June 1, 2005

6/1/05 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

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

1. More On JVNA Goals and Objectives

2. It’s Incredible! Jewish Leaders Apparently Can’t Counter Our Arguments

3. Involving Rabbis/How You Can Help

4. What Diet Does God Prefer for People?

5. Israel Considers Labeling Kosher Foods

6. Two More Articles in the New Series On Jewish Teachings on Humans and Animals, by Yosef Hakohen

7. Bird Flu may Have Devastating Consequences

8. Jewish Vegetarian Event Scheduled in San Francisco

9. Report: Global Warming Will Increase World Hunger

10. Jewish Singles Brunch Scheduled in New Jersey

11. Kosher Veal Producer Loses License

12. Programs on Farmed Animals Scheduled for TV

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, material re conferences, retreats, forums, trips, and other events does not necessarily imply endorsement by JVNA or endorsement of kashrut, Shabbat observances, or any other Jewish observances at the event, 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. More On JVNA Goals and Objectives

In response to the goals and objectives for JVNA discussed in the last newsletter, Professor Joe Regenstein, a JVNA advisor and an expert on agriculture and other food issues, sent the following message:

These are not goals -- they are talking points. Goals ought to be based on behavior:

1. To encourage the Jewish community to move towards a more
vegetarian/vegan life-style.

2. To encourage the Jewish community to think more critically about the proper role of animal agriculture and mass food production within the context of traditional Jewish values, environmental stewardship concerns, and general human health.

3. To serve as a vehicle for encouraging this discussion to happen within the Jewish community, particularly by encouraging the lay and religious leadership to discuss and act upon these issues regularly.

Notice how short this is and that we might all agree upon these
goals/objectives and not ask us to subscribe to a large bunch of specific material.

[I appreciate Prof. Regenstein’s thoughtful comments and can certainly accept these goals/objectives, because if we were successful in carrying them out, it would have very positive effects in helping move Jews (and probably others) toward vegetarianism.]

Return to Top

2. It’s Incredible! Jewish Leaders Apparently Can’t Counter Our Arguments

While I am a bal teshuva (a returnee to Jewish practice after a mainly secular youth) and I am certainly not a Torah scholar, the incredible thing is that we have a respectful challenge to the Jewish community that I believe (and my long-time experience seeking debating partners seems to confirm) can’t be answered – it can only be avoided or deflected by attempts to shift the focus onto other issues.

Please consider the update below of a situation that I discussed in the last JVNA newsletter:

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 half his mind tied behind his back; 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.” However, he failed to even try to address Ivan’s cogent arguments that 6 basic Jewish mandates are violated by animal-based diets.

When I emailed the rabbi and asked respectfully 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 have yet to receive a response from the rabbi. This does not surprise me since I generally do not receive direct responses when I have questioned other rabbis. Hence, my firm belief that rabbis and other Jewish leaders can’t respond to our basic arguments.our arguments

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.

Return to Top

3. Involving Rabbis/How You Can Help

The issues are so important that I am hereby offering a token $100 to the first 5 readers who can get a rabbi to answer our basic questions or to engage in an email dialogue/debate that would be published in a JVNA newsletter and sent to the media. Ground rules for any debate would be set up with the rabbi’s approval and the rabbi could choose to present an opening statement or respond to my opening statement.

I am sorry if I sound overly confident, but the issues are so important for human health, environmental sustainability, and Jewish compliance with our basic teachings, that I feel it essential that we do as much as possible to get our issues onto the Jewish agenda.

What do you think of a press release announcing the above offer?

If anyone is willing to add to the above financial incentive, please let me know. Unfortunately, you probably would not have the chance to fulfil your pledge.

"We have truth, morality, and justice on our side, and our opponents can

only win by ignoring our main arguments, trying to cause divisions in

our ranks, and trying to continue to mislead most people."

Return to Top

4. What Diet Does God Prefer for People?

One issue that we should ask rabbis to address is “What Diet Does God Prefer for People?” Please consider:

* Since Judaism teaches that we must diligently guard our health and our lives, would God prefer a diet that numerous scientific studies have implicated as a significant risk factor for coronary heart disease, stroke, several forms of cancer, and other chronic degenerative diseases?

* Since Judaism stresses that we should avoid any unnecessary cruelty to animals, would God prefer a diet that involves the annual slaughter of 50 billion farmed animals, after they have been raised under very cruel conditions on factory farms?

* Since Judaism teaches that "the earth is the Lord's" (Psalm 24:1) and that we are to be God's partners and co-workers in preserving the world, would God prefer the current intensive livestock agriculture that is widely recognized by independent scientists, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, as an environmentally unsustainable enterprise that grossly accelerates soil erosion and depletion, air and water pollution, overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the destruction of tropical rainforests and other habitats, global climate change, and other forms of environmental damage.

* Since Judaism mandates bal tashchit, not to waste or unnecessarily destroy anything of value, or use more than is needed to accomplish a purpose, would God prefer a diet based upon animal agriculture which uses many times more land, fresh water, fossil fuels, grain and other resources than plant agriculture. (It takes up to sixteen pounds of grain to produce just one pound of feedlot-finished beef.)

Since Judaism stresses that we are to assist the poor and share our bread with hungry people, when an estimated twenty million human beings worldwide die each year because of hunger and its effects, would God favor a system in which over 70 percent of the grain grown in the U.S. and almost 40 percent worldwide is produced to fatten food animals, not to feed the world's most impoverished human citizens, many of whom are displaced from their land by animal feed growers.

* While Judaism stresses that we must seek and pursue peace and that violence results from unjust conditions, would God prefer the global expansion of Western-style animal-centered diets that are increasing the gap between food security "haves" and "have nots," a chronic injustice that can lead to political unrest and violent conflict.

The following article, which initially appeared in the Orthodox publication “Nishma” discusses these issues in more detail:

What Diet Does God Prefer for People?
Richard H. Schwartz

The most basic line of demarcation in the realm of Halacha (Jewish law) is the one between the permitted and the forbidden. Yet, in the realm of the permitted, we also find a further line between the accepted and the ideal. At this point, we do not simply ask what does God allow but what does God prefer.

Within this context, it is essential that we not only ask which foods God permits but that we also consider the diet that God prefers for us. The following arguments are submitted in furtherance of my view that God's preference for people is vegetarianism. My hope is that this presentation will start a respectful dialogue on this important issue.

Argument #1: People were originally vegetarian.

God's first dietary law was strictly vegetarian: "And God said: 'Behold I have given you every herb yielding seed which is upon the face of the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed - to you it shall be for food'" (Genesis 1:29). That God's first intention was that people should be vegetarians was stated by Jewish classical Biblical commentators, such as Rashi, Abraham Ibn Ezra, Maimonides, and Nachmanides, and later scholars, such as Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Moses Cassuto, and Nehama Leibowitz. [1] It is significant that after giving these dietary laws, God saw everything that He had made and "behold, it was very good." (Genesis 1:31).

Argument #2: God's allowance to eat meat was only a concession.

What about God's permission, given to Noah and his descendants, to eat meat? According to Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook, first Chief Rabbi of pre-state Israel and one of the outstanding Jewish thinkers of the twentieth century, this permission was only a temporary concession to human weakness. He felt that God who is merciful to all of His creatures would not institute an everlasting law which permits the killing of animals for food. [2] The Torah connects further the consumption of meat with uncontrolled lust (Deuteronomy 12:20), while vegetarian foods are looked on with favor:

“For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks, of water, of fountains and depths, springing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and honey; a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness; thou shalt not lack anything in it... And thou shalt eat and be satisfied, and bless the Lord thy God for the good land which He hath given thee.” (Deuteronomy 8:7-10)

Rabbi Kook furthermore believed that the many laws and restrictions related to the preparation and consumption of meat (the laws of kashrut) supported this outlook. To Rabbi Kook, these regulations implied a reprimand and served as an elaborate apparatus designed to keep alive a sense of reverence for life, with the aim of eventually leading people away from their meat-eating habit. This idea is echoed by Torah commentator Solomon Refrain Lunchitz, author of K'lee Yakar:

“What was the necessity for the entire procedure of ritual slaughter? For the sake of self discipline. It is far more appropriate for man not to eat meat; only if he has a strong desire for meat does the Torah permit it, and even this only after the trouble and inconvenience necessary to satisfy his desire. Perhaps because of the bother and annoyance of the whole procedure, he will be restrained from such a strong and uncontrollable desire for meat.” [3]

This argument is further supported by the belief of Rav Kook that in the days of the Messiah, people will again be vegetarians. [4] He bases this on the prophecy of Isaiah:

“And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb,..
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox,..
And none shall hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain.”
(Isaiah 11:6-9)

Argument #3: Manna was the preferred food in the desert.

According to Isaac Arama, author of "Akedat Yitzchak", God established another non-meat diet, manna, when the Israelites left Egypt. [5] This would seem to further indicate God's preference for this diet. Manna is clearly described in the Torah as a vegetarian food, "like coriander seed" (Numbers 11:7). This diet furthermore kept the Israelites in good health for 40 years in the desert.

We should also note that when the Jewish people cried for flesh, God only reluctantly provided it (in the form of quails). A great plague subsequently broke out and many people died. The place where this occurred was named, "The Graves of Lust", perhaps an early warning of the negative health effects related to the consumption of meat.

These three primary arguments while presenting vegetarianism as an ideal still accept the fact that Jews do have the choice to eat meat. The following secondary arguments, outlining the effects of meat consumption on other mitzvah concerns, limit, I believe, this choice in our age.

Argument #4: Vegetarianism provides a healthier diet.

Judaism regards the preservation of health as a religious command of the highest importance. The Talmud teaches that Jews should be more particular about matters of health and life than ritual matters. [6] If it could help save a life, one generally must (not may) violate the Sabbath, eat non-kosher foods, and even eat on Yom Kippur. The only laws that cannot be violated to preserve a life are those prohibiting murder, idolatry, and sexual immorality. [7]
In view of these teachings, could God possibly want people to eat meat, when such diets have been strongly linked to heart attacks, strokes, various types of cancer, and other diseases? In this regard, it is interesting to note that Chapter 5 of Genesis tells of the very long lives of people in the generations of the vegetarian period from Adam to Noach.

Argument #5: Modern livestock agriculture is cruel to animals.

Judaism has many beautiful teachings concerning proper treatment of animals. Moses and King David were chosen for leadership, and Rebecca was deemed suitable to be a wife for Isaac, because they were kind to animals. Proverbs 12:10 teaches that The righteous person considers the life of his beast." The psalmist states that, "The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His creatures" (Psalms 145:9). Concern for animals is even expressed in the Ten Commandments. Many Biblical laws command proper treatment of animals. Shechitah, Jewish ritual slaughter, insures that when animals are slaughtered for food, it is done in the swiftest and most painless way possible. [8]

Obviously, the argument that we must be concerned for animals can be used to argue directly against the killing of animals for meat. Yet, the very allowance of meat challenges such an extension. The modern treatment of livestock in preparation for slaughter, though, may be a further consideration. Animals are raised to ensure the highest return on investment, without sufficient consideration for their personal benefit. In view of the above stated arguments, would God favor the consumption of flesh when it involves raising animals under cruel conditions in crowded cells, where they are denied fresh air, exercise, and any emotional attachments?

Argument #6: Vegetarianism favors the environment.

Judaism teaches that the earth is the Lord's and that people are to be partners and co-workers with God in protecting the environment. The Talmudic sages indicated great concern about reducing pollution. [9] While God was able to say, "It is very good" when the world was created, today the world faces many environmental threats. Thus, could God favor meat-centered diets which involve extensive soil depletion and erosion, air and water pollution related to the widespread production and use of pesticides, fertilizer, and other chemicals, and the destruction of tropical rain forests and other habitats?

Based on Deuteronomy 20:19, 20 which prohibits the destruction of fruit-bearing trees in time of warfare, the Talmudic sages also prohibited the waste or unnecessary destruction of all objects of potential benefit to people. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch stated that this prohibition (bal tashchit) is the first and most general call of God: We are to "regard things as God's property and use them with a sense of responsibility for wise human purposes. Destroy nothing! Waste nothing!" [10] He also stated that destruction includes using more things (or things of greater value) than is necessary to obtain one's aim.

Hence, could God favor flesh-centered diets which require up to 20 times more land, ten times more energy and water, and far more pesticides, fertilizer, and other resources, than vegetarian diets?

Argument #7: The non-economical use of resources to support meat consumption yields many negative repercussions for humanity.

Helping the hungry is fundamental in Judaism. The Talmud states, "Providing charity weighs as heavily as all the other commandments of the Torah combined" (Baba Batra 9a). Farmers are to leave the gleanings of the harvest and the corners of the fields for the poor. On Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, while fasting and praying for a good year, Jews are told through the words of the Prophet Isaiah, that fasting and prayers are not enough; they must work to end oppression and "share thy bread with the hungry"(Isaiah 58:6-7)

Hence, could God possibly favor a diet that involves the feeding of over 70 percent of the grain grown in the U.S. to animals destined for slaughter while 20 million people die annually due to hunger and its effects? Could He support a diet that involves the importing of beef (the U.S. is one of the world's leading importers) from countries where people are starving, to satisfy the needs of fast-food restaurants? Using grain and similar resources to directly feed human beings rather than in the preparation of meat could greatly offset these negative effects.

While not a pacifist religion, Judaism mandates a special obligation to work for peace. While many commandments require a certain time and/or place for their performance, Jews are to constantly "seek peace and pursue it" (Psalms 34:15). According to the Talmudic sages, God's name is peace, peace encompasses all blessings, and the first words of the Messiah will be a message of peace. While the Israelites did go forth to battle, they always yearned for the time when "nations shall beat their swords into plowshares...and not learn war any more. (Micah 4:3,4)"

Since the sages taught that one of the roots of war is the lack of bread and other resources, [11] could God support the notion of a diet that involves the wasteful use of land, water, energy, and other agricultural commodities, and thus perpetuates the widespread hunger and poverty that frequently leads to instability and war?

The above arguments strongly indicate to me that vegetarianism is the diet most consistent with Jewish values and God's preferences. I invite the reader to further investigate these arguments and sources, including other explanations and understandings that would defend meat consumption as acceptable within the ideal diet for Jews. I believe that my position would still remain strong. I feel, however, that to complete my arguments, I should address some of the challenges to my assertion that the ideal diet for Jews is vegetarianism.

Counter-argument #1: Inconsistent with Judaism, vegetarianism elevates animals to a level equal to or greater than that of people.

Response: Concern for animals and the refusal to treat them brutally and slaughter them for food that is not necessary for proper nutrition and, indeed, is harmful to human health, does not mean that vegetarians regard animals as being equal to people. Also, as indicated, there are many reasons for being vegetarian other than animal rights, including concern for human health, ecological threats, and the plight of hungry people.

Because humans are capable of imagination, rationality, empathy, compassion, and moral choice, we should strive to end the unbelievably cruel conditions under which farm animals are currently raised. This is an issue of sensitivity, not an assertion of egalitarianism with the animal kingdom.

Counter-argument #2. Vegetarianism places greater priority on animal rights than on the many problems related to human welfare.

Response: Vegetarian diets are not beneficial only to animals. They also improve human health, help hungry people through better sharing of food and other resources, put less stress on endangered ecosystems, conserve valuable resources, and reduce the potential for war and violence. In view of the many global threats related to today`s livestock agriculture, working to promote vegetarianism may be the most important action that one can take for global survival.

Counter-argument #3. By putting vegetarian values ahead of Jewish teachings, vegetarians are, in effect, creating a new religion, with values contrary to Jewish teachings.

Response: Jewish vegetarians are not placing so-called vegetarian values above Torah principles. They are saying that basic Jewish teachings that mandate that we treat animals with compassion, guard our health, share with hungry people, protect the environment, conserve resources, and seek peace, point to vegetarianism as the ideal G-d directed diet for Jews today. Rather than rejecting Torah values, Jewish vegetarians are challenging the Jewish community to apply Judaism`s glorious teachings.

Counter-argument #4. Jews must eat meat on Shabbos and Yom Tov.

Response: According to the the Talmud (T. B. Pesachim 109a), since the destruction of the Temple, Jews are not required to eat meat in order to rejoice in sacred occasions. Recent scholarly articles by Rabbi Alfred Cohen [12] and Rabbi J. David Bleich [13] conclude that Jews do not have to eat meat in order to celebrate the Sabbath and Jewish festivals. The fact that several chief rabbis, including Shlomo Goren, late Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel, and Sha'ar Yashuv Cohen, Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Haifa, have been or are strict vegetarians reinforces this argument.

Counter-argument #5. The Torah mandates that we eat korban Pesach and other korbanos (sacrifices).

Response: The great Jewish philosopher Maimonides believed that God permitted sacrifices as a concession to the common mode of worship in Biblical times. [14] It was felt that had Moses not instituted the sacrifices, his mission would have failed and perhaps Judaism would have disappeared. The Jewish philosopher Abarbanel reinforced Maimonides' position by citing a midrash that indicated that the Israelites had become accustomed to sacrifices in Egypt, [15] and thus God tolerated the sacrifices but commanded that they be offered only in one central sanctuary in order to wean the Jews from idolatrous practices.

Without the Temple, sacrifices are not required today. And, Rav Kook felt, based on the prophecy of Isaiah, that there will only be sacrifices involving vegetarian foods during the Messianic Period. There is a midrash that states: "in the Messianic era, all sacrifices will cease, except thanksgiving offerings (which could be non-animal) which will continue forever."[16]

Even if sacrifices will be restored at that time, as many other Jewish sages believed, this should not prevent people from adopting a diet that has so many personal and societal benefits today.

Counter-argument #6. Jews have historically had many problems with some animal rights groups which have often opposed kosher shechita and advocated its abolishment.

Response: Jews should consider switching to vegetarianism not because of the views of animal rights groups, whether they are hostile to Judaism or not, but because it is the diet most consistent with Jewish values. It is the Torah, not animal rights groups, that indicates how far the treatment of animals is from fundamental Jewish values. The powerful Jewish teachings on proper treatment of animals was eloquently summarized by Samson Raphael Hirsch:

Here you are faced with God's teaching, which obliges you not only to refrain from inflicting unnecessary pain on any animal, but to help and, when you can, to lessen the pain whenever you see an animal suffering, even through no fault of yours. [17]

It is essential that the Jewish community start to address the many moral issues related to our diets. This is an issue of importance for Torah and for the future of our endangered planet.

1. Commenting on Genesis 1:29 Rashi states: God did not permit Adam and Eve to kill a creature and eat its flesh. Only every green herb shall they all eat together." The Talmud T. B. Sanhedrin) states: Adam was not permitted meat for the purpose of eating." Also see Nehama Leibowitz, Studies in Genesis , Jerusalem, World Zionist Organization (3rd Edition), 1976, p. 77.
2. Nehama Leibowitz, Studies in Deuteronomy, Jerusalem, World Zionist Organization (3rd Edition), 1980, pp. 135-142.
3. Quoted in The Commandments and Their Rationale, Abraham Chill (New York, 1974) p. 400.
4. Rav Kook, Olat Rayah, Vol. 1, p. 292; Also see Rabbi Alfred Cohen, "Vegetarianism From a Jewish Perspective", Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, Vol.1, No. 2, Fall, 1981, p. 45.
5. Rabbi Elijah J. Schochet, Animal Life in Jewish Tradition, New York, K'tav, 1984, p. 290. In his book, Masterplan - Judaism: Its Programs, Meanings, Goals (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Academy Publications, 1991), Rabbi Aryeh Carmell, a contemporary Israeli Torah educator, stated: "It seems doubtful from all that has been said whether the Torah would sanction 'factory farming', which treats animals as machines, with apparent insensitivity to their natural needs and instincts. This is a matter for decision by halachic authorities." Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (d. 1985), the most influential Orthodox authority in the United States for many years, indicated in 1982 that it is forbidden for Jews to raise calves for veal under current intensive livestock agriculture conditions since it violates the prohibition of tsa'ar ba'alei chayim (causing unnecessary pain to animals). See Igrot Moshe, Even Haezer 4:92.
6. T. B. Chulin 9a; Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat, c. 427, and Yoreh De'ah c. 116.
7. Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Yesode HaTorah, chapter 5.
8. Encyclopedia Judaica, 1971, Volume 14, p. 1337.
9. T. B. Kiddushin 66b; T. B. Baba Batra 158b; T. J. Kiddushin 4:12; T. J. Baba Batra 2:8,9.
10. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Horeb, Dayan Dr. I. Grunfeld, translator (London: Soncino Press, 1962), Vol.2, p. 282.
11. Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath, Sanction in Judaism for Peace, World Religions and World Peace, Homer A. Jack, editor (Boston: Beacon, 1968).
12. Rabbi Alfred Cohen, "Vegetarianism From a Jewish Perspective", Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, Vol.1, No. 2, Fall, 1981.
13. Tradition, Summer, 1987.
14. Moreh Nebuchim 3:32.
15. Rabbi J. H. Hertz, The Pentateuch and Haftorahs (London: Soncino Press, 1958), p. 562.
16. Ibid.
17. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Horeb, Dayan Dr. I. Grunfeld, translator (London: Soncino Press, 1962), Vol.2, p. 292.

Return to Top

5. Israel Considers Labeling Kosher Foods

Thanks to Prof. Joe Regenstein for forwarding the following material from YNET:

Kosher status of foods to be labeled
Knesset Finance Committee approves first reading of bill to require importers, exporters to label kosher foods; goal: to prevent health danger to those allergic to milk, eggs, and to ease burden on kosher community
By Orna Yifat

The Knesset Finance Committee approved the first reading of a bill to require businesses, importers and exporters to indicate the "status" of kosher foods as "milk", "meat", or "parve" (neither meat nor milk).

At the same time, the committee rejected a proposal to label food items containing animal products for the benefit of vegetarian consumers.

The law was submitted by Knesset Member Uri Ariel (National Union), who said the initiative came following a request by the Health Ministry to create a level to standardize the labeling of ingredients in food products.

Ariel also said merchant organizations have reported complaints from kosher customers that products are not marked.

Knesset Finance Committee head Amnon Cohen said that while it would have been possible to implement the change through a directive of the Minister of Industry, Trade, and Employment, no such instructions have been issued.

He suggested the proposal be added to existing laws prohibiting kashrut fraud, rather than consumer protection laws. He said a new law is unnecessary because the rabbinate is already authorized to issue such instructions

Return to Top

6. Two More Articles in the New Series On Jewish Teachings on Humans and Animals by Yosef Hakohen

[I hope that the valuable lessons in these articles will be helpful in your efforts to promote vegetarianism and the better treatment of animals.]

The Journey to Unity - 113
Human Pride: The Holy and the Unholy

Why were all the other creatures created before the human being? One answer can be found in the following teaching from the Talmud: The human being was created last, on the Eve of Shabbos, so that if he develops an arrogant mentality, they will say to him, "The mosquito was created before you!" (Sanhedrin 38a)

Dear Friends,

From the perspective of Jewish tradition, the trait of "pride" can be holy or unholy. What is a holy form of human pride? According to an English dictionary, one of the definitions of "pride" is, "a reasonable or justifiable sense of one's worth or position." According to this definition, a holy form of pride is when a person has a reasonable sense of his worth as a being created in the Divine image with the capacity to emulate the universal Divine love and compassion. An example of someone who had a holy form of pride was King Jehoshaphat, the ruler of Judah, as it is written: "His heart took pride in the ways of the Compassionate One" (I Chronicles 17:6).

An unholy form of human pride is when the human being become arrogant and perceives himself as God; thus, he also perceives himself as the owner and sovereign of the earth. The human being then feels free to exploit the earth and its creatures without any limitations. It is therefore written, "A haughty heart is an abomination to the Compassionate One" (Proverbs 16:5). Regarding the danger of such pride, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch writes:

"The human being's intellectual eminence poses the threat of pride: his power to dominate all things and to modify them according to his intentions, might make him think of himself as the master. He might come to forget God, to forget that everything belongs to Him and was lent to the human being only for a specific purpose; and he might thus come to usurp for himself the right to follow only his own will…At this point, the human being is reduced to the most dangerous beast of prey, for he is armed with intellect, and the world is not safe from his tyranny." (This quote is from Rabbi Hirsch's classical work, "The Nineteen Letters – Letter 5.)

The antitode to human arrogance and tyranny is the awareness of the Divine mandate which defines the purpose of the human being's creation as "lavdah ul'shamrah" - to serve and protect the earth and its creatures (Genesis 2:15). Through this mandate, explains Rabbi Hirsch, the Creator is conveying to the human being the following message:

"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 creature, to be respected, loved and helped to attain its purpose according to God's Will." (The Nineteen Letters - Letter 4)

When a human being becomes arrogant and does not fulfill his purpose within the creation, then even a mosquito – who is fulfilling its purpose within the creation – can become, in a certain sense, more important. The rabbis therefore teach: The human being was created last, on the Eve of Shabbos, so that if he develops an arrogant mentality, they will say to him, "The mosquito was created before you!" (Sanhedrin 38a)

In the spirit of the above teaching, the Midrash tells the following story:

Alexander the Great of Macedonia once came to the land beyond the dark mountains and sent for King Katzia. Alexander told the king that he came to learn how he judges disputes. And Alexander remained near the king in order to observe how he conducts his court.

One day a man came before King Katzia with a "complaint" against his fellow. He said, "This man sold me a ruin in which I found hidden treasure. I bought the ruin, however, and not the treasure. (Because he did not want to steal, he was reluctant to keep the treasure.)

The other man said, "I sold him the ruin and all its contents." (Due to his scrupulous honesty, he did not want to claim the treasure.)

King Katzia asked one of the disputants, "Do you have a son?" The man replied affirmatively. The king then asked the other disputant, "And do you have a daughter?" He too replied affirmatively. King Katzia then declared, "Let them marry one another, and divide the treasure between them!"

King Katzia noticed that Alexander seemed disturbed. "Did I judge unfairly?" he asked. "If this case came before the court in your country, how would it be decided?" Alexander replied, "The judge would condemn them both to death, and the king would keep the treasure."

The following exhange then took place between the King Katzia and Alexander:

"Does the rain fall in your country?" King Katzia asked.


"Does the sun shine upon it?"


"Do you have small cattle?"


King Katzia then declared, "It is only due to the merit of the small cattle that the sun shines and the rain falls upon your country. For the sake of the small cattle you are saved!"

The Midrash comments: Hence, it is written, "You save the human being and the animal, O Compassionate One" (Psalm 36:7). That is, You save the human being for the sake of the animal! (Genesis Rabbah 33:1 – Etz Yosef commentary)

The words, "You save the human being and the animal" are part of the Shabbos afternoon service, where we express our yearning for the unity of the messianic age. These words therefore remind us that the messianic unity includes all creatures within the Divine creation.

Have a Good and Sweet Shabbos,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)

Related Teachings and Comments:

1. The Prophet Jeremiah proclaimed the following Divine message: "Let not the wise one take pride in his wisdom, nor the strong one take pride in his strength, nor the rich one take pride in his riches. For only with this may one take pride - contemplating and knowing Me, that I am the Compassionate One Who does lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth, for in these is My desire" (Jeremiah 9:22, 23).

2. In this letter, I gave a summary of the story which appears in the Midrash about Alexander and King Katzia. The longer version of the story can be found in "The Vision of Eden" by Rabbi David Sears. This book also points out that the land beyond the dark mountains where King Katzia ruled was probably in Africa (see Tamid 32a).

Hazon - Our Universal Vision: www.shemayisrael.co.il/publicat/hazon/

The Journey to Unity - 114
The Limits of Human Dominion:

"And God created the human being in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them and God said to them: Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it; and exercise your dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every living creature that moves upon the earth. And God said: Lo! I have given you every seed-bearing plant that is upon the surface of the entire earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit; it shall be yours for food." (Genesis 1:27-29).

Dear Friends,

When the first human couple lived in the Garden of Eden, they were given the right to exercise dominion over the earth and its creatures; however, the Creator limits the human diet to "every seed-bearing plant that is upon the surface of the entire earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit." This is the first indication that humankind was not given absolute dominion. Later, after the great flood which devastated the earth, the Creator gave human beings permission to eat meat (Genesis 9:3); nevertheless, they were forbidden to eat a limb or flesh from a living animal. In fact, the Torah, which was later given to the People of Israel, includes dietary laws which greatly limit the consumption of meat. In his book, "The Vision of Eden," Rabbi David Sears discusses the various philosophical, mystical, and practical reasons why humankind was given permission to eat meat after the great flood; moreover, he also discusses whether humankind will return to the diet of Eden in the messianic age. God-willing, at a later stage of this series, we shall discuss some of the sources he cites regarding this subject.

When we take a fruit off a tree, plow the earth, harvest a crop, or cut down a tree for its wood, we are exercising our right of dominion; nevertheless, the Torah teaches that our right of dominion must be in the spirit of our human mission, 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)

The human mission is to serve and protect the earth; thus, human dominion must be understood in this context. In fact, our sages say that the Divine mandate to serve the earth is a prototype for all the mitzvos of the Torah which enable us to improve and elevate the world; moreover, the Divine mandate to protect the earth is a prototype for all the mitzvos of the Torah which prevent us from damaging and degrading the world (Tikunei Zohar 55). The Torah and its path of mitzvos can be therefore be viewed as a path which greatly limits human dominion over the earth and its creatures. We shall cite specific examples in future letters.

According to the Midrash, the following biblical passage contains a subtle reminder that human dominion is not an absolute and automatic right:

"And God said: Let us make humankind in Our image, after our likeness. They shall exercise dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the animals, the whole earth, and all creeping thing that creep upon the earth" (Genesis 1:26.)

The Torah first states that humankind is to be created in the Divine image before stating that human beings will have dominion. This order indicates that being in the Divine image is a prerequisite for having a right of dominion; thus, the Midrash cites the following teaching in the name of Rabbi Yaacov from the village of Chanin:

Those human beings who demonstrate that they are in the Divine image and likeness shall have dominion over other creatures, but those human beings who demonstrate that they are not in the Divine image and likeness shall sink lower than the other creatures! (Genesis Rabbah 8:12 - Commentaries of Etz Yosef, Matanos Kehunah, and Rabbi S.R. Hirsch)

In previous letters, we mentioned that being in the Divine image gives us both the capacity and the responsibility to emulate the Divine attributes of lovingkindness and compassion, as Scripture states: 'The Compassionate One is good to all, and His compassion is on all His works' (Psalm 145:9). Rabbi Yaacov's teaching is therefore conveying the following message: When human beings actualize their spiritual potential by dedicating all aspects of their being to sacred giving and caring, they demonstrate that they are in the Divine image. They are therefore given a limited right of dominion over other creatures. But if human beings dedicate all aspects of their being to gratifying their selfish lusts for pleasure and power, then they have failed to demonstrate that they are in the Divine image. They therefore lose the right of limited dominion, moreover, they become lower than all the other creatures!

The above analysis of the verse was inspired by the fact that the Hebrew verb "V'Yirdu" (they shall exercise dominion) is similar to V'Yardu" (they will become lower). The Midrash therefore finds in this verse a Divine hint that if human beings do not activate their potential as human beings created in the Divine image, they can become lower than all the other creatures.

In the spirit of the above teachings, Rabbi Hirsch writes:

"Guided by the Torah, we have discovered the position of the human being within creation. He is to be neither god nor slave of the earthly world but a brother and fellow worker. However, because of the nature and scope of his service, he holds the rank of the firstborn; he is to be the administrator of the earth, and it is his task to attend to everything on it and further it in accordance with the Divine will. It is only from God, the Source of all power, that he has received the right to appropriate the world for his own use; and with this privilege comes also the duty to take only that which the Giver has permitted and to use it according to His will." (The Nineteen Letters – Letter 5)

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)

Related Teachings:

1. Rabbi David Sear's book, "The Vision of Eden," cites the following statement of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, a leading sage of the early 20th century: "No intelligent, thinking person could suppose that when the Torah instructs humankind to dominate, it means the domination of a harsh ruler, who afflicts his people and servants merely to fulfill his personal whim and desire, according to the crookedness of his heart. It is unthinkable that the Torah 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' (Psalm 145:9), And Who declared, 'The world shall be built upon lovingkindness' (Ibid, 89:3)."

2. Regarding the dominion of the human being, Rabbi Hirsch, in his commentary to Genesis 1:26, writes: "His mission is not to make them all entirely subservient to him. The earth and its creatures may have aspects that are beyond the sphere of his control, and in these respects they serve their own purpose."

3. For further study, see Rabbi Hirsch's commentary on the following words of King David which describe the human role in creation: "You have appointed him as steward over the works of Your hand" (Psalm 8:7 - Rabbi Hirsch's translation). Rabbi Hirsch points out that the Hebrew term in this verse which expresses human control also appears in the verse which describes the role of Eliezer, the servant of Abraham, "who was a steward over all things in Abraham's house" (Genesis 24:2). Just as Eliezer was a steward, and not the owner of the house, so too, the human being is the steward, and not the owner of the world. The human being must therefore remember, writes Rabbi Hirsch, the following truth: "The world does not exist for his sake. It is he who exists for the sake of the world – to serve it; i.e. to bring it closer to its loftiest aims, as well as to guard and preserve it" (Genesis 2:15).

4. A review of "The Nineteen Letters" by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch appears on our website.

Hazon - Our Universal Vision: www.shemayisrael.co.il/publicat/hazon/

Return to Top

7. Bird Flu may Have Devastating Consequences

Bird flu: 20% of globe may be hit
Thu 26 May 2005

A FIFTH of the world's population could be struck down with a new influenza pandemic, triggering global economic meltdown and a complete freeze on international travel, experts have warned.

Scientists say world leaders should start planning now for an>outbreak that could lead to several million deaths, widespread panic and the collapse of international trade.

Only a global response, rather than countries focusing wholly on their own protection, would stand any chance of averting the catastrophe, it is claimed.

Fears of a pandemic have arisen after outbreaks of the H5N1 bird-flu strain in south-east Asia, which has caused a total of more than 50 confirmed human deaths. The fatality rate of humans infected by the virus is as high as 60 per cent.

At present, there is no evidence that the strain can be transmitted from one person to another, but it may only be a matter of time before the virus mutates into a form that can easily pass between people. Should that happen, it would spread rapidly around the world, with devastating consequences.

Scientists writing in the journal Nature said the world today was far more vulnerable to the effects of a pandemic than it was in 1918, when a deadly strain of influenza killed between 20 million and 40 million people.

An optimistic estimate suggests that the next flu pandemic could cause 20 per cent of the world's population to become ill. Within a few months, almost 30 million people would need to be hospitalised, and a quarter of them would die.


Return to Top

8. Jewish Vegetarian Event Scheduled in San Francisco

Announcing Veggie Jews' 6/15 dinner in SF
From: Michelle B

Veggie Jews' is pleased to announce that, by popular demand, we will return to Golden Era Vegetarian Restaurant at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 15, 2005, for our next monthly dinner in San Francisco.

Golden Era is an ever-popular, Vietnamese, vegan restaurant located at 572 O'Farrell St. (near Leavenworth) that is best known for its exotic mix of Chinese and French influences and extraordinary vegan mock meats. For those who don't like mock meats, there is a wide variety of alternative dishes. The restaurant also has some of the best French coffee in the City and smoothies that can't be beat. We will be ordering from the menu.

Golden Era is near MUNI lines and within walking distance of the Powell St. BART station.

If you will attend, please reply to veggiejews@cyberonic.com no later than 11 a.m. on Wednesday, June 15, 2005. Walk-ins without reservations will only be accommodated on a space-available basis and this is a popular restaurant so reservations are strongly recommended.

For information about Golden Era, go to www.GoldenEraVegetarian.com or call (415) 673-3136.

Return to Top

9. Report: Global Warming Will Increase World Hunger


May 27, 2005 — By Philip Pullella, Reuters ROME — Global warming is likely to significantly diminish food production in many countries and greatly increase the number of hungry people, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said Thursday.

FAO said in a report that food distribution systems and their infrastructure would be disrupted and that the severest impact would likely be in sub-Saharan African countries.

"There is strong evidence that global climate is changing and that the social and economic costs of slowing down global warming and of responding to its impacts will be considerable," said the report by FAO's Committee on World Food Security.

Many scientists fear rising temperatures, blamed mainly on heat-trapping gases from burning fossil fuels, will melt ice caps, raise sea levels by almost a metre (three feet) by the end of this century and bring more floods, droughts and storms.

Global warming would increase the amount of land classified as being either arid or insufficiently moist in the developing world.

In Africa the amount of this type of harsh land could increase by as much as 90 million hectares by 2008, an area nearly four times the size of Britain.

Changes in temperature, rainfall as well as an increase in the number of so-called "extreme weather events" such as floods will bring with them potentially devastating effects.

The world suffered 600 floods in the past two and a half years, which claimed the lives of about 19,000 people and caused $25 billion in damages, excluding December's devastating tsunami in southeast Asia that killed more than 180,000.

FAO said scientific studies showed that global warming would lead to an 11 percent decrease in rainfed land in developing countries and in turn a serious decline in cereal production.

"Sixty-five developing countries, representing more than half of the developing world's total population in 1995, will lose about 280 million tons of potential cereal production as a result of climate change," FAO said.

The effect of climate change on agriculture could increase the number of people at risk of hunger, particularly in countries already saddled with low economic growth and high malnourishment levels.

"In some 40 poor, developing countries, with a combined population of 2 billion ... production losses due to climate change may drastically increase the number of undernourished people, severely hindering progress in combating poverty and food insecurity," the report said.

Return to Top

10. Jewish Singles Brunch Scheduled in New Jersey

From: "jewishinnj"

You are invited to join us at our Jewish Singles Brunch Sunday 11 a.m. sharp June 5th 2005 c.e. At Jerusalem Restaurant (this is a cafeteria) in Livingston, New Jersey.

Reservations are not needed for this event. Please just try to show up on time for it.

We do not charge anything for any of our events. You pay only for what you order when we go to a restaurant. You pay the restaurant directly. You do not pay us anything ever.

The restaurant describes itself as serving "Contemporary Vegetarian Cuisine".

The restaurant is Shomer Shabbos and the original was established in 1974. It is under the supervision of Orthodox Rabbis of Metro West. We provide the information as garnered from the restaurants we go to, concerning the Kashrut, or lack of same, at each restaurant. We are not affiliated with any of the restaurants.

Jerusalem Restaurant is located at 99 West Mount Pleasant Avenue (also known as Route 10) in Livingston NJ, 07039

The telephone number of the restaurant, in case you get lost is 973 533-1424.

The menu includes Vegetarian Falafel, Chumus, salads,pasta,kugels, knishes, latkes, vegetarian (soy) stuffed pepper, stuffed cabbage, vegetarian meatballs,vegetarian chili,vegetarian cholent, soups, sandwiches, on pitas, Again, this is a cafeteria, pay only for what you order plus tax.

After the 11 a.m. Sunday June 5th 2005 c.e. Jewish Singles brunch at Jerusalem Restaurant (cafeteria) 99 West Mount Pleasant Avenue (also known as Route 10) in Livingston NJ, 07039 we will head over to an event sponsored by a group that we have no connection with:

We will be going to the Jewish Singles Chat for Jewish Singles which Is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. at Congregation B'nai Israel, 160 Millburn Avenue, Millburn, New Jersey 07041 973-379-3811 http://www.cbi-nj.org/

The cost for the Jewish Singles Chat for Jewish Singles, sponsored by a group that we have no connection, with: is $5. You pay them if you go to it. You do not pay us.

Return to Top

11. Kosher Veal Producer Loses License

Thanks to Prof. Joe Regenstein for forwarding the message below:

SYSCO Pulls License from Veal Producer Over Kosher Slaughter

(Brooklyn) Atlantic Veal, a 50-year old Brooklyn-based producer of veal with a slaughterhouse in Ohio, has lost its license to do business with SYSCO, the world s largest foodservice company, after an auditor failed the company because of its kosher production at the plant. Kosher Today has learned that Atlantic had acceded to SYSCO'S request for an audit based on animal welfare standards of the American Meat Institute, which includes the recommendation that head restraints be used in the kosher slaughter of veal. The USDA supervised plant, which occasionally produces kosher and halal meat, uses the hanging method of schechita without the restraints, which a company spokesman says follows the religious dictum for slaughter by the religious authorities supervising the plant. Atlantic received a 100% rating from the auditor until he discovered the kosher slaughter. To the company, the! loss of the estimated $7 million in business is devastating, especially since SYSCO was not buying the kosher production and the kosher processed foods were in full compliance with USDA regulations and religious law. Food sources say that Atlantic is determined to win back the business that it had lost from the large foodservice company. SYSCO - an acronym for Systems and Services Company – reported $29.3 billion in sales in fiscal year 2004.

Return to Top

12. Programs on Farmed Animals Scheduled for TV

Thanks to Laura Slitt for forwarding the message below:

PBS Airs Farmed Animal Programming
Source: Farmed Animal Watch

The documentary, "The Emotional World of Farm Animals," narrated by author Jeffrey Masson, is being aired on PBS stations throughout the US and will appear in the Los Angeles market on Thursday, June 2. PBS is also airing a program called "Holy Cow" that includes in-depth coverage of the breeding and captivity of cows as well as the close relationship between humans and cows in certain parts of the world.

Return to Top

** Fair Use Notice**
This document may contain copyrighted material, use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owners. I believe that this not-for-profit, educational use on the Web constitutes a fair use of the copyrighted material (as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law). If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

No comments: