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Vegetarianism and Kashrut - Question and Answer

Comment and Request from Maynard S. Clark

I think that Kashrut has a similar approach that, short of requiring vegetarianism, seems instead to point towards vegetarianism in subtle ways that are quite clear to the true believer. Would our believing Jewish friends please comment on the spirit of Judaism. (Maynard S. Clark <[email protected]>)

Answer by Richard H. Schwartz: 

I agree with Maynard.  As Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Chief rabbi of Efrat, and one of the foremost Jewish scholars today, put it, "The dietary laws are intended to teach us compassion and to lead us gently to vegetarianism".

Unfortunately, many Jews have not understood the connections.  Hence, Jewish vegetarians have been challenging the Jewish establishment,  Two fundamental questions that we have been asking are:

1. since Judaism teaches that animals can only be slaughtered to meet a basic jewish need, and since people do not need to eat meat (or any animal product) to maintain good health (as a matter of fact, the opposite is the case), how can committed Jews continue to eat meat?

2. In view of strong 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, and the very negative effects that animal-based diets have in each of these areas, how can commited Jews justify the eating of meat and other animal products?

(Richard H. Schwartz, 18 Jan 97, Professor, Mathematics, College of Staten Island, 2800 Victory Boulevard,  Staten Island, NY 10314  USA  (718) 982-3621 Email address: [email protected].   Author of Judaism and Vegetarianism, Judaism and Global Survival, and Mathematics and Global Survival. Patron of the International Jewish Vegetarian Society.  My articles on Judaism and Vegetarianism are on the internet at

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