Member since 2011

Richard Schwartz

Featured Causes: Judaism and Vegetarianism, climate change


Richard's Blog Subscribe

A Shavuot Message: Applying Torah Values To Our Diets

Since Shavuot is z'man matan Torateinu (the commemoration of the giving of the Torah to the Israelites on Mount Sinai), many dedicated religious Jews admirably stay up the entire first night of Shavuot to hear talks about and discuss Torah teachings. Among these Torah teachings are that Jews should preserve human health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, help hungry people, and pursue peace. By ...


Passover and Earth Day

This year, the first night of Passover and the annual Earth Day both occur on April 22nd. Hence, this is a good time to consider environmental messages related to Passover and the events and concepts related to the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt: 1. Today's environmental threats can be compared in many ways to the Biblical ten plagues: When we consider the threats to our land, water, and air, we can easily enumerate ten modern "plagues." ...


Passover and Vegetarianism

Passover and vegetarianism? Can the two be related? After all, what is a seder without gefilte fish, chicken soup, chopped liver, chicken, and other meats? And what about the shankbone to commemorate the Paschal sacrifice? And doesn't Jewish law mandate that Jews eat meat to rejoice on Passover and other Jewish festivals? An increasing number of Jews are turning to vegetarianism and they are finding ways to celebrate vegetarian Passovers while being ...


Inconsistencies in Passover Eating

It seems strange that Jews go to great lengths on the festival of Passover to observe Torah verses commanding us to avoid some foods, while ignoring other scriptural verses relevant to the consumption of other foods. Among the features of Passover are the prohibitions of eating, owning or benefiting from chometz, foods such as breads, cakes and cereals that are made from one of the five grains (wheat, barley, rye, spelt and oats) that have undergone ...


Climate Catastrophe or a Sustainable Future – It Depends On Our Food Choices

Climate experts from 195 countries have gathered in Paris working to come up with an agreement that will help avert a climate catastrophe. However, they are overlooking an important factor and this threatens the success of their meeting. Here are some important reasons that it is essential to address climate change: Science academies worldwide, 97% of climate scientists, and 99.9% of peer-reviewed papers on the issue in respected scientific ...


Conserving Our Oil: A Chanukah Message

Richard H. Schwartz   The Jewish festival of Chanukah commemorates the miracle of the oil that was enough for only one day, but miraculously lasted for eight days in the liberated Temple in Jerusalem. Hence, this holiday is a good time to consider our own use of fuel and other resources. Like Chanukah’s miraculous extension of scarce resources, vegetarianism also allows the increasingly scarce resources of our contemporary world to go much ...


Chanukah and Vegetarianism

                       Chanukah and Vegetarianism  Jews can enhance their celebrations of the beautiful and spiritually meaningful holiday of Chanukah 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 (and preferably a vegan) diet. Please consider: 1. According to the Book of Maccabees, some Maccabees lived on plant foods since they ...


Is Eating Meat a Mitzvah that Comes from an Aveirah (Transgression)?

Judaism places much stress on performing mitzvot, carrying out God's commandments. However, a "mitzvah haba'ah b'aveirah" - a mitzvah based on an aveirah (sin or "illegitimate means") - is forbidden and is not considered a mitzvah. For example, if one uses a stolen lulav and esrog on Sukkot, it is not a proper mitzvah. Similarly, if money is stolen, it cannot be used to give tzedakah (charity). In fact, the sages indicate that it is better not to do the ...


Lessons on Activism From the First Two Chapters of Genesis

Here are some of the important lessons on activism that I learned from the first two chapters of Genesis: 1. From Genesis 2:15, “the human being was put into the Garden of Eden to work the land and to guard (preserve) it,” I learned that I should be an environmental activist. This lesson was reinforced by Genesis 1:28, giving human beings “dominion,” because the Jewish sages interpreted dominion as responsible guardianship or stewardship. It is ...


The Vegetarian Writings of Rav Kook (Including Responses to Arguments Used Against Vegetarianism From His Writings)

Some of the strongest support for vegetarianism as a positive ideal in Torah literature may be found in the writings of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook (1865-1935). An outstanding student of the Netziv of Volozhin and other Lithuanian Gedolim, Rav Kook was first Chief Rabbi of pre-state Israel and a revolutionary Orthodox Jewish thinker in the early 20th century. He was a profound mystic, innovative halakhist, prolific writer and poet, and one of the ...


Eighteen Reasons Jews Think They Should Not Be Vegetarian and Why They Are Wrong

1) The Torah teaches that humans are granted dominion over animals (Genesis 1:26), giving us a warrant to treat animals in any way we wish.  Response: Jewish tradition interprets "dominion" as guardianship, or stewardship: we are called upon to be co-workers with God in improving the world. Dominion does not mean that people have the right to wantonly exploit animals, and it certainly does not permit us to breed animals and treat them as machines ...


Dialogue Between a Jewish Vegetarian Activist and a Rabbi

For a long time, I have been trying to start a respectful dialogue in the Jewish community. Because I have had very little success, I am presenting the fictional dialogue below. I hope that many readers will use it as the basis of similar dialogues with local rabbis, educators, and community leaders. Jewish Vegetarian Activist: Shalom rabbi. Rabbi: Shalom. Good to see you. JVA: Rabbi, I have been meaning to speak to you for some time about an ...


Inconsistencies Between Animal-Based Diets and Basic Jewish Values

And God said: "Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree that has seed-yielding fruit -- to you it shall be for food." (Genesis 1:29) There are many inconsistencies between basic Jewish values and the realities of animal-based diets: 1. While Judaism mandates that people should be very careful about preserving their health and their lives, numerous scientific studies have linked ...


The Surprising Views of the Rav (Rabbi Yosef Soloveitchik) on Vegetarianism

This article was written with the editorial asistance of Rabbi Dovid Sears Rabbi Joseph Ber (Yosef Dov) Soloveitchik, simply known as "the Rav" by his wide circle of colleagues, students, and admirers, was generally regarded as one of the leading religious philosophers, Talmud scholars, and rabbinic leaders of the 20th century. He stressed that Torah values were in many ways compatible with world culture and secular studies, and promoted Jewish ...


Why Perform a Rite That Kills Chickens as a Way To Seek God’s Compassion?

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 new 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 ...


Rosh Hashanah Message: Shifting Our Imperiled Planet Onto a Sustainable Path

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 ...


Should Jews Become Vegetarians on Rosh Hashanah?

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 ...


The Custom of Kapparot in the Jewish Tradition

Every year, before Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), some Jews perform the ceremony of kapparot. The following, in question and answer format, is a discussion of the ritual and its relation to the treatment of animals. What is kapparot [in Ashkenazic Hebrew or Yiddish, kapporos or shluggen kapporos]? Kapparot is a custom in which the sins of a person are symbolically transferred to a fowl. Some Jews practice it shortly before Yom Kippur. First, ...


A Rosh Hashanah Message: Aplying Jewish Values to Help Heal Our Imperiled Planet

Rosh Hashanah reminds us of 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, starting four days after Yom Kippur, is a holiday in which we leave our fine houses and live in temporary shelters (sukkahs) to commemorate our ancestors journey in the wilderness. So, that period provides an excellent ...


Sukkoth, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah and Vegetarianism

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. 1. On Simchat Torah, Jews complete the annual cycle of Torah readings, and begin again, starting with the first ...