August 19, 2009

8/19/2009 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

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

1. Fall Holidays and Vegetarianism

2. Brochures on Kapparot Available

3. Article by International Jewish Vegetarian Society Founder Philip Pick

4. Veg Climate Alliance Press Release on World Water Week

5. Insightful Australian Flier Spotlights Animal Agriculture's Role in Climate Change

6. Water Disasters Threaten Wealthy Nations Too

7. Antarctic Glaciers Thinning Far Faster Than Recently Predicted

8. Update on “Global Climate Healing Shabbat"

9. My Letter Re the Health Care Debate

10. Yom Kippur Op-Ed Article

11. Great Video: “World Leaders on Climate Change”

12. Climate Agreements Needed Very Soon


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 the kashrut, Shabbat observances, or any other Jewish observances, 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. Also, JVNA does not necessarily agree with all positions of groups whose views are included or whose events are announced in this newsletter.

As always, your comments and suggestions are very welcome.

Thanks,

Richard


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1. Fall Holidays and Vegetarianism

I recently sent you many sample articles and letters relating vegetarianism and environmental activism to the upcoming fall holidays of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. The articles can also be found at the holiday section at JewishVeg.com/Schwartz. Suggestions about the articles and letters are very welcome, as would be any help in getting one or more articles published. Also, please consider using the ideas in the writings for your own letters and talking points. Thanks.

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2. Brochures on Kapparot Available

Forwarded message from Karen Davis, Director of United Poultry Concerns:

Our brochures, A Wing & A Prayer - The Kapparot Chicken-Swinging Ritual, are available for a small donation of $3 for 30 brochures. Please order these and distribute them to your local news media, family, friends, synagogue, and others you think could be helpful. To view our kapparot brochure online, visit www.upc-online.org/kaparos. Thank you for your help

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3. Article by International Jewish Vegetarian Society Founder Philip Pick

[This is presented here to give you some idea of the writings and philosophy of the person who for many years presented Jewish vegetarian messages through talks, articles and editorials.]

Jewish philosophy of vegetarianism

http://www.euroveg.eu/evu/english/news/news974/jewish.html

by Philip L. Pick.

from EVU News, Issue 4 /1997

Philip L. Pick (1910-1992) was the Founder and President of the Jewish Vegetarian Society. He dedicated over thirty years of his life to the vegetarian cause, taking the small local society started by his daughter Vivian, turning it into a worldwide organisation with branches not only in Britain and Israel, but also in Australia, Canada, the United States, South Africa and all other English speaking parts of the world, as well as many other individual members in other countries. His special gift for public speaking and writing deeply felt articles won converts wherever he went. - VPM Philip
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The Jewish philosophy of vegetarianism is a way of life that reaches back into the mysterious morning time of our earthly abode.

Whether the record of man's first existence in the Garden of Eden is based upon elemental truths, whether it is but an ancient legend, or whether it is (as we believe it to be) a profound declaration of man's real relationship with his Maker, and a treatise dealing with the essential nature of his being, certain it is that it contains the seed of an eternal philosophy which points the way of his moral development and circumscribes his ambitions. It guides his spiritual progress along the circumference of a vast circle until he reaches his starting point, and once again reverts to his original position as a caretaker of a garden, and the guardian of all that dwell therein. The first command is contained in Genesis 1 29 and 30, "... And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life. I have given every green herb for food; and it was so."

(COMMENTARY [All commentary by EVU editor] IN 'THE PRIMlTIVE IDEAL AGE', AS ALSO IN THE MESSIANIC FUTURE, (SEE ISAIAH II) THE ANlMALS WERE NOT TO PREY ON ONE ANOTHER (HERTZ)).

On the completion of each phase of Creation it is written "And God saw that it was good" and on the sixth day "God saw everything that He had made, and behold it was very good". In total it was proclaimed "very good" which indicates that the Universe was as the Creator willed it, in complete harmony.

(COMMENTARY “THIS HARMONY BEARS WITNESS TO THE UNITY OF GOD WHO PLANNED THIS UNITY OF NATURE” (LUZZATTO)).

Until this Noahtic period it was a capital offence to kill an animal even as it was to kill a man. This is confirmed by the statement in Genesis "To man and all creatures wherein is a living soul." Note that the word 'soul' is applicable in the same way to man as to animals. Bearing this in mind many have wondered at the story of Cain and Abel, and in this context it becomes understandable. Why was the beautiful white lamb which Abel slaughtered, acceptable to God as an offering? And if this was so why did Cain whose offering was scant in substance and begrudging in spirit, kill Abel? The story has two morals. First, that in giving, one should be generous and openhearted and not count the cost. This Cain did not do, but Abel gave of his best. Secondly, notwithstanding this, the cardinal sin of killing a creature warranted capital punishment by the immutable law of retribution, and Abel paid the penalty.

Because of the murder, retribution also overtook Cain and Tubal Cain. The era of violence and consequent retribution had begun and has developed even unto the present day. The law, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, has been much criticised by people who have no understanding of its awesome truth. It does not mean the return of injury for injury, but that judgement with mercy shall be applied and shall be commensurate with the crime. Dictators have been known to execute people for political views; this is not an 'eye for an eye', it is the absence of justice. This particular law is immutable and absolute and operates whether we like it or not. The story of Cain and Abel lives on today, where man and beast alike kill without cause, and eternal retribution is exacted.

We now come to the end of the era of perfection. In Genesis VI it is written “...And it came to pass, when man began to multiply on the face of the earth ... And God said "My spirit shall not always strive with man” and He saw that the wickedness was great and all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth. “And God said unto Noah, the end of all flesh is come before Me: for the earth is filled with violence through them".

(COMMENTARY "VlOLENCE IS DESCRlBED AS 'RUTHLESS OUTRAGE OF THE RIGHTS OF THE WEAK BY THE STRONG'". (TALMUD)).

Why then was not all life terminated? According to the Rabbis, God repented of His action in the same way as a parent will forgive and protect a child who has committed violence or even murder, and he put the rainbow in the sky as a promise never again to destroy the earth.

"For the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth"; (Genesis VIII 21). The new era that followed accepted this fact. In the Noahtic laws, as in the consequent Hebrew laws given on Mount Sinai, statutes were not to be enacted which the people would not accept, as this would merely cause contempt for the law generally. Compromise was therefore essential in the hope that by a codified form of living man would eventually return to his original self. At this time therefore permission was granted to those who lust after flesh to eat flesh and it was accompanied by a curse "and the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every fowl of the air and upon all that moveth upon the earth and upon all the fishes of the sea - every moving thing that liveth shall be food for you even as the green herb have I given you all things, but the flesh with the life thereof which is the blood thereof shall ye not eat".

The celebrated Rabbi Hacohen-Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, wrote a clearsighted treatise entitled "The Prophecy of Vegetarianism and Peace," [Actually, a collection of Rav Kook's writings, called “A Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace,” was edited by Rabbi David Cohen, the Nazeer of Jerusalem and father of current Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen.] and in it he deals with the above paragraph as follows: "It is inconceivable that the Creator who had planned a world of harmony and a perfect way for man to live, should, many thousands of years later find that this plan was wrong". He refers to the dominion over the creatures as not being "the domination of a tyrant tormenting his people and his slaves only to satisfy his private needs and desires. God forbid that such an ugly law of slavery should be sealed eternally in the word of God who is good to all, and whose tender mercies are over all his works." [Psalms 145:9]

This reasoning is clear by the paragraphs which follow the permission to eat flesh, "... and surely your blood of your lives will I require: at the hand of every beast will require it, and at the hand of man even at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man”. So here is the permissive doctrine and its penalties. It has been proven that these penalties are inescapable and are evident in the present day world.

When the I Hebrews were eventual1y established in Israel, the law of Moses, which contains 613 precepts, was duly initiated. Notwithstanding that a mixed multitude of 200,000 accompanied the 400,000 Hebrews on their long trek from Egypt to the Promised Land, it was the most serious crime, after murder, to kill an animal outside the gates of the Temple, and carried the most severe penalty next to capital punishment. The great philosopher, medico and bible commentator of the 12th Century, Moses Maimonides, stated "The sacrifices were a concession to barbarism." It must be remembered that child sacrifice was universal and as the story of the golden calf indicated, the people were surrounded with idol worshipping tribes. The sacrifice of animals was to lead to the abolition of child sacrifice until it lead to its own abolition. Sacrifice is an essential part of the human makeup, as is evidenced today by the way people react in time of war and willingly sacrifice their lives. Primitive people could not understand any other form of worship, and today sacrifice is still required, but is represented by charity and good deeds which satisfy this instinct.

It was customary among all tribes to drink the blood and cut the limbs from living creatures, with the false idea that they thereby took in the strength from the animal. This belief still holds good among primitive tribes and an example is the Hottentots who drink live elephant's blood. The laws of Moses were designed to protect the animals from these cruelties, and to prevent the annihilation of the human species from the disease of flesh foods, by not consuming the blood "which is the life thereof." In this there was also a strong moral issue, and even today when a creature is slaughtered, some of the blood is buried in the ground and a prayer is said over it in order to remind the slaughterer that he has taken a life.

Although blood can be drained from arteries it is impossible to remove blood from the capillaries and this could therefore be construed as a prohibition against the consumption of flesh entirely. In order to avoid this problem the flesh is burned over a flame or salted for an hour. It might be said that this is begging the question, for, although it is no longer liquid blood, it remains in a solidified form.

The law contains many other precepts regarding compassion for animals. Some examples are, "Thou shalt not yoke an ox with an ass" (this was cruelty to the weaker creature), "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth the corn." This is applied also to human beings; it was considered cruel to prevent a creature eating when it was hungry, whilst producing food for others. It is not even permitted to remove eggs from a nest when the mother bird is in sight, and the prohibition of eating milk and meat together stems from the forbidden practice of killing the young in front of its mother. These and other such laws are explained in the Talmud, a large section of which is devoted to "Tzar Baal Chaim" (The Suffering of Animals).

The Ten Commandments are the basis of the Jewish Faith, and in the Fourth Commandment domestic animals along with the [human] family are commanded to observe the Sabbath Day. The Talmud discourses on this subject and the question as to how domestic animals may observe the answer is "No," they must be allowed freedom to roam the fields and enjoy the sunshine, air and grass, generally to enjoy the work of the Creation in the same way as man. A far cry from the present practice of permanent incarceration in darkened factory farms.

Again the Sixth Commandment "Thou shalt not kill", seals the general teachings relating to carnivorous habits. The implication is that one shall not kill unnecessarily and the oft used translation "thou shalt not commit murder" wrongfully restricts the original meaning of the word. Certainly today, the abundance of non-flesh health giving foods unquestionably means that every time a creature is killed for food a sin against God has been committed. [See my article, “Is the Sixth Commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill” or “Thou Shalt Not Murder”? (http://jewishveg.com/schwartz/killormurder.html)

Orthodox Jews make a blessing for practically all benefits in life. There is a separate blessing for each type of food, but there is none for flesh foods - something that has been slaughtered cannot be blessed. {There is no special blessing for meat, but there is a blessing, the same one made after drinking water or juice, for example.] There is a blessing on wearing new garments, but no blessing may be made over furs or other animal skins of any kind - you cannot destroy the works of Creation and at the same time bless God for having made them. There are blessings on seeing beautiful trees, famous people, thunder, lightning, etc. and the idea underlying it all is to acknowledge the supremacy of God and the dependency of man.

The festivals, many of which have been incorporated into Christian observance, are Passover (Easter), Pentecost (Harvest Festival) and Succot (Tabernacles) The fast days, however, have not been adopted.

On Pentecost when the Synagogues are decorated with fruits and flowers, no carcasses of slaughtered creatures are to be seen. On Succot, when the little booths are erected, they are decorated with fruit and flowers, no bodies or portion of bodies are used as decorations. Even on Passover the paschal lamb is purely symbolic, there is no instruction to eat it other than on the first Biblical Passover, and any food symbol can be used to carry out the ordinance that all generations shall remember the going out of Egypt; the departure from slavery to freedom. The paschal lamb was in fact a sacrifice and not permitted therefore since the destruction of the Temple.

On the solemn Day of Atonement, when all Jews fast and seek compassion from the Almighty for life and health in the coming year, no leather shoes should be worn in the Synagogue. The reason for this is not humility but to avoid hypocrisy. It is not devout to pray for compassion when one has shown no compassion in daily life; likewise it is a sacrilege to wear a fur coat which is for self aggrandisement and the product of extreme cruelty.

It should be observed that nowhere in the Bible are flesh foods promised as a reward for observing the commandments, but an abundance of corn and wine and oil, gardens of nuts and figs and pomegranates, bread to make one strong and oil to make the face shine, a land flowing with milk and honey (milk was an expression of plenty and honey was derived from dates, wine was actually grape juice). A land where each man shall rest in peace under the shade of his own fig tree. Not, let it be noted, under the shade of his own slaughter house. Great scribes, teachers and philosophers stride across the millenniums of Jewish history, imbued with these teachings; many of them were vegetarian.

Many followed the practice of sects in ancient Israel and helped keep the flame of compassion from being extinguished. One of these tribes, the Essenes who abjured all forms of flesh food and intoxicants still exist in large numbers in modern Israel. The Founder of Christianity was of this tribe, and it is rather surprising that discussion takes place in vegetarian circles as to whether he was, in fact, vegetarian. The answer should be obvious, and parables such as “the loaves and fishes” etc. bear other explanations, a realm into which this article does not penetrate.

It is interesting to note that a very much larger proportion of Jewish people are vegetarian than their neighbours. In many instances they take leading roles in furthering knowledge of this great subject. In Israel there have been three vegetarian Chief Rabbis in twenty five years and over four percent of the population are vegetarian, perhaps a higher percentage than any country in the world, excepting India. [I have been seeking supporting sources for this assertion for some time. If anyone has any information, please let me know. Thanks.]

The long winding road back, can now be clearly seen. May it be traversed ever more speedi1y and may the day not be far distant when the beautiful prophesy of Isaiah will be fulfilled. "For behold I create new heavens and the new earth and the former shall not be remembered - and they shall plant the vineyards and eat the fruit of them - the wolf and lamb shall feed together and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain".

Jewish Vegetarian Society, 853/5 Finchley Road, London NW11 8LX , Great Britain

© European Vegetarian Union - http://www.ivu.org/evu

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4. Veg Climate Alliance Press Release on World Water Week

MAJOR SHIFT TO PLANT-BASED DIETS ESSENTIAL TO AVERT WATER CATASTROPHE


In support of World Water Week, August 16-22, 2009, and the corresponding major conference in Stockholm, Sweden, the Veg Climate Alliance, an umbrella group of environmental, vegetarian, health, animal rights and other groups and activists, is urging a major societal shift toward plant-based diets to avoid a major water catastrophe.

The situation is already dire. The World Bank reported that 80 countries have water shortages that threaten health and economies, and over 2 billion people lack any access to sanitation or clean water.

In what some climate experts are calling the '”Century of Drought,” many world regions are suffering from severe droughts, and they are causing widespread wildfires and serious food shortages. Aquifers are drying up in many areas and many rivers are not flowing to the sea during part of the year. Global warming, by reducing rain in some areas and causing severe storms in others, and by causing the rapid melting of glaciers that have been a major source of spring irrigation water, threatens to further deteriorate the situations.

In view of the above facts and more, it is scandalous that about half of the world's fresh water supply is used to raise animals, largely to irrigate lands growing feed crops. Animal-based diets require up to 14 times the water per person than vegan (completely plant-based) diets require. While estimates vary, according to UNESCO, the production of one pound of beef uses 15,500 liters of water, one pound of apples 700 liters and one pound of potatoes 900 liters.

Making matters worse, animal-based agriculture is a major polluter of water. Farmed animals in the U.S. alone produce over 1.3 billion tons of waste per year, or over 4 tons for every resident. Manure, laden with dangerous chemicals, is the most common pollutant in U.S. waters.

Growing water scarcity poses major threats. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said “water scarcity threatens economic and social gains and is a potent fuel for wars and conflict.”

In addition to its very significant roles in consuming and polluting water, modern intensive 'livestock' agriculture is a major contributor to global warming. A UN Food and Agriculture Organization 2006 report (Livestock's Long Shadow') indicated that animal-based agriculture emits more greenhouse gases (18 percent in CO2 equivalents) than all the cars, planes, trains and other means of transportation worldwide combined (13.5 percent). Making matters still worse is that the UN report projects that, if present trends continue, the number of farmed animals will double in the next 50 years, adding to global warming and the consumption and pollution of water.

Based on the above alarming facts, it is essential that here be a major societal shift toward plant-based diets. Such a shift would have additional benefits, including improved human health, a reduction in deforestation, desertification, rapid species extinction, soil erosion and depletion and other environmental problems and a reduction in the current massive mistreatment of animals on factory farms.

In view of the above realities, we urge the organizers of the Stockholm World Water Week to put dietary changes on its agenda. It is essential that they and other world leaders help increase awareness that a major societal shift toward plant-based diets is essential to avoid catastrophes from water shortages and other threats to humanity.

Further information:

* about World Water Week: http://www.evana.org/index.php?id=38868&lang=en

* about Veg Climate Alliance: http://www.VegClimateAlliance.org

Richard H. Schwartz
Director, Veg Climate Alliance
VegClimateAlliance.org

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5. Insightful Australian Flier Spotlights Animal Agriculture's Role in Climate Change

o “If there's no action before 2012, that's too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.” Dr Rajendra Pachauri, head of UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

How on earth do we slow climate change?
Our efforts are not working. Australia's emissions just keep going up. Clean coal and renewable energy are years away. The 2009 State of the World Forum found that emissions must be cut 80% by 2020 or we face catastrophic climate change. We need a new approach.

Does methane hold the key?
Methane has greater forcing than we thought: Australia's inventory assigns methane a global warming forcing factor of 21 times the potency of CO2 (Kyoto agreed 100 year average). But, the UN IPCC reports that methane has 72 times the global warming forcing of CO2 over its 20 year life in the air.

Methane breaks down fast: Most is gone within 20 years, whereas CO2 lasts for hundreds of years. This is a key to quick reduction.

Most methane is from livestock: Methane comes from waste (12%), from coal mining (28%) and from livestock production (60% including enteric fermentation, burning and clearing). Australia has more cows than people, and three times as many sheep. Cows burp 300 litres of methane each day.

Livestock have a massive impact: In their 2008 submission to the Garnaut Review, using the 20 year forcing factor, Russell, Singer and Brook show that methane emissions from our cattle and sheep alone have a greater impact on global warming than the CO2 emissions from all our coal-fired power stations. (Livestock, 223 Mt CO2-e > Power stations, 180 Mt CO2).

Are trees the answer?
Tree clearing makes up 13% of our emissions. Despite our best intentions, tree planting in Australia (5,000 ha/year) is dwarfed by tree clearing (500,000 ha/year). Even forestry planting (25,000 ha/year) doesn't come close!

Re-growth windfall: Stop grazing and we stop 92% of Australia's tree clearing (Aust GHG Inventory, non-forestry). Stop tree clearing and we get a windfall benefit because most trees re-grow naturally.

Breeding and grazing livestock produces more greenhouse forcing than all our coal fired power stations, taking the real impact of methane over its 20 year life in the atmosphere. Every cow and sheep costs us dearly.

Using data from the 2007 Australian inventory, and the 20 year forcing factor for methane, we find that livestock and tree clearing for livestock produces 35% of the new total emissions, whereas coal fired power produces 23%. This puts cows and sheep in a new light, and gives each of us the power to massively reduce our greenhouse pollution.

Less livestock means
:
o Less methane emitted
o Quick reduction in greenhouse forcing, with methane gone within 20 years, not hundreds of years like CO2
o Reduction in the 500,000ha cleared each year for grazing
o If grazing stopped, tree re-growth a hundred times the area of existing tree planting programs would occur.

Fast, effective change is possible: Herds could be reduced quickly. A third of all livestock are eaten each year, so intervention to limit breeding would have a rapid effect. We really do have the power. All it takes is a change in diet. Just replace the barbie rump with a veggie kebab!

Eating more plants has spinoff benefits: A plant diet has spinoff benefits to public health and the environment, particularly soil erosion, water use, water pollution and biodiversity. Large savings would be found in health costs for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, many cancers and in cutting antibiotic use by half. Animal welfare would benefit, including live animal transport and slaughterhouse practices.

What about the farmers?
We must support our farmers - they feed us! As people switch to a plant based diet, farmers will respond. For land that can support cropping, converting from animal to plant agriculture is often more profitable. Those farms not viable for cropping may need government support or be profitably used for carbon sequestration: growing trees.

o Eat plant foods; learn about nutritious, tasty and healthy veggie cooking.
o Like Paul McCartney, support Meat-Free Monday - see www.MeatFreePetition.com.
o Tell your politician: stop subsidies for animal farming.

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6. Water Disasters Threaten Wealthy Nations Too

Forwarded article from Daniela D.

Rich Nations Vulnerable to Water Disasters
By Thalif Deen

http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=47850


UNITED NATIONS, Jul 28 (IPS) - The growing shortage of water - a perennial problem in the world's poorer nations - is expected to eventually reach the rich nations in the Western world.

The United States, Spain, Australia and the Netherlands are likely to face the consequences of climate change resulting in water-related disasters, including droughts, floods, hurricanes and sea-level rise.

"Even the world's richest nations are not immune," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned Tuesday.

Citing official U.S. figures, he said the state of California, the world's fifth largest economy, "could see prime farmland reduced to a dustbowl, and major cities running out of water by the end of the century".

Blaming it on the negative impact of global warming, he said that climate is changing - globally. "And so, therefore, must we."

He quoted scientists as saying that by 2020, 75 to 250 million people in Africa will face growing shortages of water due to climate change.

"Yields from rain-fed agriculture could fall by half in some African countries in the next 10 years. These are frightening scenarios," he declared.

Dr. Mark Smith, head of the Water Programme at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), agrees that a global water crisis is on the way.

Asked about the water shortage in cash-strapped California, where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently declared a drought emergency, Smith told IPS that climate change poses many hazards in the world's rich nations, and many are the same as those worrying people in developing countries.

For example, he pointed out, increased drought is a major concern in places like Spain, Australia and California (in the United States), and sea-level rise could be a disaster to the Netherlands.

"The difference is that in the rich world, there is very often the means to deal with the problem: to protect people from impacts and to spread the risk," Smith said.

But the danger of impacts on developing countries, he argued, is much a higher profile concern because poor people and poor countries have much less capacity to cope.

Ger Bergkamp, director general of the World Water Council, told IPS the situation in California could be seen as a leading case of a State touching the boundaries of managing water in a conventional way.

With a population that keeps growing, an economy that keeps expanding, and a snowpack that keeps melting ever faster, water scarcity has become a reality, he said.

"Where other regions still buy their time, California has to face a situation that we will see more and more often around the world," he said.

This is true not only in the poor countries but increasingly so in emerging economies and in well developed economies, he added.

Responding to these situations will demand a concerted action from governments, civil society and business to invest in water efficiency, increasing underground water storage, and allocating water in a smarter way among users.

"It will require nothing less than establishing a new culture of water as a precious resource and corner-stone of economic and social development and environmental sustainability," Bergkamp said.

At a roundtable discussion in May, the chair of the U.N. Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands told delegates that water and agriculture are inseparable.

Agriculture consumes 70 percent of all freshwater withdrawals and 90 percent of overall consumption, he said.

"And, so, the water crisis is in many ways an agriculture crisis. We must change the way we grow our food," Willem-Alexander said.

Warning that water scarcity is on the rise, he said that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will live in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity. And fully two-thirds of the world population could face conditions of water stress.

"Yet we are not responding. Conflicts between water haves and water have-nots will lead to social instability and unrest," he added.

Prince Willem-Alexander also said that climate change is bringing much greater variability in rainfall.

Rainfall in some areas is increasing, while in others it is decreasing, by as much as 20 percent. Such fluctuations make farming much more difficult, he noted.

"Climate change also will surely bring a significant increase in floods and droughts and other extreme water events," he warned.

Implicitly singling out the food habits of rich nations, he referred to changing consumption patterns and diets. He said growing one kilogramme of wheat requires about 1,000 litres of water. Producing one kilogramme of beef demands 16 times that much water.

"The diets of North Americans and Europeans use about 5,000 litres of water per person per day," he said.

Compare that to the vegetarian diets of Africa and Asia, which require on average 2,000 litres.

As people climb out of poverty, and change their diets, the demand for water to produce food increases.

"We cannot expect mankind to change its eating habits overnight, so it is evident that the agriculture and water sector have to join forces and drastically reduce by at least 50 percent the use of water to produce our future food requirements," he declared.

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7. Antarctic Glaciers Thinning Far Faster Than Recently Predicted

Lionel Friedberg saw this story on the BBC News website and thought you should see it.

Antarctic glacier 'thinning fast'

One of the largest glaciers in Antarctica is thinning four times faster than 10 years ago, research seen by the BBC suggests.


http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/2/hi/science/nature/8200680.stm

** BBC Daily E-mail **

One of the largest glaciers in Antarctica is thinning four times faster than it was 10 years ago, according to research seen by the BBC.
A study of satellite measurements of Pine Island glacier in west Antarctica reveals the surface of the ice is now dropping at a rate of up to 16m a year.

Since 1994, the glacier has lowered by as much as 90m, which has serious implications for sea-level rise.

The work by British scientists appears in Geophysical Research Letters.

The team was led by Professor Duncan Wingham of University College London (UCL).

We've known that it's been out of balance for some time, but nothing in the natural world is lost at an accelerating exponential rate like this glacier

Calculations based on the rate of melting 15 years ago had suggested the glacier would last for 600 years. But the new data points to a lifespan for the vast ice stream of only another 100 years.

The rate of loss is fastest in the centre of the glacier and the concern is that if the process continues, the glacier may break up and start to affect the ice sheet further inland.

One of the authors, Professor Andrew Shepherd of Leeds University, said that the melting from the centre of the glacier would add about 3cm to global sea level.

"But the ice trapped behind it is about 20-30cm of sea level rise and as soon as we destabilise or remove the middle of the glacier we don't know really know what's going to happen to the ice behind it," he told BBC News.

BBC News visited the Pine Island glacier five years ago "This is unprecedented in this area of Antarctica. We've known that it's been out of balance for some time, but nothing in the natural world is lost at an accelerating exponential rate like this glacier."

Pine Island glacier has been the subject of an intense research effort in recent years amid fears that its collapse could lead to a rapid disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet.

Five years ago, I joined a flight by the Chilean Navy and Nasa to survey Pine Island glacier with radar and laser equipment.

The 11-hour round-trip from Punta Arenas included a series of low-level passes over the massive ice stream which is 20 miles wide and in places more than one mile thick.

Back then, the researchers on board were concerned at the speed of change they were detecting. This latest study of the satellite data will add to the alarm among polar specialists.

This comes as scientists in the Arctic are finding evidence of dramatic change. Researchers on board a Greenpeace vessel have been studying the northwestern part of Greenland.

One of those taking part, Professor Jason Box of Ohio State University, has been surprised by how little sea ice they encountered in the Nares Strait between Greenland and Canada.

He has also set up time lapse cameras to monitor the massive Petermann glacier. Huge new cracks have been observed and it's expected that a major part of it could break off imminently.

Professor Box told BBC News: "The science community has been surprised by how sensitive these large glaciers are to climate warming. First it was the glaciers in south Greenland and now as we move further north in Greenland we find retreat at major glaciers. It's like removing a cork from a bottle."

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8. Update on “Global Climate Healing Shabbat"

Forwarded message by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, event coordinator. author and director of the Shalom Center:

[It was an initiative from JVNA that led to all the wonderful results discussed below. Arthur Waskow is doing a superb job of getting a very broad, influential coalition behind this effort, so I am very glad that I turned organizing the event over to him. Please consder arranging an event on or around that Shabbat.]

Reform RAC, JCPA, United Syn, JRF, ALEPH, Canfei Nesharim, Teva Ivri Join Climate Healing Shabbat Oct 23-24; Evanston Plans Model Interfaith Action

Dear friends,

The plans for Climate Healing Shabbat / Weekend (October 23-25) are taking off. New endorsements have come from major organizations of the Jewish community so that all five strands of Jewish religious life plus the umbrella communal organization, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, are now involved. So are several Israeli groups. Please see the expanded list of organizations below; individuals are listed in the lead story on our website at www.shalomctr.org.

We are also sending you below an excerpt from the plans for interfaith observance in Evanston Ill, as an inspiration and model for us all.

Nineteen congregations have signed up at the Shabbat Noach website as planning a Climate Healing event. Many of you are also mentioned that you are planning to sponsor events. Please write us the details of your plan as soon as possible so that we can post it to inspire others, as we have done with Evanston.

A constantly growing range of materials to help you celebrate Climate Healing Shabbat can be found at -
http://www.shalomctr.org/taxonomy/term/68

We --- both national and grass-roots leaders of the Jewish people -- urge all Jewish communities to observe Shabbat Noah, October 23-24, as "Global Climate Healing Shabbat" with special prayers, sermons, Torah commentary/ midrash, songs, lectures, debates, panel discussions, resolutions, kiddushes, meals, nature-walks, stories for children, invitations to public officials and environmental activists, and other means of bringing Jewish commitment to bear on healing the earth from the dangers that over-use of fossil fuels is bringing upon us all.

We invite those of all religious, spiritual, and ethical traditions to join as well at that time of year.

Initiated by The Shalom Center; endorsed by Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, Hazon, Teva, COEJL (a JCPA project) , & Canfei Nesharim (*participating through the Parshat Noach Sustainability Project), Jewish Climate Initiative (Israel), Teva Ivri (Israel) ; Rabbis Steve Gutow (head of JCPA), David Saperstein, Nina Beth Cardin, Peter Knobel, & Michael Lerner; Nancy Ratzan, Nigel Savage, Richard Schwartz, Ellen Bernstein, Jo Ellen Green Kaiser; many others, listed on our website.)

Please register your intent to create a local event (even if you are just beginning to plan) in both these places: ---

http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/602/t/4180/event/index.jsp?event_KEY=50242

http://www.350.org/oct24
-------------------------------------------------------

In Evanston, plans include the entire community with an interreligious celebration and a weekend of religious services.

What: A dynamic, family-oriented interreligious celebration that calls Evanston residents to faith-based action to address Climate Change When: Saturday, October 24, 7 PM Where: St. Athanasius Roman Catholic Church Religious Theme: Noah and the Rainbow as God's Promise to Protect the Creation Congregational Commitments: Evanston religious congregations will use this event to identify and share their plans in the coming year to decrease their carbon footprint, including possibly: Low Carbon Transportation Sabbaths, Recycling bulletins, Commissioning an Energy Audit, Implementing a No Idling Zone near the congregation, Moving away from disposable cups and dishes, Etc…

National Policy Action: Communicating the concern of Evanston's religious congregations about Climate Change and the need for decisive action at the Copenhagen UN Conference through a letter from the religious community through its clergy in cooperation with the national mobilization coordinated by 350.org
Local Policy Action: Support the implementation of the Evanston Climate Action Plan TBD Grass Roots Action: Habitat restoration at Harms Woods on Sunday, October 25th, 1-4 PM

Proposed Activities: Music Storytelling Puppetry
Various Religious Reflections on God's Covenant with Noah
Reading of Interreligious Letter on Climate Change to Political Leaders from Evanston congregations and clergy Reading of Congregational Climate Commitments
Organizing Process and Timeline

August: Clergy Breakfast at Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation When: Late August ; Purpose: to invite congregations to co-sponsor the Celebration of Creation ; Proposed hosts: Rabbi Brant Rosen, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation , Rabbi Andrea London, Beth Emet the Free Synagogue Rev. Tom Libera, St. Athanasius Roman Catholic Church Rev. Richard Mosley Jr., Hemenway Methodist Church Proposed invitees: all Evanston clergy

September: Congregation Activities : Publicize October 24th event ; Identify a Congregational Climate Commitment for 2009-2010 ; Plan Celebration of Creation and a Call for Climate Healing Congregation service for October 23-25

October: Celebration & Call , Interreligious Celebration

Saturday, October 24: 7 PM for families, Congregational Services:

Friday-Sunday, October 23-25, Incorporation of the themes of the Celebration of Creation and Call for Climate Healing into the regular religious services of the co-sponsoring congregations

November: Publicizing Congregational Commitments Sharing of congregational com

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9. My Letter Re the Health Care Debate

August 14, 2009

Editor, Staten Island Advance
Editor@siadvance.com

Dear Editor:

Kudos on your efforts to present all sides of the health care debate through publishing articles and letters expressing various perspectives. But, there is one approach that is generally overlooked that could make a major difference: preventing, alleviating and, in some cases reversing diseases through well-balanced, nutritious plant-based diets. There are many epidemiological, migration and other scientific studies that clearly show links between animal-based diets and a wide variety of chronic, degenerative diseases. Unfortunately, current legislative proposals are focused on how to pay for treating diseases in generally costly ways, rather than promoting dietary changes and other lifestyle improvements that would reduce disease risks.

A shift toward plant-centered diets would have additional benefits, including reducing global climate change, deforestation, soil erosion and depletion, rapid species extinction, water pollution, the wasteful use of land, water and energy, and the mistreatment and slaughter of billions of farmed animals. So for a healthier you, a reduction of medical expenditures that are causing major financial problems at all levels of government and a more humane and just world, and to help shift our very imperiled planet to a sustainable path, go vegetarian, and preferably vegan!

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10. Yom Kippur Op-Ed Article

For Yom Kippur, Atone to the Animals


By Gary Lowenthal
www.animalwritings.com

http://www.all-creatures.org/articles/jv-foryomkippur.html

This Yom Kippur, atone to the animals that suffered and died because you wanted them on your plate. Chances are, you barely gave any thought to the animals that became your food. It is almost a certainty that they had very short and miserable lives.

The vast majority of meat and dairy comes from "factory farm" animals that live in cramped, smelly, uncomfortable quarters. They never exercise, breathe fresh air, or engage in normal social behaviors. Their teeth, testicles, beaks, tails, toes, and horns are severed without painkillers. Babies are pulled from their mothers long before the end of their normal weaning period. Male calves are literally dragged away (since they're not steady on their feet yet) from their mothers when one or two days old, and sentenced to a 20- week Hell in the veal crate. Newborn male chicks produced by breeding hens are ground up or suffocated on their first day of life.

Modern farm animals are bred to be so top-heavy they can barely stand, and their hearts often give out. Artificial lighting and hormones make their already unnatural bodies go into overdrive. Half of all dairy cows are lame by the time they're five years old. Egg- laying hens look and act well on their way to death when they're trucked to the slaughterhouse after one or two years of hard labor.

There are many problems in the world. I don't have to remind you of them. Most we are not responsible for, except in remotely indirect ways. All of us have hurt people in the last year, and are obliged to make reconciliations and pledge to do better. But if you eat meat and dairy, it is a virtual guarantee that - by far - the most suffering you caused this year was to animals, and that, furthermore, it was all preventable. Therefore, you should atone to them. It is most meaningful to atone to victims who suffered and died as a direct result of your willful, voluntary, and discretionary actions.

Do you remember that the Lord commanded that animals be allowed to rest on the Sabbath? None of the animals that ended up on your plate were given rest on that day, or any day, including the days they were born and killed.

You may think, "but they're just standing there. Isn't that rest?"

Factory farm animals have no rest unless they are rescued. The animals stuck in huge sheds and tiny cages experience the unrest of a child held captive in a prison camp. There is not one second of play or relaxation. Even among the youngest, who should be running with bright eyes and blissful exuberance, the mood is morbid and somber. There is no room to do anything and their bodies ache from painful amputations and intensive breeding that works against their natural desires. The air is thick with the stench of feces and the aerosol of urine. There is nothing soft on which to lay down. The birds and pigs have no straw with which to make a bed. Most of the cows have to sleep on mud or dirt.

Rest is not the absence of action. In fact, the animals would like nothing more than to be let out of their cages, out of their crowded, smelly, windowless sheds, to walk into the sun, feel the real Earth beneath their feet, spread their wings, run at top speed with their legs, forage with their beaks, root in the mud with their snouts, and graze on huge expanses of pasture. To use their bodies and senses - however distended and distorted - more in line with how God designed them to be used, "according to their own kind." God gave these mistreated animals the tools and the desires to do all these things; they're denied ultimately because of you. The moment you stop buying meat, eggs, and dairy, the suffering will ease.

It is rather disturbing that Jews, of all people, are not only willfully ignorant of the suffering of their victims, but also devalue that suffering. Jews celebrate with cheese and eggs in blintzes as soon as Yom Kippur ends, oblivious to the fact that aveal calf spent a horrific, motherless life in chains so that the mother cow would produce un-Godly amounts of milk. The celebrants don't care that the hens who produced the eggs lived in a space less than the size of a record album cover; that their feet became overgrown and their joints ached from constantly standing on wire grating; that their innate desire to build a nest was stifled; that they suffered from excruciating "prolapses" in which the uterus sticks to the genetically-enlarged egg and comes out with it.

"But they're just chickens," you might say. That's almost the same thing that enemies of the Jews said about Jews. "They're inferior, and their suffering should not be prevented, regretted, or taken seriously." No matter how many differences exist between chickens and humans, we have one fundamental, profound shared trait: we suffer. We suffer badly. We fear suffering. We desperately try to avoid it, to escape it.

Because animals lack some human outlets, their suffering may even be worse. They cannot use language to fully articulate their plight to the outside world - although their body language and vocalizations are compelling. They probably cannot pray to God. They cannot rationalize their predicament. They cannot devise escape plans. They are just terrified. Many are babies. Some chicks are still peeping when they're on the slaughterhouse line, hanging upside-down, their feet shackled, smelling death all around them. They are only seven weeks old.

There is another important trait that animals share with humans: friendship. Chickens, cows, rabbits, ducks, and other farm animals express empathy and altruism toward others. On countless occasions, eyewitnesses have seen animals let the sick eat first, or have the best sleeping spots. Roosters and hens protect not only their young but their friends from the rain. Close companions may grieve deeply when their partner dies or is taken away. Many of us have seen this with our pets. Farm animals are no different.

Why do we treat these living souls so horribly? Why do we put their suffering out of our minds, and relish its products? Is everyone so caught up in their own troubles - or their own indulgences - that we're blind to the profound and widespread suffering that we cause?

Perhaps it is the very fact that the misery of farm animals is the result of our actions that we avoid thinking about it, or make excuses for it. Jews are famous for shouldering guilt, but acknowledging that you are complicit in torture is too much to bear. The mind fights it; the ego refuses to admit it. All our formidable defense mechanisms are mobilized; our cleverness at rationalization is put into effect, to shelter us from the most uncomfortable, incriminating realities.

And yet, once we have an inkling of the intense misery of modern food animals - and knowledge of alternatives - we never truly convince ourselves that it is acceptable to make animals suffer and die because we like the taste of their cooked flesh. No matter how clever we are, no matter how many layers of defense mechanisms are in place, we know without a doubt in our hearts that preventable cruelty is wrong.

We know that causing the weak and powerful to suffer on behalf of the strong and privileged is detestable. It goes against everything we were taught. It flagrantly disobeys the wish of God that we be merciful and humble. It clearly violates the Golden Rule. Were we the terrified calf or chick, we would want nothing so desperately as to have a normal life. We would beg for mercy. Were powerful aliens to land here - aliens that saw us as we see chickens - we would never consent to them enslaving and slaughtering us because we were considered a delicacy, or an essential ingredient in a religious ritual. The thought would sicken us and disgust us. It could never be justified.

And yet we do it. Every day, with nary a thought. How different it is to be the victimizer who shares in the spoils instead of the victim.

We can live without eggs. It's easy. I've done it for years. I used to eat challah, kugel, and honeycake (although there are egg-free recipes for all those dishes now). I used to cook omelets and matzoh brie and deviled eggs. My conscience compelled me to stop. I didn't wither away. I found ten other foods to take their place. Once I got past the angst of giving them up, it was barely a blip. I'm a better person for it. I'm no longer sentencing hens to a lifetime of miseryjust so I can have egg noodles during the High Holy Days or macaroons at Passover. There's no way that tickling my taste buds or continuing a food tradition can be considered morally equal to the hen's deep desire to be free of pain and suffering. I can no longer in good conscience keep making brisket or chopped liver or meatballs, or any food that inflicts misery and death on animals just to satisfy tradition or my pleasure.

And that is our crime. It's not like lamenting the fate of Jews in Russia, about which we can do little other than get angry. The solution to animal suffering - suffering that is real and intense and going on this instant and widespread - is literally right in front of us. On our plates. All we have to do is stop supporting
cruelty. Changing your diet is trivially easy compared to the hardships endured by food animals.

Have a heart. Atone now and for the rest of your lives to the innocents living in squalid surroundings, barely able to move, suffering physically and mentally for our ingrained habits and indulgences. Your atonement will be felt PROFOUNDLY by the
beneficiaries. I assure you. Please - stop torturing them.

Then take a breath. Look around you. Look at the birds in flight. The squirrels in the trees. The tiny vole burrowing near the fence.

Visit a farm sanctuary. Say hello to a big cow, with her big brown eyes. Hoist your child on your shoulders. Tell her or him that cows are good parents, too. That they're our friends. That they have cow friends that they hang out with, but also people friends. Just like the little guy or girl on top of your shoulders. "Can you moo like a cow? That's how they communicate."

They also communicate in more subtle ways. When they're grazing as a group, under the shade of a big oak tree, on a summer afternoon, enjoying each others' company, truly resting, at peace, summer after summer, they're saying "thank you." "Thank you, kind humans. Thank you, Jews. Thank you, people of all faiths. Thank you, humanists and Wiccans. Thank you, God, for letting us have peace, for letting us
graze in the fields and nuzzle our young, for letting us enjoy Your sun and Your shade. Thank you for the humans. They are wonderful."

When you hear their thank-you's, you will have atoned. Your heart will soar and be filled with joy.

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11. Great Video: “World Leaders on Climate Change”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMo

Thanks to JVNA Advisor Catherine Manna for sending us the above link. The video has powerful scenes of the effects of climate change and also strong statements by many world leders about the urgency of responding qickly to global climate change.

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12. Climate Agreements Needed Very Soon

http://en.cop15.dk/news/view+news?newsid=1877

Time running short for climate deal

Bonn: Poor countries stepped up demands on the industrial world to keep the Earth from catastrophically overheating, amid warnings that negotiations are moving too slowly to meet a December deadline.
AP/Michael von B├╝low 17/08/2009 08:00

Last week delegates from 180 countries skirmished over a draft agreement with some 2,500 paragraphs, sentences, phrases and words in dispute. They struggled to whittle down 200 pages of incomprehensible text into a workable document - but left Bonn on Friday after five days' diplomacy with much work still to do.

Government leaders are expected to discuss the key elements of a deal at a special United Nations meeting in New York next month, followed by a gathering of the world's 20 leading economies hosted by President Barack Obama in the US city of Pittsburgh.

With time running short, negotiators and lobbyists are expressing fears that a deal won't be sealed this December in Copenhagen, the long-billed deadline to unveil a successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

"If we continue at this rate, we're not going to make it," said Yvo de Boer, head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat.

"It would be incomprehensible if this opportunity were lost," he said, adding that only 15 days of actual negotiations remained before Copenhagen.

"Delegates spent too much time arguing over procedure and technicalities. This is not the way to overcome mistrust between rich and poor nations," said Kim Carstensen, head of the Global Climate Initiative of WWF.

The world's poorest and most vulnerable countries, including tiny island states that barely break the surface of the ocean, banded together to ratchet up the pressure on the industrial countries.

"Adverse affects of climate change already are being felt," said Dessima Williams, the delegate from Grenada, who led the 80-nation coalition. She cited rising sea levels, the spread of deserts and the loss of water sources, declining biodiversity and the growing frequency and intensity of hurricanes, floods and drought.

"Some states are likely to become entirely uninhabitable" unless carbon emissions are quickly checked, she said

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The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of vegetarian, environmental, nutritional, health, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc. It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for educational or research purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal, technical or medical advice.

August 17, 2009

8/17/2009 Special JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

I am sending this material involving articles and letters related to Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot to you relatively early for the following reasons:

1. I hope that you will use the material to create your own articles and letters and/or talking points for radio call-in programs and for other activities;
2. I plan to send the material to the Jewish media soon, and would welcome any suggestions you might have for improvements;
3. I often receive messages re kapporot (kapporus) ceremonies when it is too late to respond effectively, so I wanted the articles and sample letter on that rite to get to you early.

This special Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) Pre-Holiday Newsletter contains the following articles:

1. Should Jews Become Vegetarians at Rosh Hashanah?

2. Holiday Message: Is God's “Very Good” World Now Approaching An Unprecedented Catastrophe?

3. Why Perform a Rite That Kills Chickens as a Way to Seek God's Compassion?

4. Rosh Hashanah and Vegetarianism

5. Yom Kippur and Vegetarianism

6. Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah and Vegetarianism

7. The Custom of Kapparot in the Jewish Tradition

8. Thoughts On a Teshuva (Repentance) Campaign

9. Sample Letters

a. Rosh Hashanah

b. Yom Kippur/Kapparot

c. Sukkot


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 the kashrut, Shabbat observances, or any other Jewish observances, 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. Also, JVNA does not necessarily agree with all positions of groups whose views are included or whose events are announced in this newsletter.

As always, your comments and suggestions are very welcome.

Thanks,

Richard


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1. Should Jews Become Vegetarians at Rosh Hashanah?

Richard H. Schwartz, PH.D.

Rosh Hashanah is the time when we take stock of our lives and consider new beginnings. Perhaps the most significant and meaningful change that Jews should consider this year is a shift away from diets that have been having devastating effects on their health and the health of our increasingly imperiled planet. While many Jews seem to feel that the holiday celebration can be enhanced by the consumption of chopped liver, gefilte fish, chicken soup, and roast chicken, there are many inconsistencies between the values of Rosh Hashanah and the realities of animal-centered diets. Please consider:

1. While Jews ask God on Rosh Hashanah for a healthy year, animal-centered diets have been linked to an epidemic of heart disease, strokes, several forms of cancer, and other illnesses. Trying to cure these diseases has resulted in soaring medical costs that now total about one in every six dollars spent for ALL purposes in the U.S. Also, over 50 percent of the antibiotics produced in the U.S. are used in animals feed , resulting in bacteria building up immunities which make the antibiotics less effective in combating diseases.

2. While Jews pray on Rosh Hashanah for God's compassion during the coming year, many Jews, as well as most other people, partake in a diet that involves animals being raised for food under cruel conditions, in crowded, confined cells, where they are denied fresh air, exercise, and any emotional stimulation. And raising many animals in filthy, crowded conditions makes the spread of diseases like swine flu more likely.

3. While Jews pray for a peaceful New Year, animal-centered diets, by wasting land, grain, water, energy and other valuable resources, help to perpetuate the widespread hunger and poverty that often lead to instability and war.

4. While Jews pray on the Jewish New Year that God provide adequate sustenance, over 70% of the grain grown in the United States is fed to animals destined for slaughter, as 20 million people die annually because of hunger and its effects. Earlier in 2009, a UN report indicated that the number of chronically hungry people in the world now exceeds one billion.

5. While Jews commemorate the creation of the world on Rosh Hashanah, animal-based agriculture is a major contributor to many global threats, such as climate change, soil erosion and depletion, air and water pollution related to the production and use of pesticides and chemical fertilizer, and the destruction of tropical rain forests and other habitats. This is an especially timely issue now because of the many recent reports of severe, widespread droughts, storms, floods and wildfires, the rapid melting of polar ice caps and glaciers and the fact that some climate scientists are projecting that global warming may soon reach a tipping point and spiral out of control, with disastrous consequences, unless major changes soon occur. Israel is currently suffering the worst drought in its history with below average rainfall during the last five years, and the Israel Union for Environmental defense warned in 2007 that if current trends continue, global climate change will result in Israel having many heat waves, a decrease in average rainfall of up to 30 percent, severe storms and a flooding of the coastal plain where most Israelis live due to a rising Mediterranean Sea.

6. While Rosh Hashanah is a time when we are to "awake from our slumber" and mend our ways, the consumption of meat on Rosh Hashanah means that we are continuing the habits that are so detrimental to our health, to animals, to hungry people, and to ecosystems. While we symbolically cast away our sins at tashlich during Rosh Hashanah, the eating of meat means a continuation of the "sins" associated with our diets, with regard to treatment of animals, protecting our health, polluting the environment, and wasting food and other resources. While Rosh Hashanah is meant to be a time of deep contemplation when we carefully examine our deeds, most meat eaters seem to be ignoring the many moral issues related to their diets.

In view of these and other apparent contradictions, I hope that Jews will enhance their celebrations of the beautiful and spiritually meaningful holiday of Rosh Hashanah by making it a time to begin striving even harder to live up to Judaism's highest moral values and teachings by moving toward a vegetarian diet. Such a move would help revitalize Judaism by showing that we are applying our highest values, would improce the health of many Jews and would help shift our imperiled planet to a sustainable path.

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2. Holiday Message: Is God's “Very Good” World Now Approaching An Unprecedented Catastrophe?

Rosh Hashanah commemorates God's creation of the world. The “Ten Days of Repentance” from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur is a period to evaluate our deeds and to do teshuvah (repentance) for cases where we have missed the mark. Sukkot is a holiday in which we leave our fine houses and live in temporary shelters (sukkahs) to commemorate our ancestors journey in the wilderness. Hence, the upcoming weeks provide an excellent time to consider the state of the planet's environment and what we might do to make sure that the world is on a sustainable path.

When God created the world, He was able to say, "It is tov meod (very good)." (Genesis 1:31) Everything was in harmony as God had planned, the waters were clean, and the air was pure. But what must God think about the world today?

What must God think when the rain He provided to nourish our crops is often acid rain, due to the many chemicals emitted into the air by industries and automobiles; when the ozone layer He provided to protect all life on earth from the sun's radiation has been significantly diminished; when the abundance of species of plants and animals that He created are becoming extinct at such an alarming rate in tropical rain forests and other threatened habitats; when the abundant fertile soil He provided is quickly being depleted and eroded; when the climatic conditions that He designed to meet our needs are threatened by global warming?

An ancient rabbinic teaching has become all too relevant today:

In the hour when the Holy one, blessed be He,
created the first human being (Adam),
He took him and let him pass before all the trees of
the Garden of Eden and said to him:
"See my works, how fine and excellent they are!
All that I have created, for you have I created them.
Think upon this and do not corrupt and desolate My world,
For if you corrupt it, there is no one to set it right after you."

Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:28

Today's environmental threats bring to mind the Biblical ten plagues:
* When we consider the threats to our land, water, and air due to pesticides and other chemical pollutants, resource scarcities, acid rain, deforestation, desertification, threats to our climate, etc., we can easily enumerate ten modern "plagues."
* The Egyptians were subjected to one plague at a time, while the modern plagues threaten us simultaneously.
* The israelites in Goshen were spared most of the Biblical plagues, while every person on earth is imperiled by the modern plagues.
* Instead of an ancient Pharaoh's heart being hardened, our hearts today seem to have been hardened by the greed, materialism, and waste that are at the root of current environmental threats.
* God provided the Biblical plagues to free the Israelites, while today we must apply God's teachings in order to save ourselves and our precious but imperiled planet.

Today their seem to be almost daily reports about record heat waves, severe droughts and major forest fires, the melting of glaciers and polar ice caps, an increase in the number and severity of hurricanes and other storms, and other effects of global warming. All of the above and much more has occurred due to a temperature increase in the past hundred years of a little more than one degree Fahrenheit. So, it is very frightening that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group composed of thousands of the leading scientists from many countries, has projected an average temperature increase of 2 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit in the next hundred years. Some leading climate experts, including James Hansen of NASA, have stated that global warming may reach a tipping point and spin out of control within a decade, with disastrous consequences, unless major changes soon occur.

All countries, including Israel, are affected by global warming. Israel is already suffering from the worst drought in its history, with below average rainfall in each of the past five years.

A report by the Israel Union for Environmental Defense in 2007 indicates that global warming could cause a triple whammy, each and all of which would heighten tensions and suffering in and around Israel: (1) a rise in temperature of about 6 degrees Fahrenheit; (2) a significant increase in the Mediterranean Sea level, which would threaten the narrow coastal strip of land where 60% of Israel's population lives and where major infrastructure, such as ports and power plants, would be destroyed; and (3) a significant decrease in rainfall, estimated at 20-30%, which would disrupt agricultural production and worsen the chronic water scarcity problem in Israel and the region. Making matters even worse, much of that rainfall would come in severe storms that would cause major flooding.

Fortunately, there are many Jewish teachings that can be applied to shift the earth to a sustainable path. Briefly, these include:
* Our mandate to be shomrei adamah (guardians of the earth), based on the admonition that we should “work the earth and guard it” (Genesis 2:15);
* the prohibition of bal tashchit, that we should not waste or unnecessarily destroy anything of value (Deuteronomy 20:19. 20);
* the teaching that,"The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof" (Psalms 24:1), and that the assigned role of the Jewish people is to enhance the world as "partners of God in the work of creation." (Shabbat 10a);
* the ecological lessons related to the Shabbat, sabbatical, and jubilee cycles.

As co-workers with God, charged with the task of being a light unto the nations and accomplishing tikkun olam (healing and restoring the earth), it is essential that Jews take an active role in applying our eternal, sacred values in struggles to reduce global warming, pollution and the waste of natural resources. Based on the central Jewish mandates to work with God in preserving the earth, Jews must work with others for significant changes in society's economic and production systems, values, and life-styles. So at the start of a new year, we should seek to reduce our environmental impact The fate of humanity and God's precious earth are at stake, and if we fail to act properly and in time, there may be “no one after us to set it right.”

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3. Why Perform a Rite That Kills Chickens as a Way to Seek God's Compassion?

By Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.

The period before and during Yom Kippur, Judaism's holiest day, is one in which Jews ask for God's compassion so that we will be forgiven for our transgressions during the previous year and granted a happy, healthy, peaceful year. Yet, many Jews perform the rite of kapparot (in Ashkenazic Hebrew kappores or in Yiddish, shluggen kappores) in the days before Yom Kippur, a ritual which involves the killing of chickens.

Kapparot is a custom in which the sins of a person are symbolically transferred to a fowl. First, selections from Isaiah 11:9, Psalms 107:10, 14, and 17-21, and Job 33:23-24 are recited; then a rooster (for a male) or a hen (for a female) is held above the person's head and swung in a circle three times, while the following is spoken: "This is my exchange, my substitute, my atonement; this rooster (or hen) shall go to its death, but I shall go to a good, long life, and to peace." The hope is that the fowl, which is then donated as charity to the poor for food, will take on any misfortune that might otherwise occur to the one who has taken part in the ritual, in punishment for his or her sins.

There seems to be an inconsistency here because of Judaism's strong teachings about compassion to animals and because the rite can be carried out in a rabbinically approved way without using and then slaughtering chickens.

The psalmist indicates God's concern for animals, for "His compassion is over all of His creatures" (Psalms 145:9). And there is a mitzvah-precept in the Torah to emulate the Divine compassion, as it is written: "And you shall walk in His ways" (Deuteronomy 28:9). Perhaps the Jewish attitude toward animals is best summarized by Proverbs 12:10: "The righteous person considers the soul (life) of his or her animal."

Moses and King David were considered worthy to be leaders of the Jewish people because of their compassionate treatment of animals, when they were shepherds. Rebecca was judged suitable to be a wife of the patriarch Isaac because of her kindness in watering the ten thirsty camels of Abraham's servant Eliezer.

Many Torah laws involve proper treatment of animals. One may not muzzle an ox while it is working in the field nor yoke a strong and a weak animal together. Animals, as well as people, must be permitted to rest on the Sabbath day. The importance of this concept is indicated by the fact that it is in the Ten Commandments and by its recitation every Sabbath morning by many Jews, as part of the kiddush ceremony.

In summary, the Torah prohibits Jews from causing tsa'ar ba'alei chayim, any unnecessary pain to living creatures, even psychological pain. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, an outstanding 19th century philosopher, author, and Torah commentator, eloquently summarizes the Jewish view on treatment of animals: “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.” (Horeb, Chapter 60, #416)

In view of these strong Jewish teachings, fortunately there is a substitute kapparot ceremony that is widely practiced by many observant Jews. Money, perhaps equal to the monetary value of the fowl, is substituted for the rooster or hen. The money is put into a handkerchief which the person swings three times around his or her head while reciting a modified saying: "This money shall go to charity, and I shall go to a good, long life, and to peace." Hence, the heightened sense of repentance can be kept, and perhaps even enhanced, since no bird has to lose its life or suffer for our sake. This substitution, which maintains the tradition of giving charity (the substituted money) to the poor, has been endorsed by many rabbis and is mentioned in many prayer books, including the Artscroll Siddur, which is used in many Orthodox synagogues.

Some additional considerations pointing toward shifting toward the use of money rather than chickens for the kapparot ritual are:

* Kapparot is not mentioned in the Torah or in the Talmud. The custom is first discussed by Jewish scholars in the ninth century.

* According to the Encyclopedia Judaica (Volume 10, pages 756-757), several Jewish sages strongly opposed kapparot. Rabbi Solomon ben Abraham Aderet , one of the foremost Jewish scholars during the 13th century, considered it a heathen superstition. This opinion was shared by the Ramban (Nachmanides) and Rabbi Joseph Caro, who called it "a foolish custom" that Jews should avoid. They felt that it was a pagan custom that mistakenly made its way into Jewish practice, perhaps because when Jews lived among pagans this rite seemed like a korban (sacrifice) to some extent However, the Kabbalists (led by mystics such as Rabbi Isaac Luria and Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz) perceived in this custom mystical significance which strongly appealed to many people. This greatly enhanced the popularity of the kapparot ritual down to the present day.

* Some Jewish leaders opposed kapparot because they felt that people would misunderstand the significance of the ritual. The belief that the ceremony of kapparot can transfer a person's sins to a bird, and that his or her sins would then be completely eradicated, is contrary to Jewish teachings. For, if the ritual could remove a person's sins, what would be the need to observe Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement?

* The birds may suffer while they are handled. In some places in Israel and the United States, the birds are sold on street corners for this ceremony, and not every merchant takes sufficient care of the chickens during this period. The birds are frequently cooped up in baskets, and some merchants neglect to give them sufficient food or water. In recent years communal and rabbinic leaders were placed in the position of publicly apologizing for the mistreatment of chickens used for kapparot and the wastefulness of slaughtered chickens sometimes discarded on the eve of Yom Kippur. It should also be noted that the chickens have generally been raised under cruel conditions on modern factory farms.

Hence, while the Jewish tradition is filled with concepts, prayers, and actions during the Rosh Hashanah-Yom Kippur period that relate to the importance of rachamim (compassion and sensitivity), the message of kapparot to those who take part and those who view it (including children) may be just the opposite in some cases, a lesson of insensitivity to the feelings of other living creatures.

* Acts of kindness and charity are consistent with God`s "delighting in life" on Rosh Hashanah, since, unlike the kapparot ceremony using chickens, they don't involve the possible cruel treatment and death of animals.

* Finally, consistent with the Rosh Hashanah - Yom Kippur period as a time when Jews are to "awaken from slumber" and mend our ways, using money rather than chickens for the kapparot ritual shows that we are putting Torah teachings about compassion into practice.

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4. Rosh Hashanah and Vegetarianism

by Richard Schwartz, Ph.D.
rschw12345@aol.com
jewishveg.com/schwartz

Rosh Hashanah is the time when Jews take stock of their lives and consider new beginnings. Perhaps the most significant and meaningful change that Jews should consider this year is a shift away from diets that have been having devastating effects on human health and the health of our increasingly imperiled planet. While many Jews seem to feel that the holiday's celebration can be enhanced by the
consumption of chopped liver, gefilte fish, chicken soup, and roast chicken, there are many inconsistencies between the values of Rosh Hashanah and the realities of animal-centered diets:

1. While Jews ask God on Rosh Hashanah for a healthy year, non-vegetarian diets have been linked to heart disease, strokes, several forms of cancer, and other illnesses. While we implore "our Father, our King" on Rosh Hashanah to "keep the plague from thy people", high fat, meat-based diets are causing a plague of degenerative diseases that have led to soaring health care costs.

2. While Jews pray on the Jewish New Year that God "remove pestilence, sword, and famine", over 70% of the grain grown in the United States is fed to animals destined for slaughter, as 20 million people die annually because of hunger and its effects. Animal-centered diets, by wasting valuable resources, help to perpetuate the widespread hunger and poverty that often lead to instability and war.

3. While Jews commemorate the creation of the world on Rosh Hashanah, livestock agriculture is a major contributor to many global threats, such as soil erosion and depletion, air and water pollution related to the production and use of pesticides and chemical fertilizer, the destruction of tropical rain forests and other habitats, and global climate change.

4. While Jews pray on Rosh Hashanah for God's compassion during the coming year, many Jews, as well as most other people, partake in a diet that involves animals being raised for food under cruel conditions, in crowded, confined cells, where they are denied fresh air, exercise, and any emotional stimulation.

5. While Judaism teaches that people's fate for the new year is written on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur and that repentance, prayer, and charity can cancel a stern decree, the fate of farm animals is determined before they are born and there is no way they can change it. While the Torah and Prophetic readings on Rosh Hashanah describe the great joy of both Sarah and Hannah after they were blessed with sons after it seemed that both were destined to be barren, animal-based diets require the taking of animal babies from their mothers after only one day of nursing, to spend the rest of their lives in small, confined spaces where they are fattened up for slaughter.

6. While Rosh Hashanah is a time when we are to "awake from our slumber" and mend our ways, the consumption of meat on Rosh Hashanah means that we are continuing the habits that are so detrimental to our health, to animals, to hungry people, and to ecosystems. While we symbolically cast away our sins at tashlich during Rosh Hashanah, the eating of meat means a continuation of the "sins" associated with our diets, with regard to treatment of animals, protecting our health, polluting the environment, and wasting food and other resources. While Rosh Hashanah is meant to be a time of deep contemplation when we carefully examine our deeds, most meat eaters ignore the many moral issues related to their diets.

7. While we speak of God's "delighting in life" on Rosh Hashanah, the standard American diet annually involves deaths of billions of animals, as well as many human deaths, due to insufficient food in poor countries and too much rich food in the wealthy countries.

8. While Rosh Hashanah has a universal message and involves the prayer that "all the world's people shall come to serve (God)", many of the world's people suffer from chronic hunger which denies them the necessary strength and will for devotion, while meat and fish from the choicest land and most bountiful waters of their countries is exported to meet dietary demands in the United States and other
developed countries.

9. While Rosh Hashanah is a time of joy (along with sincere meditation), animals on factory farms never have a pleasant day, and millions of people throughout the world are too involved in worrying about their next meal to be able to experience many joyous moments.

In view of these and other apparent contradictions, I hope that Jews will enhance their celebrations of the beautiful and spiritually meaningful holiday of Rosh Hashanah by making it a time to begin striving even harder to live up to Judaism's highest moral values and teachings by moving toward a vegetarian diet.

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5. Yom Kippur and Vegetarianism

Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.
rschw12345@aol.com
jewishveg.com/schwartz

There are many connections that can be made between the Jewish
holiday of Yom Kippur and vegetarianism:

1. On Yom Kippur, Jews pray to the "Living God", the "King Who delights in life", that they should be remembered for life, and inscribed in the "Book of Life" for the New Year. Yet, typical animal-based diets have been linked to heart disease, stroke, several types of cancer, and other chronic degenerative diseases, that shorten the lives of 1.4 million Americans annually.

2. On Yom Kippur, Jews pray to a "compassionate God", who compassionately remembers His creatures for life. Yet, there is little compassion related to modern intensive livestock agriculture (factory farming), which involves the cruel treatment and slaughter of about 10 billion farm animals annually in the United States.

3. On Yom Kippur, Jews pray to God, "Who makes peace", to be inscribed into the "Book of Life, Blessing, and Peace". Yet, animal-centered diets, by requiring vast amounts of land, water, energy, and other resources, help to perpetuate the widespread hunger and poverty that often lead to instability, violence, and war.

4. On Yom Kippur, Jews are told through the words of Isaiah in the morning prophetic reading that the true purpose of fasting on that day is to sensitize them to the needs of the hungry and the oppressed, so that they will work to end oppression and "share thy bread with the hungry". (Isaiah 58:6,7) Yet, 70 percent of the grain produced in the United States is used to fatten up farm animals, while an estimated 20 million of the world's people die annually from lack of adequate food.

5. One of the most important messages of Yom Kippur and the preceding days is the importance of teshuvah, of turning away from sinful ways, from apathy, from a lack of compassion and sensitivity, and returning to Jewish values, ideals, and mitzvot. Vegetarianism involves a significant turn, away from a diet that has many harmful effects to one that is consistent with Jewish mandates to take care of our health, treat animals kindly, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, help the hungry, and seek and pursue peace.

6. The Yom Kippur liturgy has a prayer that includes the statement that "we are God's flock, and God is our shepherd." Since Judaism teaches that people are to imitate God in His acts of compassion and caring, we should be treating God's defenseless creatures in the ways that we want God to treat us.

7. On Yom Kippur, Jews ask for forgiveness for the sin of "casting off responsibility". Vegetarianism is a way to assume responsibility for our health, for animals, for the environment, and for the world's hungry people.

8. Yom Kippur is time for reflection and soul searching, a time to consider changes in one's way of life, a time to make decisions for improvement. Hence, it is an excellent time to switch to a diet that has so many personal and societal benefits.

9. According to the Jewish tradition, our fate is sealed on Yom Kippur for the coming year. But repentance, charity, and prayer can avert a negative decree. However, people have determined the fate of animals before they are born, and there is virtually no possibility of a change in the cruel treatment and early slaughter that awaits them.

10. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, a day of being, in effect, at-one with God. One way to be more at-one with God is by adopting a plant-based diet, and thereby not harming animals, since "God's tender mercies are over all of His creatures". (Psalm 145:9)

11. Yom Kippur teaches that, while it is often difficult, old habits can be broken. Thus, the days surrounding Yom Kippur provide a good period to break habits related to the consumption of animal products.

12. The afternoon service for Yom Kippur includes the reading from the book of Jonah, which tells how Jonah was sent to warn the people of Nineveh that they must do teshuvah, change their sinful ways in order to avoid destruction. Today, the whole world is like Nineveh, in need of redemption, and in danger as never before from a variety of environmental threats. In a sense, vegetarians are now playing the role of Jonah, pointing out that a shift away from an intensive animal agriculture that has significant negative effects on the environment and a shift toward vegetarian diets have become global imperatives, necessary to shift humanity from its current perilous path.

13. An important message of the book of Jonah is that God is concerned about the fate of all of the world's people. Vegetarianism is a way to show such concern and hence to imitate God's attributes of caring and compassion, since this diet requires far less land, grain, water, fuel, and other resources, and hence can contribute to a reduction of the widespread hunger that afflicts so much of humanity.

14. The book of Jonah also shows God's concern for animals. It ends with God's statement, "Should I not then spare the great city of
Nineveh with more than one hundred and twenty thousand human beings. . . and much cattle?"

15. On Yom Kippur, one of the many sins that we ask forgiveness for is "the sin we committed before Thee in eating and drinking." This can be interpreted in terms of the harm that animal-based diets do with regard to human health, animals, the environment, and hungry people.

16. On Yom Kippur, Jews are forbidden to wear leather shoes. One reason is that it is not considered proper to plead for compassion when one has not shown compassion to the creatures of God, Whose concern extends to all His works.

17. Rabbi Israel Salanter, one of the most distinguished Orthodox
Rabbis of the nineteenth century, failed to appear one Yom Kippur eve in time for the sacred Kol Nidre Prayer. His congregation became concerned, for it was inconceivable that their saintly rabbi would be absent or late on this very holy day. They sent a search party to look for him. After much time, their rabbi was found in a Christian neighbor's barn. On his way to the synagogue, Rabbi Salanter had come upon one of the neighbor's calves, lost and tangled in the brush.
Seeing the animal in distress, he freed him and led him home. His act of compassion represented the rabbi's prayers on that Yom Kippur evening.

In summary, a shift to vegetarianism is an important way to do teshuvah, to turn away from a diet that is harmful in many ways to one that is in accord with the many significant teachings and values that Yom Kippur represents.

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6. Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah and Vegetarianism

Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.
rschw12345@aol.com
jewishveg.com/schwartz

There are many connections that can be made between vegetarianism and the joyous Jewish festivals of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret (the Eighth Day of Solemn Assembly), and Simchat Torah:

1. Sukkot commemorates the 40 years when the ancient Israelites lived in the wilderness in frail huts and were sustained by manna.
According to Isaac Arama (1420-1494), author of Akedat Yitzchak,and others, the manna was God's attempt to reestablish for the Israelites the vegetarian diet that prevailed before the flood in the time of Noah.

2. On Simchat Torah, Jews complete the annual cycle of Torah readings, and begin again, starting with the first chapter of Genesis, which contains God's first dietary law: "Behold I have given you every herb yielding seed which is upon the face of the earth, and every tree, in which there is the fruit of a tree-yielding seed - to you it shall be for food." (Genesis 1:29). Also, the Torah, along with prophetic and Talmudic interpretations, is the source of the Jewish mandates - to take care of our health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, help hungry people, and seek and pursue peace - that point to vegetarianism as the ideal diet today.

3. Sukkot is the Jewish harvest festival called the "Feast of Ingathering". Hence, it can remind us that many more people can be sustained on vegetarian diets than on animal-centered diets that presently involve over 70 percent of the grain produced in the United States being fed to animals raised for slaughter, while 15 to 20 million people die due to malnutrition and its effects annually.

4. The Sukkot holiday, including Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, is known as the "Season of Rejoicing", because people's worries about the success of the harvest are over. Since one must be in good health in order to fully rejoice, the many health benefits of vegetarian diets and the knowledge that such diets are not harmful to hungry people or animals are factors that can enhance rejoicing.

5. Sukkahs, the temporary structures that Jews dwell in during
Sukkot, are decorated with pictures and replicas of apples, oranges, bananas, peppers, carrots, and other fruits and vegetables, never with meats or other animal products.

6. After the sukkah, the main ritual symbols for Sukkot are related to the plant kingdom. The Torah states: "On the first day, you shall take the first fruit of hadar (goodly) trees (an etrog or citron), branches of palm trees (lulav), boughs of leafy trees (hadassim and myrtle, and willows of the field (aravot), and you shall rejoice before the Lord thy God seven days (Leviticus 23:40). These four species represent the beauty and bounty of the land of Israel's harvest.

7. On Shemini Atzeret, Jews pray for rain, and plead to God that it should be for a blessing, not a curse. This is a reminder of the preciousness of rain water to nourish the crops so that there will be a successful harvest. Also, according to the Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 1.2), the world is judged on Sukkot with regard to how much rainfall it will receive. In the days when the Temple stood in Jerusalem, there was a joyous "Water Drawing Ceremony" (Simchat Bet Shueva), designed to remind God to pour forth water when it was needed. Modern intensive livestock agriculture requires huge amounts of water, much of it to irrigate feed crops. According to Newsweek magazine, the amount of water needed to raise one steer would float a Naval destroyer. A person on an animal-based diet requires up to 14 times as much water as a person on a strict vegetarian diet.

8. Sukkot is a universal holiday. There are at least three indications related to the festival that Jews consider not only their own welfare, but also the fate of all of the world's people:

a. In Temple days, there were 70 sacrifices for the then 70 nations of the world;
b. The lulav is waved in all directions, to indicate God's rule over and concern for the entire world;
c. The roof of the sukkah is made only of natural materials such as wood and bamboo, and must be open sufficiently so that people inside can see the stars, to remind them that their concerns should extend beyond their immediate needs and should encompass the world.

Vegetarianism also considers not only a person's health, but also encompasses broader concerns, including the global environment, the world's hungry people, and the efficient use of the world's resources.

9. Moving out of comfortable homes to dwell in relatively frail sukkahs indicates that it is not our power and wealth that we should rely on, but rather that our fate is in God's hands. And it is God Who originally provided vegetarian diets for people, and created us with hands, teeth, and digestive systems most conducive to eating plant foods.

10. Dwelling in sukkahs also teaches that no matter how magnificent our homes, no matter how extensive our wealth and material possessions, we should be humble and not be overly concerned about our status. Vegetarianism is also an attempt to not be taken in by status symbols, such as those that the eating of meat often represent.

11. Sukkot's prophetic readings point to the universal messianic transformation of the world. According to Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook, first Chief Rabbi of pre-state Israel, based on the prophecy of Isaiah (. . . the wolf will dwell with the lamb, . . . the lion will eat straw like the ox . . . (Isaiah 11: 6-9)), the messianic period
will be vegetarian.

In summary, a shift to vegetarianism is a way to be consistent with many values and teachings related to the joyous festivals of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah.

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7. The Custom of Kapparot in the Jewish Tradition

By Richard Schwartz

Every year, before Yom Kippur, some Jews perform the ceremony of kapparot. The following, in question and answer form, is a discussion of the ritual and its relation to the treatment of animals.

What is kapparot [in Ashkenazic Hebrew or Yiddish, kappores or shluggen kappores]?

Kapparot is a custom in which the sins of a person are symbolically transferred to a fowl. It is practiced by some Jews shortly before Yom Kippur. First, selections from Isaiah 11:9, Psalms 107:10, 14, and 17-21, and Job 33:23-24 are recited; then a rooster (for a male) or a hen (for a female) is held above the person's head and swung in a circle three times, while the following is spoken: "This is my exchange, my substitute, my atonement; this rooster (or hen) shall go to its death, but I shall go to a good, long life, and to peace." The hope is that the fowl, which is then donated to the poor for food, will take on any misfortune that might otherwise occur to the one who has taken part in the ritual, in punishment for his or her sins.

What is the history of this rite?

Kapparot is not mentioned in the Torah or in the Talmud. The custom is first discussed by Jewish scholars in the ninth century. They explain that since the Hebrew word gever means both "man" and "rooster", punishment of the bird can be substituted for that of a person.

According to the Encyclopedia Judaica (Volume 10, pages 756-757), several Jewish sages strongly opposed kapparot. Rabbi Solomon ben Abraham Aderet , one of the foremost Jewish scholars during the 13th century, considered it a heathen superstition. This opinion was shared by the Ramban (Nachmanides) and Rabbi Joseph Caro, who called it "a foolish custom" that Jews should avoid. They felt that it was a pagan custom that mistakenly made its way into Jewish practice, perhaps because when Jews lived among pagans this rite seemed like a korban (sacrifice) to some extent

However, the Kabbalists (led by mystics such as Rabbi Isaac Luria and Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz) perceived in this custom mystical significance which strongly appealed to many people. This greatly enhanced the popularity of the kapparot ritual down to the present day.

Why did some Jewish sages oppose kapparot?

Some Jewish leaders felt that people would misunderstand the significance of the ritual. The belief that the ceremony of kapparot can transfer a person's sins to a bird, and that his or her sins would then be completely eradicated, is contrary to Jewish teachings. For, if the ritual could remove a person's sins, what would be the need for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement?

The Mishneh Brurah, an eminent contemporary commentary on Rabbi Joseph Caro's classical codification of Jewish law written by the respected Chafetz Chaim at the beginning of the 20th century, explains the significance of the ritual. Judaism stresses that a person can't obtain purity from sin, and thus obtain higher levels of perfection, without repenting. Through God's mercy, we are given the Divine gift of repentance, so that we might abandon our corrupt ways, thereby being spared from the death that we deserve for our violation of the Divine law. By substituting the death of a fowl, one will (hopefully) appreciate God's mercy and be stirred to repentance. By no means, however, does the ritual and the slaughter of the bird eradicate one's misdeeds, even though the bird is donated to the poor.

What are more recent objections to this ceremony?

The birds may suffer while they are handled. In some places in Israel and the United States, chickens are sold on street corners for this ceremony, and not every merchant takes proper care of his chickens during this period. The birds are frequently cooped up in baskets, and some merchants neglect to give them sufficient food or water.
Hence, while the Jewish tradition is filled with concepts, prayers, and actions during the Rosh Hashanah-Yom Kippur period that relate to the importance of rachamim (compassion and sensitivity), the message of kapparot to those who take part and those who view it (including children) may be just the opposite in some cases, a lesson of insensitivity to the feelings of other living creatures.

How should Jews who are concerned about the treatment of animals respond to this issue?
Jews who are concerned about the treatment of animals should try to engage courteously and respectfully with Jews who perform kapparot. It should be recognized that they are performing what they regard as an important religious act. Some of the points that can be brought up include:

1. There is a substitute ceremony that is widely practiced by many Torah-observant Jews. Money, perhaps equal to the monetary value of the fowl, is substituted for the rooster or hen. The money is put into a handkerchief which the person swings three times around his or her head while reciting a modified saying :"This money shall go to charity, and I shall go to a good, long life, and to peace." Hence, the heightened sense of repentance can be kept, and perhaps even enhanced, since no bird has to lose its life or suffer for our sake. This substitution, which maintains the tradition of giving charity (the substituted money) to the poor, has been endorsed by many rabbis and is mentioned in many prayer books, including the Artscroll Siddur which is used in many Orthodox synagogues.

2. We should attempt to increase the knowledge of Jews with regard to Judaism's beautiful and powerful teachings with regard to showing compassion to animals. The following are a few examples:

Moshe Rabbenu, (our great teacher, Moses) and King David were considered worthy to be leaders of the Jewish people because of their compassionate treatment of animals, when they were shepherds. Rebecca was judged suitable to be a wife of the patriarch Isaac because of her kindness in watering the ten camels of Abraham's servant Eliezer.

Many Torah laws involve proper treatment of animals. One may not muzzle an ox while it is working in the field nor yoke a strong and a weak animal together. Animals, as well as people, must be permitted to rest on the Sabbath day. The importance of this concept is indicated by the fact that it is inthe Ten Commandments and by its recitation every Sabbath morning by many Jews, as part of the kiddush ceremony.

The psalmist indicates God's concern for animals, for "His compassion is over all of His creatures" (Psalms 145:9). And there is a mitzvah-precept in the Torah to emulate the Divine compassion, as it is written: "And you shall walk in His ways" (Deuteronomy 28:9). Perhaps the Jewish attitude toward animals is best summarized by Proverbs 12:10: "The righteous person considers the soul (life) of his or her animal."

In summary, the Torah prohibits Jews from causing tsa'ar ba'alei chayim, any unnecessary pain to living creatures, even psychological pain. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, an outstanding 19th century philosopher, author, and Torah commentator, eloquently summarizes the Jewish view on treatment of animals: “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.” (Horeb, Chapter 60, #416) In the same section, Rabbi Hirsch indicates further how great our concern for animals must be:

There are probably no creatures that require more the protective Divine word against the presumption of man than the animals, which like man have sensations and instincts, but whose body and powers are nevertheless subservient to man. In relation to them man so easily forgets that injured animal muscle twitches just like human muscle, that the maltreated nerves of an animal sicken like human nerves, that the animal being is just as sensitive to cuts, blows, and beating as man. Thus man becomes the torturer of the animal soul, which has been subjected to him only for the fulfillment of humane and wise purposes . . .

3. In view of the above, it can be argued that one way that Jews can accomplish repentance and other goals of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is by moving away from the unnecessary exploitation of animals. For many of the values of this holiday period are more consistent with practicing mercy toward all of God's creatures:

(a) Prayers on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur for God's compassion during the coming year are most consistent with acts of kindness to both other people and animals. The following story reinforces this idea:

Rabbi Israel Salanter, one of the most distinguished Orthodox Rabbis of the nineteenth century, failed to appear one Yom Kippur eve to chant the sacred Kol Nidre Prayer. His congregation became concerned, for it was inconceivable that their saintly rabbi would be late or absent on this very holy day. They sent out a search party to look for him. After much time, their rabbi was found in the barn of a Christian neighbor. On his way to the synagogue, Rabbi Salanter had come upon one of his neighbor's calves, lost and tangled in the brush. Seeing that the animal was in distress, he freed it and led it home through many fields and over many hills. His act of mercy represented the rabbi's prayers on that Yom Kippur evening.

(b) Consistent with Rosh Hashanah as a time when Jews are to "awaken from slumber" and mend our ways, using money for the kapparot ritual shows that we are putting Torah teachings about compassion into practice.

(c) Acts of kindness and charity are consistent with God`s "delighting in life" on Rosh Hashanah, since, unlike the kapparot ceremony, it doesn`t involve the possible cruel treatment and death of animals.

4. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we should remind others that kapparot is not biblically or talmudically ordained (as is tsa'ar ba'alei chayim), that the custom arose at a later period in Jewish history, that it has been condemned by many Jewish sages, and that the important goal of increasing our sensitivity to the importance of repentance and charity can be accomplished as well, and perhaps better, by substituting money for a bird.

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8. Thoughts On a Teshuva (Repentance) Campaign

Shalom everyone,

I would like your comments and suggestions re the proposed “dietary-teshuvah” campaign below. [This is in a very preliminary stage, so any suggestions would be welcome.]

I suggest that we start a “dietary-teshuvah” (repentance for harmful eating habits) campaign for the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (the “ten days of teshuvah), since this is the time when Jews are to especially consider their deeds for the previous year and do “teshuvah” (that is repent for past misdeeds and vow to do better in the future). It is also a time that we ask for God's compassion and His blessings for a good, healthy, prosperous year. Hence, it is a good time for people to also exhibit greater compassion.

I suggest that Jews contact their local rabbis and other key people in the Jewish community and ask them to consider how the realities of animal-based diets and agriculture contradict the values of this sacred period (in terms, for example, of our prayers for God's compassion and for a good, healthy year - hence, the need for teshuvah.) There should also be e-mail messages, letters and articles sent to Jewish publications, calls to talk shows, and other approaches to spread the teshuvah message.

We could provide rabbis and other Jewish leaders much background information on the contradictions between the holiday's values and conditions related to the production and consumption of animal products. For example, my “Rosh Hashanah and Vegetarianism” and “Yom Kippur and Vegetarianism” articles (above) have much re this.

It would be wonderful if we could afford ads in some Jewish publications.

We would also try to get support from other religious groups and vegetarian/animal rights groups for the campaign.

The use of e-mail and the Internet would help us get our messages out to many people. We already have the start of an effective network through my e-mail lists.

This is just the very first rough draft for this concept, so please let me know what you think. Perhaps we can build on the recent increased interest in vegetarianism.

Thanks,

Richard

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9. Sample Letters

a. Rosh Hashanah

Longer version:

Dear editor:


Rosh Hashanah reminds us of God's creation of the world. Hence, it is an excellent time to consider the state of the planet's environment and what we might do to make sure that the world is on a sustainable path.

When God created the world, He was able to say, "It is very good." (Genesis 1:31) Everything was in harmony as God had planned, the waters were clean, and the air was pure. But what must God think about the world today, when, for example, the rain He provided to nourish our crops is often acid rain, the ozone layer has been significantly diminished; species of plants and animals are becoming extinct at such an alarming rate, and the climatic conditions that He designed to meet our needs are threatened by global warming?

Fortunately, there are many Jewish teachings that can be applied to shift the earth to a sustainable path. Briefly, these include:
* Our mandate to be shomrei adamah (guardians of the earth), based on the admonition that we should “work the earth and guard it” (Genesis 2:15);
* the prohibition of bal tashchit, that we should not waste or unnecessarily destroy anything of value (Deuteronomy 20:19. 20);
* the teaching that,"The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof" (Psalms 24:1), and that the assigned role of the Jewish people is to enhance the world as "partners of God in the work of creation." (Shabbat 10a);
* the ecological lessons related to the Shabbat, sabbatical, and jubilee cycles.

As co-workers with God, charged with the task of being a light unto the nations and accomplishing tikkun olam (healing and restoring the earth), it is essential that Jews take an active role in applying our eternal, sacred values in struggles to end pollution and the waste of natural resources. So at the start of a new year, we should seek to reduce our environmental impact by, for example, using recycled paper, eating less meat, driving our cars less and using more fuel efficient bulbs and other items. The fate of humanity and God's precious earth are at stake.


Shorter version of the letter:

Dear editor:

Rosh Hashanah reminds us of God's creation of the world. Hence, it is an excellent time to consider the planet's environment and steps toward shifting the world to a sustainable path.

When God created the world, He was able to say, "It is very good." (Genesis 1:31) Everything was in harmony as God had planned, the waters were clean, and the air was pure. But what must God think about the world today, when, for example, the rain He provided to nourish our crops is often acid rain, species of plants and animals are becoming extinct at such an alarming rate, and the climatic conditions that He designed to meet our needs are threatened by global warming?

Fortunately, there are many Jewish teachings that can be applied to shift the earth to a sustainable path. Briefly, these include:
* Our mandate to be shomrei adamah (guardians of the earth) (Genesis 2:15);
* the prohibition of bal tashchit, that we should not waste or unnecessarily destroy anything of value (Deuteronomy 20:19. 20);
* The assigned role of the Jewish people is to enhance the world as "partners of God in the work of creation." (Shabbat 10a);
* the ecological lessons related to the Shabbat, sabbatical, and jubilee cycles.

It is essential that Jews take an active role in applying our eternal, sacred values in struggles to end pollution and the waste of natural resources. So at the start of a new year, we should seek to reduce our environmental impact by, for example, using recycled paper, eating less meat, driving our cars less and using more fuel efficient bulbs and other items. The fate of humanity and God's precious earth are at stake.

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b. Yom Kippur/Kapparot

Dear editor:

It seems inconsistent for Jews to take part in a ritual that results in the killing of chickens in seeking God's compassion. I am referring to the the rite of kapparot (in Ashkenazic Hebrew kappores) performed in the days before Yom Kippur, in which the sins of a person are symbolically transferred to a fowl. After reciting several biblical verses, a rooster (for a male) or a hen (for a female) is held above the person's head and swung in a circle three times, while the following is spoken: "This is my exchange, my substitute, my atonement; this rooster (or hen) shall go to its death, but I shall go to a good, long life, and to peace." The bird is later slaughtered and donated to a charity group or a poor person.

There seems to be an inconsistency here because of Judaism's strong teachings about compassion to animals. Jews are to be rachmanim b'nei rachmanim (compassionate children of compassionate ancestors) and to avoid causing any unnecessary pain to animals. The psalmist indicates God's concern for animals, for "His compassion is over all of His creatures" (Psalms 145:9). And there is a mitzvah-precept in the Torah to emulate the Divine compassion, as it is written: "And you shall walk in His ways" (Deuteronomy 28:9). Perhaps the Jewish attitude toward animals is best summarized by Proverbs 12:10: "The righteous person considers the soul (life) of his or her animal."

In view of these and other strong Jewish teachings, fortunately there is a substitute kapparot ceremony that is widely practiced by many observant Jews. Money, perhaps equal to the monetary value of the fowl, is substituted for the rooster or hen. The money is put into a handkerchief which the person swings three times around his or her head while reciting a modified saying: "This money shall go to charity, and I shall go to a good, long life, and to peace." Hence, the heightened sense of repentance can be kept, and perhaps even enhanced, since no bird has to lose its life or suffer for our sake. This substitution, which maintains the tradition of giving charity (the substituted money) to the poor, has been endorsed by many rabbis and is mentioned in many prayer books, including the Artscroll Siddur, which is used in many Orthodox synagogues.

To be most consistent with Jewish values, I hope that Jews who observe the kapparot ritual will substitute money for chickens this year

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c. Sukkot

Dear Editor:

On Sukkot, the Jewish festival devoted to our offering thanksgiving for the abundance of life, we are reminded that humans are only privileged caretakers of this precious, but imperiled, planet. Like the wilderness sukkot of our Israelite ancestors, this Earth is no more than our temporary dwelling, and it is our important responsibility to cherish and care for our planet and all its creatures, as co=workers with God. The fragile shelter of the sukkah should remind us that we can't rely on technological advances to save us and we must find a way to live in harmony with nature.

As we decorate our sukkahs with pictures and replicas of fruits and vegetables on our harvest festival, we should consider how future harvests are endangered by global warming, widening water shortages and soil erosion and depletion. As our Israelite ancestors were sustained with manna, a vegetarian food “like coriander seed,” while they dwelt in sukkahs for 40 years in the wilderness, we should sustain ourselves with tofu, the modern-day manna, and a wide variety of other plant foods, to improve our health and to help move our endangered planet to a sustainable path.

Very truly yours,

Steven Schuster
Richard H. Schwartz

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