is to gratify our animal instincts. One does not have to be a sociologist to realize that many people in our modern society have come to this false conclusion. To our great sadness, they never learned how beautiful and holy it is to be a human being. They are therefore unaware of the great spiritual potential within themselves.

My parents, of blessed memory, were the children of Jewish immigrants who came to America before World War 1. My parents did not have the opportunity to get a proper Torah education, but they absorbed from their parents certain traditional Jewish values, including the value of human dignity. The belief in human dignity was a motivating factor in my parents' struggle against racism and anti-Semitism, and in their struggle to ensure that all human beings receive proper housing, employment, and educational opportunities. My parents also absorbed the traditional Jewish idea that human beings are placed on this earth in order to develop a compassionate and caring society. They therefore opposed those who wanted to create a society based on the "law of the jungle" - where only the "strong" survive. To my parents, such an attitude was "inhuman"! And when they wanted to praise someone who was an ethical and giving person, they would say that he or she was a "mensch" - a true human being. In their own way, my parents recognized the unique spiritual potential within all human beings.

In a previous letter, we discussed the mitzvah – Divine mandate – to actualize our unique spiritual potential through emulating the Divine ways, especially the Divine compassion. This mitzvah should therefore inspire us to create a society where other creatures are treated in a "humane" way, for it is written, "The Compassionate One is good to all, and His compassion is on all His works" (Psalm 145:9). In fact, there are many Torah teachings and mitzvos which can help us to achieve this goal, and we shall discuss some of them in future letters.

There are activists on behalf of animal welfare who are inspired by the Torah's perspective on human potential. There are, however, some activists on behalf of animal welfare who disagree with the Torah's perspective on human potential, for they view the human being as just another form of animal life; thus, they will not use terms such as "human dignity" and "humane behavior" which imply that there is something special about being human. Jewish tradition would encourage these activists to use their human intelligence and think about the following idea: The very compassion and concern that they feel for all creatures is a reminder of the unique spiritual greatness of the human being. As Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, a leading 19th century sage and biblical commentator, writes:

"Compassion is the feeling of empathy which the pain of one being of itself awakens in another; and the higher and more human the beings are, the more keenly attuned are they to re-echo the note of suffering, which - like a voice from heaven - penetrates the heart, bringing to all creatures a proof of their kinship in the universal God. And as for the human being, whose function it is to show respect and love for God's universe and all its creatures, his heart has been created so tender that it feels with the whole organic world." (Horeb 17).

According to Jewish tradition, the human being is a microcosm of the whole organic world. The Vilna Gaon, a leading sage of the 18th century, finds this idea expressed in the following verse:

"And God said: 'Let us make the human being in our image and after our likeness.' " (Genesis 1:26)

Who was the Creator speaking to when He said, "Let 'us' make the human being"? The Vilna Gaon states that the Creator was addressing all the creatures that preceded the human being, bidding each to contribute a portion of its characteristics to the human being. For example, the human being's inner strength is traced to the lion, his swiftness to the deer, his agility to the eagle, his cunning to the fox, his capacity for growth to the flora - all of which are unified within the human being.

The Vilna Gaon's teaching leads to the following insight: Since the human being reflects the unity of the Divine creation, the human being has the unique ability to identify and empathize with all aspects of creation. The Creator therefore chose the human being to be the steward over the Divine estate, as it is written:

"The Compassionate and Just One took the human being and placed him in the Garden of Eden to serve it and to protect it." (Genesis 2:15)

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)

Related Comments:

1. Last year, we began the series titled, "The Journey to Unity." The upcoming letters regarding our relationship to other creatures are a continuation of this series, for the unity that we are seeking is a unity which includes all the creatures within the Divine creation. As we travel on the next stage of our journey, we will come across some unfamiliar terrain. I am therefore pleased to announce that we are privileged to have an experienced guide for this stage of our journey: Rabbi David Sears. He is the author of, "The Vision of Eden" – Animal Welfare and Vegetarianism in Jewish Law and Mysticism. The book is published by Orot: Rabbi Sears is the author of several other books, including "Compassion for Humanity in the Jewish Tradition," and "The Path of the Baal Shem Tov: Early Chassidic Teachings and Customs."

2. A copy of our previous letter on the mitzvah to emulate the Divine ways is available upon request.

3. A copy of our letter on how to emulate the Divine empathy in a healthy and life-affirming way is also available upon request.

Hazon - Our Universal Vision:

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5. Challenging Misconceptions About Verses in Genesis

The following article reinforces some of the points in the above article. It also indicates that Jews and animal activists need not be in conflict if some often misunderstood verses in Genesis are properly interpreted.

Religion: Friend or Foe of Animal Activism
by Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D. and Rabbi Dovid Sears

Some animal activists regard organized religion as an ideological opponent. Concerning Judaism, this negative presumption is largely due to the misunderstanding of two important biblical verses that, when properly conceived, actually endorse the struggle to improve conditions for animals.

The first misunderstanding is that the biblical teaching that humans are granted dominion over animals gives us a warrant to treat them in whatever way we may wish. Jewish tradition interprets "dominion" as guardianship or stewardship, not domination: we are called upon to be co-workers with God in improving the world. This biblical mandate does not mean that people have the right to wantonly exploit animals, and it certainly does not permit us to breed animals and then treat them as machines designed solely to meet human needs.

In "A Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace," Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, Chief Rabbi of pre-state Israel and a leading 20th century Jewish thinker, states: "There can be no doubt in the mind of any intelligent person that [the Divine empowerment of humanity to derive benefit from nature] does not mean the domination of a harsh ruler, who afflicts his people and servants merely to satisfy his whim and desire, according to the crookedness of his heart. It is unthinkable that the Divine Law would impose such a decree of servitude, sealed for all eternity, upon the world of God, Who is 'good to all, and His mercy is upon all his works' (Psalms 145:9), and Who declared, 'The world shall be built with kindness' (Psalms 89:33)."

This view is reinforced by the fact that immediately after God gave humankind dominion over animals (Genesis 1:26), He prescribed vegetarian foods as the diet best suited to humans (Genesis 1:29). This mandate is almost immediately followed by God's declaration that all of Creation was "very good" (Genesis 1:31). Perhaps this indicates that Adam and Eve's original vegetarian diet was consistent with the stewardship that God entrusted to them and to all humankind.

The second error of some animal activists is the presumption that the biblical teaching that only people are created in the Divine Image means that God places little or no value on animals. While the Torah states that only human beings are created "in the Divine Image" (Genesis 1:27, 5:1), animals are also God's creatures, possessing sensitivity and the capacity for feeling pain. God is concerned that they are protected and treated with compassion and justice. In fact, the Jewish sages state that to be "created in the Divine Image," means that people have the capacity to emulate the Divine compassion for all creatures. "As God is compassionate," they teach, "so you should be compassionate."

A rabbinic teaching that we should imitate God is Hama bar Hanina's interpretation of the verse, "After the Lord your God you shall walk" (Deuteronomy 13: 5): "How can man walk after God?" the ancient sage queries. "Is He not called a 'consuming fire'? Rather, what is meant is that man ought to emulate the attributes of God. Just as God clothes the naked, so you shall clothe the naked. Just as God visits the sick, so you shall visit the sick. Just as God comforts the bereaved, so you shall comfort the bereaved. Just as He buries the dead, so you shall bury the dead."

In his classic work Ahavat Chesed ("The Love of Kindness"), the revered Chafetz Chayim (Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan of Radin) discusses this teaching at length. He writes that whoever emulates the Divine love and compassion to all creatures "will bear the stamp of God on his person." Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, a leading 19th century Jewish thinker, also discusses this concept: "You can know God only through His acts of love and justice; and, in turn, you too are called upon to act with love and justice." Concerning the biblical concept that human beings were created to "serve and safeguard the earth" (Genesis 2:15), Rabbi Hirsch states that this actually limits our rights over other living things. He writes: "The earth was not created as a gift to you. You have been given to the earth, to treat it with respectful consideration, as God's earth, and everything on it as God's creation, as your fellow creatures - to be respected, loved, and helped to attain their purpose according to God's will... To this end, your heartstrings vibrate sympathetically with any cry of distress sounding anywhere in Creation, and with any glad sound uttered by a joyful creature."

In summation, as the Lord is our shepherd, we are to be shepherds of voiceless creatures. As God is kind and compassionate to us, we must be considerate of the needs and feelings of animals. To this we may add that by showing compassion to animals through a vegetarian diet, we help fulfill the commandment to imitate God's ways.

Critics of religion may be correct in asserting that the various religious communities are not doing enough to end the many horrible abuses of animals today. However, the correct response to this failure is not to scorn and repudiate religion altogether, but as much as possible to enlist the religious world in the common cause of eliminating the cruel misuses of animals.

Jewish tradition clearly forbids any display of cruelty toward animals. In Hebrew, this is called tza'ar ba'alei chayim, the biblical mandate not to cause "pain to any living creature." In contrast to this, Psalms 104 and 148 bespeak the worthiness of the animals of the field, creatures of the sea, and birds of the air before their Creator. Psalm 104 depicts God as "giving drink to every beast of the field," and "causing grass to spring up for the cattle." Perhaps the Jewish attitude toward animals is best summarized by Proverbs 12:10: "The righteous person regards the life of his or her animal." In his explanation of this verse, the Malbim, a 19th century biblical commentator, explained that the righteous person understands the nature of the animal, and hence provides food at the proper time, and according to the amount needed. He is also careful not to overwork the animal. According to the Malbim, the tzaddik (righteous person) acts according to the laws of justice. Not only does he act according to these laws with human beings, but also with animals.

In conclusion, it would be a tragic mistake for animal activists to dismiss the various religious communities as unconcerned with the plight of animals. Rather, we all should seek ways to transcend our philosophical differences, and find a common ground on which we may stand together for the benefit of animals and humankind.

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6. “A Case for Jewish Vegetarianism”

As indicated in the last JVNA newsletter, we now have a new, valuable tool to help promote vegetarianism in the Jewish community and other communities -- the booklet: “A Case for Jewish Vegetarianism”

I urge you to obtain copies of the booklet and get them to rabbis, Jewish educators, other Jewish leaders, family members and friends, and others who might be interested. Also, please consider distributing copies at synagogues, Jewish day schools, and Jewish-related conferences. Thanks.

You can order as many free copies as you can use at

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7. JVNA Leaflets

You can get multiple free copies of JVNA leaflets by contacting us at The leaflets are very attractive and have much valuable information and quotations on Jewish teachings related to vegetarianism.

I urge you to obtain copies and get them to rabbis, Jewish educators, other Jewish leaders, family members and friends, and others who might be interested. Also, please consider distributing copies at synagogues, Jewish day schools, and Jewish-related conferences. Thanks.

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8. Spiritual Teachings on Environmental Protection

The following article was also submitted by Yosef Hakohen:

"The Land is Mine"

In the Torah portion of this past Shabbos, we find the following Divine proclamation: "The land shall not be sold permanently, as the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me" (Leviticus 25:23).

Dear Friends,

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel is one of the leading Israeli environmental organizations, and over fifteen years ago they sponsored an ad in Israeli newspapers with the following heading: "The land shall not be sold permanently, as the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me" (Leviticus 25:23). Their use of this verse from the Torah is an indication that some Israeli environmentalists are beginning to recognize that the ultimate solution to the environmental crisis facing Israel and the world is a spiritual one. They recognize that the root cause of the destruction of the environment is the view that the human being is the owner and master of the earth. It is therefore not surprising that they are drawn to those Torah teachings which remind us that the earth belongs to Hashem - the Compassionate One. As the Divine voice proclaimed at Mount Sinai, "All the earth is Mine!" (Exodus 19:5)

At Mount Sinai, we were given mitzvos - Divine mandates - which help us to realize that human beings are just the custodians and not the owners of the earth. These mitzvos are in the spirit of the very first Divine mandate in human history which serves as a prototype for all the Torah's mitzvos:

"The Compassionate and Just One took the human being and placed him in the Garden of Eden to serve it and to protect it." (Genesis 2:15)

Among the mitzvos which specifically remind us that the earth belongs to the Compassionate One is the following land-related mitzvah:

"Six years shall you sow your land and gather in its produce. But in the seventh year, you shall let it go and abandon it, and the needy of your people shall eat, and the wildlife of the field shall eat what is left; so shall you do to your vineyard and your olive grove. (Exodus 23:10,11)

Maimonides, in his classical work, "The Book of the Mitzvos," discusses the above mitzvah, and he writes: "By this injunction, we are given a mandate to renounce as ownerless all produce of the land in the Sabbatical Year, and to permit anybody to take what grows in our fields" (Mitzvah 134). A related mitzvah, writes Maimonides, is the mandate to desist from cultivating the land during the seventh year (Mitzvah 135). The source for this second mitzvah is found in the following verses which we read on this Shabbos:

"The Compassionate One spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai, saying: Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: When you come into the land that I will give you, the land shall observe a Shabbos for the Compassionate One. For six years you may sow your field and for six years you may prune your vineyard; and you may gather in its crop. But the seventh year shall be a complete rest for the land, a Shabbos for the Compassionate One; your field you shall not sow and your vineyard you shall not prune." (Leviticus 25:1-4)

Through this mitzvah, states the Talmud, the Compassionate One is telling Israel: "Sow for six years and let go of the land in the seventh year in order that you know that the land is Mine" (Sanhedrin 39a).

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains that the mitzvah of the Sabbatical Year is the great act by which an entire nation proclaims Hashem - the Compassionate One - as the true Owner and Master of the land. Through this act, the nation proclaims that it is a nation of strangers and sojourners on its own soil, dwelling upon it only through the permission of Hashem. This awareness does away with the arrogance of those who pride themselves for standing on their own soil, and who tend to become unsympathetic and harsh in dealing with those who are poor and without property. Rabbi Hirsch adds that the recognition that we are only strangers and sojourners on the land leads to a more loving and giving attitude towards others. He writes: "It engenders that frame of mind which lovingly includes the stranger, the poor, and also the animals, as creatures of Hashem who have the right to live in a land which belongs to Hashem, which all are to share in common." (Commentary to Exodus 23:10,11)

It is written, "The land is Mine, for you are strangers and sojourners with Me" (Leviticus 25:23). With these words, say our sages, the Compassionate One is conveying the following paradoxical message: "When it is Mine, then it will be yours" (Sifra). When we acknowledge that the land belongs to the Compassionate One, then the Compassionate One gives us the right to live in the land and to serve as its custodians.

Have a Good and Sweet Shabbos,

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)

A Story for Shabbos:

During the early days of the State of Israel, the secular establishment was hostile to the whole idea of "Shmittah" - the Sabbatical Year. They felt that the observance of Shmittah would conflict with their goal of creating a modern and prosperous state in the Middle East. It therefore took exceptional courage and faith for religious farmers of that period to attempt to observe the Torah's laws regarding Shmittah, especially since farmers in Israel depend to some degree on the support and cooperation of various government agencies.

During that period, there was a beloved sage, Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, who was the founder and head of the Ponivez Yeshiva in Bnei Brak. Rabbi Kahaneman was aware of the economic and social difficulties facing those farmers who were striving to fulfill the teachings and laws of the Shmittah. On the eve of the Sabbatical Year, this sage traveled to Kibbutz Chafetz Chaim, a religious kibbutz which was keeping the Shmittah laws, for he desired to strengthen the spirit of the farmers. He spoke to them about the holiness of this "Shabbos for Hashem" - a holiness which permeates each plant and each "boimelah" (an affectionate Yiddish term for a tree). As the Shmittah year was about to begin, he suggested that every farmer go over and wish a tree, "Gut Shabbos, boimelah." He himself then kissed the earth and wished it a "Gut Shabbos"!

Hazon - Our Universal Vision:

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9. How Would the World Change if Hamburgers Were replaced by Veggie Burgers?

The following article was forwarded by Dan Brook and Lew Regenstein, both of whom are scholars, authors, and JVNA advisors:

What Would 100 Billion McVeggie Burgers Mean?
Healthier Customers, Study Says
Do you want that with soybeans?

As junk food consumption continues to escalate, Emory University researchers would like to change the nation's fast food habits.

If the next 100 billion burgers sold under the Golden Arches were veggie-based instead of beef, Americans' cholesterol levels, fiber intake and overall health would all improve, according to an article in the May issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The study's senior author is Erica Frank, MD, MPH, vice chair and associate professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine. Elsa Spencer, PhD, an Emory University post-doctoral fellow, and Nichole McIntosh, MD, a former Emory University School of Medicine student, are the other

Dr. Frank says the impetus for the study was seeing the McDonald's signs that say 'Over 100 billion burgers sold.' The study compares the McVeggie burger with McDonald's beef burger and asks what if the next 100 billion burgers were McVeggie patties instead of beef? McDonald's customers would benefit from an estimated 1 billion more pounds of
fiber, 550 million fewer pounds of saturated fat, 1.2 billion fewer total pounds of fat and even 660 million more pounds of protein, the authors say.

"I wondered how Americans and the environment might look different if these burgers had been veggie burgers instead of cow burgers," says Dr. Frank. "The bottom line of the study is that the McVeggie burger substitution would provide over a billion fewer pounds of fat, one billion more pounds of fiber, and even more protein."

McVeggie burgers are sold in Canada and in some major cities across the United States, but not in Atlanta. Burger King sells a veggie burger in all of its restaurants.

If given the option, Dr. Frank does not believe that it would be difficult for customers to make the change from beef to plant-based patties.

"It just seems like a pretty obvious thing, especially for burgers, which are mainly vectors to deliver ketchup, mustard, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles," she says. "You usually can't even taste the burger - which is actually pretty tasty in the case of the veggie burger. So, if someone wants to make a transition to eating better at a fast food restaurant, a veggie burger is a really good way to do it." Since an estimated 8 percent of Americans eat at a McDonald's on an average day, and 96 percent eat a meal there at least yearly, Dr. Frank says that American consumers might suffer from fewer health problems like diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, cancer and cardiovascular disease if McDonald's next 100 billion burgers were McVeggie burgers.

Dr. Frank received no funding for the study.

"I have an interest in this because fast food is so prevalent," she says. "For me, this is a very clear choice, and Americans must examine whether they're willing to trade the health consequences of eating a beef patty versus a soy burger. Veggie burgers lower your cholesterol and give you more fiber and more protein. Beef raises your cholesterol, gives you more fat, more saturated fat, and usually includes raising and slaughtering cows in some pretty nasty conditions. Raising cows also wastes resources. For example, cows eat about 10 pounds of soy and grain to make one pound of meat.

"Besides that, both burgers taste pretty similar," Dr. Frank adds. "So, if you want to pick an easy way to improve your health and the health of the planet, this is a simple and good place to start."

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10. ACTION ALERT: Urgent Action Needed to Move Foie Gras Bill!

Legislation to prohibit the cruel and unnecessary force-feeding of birds for foie gras (Assembly Bill 6212) has been scheduled for review in the Assembly Agriculture Committee on Wednesday, June 1. While this bill has previously been introduced for a number of years, this is the first time this bill has ever gotten a hearing and is a major development. We absolutely need your help to advance this important measure!

Please contact the Agriculture Committee. Call and simply say, "I'm calling to ask Assemblymember [NAME] to support Assembly Bill 6212, to ban the cruel force-fooding of birds for foie gras." You can find members of the committe at It would be great if you could call them all, but if you don't have time, just call a few. They need to know that people care about this bill!

Please also call your own Assemblymember. You can find them at or ask us for their contact info.

Foie gras is created by sticking a steel pipe down the throats of geese and ducks three times a day and using pressurized air to force large quantities of food into their stomaches. This force feeding causes the birds' livers to grow to ten times their normal size, producing "fatty liver," or "foie gras" (FWAH GRAH) in French. The birds suffer enormously, and many die. Foie gras production has been banned in many countries, most recently in Israel, the world's third largest producer of foie gras. Foie gras is producted in the U.S. only in New York and California, and California last year banned it, making passage of the New York bill absolutely critical.

For more information about foie gras, visit For more ways to help on vegetarian legislation, visit

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12. Jewish Quotations on the Proper Treatment of Animals and Vegetarianism/Suggestions welcome

Thanks to scholar, author, and JVNA advisor Rabbi Dovid Sears for submitting the following quotations (Lewis Regenstein sent the final one.). I am planning to include several such quotations at the end of JVNA newsletters on a rotating basis. Please send other quotations for possible conclusion. Thanks.
"God is good to all, and His mercy is upon all of His works" (Psalms 145:9).

"The righteous person understands the needs of his animal" (Proverbs 12:10).

"Just has God has compassion for humans, so He has compassion for animals" (Midrash: Devarim Rabbah 6:1).

"We should regard all creatures as our friends in the universe, for we are all created beings whose abilities are God-given" (Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, the Baal Shem Tov ["Master of the Good Name"] 1698-1760)

Just as [God] is merciful, so shall you be merciful. (Talmud: Sota 14a).

God watches over and shows mercy to all. Similarly, a person should be benevolent to everyone, and no creature should seem despicable to him. Even the smallest living thing should be exceedingly worthy in his eyes. (Rabbi Moses Cordovero).

The Maker of All, the Wise One Who transcends everything, is associated with His creatures in having made them. To disparage them, God forbid, would reflect upon the honor of their Maker. (Rabbi Moses Cordovero)

Love of all creatures is also love of God, for whoever loves God, loves all the works that He has made. (Maharal of Prague).

The rabbis regarded the human body as a sanctuary (Ta'anit 11a-b).

Since maintaining a healthy and sound body is among the ways of God – for one cannot understand or have any knowledge of the Creator if one is ill - therefore one must avoid that which harms the body and accustom oneself to that which is helpful and helps the body become stronger.
- Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Deot

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13. Undercover Video Reveals Torture at Tyson Slaughterhouse

Forwarded message:

PETA’s latest undercover video reveals horrific cruelty to animals at a Tyson slaughterhouse in Alabama. (Tyson Foods is a major supplier of KFC). A PETA investigator documented chickens who had their bodies mutilated by malfunctioning machinery, birds who had their heads torn off by hand, and others who were scalded to death, all while still completely conscious and able to feel pain.

For more information, to watch the video, and to find out how you can help stop this, visit

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14. Could There Be a Global Bird Flu Pandemic?

Thanks to Dan Brook for forwarding the following message:

Renewed warning over [bird/avian] flu pandemic

There is renewed warning that bird flu could cause a global pandemic, perhaps affecting tens of millions of people around the world. Some people in Asia have died already. Other animals, including tigers, have also been affected by this often fatal disease. This is all because chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, and other birds are raised for consumption. See the links below and, as always, also do your own research.

What is Bird Flu?

Viva! Bird Flu Fact Sheet


If anyone would like to check the above web sites and send us a summary report, it would be very welcome. Thanks.

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