Rabbis and Vegetarianism: An Evolving Tradition
From All Creatures Book and Video Review Guide

Editor: Roberta Kalechofsky

Reviewed by Mary T. Hoffman



Micah Publications, Inc.
255 Humphrey Street
Marblehead, MA 01945
ISBN: 916288-42-0


In July of 2001 at the North American Vegetarian Societyís annual Summerfest at the University of Pittsburgh campus in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, we got several books from Roberta Kalechofsky. Among our purchases was this slender volume of essays by rabbis on vegetarianism that opened my eyes to a deeper understanding of Christian theology: an unexpected blessing!

From Romans 11:24, using the wild olive tree (Gentiles) and the cultivated olive tree (Jews) as metaphor, we learn that as Christians we are "grafted in" to Godís "family tree". We have much to learn from the Hebrew Bible; and the wisdom of the rabbis in this book elucidates many points that can be missed by those unfamiliar with any but their own translations and church teachings. For example, the fact that meat eating is a concession to the hardness of heart of humans is made very clear in the Hebrew Bible.

One unexpected delight found in this book is an uplifting essay entitled "The Universal Chorus" by Rabbi Everett Gendler. While other rabbis give us a lot of valuable insights into the reasons for vegetarianism, Rabbi Gendler goes directly to the reason for our ultimate purpose in life: "To sing Godís praises!" He brings out "how a vegetarian diet makes it possible to fulfill this purpose with greater ease and enthusiasm." In Psalm 148 all creation is directed to praise the Lord, including: verse 7 "Sea monsters and all deeps;" verse 10 "Beasts and all cattle; Creeping things and winged fowl". Rabbi Gendler says, "To respect the life of our fellow choir members by not killing them and eating their corpses would seem an obviously desirable condition for choral collegiality." To which I say, "Amen!"

When we combine this understanding with the facts surrounding Jewish prayers, we gain further enlightenment. Jewish teaching considers taking pleasure in killing an animal (i.e. sport hunting) to be evil. There is no blessing for new garments made of leather or fur as there is for other articles of clothing, and that there are no mealtime blessings for animal flesh as there are for other foods and drink, because these are the products of violence and death.

Do I recommend this book? Absolutely!

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