Jewcology Blogs


Shavuot and Vegetarianism

There are many connections between vegetarianism and the important Jewish festival of Shavuot: 1. Shavuot is described as "z'man matan Toratenu" (the season of the giving of our law (the Torah)). It is this Torah that has in its very first chapter God's original, strictly vegetarian, dietary regimen: "And God said: 'Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed which is on 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'" (Genesis 1:29). 2. To honor the Torah, many Jews stay up the entire first ...

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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 becoming vegetarians, and preferably vegans, Jews would be partaking in a diet that is most consistent with these basic teachings. ...

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A Dialogue on Shavuot Night About Vegetarianism and Veganism

For many years Danny Shapiro looked forward to staying up all night at his synagogue with his friends on the first night of Shavuot, hearing talks about and discussing Torah teachings. This year he especially anticipated this annual commemoration of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, because Rabbi Greenberg would be meeting with Danny and other college students for an hour at 3 AM to answer any questions on Judaism that they brought up. Danny had recently become a vegetarian and had done a lot of background reading on Jewish connections to vegetarianism and he wanted ...

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Vegetarianism and the Jewish Dietary Laws

Since Judaism is a religion that speaks to all aspects of life, it has much to say about one of life's most commonplace activities, eating. The Jewish dietary laws, also known as the laws of kashrut or kosher laws are extremely important in Judaism. They regulate virtually every aspect of eating for members of the Jewish community (the only dietary law given to non-Jews is to not eat a limb from a living animal). Kashrut includes: (1) which foods may be eaten (although God's initial intention was that people should be vegetarians (Genesis 1:29), permission was later ...

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Shavuot and Vegetarianism

There are many connections between vegetarianism and the Jewish festival of Shavuot: 1. Shavuot is described as "z'man matan Toratenu" (the season of the giving of our law (the Torah)). It is this Torah that has in its very first chapter God's original, strictly vegetarian, actually vegan, dietary law: "And God said: 'Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed which is on 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'" (Genesis 1:29). 2. To honor the Torah, many Jews stay up the entire ...

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Belgium’s Shechita Ban Ignores Key Considerations

On May 5, 2017 Belgium’s Walloon region, its largest territory, outlawed the slaughter of un-stunned animals, meaning, in effect, that they banned kosher meat there, since Jewish ritual law requires that animals not be stunned prior to slaughter. Their decision overlooks some important considerations. First, it ignores the many problems related to stunning, These are thoroughly discussed in the book, Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry, by Gail Eisnitz. Through many interviews with slaughterhouse ...

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     Climate Change: An Existential Threat to Israel, the U.S., and the World

This article initially appeared in the May 3 Jerusalem Post. I generally find articles by Seth Frantzman to be well-reasoned, insightful, and informative. So I was disappointed and saddened to read his April 25 article, “Plan for, don’t gripe about, climate change,” in which he argues that we should accept and plan to deal with climate change by, for example, planning “for ocean levels rising several inches,” …, “”instead of trying to ‘defeat’ it.” Unfortunately, climate change is an existential threat to Israel and, indeed, to the whole world, ...

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Lag B’Omer and Vegetarianism: Making Every Day Count

This article was co-authored with Dan Brook. Lag B'Omer is considered a minor holiday in the Jewish calendar, but even a minor holiday is still a holiday and therefore worth celebrating. A great way to celebrate Lag B'Omer is through vegetarianism, as Lag B'Omer is deeply connected to the Earth and its fruits. Lag B'Omer represents the 33rd day of the counting of the omer, the fifty days between Passover and Shavuot, reminding us of the link between these two important holidays. While Passover celebrates our freedom from slavery, Shavuot celebrates our receiving of ...

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This article initially was published in the May 3 issue of the Jerusalem Post Environmentalists demonstrate near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, as the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) meets, December 12, 2015. (photo credit:REUTERS) ------------- I generally find articles by Jerusalem Post op-ed editor Seth Frantzman to be well-reasoned, insightful and informative. So I was disappointed and saddened to read his April 25 article, “Plan for, don’t gripe about, climate change,” in which he argues that we should ...

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Why Peace is So important for Israel – a Yom Ha’atzmaut Message

This article points out the importance of peace for Israel to be able to more effectively address climate change and other environmental threats.  It considers why a just, comprehensive, sustainable, mutually-agreed-upon resolution of Middle East conflicts is essential and will have many benefits for Israel, the U.S., and even the entire world. (It is from Chapter 7 of the 2nd edition of my book, "Who Stole My Religion? Revitalising Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal Our Imperilled Planet," published July 2016). ------------ "It shall come to pass ...

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Should the Holocaust Be a Spur to Activism?

"For me the Holocaust was not only a Jewish tragedy, but also a human tragedy. After the war, when I saw that the Jews were talking only about the tragedy of six million Jews, I sent letters to Jewish organizations asking them to also talk about the millions of others who were persecuted together with us – many of them only because they helped Jews" – Simon Wiesenthal (1) Every year around Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, my Orthodox synagogue has a memorial commemoration. It is a well-planned event, featuring a talk by a Holocaust scholar or survivor, ...

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Parshat Tzav: How Meat Consumption Today Differs from The Time of the Mishkan (Sanctuary) in the Wilderness

And that which is left thereof [from the meal-offering] shall Aaron and his sons eat; it shall be eaten without leaven in a holy place; in the tent of meeting they shall eat it. . . . it is most holy as the sin-offering and the guilt-offering. Leviticus 6:9.10 When the Jewish people were in the wilderness before they entered the land of Israel, the consumption of meat was associated with holiness. Every piece of meat consumed came from an animal sacrificed in the Mishkan (Sanctuary), an act meant to bring the worshiper closer to God. The word korban (sacrifice) is ...

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The Making of a Jewish Activist: My Biography From My Book, “Who Stole My Religion?”

I am a ba’al t’shuvah – meaning “one who has returned” – a Jew who started practicing Judaism late in life. I did not grow up in a religious family, and I did not receive a yeshiva education as observant Jewish children generally do today. Most of my current Jewish learning comes not from formal education, but from extensive reading and conversations with Jews from many different backgrounds, plus Torah classes and lectures over the past few decades. Like most Jewish boys growing up in New York during the 1940s, I went to a Talmud Torah school a ...

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Summary and Conclusions Chapter of My Book, “Who Stole My Religion?”

In this hour we, the living [post-Holocaust Jews], are “the people of Israel.” The tasks begun by the patriarchs and prophets and continued by their descendants are now entrusted to us. We are either the last Jews or those who will hand over the entire past to generations to come. We will either forfeit or enrich the legacy of ages. – Abraham Joshua Heschel (The Earth is the Lord’s), 107 ------------------------- What A Wonderful Path Judaism Is!  Judaism proclaims a God who is the Creator of all life, whose attributes of kindness, compassion, ...

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How Can We Revitalise Judaism: Chapter 15 of My Book, “Who Stole My Religion?”

Little does contemporary religion ask of man. It is ready to offer comfort; it has no courage to challenge. It is ready to offer edification; it has no courage to break the idols, to shatter callousness. The trouble is that religion has become “religion” – institution, dogma, ritual. It is no longer an event. Its acceptance involves neither risk nor strain. – Abraham Joshua Heschel183 We must cultivate a sense of injustice, impatience with vulgarity, a capacity for moral indignation, a will to readjust society itself when it becomes complacent and ...

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How Can Prayer Inspire Activism? Chapter 14 of My Book, “Who Stole My Religion?”

  Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive, unless it seeks to overthrow and to ruin the pyramids of callousness, hatred, opportunism, and falsehoods. The liturgical movement must become a revolutionary movement, seeking to overthrow the forces that continue to destroy the promise, the hope, the vision. – Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel180 -------------- Based on Rabbi Heschel’s challenging statement above, prayers should help transform people and inspire them to actively strive to create a more humane, compassionate, just, peaceful, and ...

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Should Jews be Vegetarians, or Even Vegans, Chapter 13 of MY Book, “Who Stole My Religion?”

And God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of the earth, and every fruit tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for food...” – Genesis 1:29 The dietary laws are designed to teach us compassion and to lead us gently to vegetarianism. – Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Chief Rabbi of Efrat, Israel What was the necessity for the entire procedure of ritual slaughter? For the sake of self-discipline. It is far more appropriate for man not to eat meat; only if he has a strong desire for meat does the Torah permit it, and ...

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Judaism and Animal Rights- Chapter 12 of My Book, “Who Stole My Religion?”

JUDAISM AND ANIMAL RIGHTS 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. – Rabbi ...

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Should Jews Be Environmental Activists?

This is chapter 11 of my book, "Who Stole My Religion? Revitalising Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal Our Imperilled Planet" And the Lord God took the man [Adam] and put him into the Garden of Eden to work it and to guard it. – Genesis 2:15 The earth was not created as a gift to you. You have been given to the earth, to treat it with respectful consideration, as God’s earth, and everything on it [must be seen] as God’s creation, and [animals recognized as] your fellow creatures — to be respected, loved, and helped to attain their ...

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Is Judaism a Radical Religion?

There are no words in the world more knowing, more disclosing, and more indispensable. Words both stern and graceful, heart-rending and healing. A truth so universal – Elohim [God] is One. A thought so consoling – He is with us in distress. A responsibility so overwhelming – His Name can be desecrated. A map of time – from creation to redemption. Guideposts along the way: The Seventh Day; An offering – contrition of the heart. A utopia – would that all people were prophets. The insight – man lives by his faithfulness, his home is in time, and his ...

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