Tammuz 5761 – Vegetarianism

1 Tammuz 5761

Dear Rabbi Orlofsky:

I heard somewhere that The Jewish people were told by G-d only at a certain point in Chumash that they could eat meat. Before that they were vegetarians and at a certain point they ‘fell’ from grace for want of a better expression and were told they could eat meat.

Could you please clarify this for me? I have been a vegetarian for 25 years which makes keeping kashrut easy. My father and step-mother both eat meat etc.

I think some people, the more peaceful ones are naturally vegetarians whist others, descended from the hunter gatherers are attracted to meat. My dad asked a Rabbi about this but all he seemed to talk about was animal sacrifices skirting around the question of the mention of vegetarianism in the bible.

I look forward to your response.

Thank you.

Name & Seminary withheld

Dear Friend,

The Torah in Genesis Chapter 1 verse 29 describes G-d’s instructions to Adam in the Garden of Eden. G-d says you can eat from all the herbs and vegetables and fruit of the trees. G-d apparently doesn’t allow them to eat animal flesh. The Talmud in Sanhedrin 59b however explains that G-d meant he didn’t have the right to kill anything. Eating meat wasn’t prohibited – only killing animals. So if they died on their own, for example, they would be permitted to Adam. The Medrash states that the angels brought Adam roasted meat to eat.

After the flood, G-d tells Noah in Chapter 9 verses 4-5 that now you are permitted to kill animals for food. The only prohibition given was that he couldn’t eat the meat while it was still alive. Otherwise, he could have what he wanted.

One could understand this as a fall from grace, that since Man was now on a lower level he might as well eat meat, because it doesn’t matter anyway. Many commentators however explain that since all the animals would have died if Noah hadn’t saved them, he now had the right to kill them if he wanted to. Adam didn’t have that argument.

We find in the Talmud that it is a mitzva to eat meat on Yom Tov and Shabbos. “One doesn’t fulfill the mitzva of rejoicing except by eating meat. It is also seen as a tremendous opportunity for an animal. As it stands, he is doomed to spend it’s existence as an animal. But if he’s eaten, he can become part of a human being and attach itself to eternal existence.

I hope this clarifies things for you.

Dovid Orlofsky