My Draft of a Haggadah for a Restored and Transformed New Year For Animals Event


Below is my very preliminary draft for a Haggadah’ for a future ‘Seder’ for a renewed and transformed New Year for Animals.

It is presented mainly to get people thinking about possibilities for future observances of the restored ancient Jewish holiday. We may end up with an approach or approaches very different from the one I am suggesting in this draft. And that would be fine with me.

I would very much welcome your input on this and suggestions for other possible approaches.

In reviewing this, please do not be concerned with the wordage, the grammar, or the spelling. The concepts is what is most important at this stage.

The material below is 54 pages long, but much of it is lists of supporting Jewish organizations, rabbis, and influential Jews, supporting statements by influential rabbis, and quotations about animals. This and other parts can be just quickly skimmed, so I do not think you would need as much as an hour to review the material and possibly submit feedback.

Many thanks for your consideration.

KOL tuv,




The next few paragraphs above the dashed line are preliminary remarks for consideration, not for publication in the Haggadah. 

This is a preliminary draft, being sent out to you and others in an effort to getseekingr to make this haggadah as good and powerful as possible. Your comments and suggestions are very welcome, including ideas for completely different approaches. Many thanks. 

My hope and dream is to restore, along with others, the ancient New Year for Animals (to be renamed Rosh Hashanah LaBeheimot,  to parallel Rosh Hashanah LaIlanot (New Year for Trees) for Tu Bishvat), in order to help get animal issues, vegetarianism, and related issues onto the Jewish agenda and beyond, and thereby help shift our imperiled planet onto a sustainable path.

One challenge is how to attract many people, including non-vegetarians, to take part in Seders and other New Year for Animals events, while stressing in the haggadah that their diets are contrary to Jewish values and are harmful to their health and to the environment. I think it is important that the renewed holiday not just be an occasion to discuss Jewish teachings for animals without stressing that major changes need to be made in our treatment of animals and our diets to avoid a climate catastrophe and other impending disasters. Thoughts on this point?

We got off to a good start with the renewed New Year for Animals in 2012 with several celebrations and some good media coverage and again in 2020. The test will be if we can sustain and build on that initial momentum. This is why it is important to produce a good Haggadah (and possibly other resources related to the renewed holiday) and get it out to many people. I believe that I can get on several radio programs that I have previously been on to discuss the Haggadah  and the renewed New Year for Animals and that we can also get good media coverage, especially if we can get some key rabbis, such as Rabbis David Rosen, Yitz Greenberg, Nathan Lopes Cardozo, and David Wolpe to help promote it, [Actually, as shown below, all of these rabbis have already endorsed the initiative. To restore and transform the ancient holiday]

There is far more material than can be covered at an event, so leaders can select parts that they want to be included.

Once again, suggestions are very welcome. Thanks.


Table of Contents

Messages of Support from Rabbis and Other Jewish Leaders about Renewing the New Year for Animals and about this Haggadah



1. Introduction to the Seder

2. What is the Origin of the New Year for Animals?

3. Is There Any Precedent For Restoring an ancient Jewish Holiday?

4. Why Restore and Transform the New Year for Animals?

5. Why Have Four Cups of Wine or Grape Juice at the Seder?

6. Before Cup #1: Discuss Jewish Teachings on Compassion to Animals

7. Before Cup #2: Discuss Current Abuses of Animals

8. Before Cup #3: Discuss Jewish and Other Responses to How Animals Are Mistreated.

9. Before Cup #4: Discuss Jewish Groups Working to Improve Conditions for Animals and Strategies to Increase Awareness of Jewish Teachings on Animals and to Help End Animal Abuses

10. Conclusion


A. List of Jewish Organizations Supporting the Renewal of Rosh Hashanah LaBeheimot

B.  List of Rabbis Supporting the Renewal of Rosh Hashanah LaBeheimot

C. List of Jewish Activists Supporting the Renewal of Rosh Hashanah LaBeheimot

D. Tips for Organizing and Carrying Out the Seder

E  Sources for More Information



Messages of Support from Rabbis and Other Jewish Leaders About Renewing the New Year for Animals

[I plan to seek many more blurbs from key rabbis and other influential Jewsonce a draft of this Haggadah can be sent to rabbis and other Jewish leaders. It is important to show that it is not just some veg, animal rights, and environmental activists who are promoting the restoration of the New Year for Animals, but that it is a mainstream concept.]


1. From  Rabbi Irving (Yitz) Greenberg, former President of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership; author of The Jewish way: Living the Holidays.

It is a beautiful idea to renew/revive a classic day – Rosh Hashanah for counting and giving ma’aser beheima – that lost its actual function with the destruction of the Temple and the Exile. Your contemporary application of this attention in the form of addressing humanity’s relationship to animal life – and the widespread mistreatment of food animals and environmental abuse in today’s economy, marked by industrial farming and animal husbandry – is inspired. I wish you great success in this project because it would have a morally positive effect on our treatment of animals and the planet, as well as bring great benefits to human health in switching to a healthier diet and life enhancement eating. In this way, your project fulfills and advances the central mitzvah of the Torah: choose life.
 2. From Rabbi David Rosen KSG, CBE, International Co-President, Religions for Peace; Member of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel’s Commission for Dialogue with Religions; former chief rabbi of Ireland.

The Maharal (Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague) wrote that “Love of all creatures is also the love of the Holy One, Blessed be He; for when one loves the Holy One, it is impossible not to love His creatures. The opposite is also true. If one hates His creatures, it is impossible to (truly) love He who created them” (Netivot Olam, Accordingly, the idea to develop the “ New Year for Animals” from its original limited reference, to become a day for raising awareness of human responsibility for animal welfare, is in fact nothing less than an initiative to enhance our love of the Creator Himself, and is a sanctification of the Divine Name. 3. 

3. From Rabbi David Wolpe, Senior rabbi at Temple Sinai, Los Angeles; author of many Judaica books.

The Jewish tradition mandates that we are stewards of all God’s creation.  In our day we are increasingly sensitized to suffering of those living creatures in our care; this initiative helps us to recognize our obligation to animals and so helps us be more fully human. 

4. From Rabbi Gabriel Cousens, M.D. Director of Tree of Life Foundation and author of many Judaica and health books, includingTorah as a Guide to Enlightenment.

 is a great joy that we should reactivate a day to honor the holy relationship between the human and animal worlds, as per Genesis 1:29 and 1:30, where all of the animal and human species will be restored to a vegan way of life…. and with that a new level of peace will unfold on the planet. This is something to bring about and celebrate.  

5. From Rabbi Yonassan Gershom, writer and activist; his blog “Notes from a Jewish Thoreau” is at 

Transforming this holiday, which was originally a time to tithe one’s flocks, into a day to focus on the treatment of animals on modern farms, would provide an excellent educational opportunity.  Unlike our farmer/herder ancestors who had daily contact with animals, modern Jews are often completely out of touch with where their food comes from, or how it is produced.

6. Rabbi Adam Frank, Israeli Masorti rabbi and teacher.

I applaud this initiative and effort to bring to fruition the awareness that Jewish tradition expects of humanity toward the animal kingdom. 

7. From Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz,  founder and director of Shamayim v’Aretz; author of over a dozen books on Jewish values and ethics.

By setting aside only one day—a single day—a year to focus on the undervalued significance that animals have in our lives allows us to reflect on the enormity and beauty of God’s creation. A single day each year empowers us to look into our core and go back to the Garden of Eden, the one locale where human and animal resided side by side, where one side didn’t dominate the other for gain. In this way, we return to the vision of Paradise, where all are treated with equality, respect, and dignity. That is the way of Torah. That is the way of Creation. That is way of the Divine. We should hear the call and celebrate the Animal, just as God intended.

8. From Rabbi Arthur Waskow, PhD, founder and director, The Shalom Center; author of many Judaica books; a long time activist on social justice, peace, and environmental issues..

As the human species – Homo not-always-sapiens —  turns our attention after a long and disastrous blind spot to the other species that are part of the great ecosystem of Temple Earth, restoring Rosh Chodesh Elul as the New Year for Animals will help us refocus on all the many Names of all the many beings that make  up Shmei Rabbah – the Great Name.


Foreword, to be written hopefully by a distinguished rabbi, perhaps Rabbi David Rosen, former Chief Rabbi of Ireland and a leading spokesman for inter-religious dialogue.



I plan to ask many people to review the Haggadah and make comments and suggestions. The wider the input, the more likely the final result will be as good as possible. Everyone who provides input will be acknowledged gratefully.

A special thanks will be expressed to Aharon Varady who pioneered the idea of restoring the ancient holiday of the New Year for Animals


1. Introduction To the Seder

[Please note that since the New Year for Animals is being renewed and transformed, there is no precedent for Seder rituals and activities. So, every idea in this Haggadah is just a suggestion and Seder planners and leaders should feel free to adapt and innovate. I look forward to getting feedback so that many improvements can be made year-by-year. Thanks.]


Some suggestions for a leader’s introduction to the Seder:

Seder leader: “Shalom. Shanah tovah. [A good year] Chag Sameach. [Happy holiday] Good yom tov. [A good holiday.]”

“Welcome to our Rosh Hashanah LaBeheimot (our New Year for the Animals) celebration and Seder.”

“We are part of history tonight. We are trying to restore and transform an ancient, long forgotten holiday. While this will not be easy, the potential gains for animals, for Jews, for the environment, and, indeed, for the entire world, are great. So it is essential that we do all we can to make it happen.”


At this point, the leader might want to tell a little about himself or herself and his or her background with regard to Judaism and animal-related issues. If there are several people sharing the running of the Seder, each might give that information about themselves.

     Depending on the size of the group, the leader might want to ask each person to take up to a minute each to introduce themselves and, if they wish, to tell a bit about their connections to animals and/or why they are attending.

2. What is the Origin of the New Year for Animals?

Rosh Hashanah, the day that Jews traditionally celebrate as the Jewish New Year, comes on the first and second days of the Hebrew month of Tishrei. But there are actually four new years in Judaism, each serving a different purpose  (based on Talmud (Mishnah), Rosh Hashanah 1:1, but arranged in a different order here):

1. The first of Tishrei, for the counting of calendar years, Jubilee years, etc.

2. The first of Nissan, for dating the reign of kings and for various legal documents

3. The fifteenth of Shvat (Tu B’Shvat), for tithing fruits of trees. 

4. The first of Elul, for tithing cattle for sacrifices in the times when the Jerusalem Temples stood. 

Only the first of Tishrei is a “New Year’s Day” in the sense that we now think of it. The others are more like fiscal year cut-off dates, similar, for example, to January 1, the cut-off date for the year in which income is to be declared for income tax purposes, although they do not have to be paid until the 15th of April (in the US).

The first of Elul, the time of the ancient Jewish New Year for Animals, for ma’aser beheima, tithing animals suitable for sacrifices, was the cut-off date for determining in which year an animal should be counted for sacrifices. Animals born before that date were tithed in the old year; animals born after that date were tithed in the new year. Nowadays very few Jews are raising flocks of animals and, since there has not been a Jerusalem Temple since the year 70 C.E. (when the Romans destroyed it), nobody is tithing animals for Temple sacrifices anymore. Nevertheless, this date remains on the Jewish calendar, although, admittedly, it is not very well known today.

Recently, Jewish Veg, formerly Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) has been working, along with other organizations and rabbis (lists are in Appendices 1 and 2), following up on the pioneering work of Aharon Varady, to restore observance of the first of Elul as a modern “New Year for Animals,” or “Rosh Hashanah LaBeheimot,” This is to be a day for focusing on the many Jewish teachings about the proper treatment of animals and how these teachings can be applied to reduce the current widespread mistreatment of animals. This Seder is a celebration of this reactivated holiday.


3. Is There Any Precedent For Restoring an Ancient Jewish Holiday?

Renewing the New Year for Animals would not be the first time that an ancient Jewish holiday got redefined after the Temple was destroyed in 70 C.E. Shavuot, the “Feast of Weeks,” was originally celebrated with processions of people bringing their first fruits to the Temple. Today it focuses on the Jewish people receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai, which also took place on the same date. Tu B’Shvat, the “New Year for Trees” (#3 in the list above), a day initially intended for tithing fruit trees for Temple offerings, was reclaimed in the 16th Century by mystics as a day for healing the natural world. It is now a form of Jewish Earth Day, when people not only plant trees, but also have Seders that involve the eating of many fruits and the reciting of many blessings, and also focus on current environmental issues.

4. Why Restore and Transform the Ancient Jewish New Year for Animals?

The leader might ask first for responses to this question from the audience. Below are some important reasons why renewing Rosh Hashanah LaBeheimot (a New Year for Animals) is an idea whose time has come. They will be discussed in greater detail later in the Seder, so no need to go into detail at this point.

Just as Shavuot and Tu B’Shvat were transformed, it is important that Rosh Hashana LaBeheimot  (New Year’s Day for Animals) be renewed and transformed into a day devoted to increasing awareness of Judaism’s powerful teachings on compassion to animals, and to considering a tikkun (healing) for the horrible ways that animals are treated today on factory farms and in other settings. This would involve a shift in focus from tithing sacrifices toward learning about how animals are treated on factory farms, comparing that with Jewish teachings about the proper treatment of animals, and making choices about where we get our meat, milk, and eggs– or maybe even considering vegetarianism (or preferably veganism) as a better alternative. Given that most Jews today are urban people who rarely, if ever, have contact with farmers or farm animals, developing a modern version of this day would be a great educational opportunity.

A very important supplementary benefit is that reduced consumption of meat and other animal products would help improve the health of Jews (and others, based on seeing this improvement), lessen the mistreatment of animals, reduce climate change and other environmental threats, result in the more efficient use of land, water, energy, and other resources, reduce hunger, and reduce the potential for future pandemics.

Renewing the holiday would also: show that Judaism is applying its eternal teachings to today’s important issues; improve the image of Judaism in the eyes of people concerned about animals, vegetarianism, the environment, and related issues, by reinforcing a compassionate side of Judaism; bring back some young, idealistic Jews who are currently alienated to some extent from Judaism, especially those who are concerned about animal welfare; strengthen the commitment of vegetarian and vegan Jews who are already involved  in Jewish life, but feeling somewhat outside the Jewish mainstream as they are often among a very small minority in their congregations, by creating/reclaiming a holiday that they can more closely relate to and find relevant, meaningful, and appealing; and challenge Jews to creatively make the holiday meaningful, thereby helping to revitalize Judaism.

New Year for Animals pioneer Aharon Varady expressed the value of the transformed holiday as follows:

In the millenia after the Temple’s destruction, Tu Bishvat was re-established by Jewish mystics as a special day of tikkun — a day to reflect on and pray for healing our relationship with trees and, by extension, the whole of life-nurturing Earth. Similarly, Rosh Chodesh Elul begins in earnest a month-long process of teshuva — an intense tikkun (healing) of our relationships, culminating with the New Years Day for Humankind, Rosh Hashanah.

What better way to begin a month dedicated to humbling ourselves and repairing our relationships than by reflecting first on our relationship with beheimot — the domesticated animals who depend on us for their care and sustenance. The category of beheimot includes all animals historically bred by humans as domesticated creatures, both kosher and non-kosher, e.g. cats and cattle, dogs and donkeys, goats, pigs, chicken, and llamas. If we can imagine, empathize, and understand the dependency of beheimot in our care, how much better can we realize our relationship with the Holy Blessed One, and the infinite chain of inter-dependencies uniting all living relationships in reflection of this Oneness.

5. Why Have Four Cups of Wine or Grape Juice at the New Year for Animals Seder?

     Four cups of wine or grape juice are drunk at Passover and Tu B’Shvat Seders. For Passover, the four cups represent four promises of redemption from God for the Jewish people. For Tu B’Shvat, the colors of the grape juice or wine change from white to pink to ruby to red, to reflect the four seasons, from winter to autumn. The four cups also represent the four Kabbalistic worlds of the mystical kabbalists.

     Since the New Year for Animals Seder is modeled to some extent on the Passover and Tu  B’Shvat Seders, it is suggested that participants at this Seder also drink four cups of grape juice or wine. We suggest the following:

Before cup one, discuss Jewish teachings on animals;

Before cup two, discuss how animals are being mistreated today, veery contrary to the Jewish teachings;

Before cup three, discuss how Jews and others have responded to the widespread mistreatment of animals;

Before cup four, discuss what Jewish groups are doing in order to reduce animal abuses and what attendees can do to help increase awareness of Jewish teachings about compassion to animals and how to apply these teachings toward the creation of a more humane, compassionate, just, peaceful, and environmentally sustainable world.

[Suggestions for different approaches care very welcome.}


6. Before Cup #1: Discuss Jewish Teachings on Compassion to Animals

The discussion could be based on some of the following quotations from the Torah and other Jewish holy books: [Because of time constraints, some of the quotations below will likely have to be omitted. The Seder leader can decide this, based on the teachings and approach she or he prefers.]

A. Attitude Toward Animals

1. “A righteous person regards the life of his or her animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.””     Proverbs 12:10

2. The Lord is good to all and His tender mercies are over all His creatures.”””   Psalms 145:9

3. The tzaddik (righteous person) acts according to the laws of justice; not only does he act according to these laws with human beings, but also with animals. 

The Malbim

4. “Living creatures possess a soul and a certain spiritual superiority which in this respect make them similar to those who possess intellect (people) and they have the power of affecting their welfare and their food and they flee from pain and death.”     Nachmanides, commentary on Genesis 1:29 [also, note that human beings and other animals have nefesh chayah, living souls. (Genesis 1:21, 24)

5. “There is no difference between the pain of humans and the pain of other living beings, since the love and tenderness of the mother for the young are not produced by reasoning, but by feeling, and this faculty exists not only in humans but in most living beings.”     Maimonides Guide for the Perplexed

6. “For that which befalls the sons of men befalls animals; even one thing befalls them; as the one dies, so dies the other; yes, they all have one breath; so that man has no preeminence above an animal; for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are of the dust. Who knows the spirit of men whether it goes upward; and the spirit of the animal whether it goes downward to the earth?””      Ecclesiastes 3:19-21

7. “It is forbidden, according to the law of the Torah, to inflict pain upon any living creature. On the contrary, it is our duty to relieve the pain of any creature, even if it is ownerless or belongs to a non Jew.”      Code of Jewish Law

8. “When horses, drawing a cart, come to a rough road or a steep hill, and it is hard for them to draw the cart without help, it is our duty to help them, even when they belong to a non-Jew, because of the precept not to be cruel to animals, lest the owner smite them to force them to draw more than their strength permits.”

     Code of Jewish Law

9.It is forbidden to tie the legs of a beast or of a bird in a manner as to cause them pain.”     Code of Jewish Law

10. “While our teacher Moses was tending the flock of Jethro in the wilderness a kid ran away from him. He ran after the kid until it reached Hasuah. Upon reaching Hasuah, the kid came upon a body of water and began to drink. When Moses reached him he said,  ‘I did not know that you were running because [you were] thirsty. You must be tired.’ He placed the kid on his shoulder and began to walk. The Holy One, blessed be He, said, ‘You are compassionate in leading flocks belonging to mortals; I swear you will similarly shepherd my flock, Israel.’”

     Midrash Exodus Rabbah 2:2

11 “As God is merciful, so you also be merciful. As he loves and cares for all His creatures and His children and are related to Him, because He is their Father, so you also love all His creatures as your brethren. Let their joys be your joys, and their sorrows yours. Love them and with every power which God gives you, work for their welfare and benefit, because they are the children of your God, because they are your brothers and sisters.””

     Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch, Horeb, Chapter 72, Section 482.

12. Here you are faced with God’s teaching, which obliges you not only to refrain from inflicting unnecessary pain on any animal, but to help and, when you can, to lessen the pain whenever you see an animal suffering, even through no fault of yours.”      Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch, Horeb, Chapter 60, Section 416.

13. “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 Samson Rafael Hirsch, Horeb, Chapter 60, Section 415

B. Biblical teachings

1. “You shall not muzzle the ox when he threshes out the corn.””

     Deuteronomy 25:4

2. You shall not plow with an ox and an ass together.’  Deuteronomy 22:10

3.  Animals, as well as people, must be allowed to rest on the Sabbath day. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shall you labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath unto the Lord, your God; in it you shall not do any manner of work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your man-servant, nor your maid-servant, nor your cattle, nor the stranger that is within your gates.” (Exodus 20:8–10)

4. Based on the question of the angel of God to Bilaam, “Why have you hit your donkey these three times?” (Numbers 22:32), the Talmud states that animals are to be treated humanely. [tsa’ar ba’alei chaim]

5. Based on Deuteronomy 11:15, “And I will give grass in the fields for your cattle and you shall eat and be satisfied,” the Talmud teaches that a Jew should not eat before first feeding his or her animals.

6. “It is forbidden to sacrifice a newborn ox, sheep, or goat until it has had at least seven days of warmth and nourishment from its mother.” (Leviticus 22:27)

7.  “And whether it be ox or ewe, you shall not kill the animal and her young both in one day.” (Leviticus 22:28)

8. We are forbidden to take the mother bird and her young together. “The mother bird must be sent away before her young are taken.” (Deuteronomy 22:6–7).

9. Animals should not be allowed to suffer discomfort from a heavy burden.

“If you see the ass of him who hates you fallen due to its burden, you shall surely not pass him by; you shall surely unload it with him.” (Exodus 23:5) 

10. We must be vigilant concerning the well-being of a lost animal. “You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep driven away and hide yourself from them; you shall surely bring them back unto your brother.” (Deuteronomy 22:1)

C. Covenants with animals

1. ”As for me,” says the Lord, “behold I establish My Covenant with you and with your seed after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the fowl, the cattle, and every animal of the earth with you; of all that go out of the ark, even every animal of the earth.”      Genesis 9:9-10

2. “And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the animals of the field and with the fowls of heaven and with the creeping things of the ground. And I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the land and I will make them to lie down safely.”     Hosea 2:20


Below are ome questions that can be considered with regard to Jewish teachings on animals, followed by some suggested responses. Participants can be asked before the Seder to come ready to discuss one or more questions or to prepare a brief (minute or two) dvar Torah related to them or to other appropriate issues. Participants can also be encouraged to raise additional questions on Jewish teachings about animals.

[Time will be a factor and not everything in this Haggadah cane carried out, given the time restraints. It would be valuable to get this material to participants before the Seder, possibly via email, so that they come to the Seder as prepared as possible.]

Here are the questions, followed by brief responses:

1. Is God concerned about how animals are treated?

Sample response: God’s compassion is over all God’s works [including animals] (Psalms 145:9). Every day at morning synagogue services, the following is recited: “Blessed is the One (God) Who is concerned about the creatures.” God is referred to in Jewish prayers as Rachum (the merciful One) and as Av harachamim (Father of mercies). Since Judaism teaches that human beings, uniquely created in God’s image, are to imitate God’s positive attributes, we should also exhibit concern and compassion toward the earth’s environment and all of God’s creatures. The Talmud states that Jews are to be rachmanim b’nei rachmanim (compassionate children of compassionate ancestors) (Kedoshim 4a), and that one who is not compassionate cannot truly be of the seed of Abraham, our father (Bezah 32b). It also states that Heaven grants compassion to those who are compassionate to others, and withholds it from those who are not. (Shabbat 151b)

2. What Torah teachings are related to animals?

     Many such teachings are above. As a short summary: Farmers are not to yoke a strong and a weak animal together (Deuteronomy 22:10), nor to muzzle an animal while the animal is threshing in the field (Deuteronomy 25:4). The Ten Commandments indicate that animals, as well as people, are to rest on the Sabbath day (Exodus 20: 8-10; Deuteronomy 5:12-14).  Many other Torah laws are related to the Torah mandate that Jews are to avoid tsa’ar ba’alei chaim, causing any unnecessary “sorrow  to animals.”

3. Is our treatment of animals a test of our character? our leadership abilities? our suitability as a perspective spouse?

     Yes, all of the above are true. “The righteous person considers the lives of his or her animals” (Proverbs 12:10). The great Jewish leaders Moses and King David were deemed suitable to be leaders because of their compassionate care of sheep when they were shepherds (Exodus Rabbah 2:2). Rivka (Rebecca) was deemed suitable to be Yitzchak’s (Isaac’s) wife because she eagerly ran to water ten thirsty camels who had just crossed a desert without drinking. (Genesis 24: 11-20)

4. If God is concerned about animals, why were the biblical animal sacrifices established?

     According to the great Jewish philosopher Maimonides, the sacrifices were a concession to the primitive conditions in biblical times. Since sacrifices were the universal expression of religion in that period, if Moses had tried to eliminate them, his mission might have failed and Judaism might have disappeared. Animal sacrifices were confined to one central location and the human sacrifices and idolatrous practices of the neighboring pagan peoples never existed in Judaism.        

     The prophet Isaiah spoke of sacrifices as an abomination to God, if not carried out along with deeds of loving-kindness and justice. After the destruction of the Temple, the rabbis stated that prayer and good deeds should replace sacrifices. And Rav Kook (Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook, first chief rabbi of pre-state Israel and a leading Jewish philosopher) argued that there will be only non-animal sacrifices, such as fruits and grains, in the Messianic period ,when the Temple is rebuilt (speedily in our day!).

5.  Weren’t people given dominion over animals, so that we can treat them as we wish?

      That this interpretation is incorrect is demonstrated by the fact that immediately after God gave humankind dominion over animals (Genesis 1:26), God prescribed vegan foods as the diet best suited to humans (Genesis 1:29). This mandate is almost immediately followed by God’s declaration that all of Creation was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Adam and Eve’s original vegan diet was consistent with the kind and gentle stewardship that God entrusted to them and to all humankind. Another indication of the true message of “dominion” is the Torah verse that indicates that God put Adam, the first human being, into the Garden of Eden “to work it and to guard it” (Genesis 2:15.) To guard something implies that one must protect it, not exploit it. Based on these statements in Genesis, the Jewish sages saw human dominion as based on responsible and caring stewardship.

  In support of this analysis, Rav Kook, stated in “A Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace”:

There can be no doubt in the mind of any intelligent person that [the Divine empowerment of humanity to derive benefit from nature] does not mean the domination of a harsh ruler, who afflicts his people and servants merely to satisfy his whim and desire, according to the crookedness of his heart. It is unthinkable that the Divine Law would impose such a decree of servitude, sealed for all eternity, upon the world of God, Who is “good to all, and Whose mercy is upon all His works.” (Psalms 145:9)

6. Why is the Torah mitzvah of avoiding tsa’ar ba’alei chaim so often overlooked by religious Jews today?

     Many Jews are diligent in “building fences” around some mitzvot. For example, there is commendably great diligence on the part of religious Jews to see that the laws related to removing chumetz before Passover are strictly met. But other mitzvot, including avoiding tsa’ar ba’alei chaim, are often downplayed or ignored.

Perhaps this is not surprising when one considers that, with regard to animals, the primary focus of Jewish religious services, Torah readings, and education are on the biblical sacrifices, animals that are kosher for eating, and laws about animal slaughter, with relatively little time devoted to Judaism’s more compassionate teachings related to animals. It is essential that the current emphasis on the slaughter of animals be balanced with a greater emphasis on Judaism’s more compassionate teachings about animals, and this is an important reason for reactivating the New Year for Animals and having Seders to celebrate it

7.Haven’t Jews historically had many problems with some animal rights groups, which have often opposed shechita (ritual slaughter) and advocated its abolishment? 

      Jews should work for better conditions for animals, not because of the views of animal rights groups, whether they are hostile to Judaism or not, but because it is the approach most consistent with Jewish teachings. It is the Torah, not animal rights groups, which is the basis for observing how far current animal treatment has strayed from fundamental Jewish values. As Samson Raphael Hirsch stated: “Here you are faced with God’s teaching, which obliges you not only to refrain from inflicting unnecessary pain on any animal, but to help and, when you can, to lessen the pain whenever you see an animal suffering, even through no fault of yours.”

8. Does Judaism picture animals praising God?

     The preliminary Jewish morning services contain a number of psalms extolling God that begin and end with “Halleluyah.” The final psalm in that grouping ends with, “Let all souls praise God. Halleluyah! Let all souls praise God. Halleluyah!” Perek Shira, “A Chapter of Song,” a mystical hymn dating from the 5th – 7th century that even today is found in many traditional siddurs (prayer books) portrays all living creatures singing their individual songs in praise of the Creator. The universe is filled with hymns as cows, camels, horses, mules, roosters, chickens, doves, eagles, butterflies, locusts, spiders, flies, sea creatures, fish, frogs, and many more animals offer Biblical songs of praise to God.

Other Shabbat morning prayers reinforce this concept. The beautiful Nishmat prayer begins with: “The soul of every living being shall bless Your name, Lord, our God; the spirit of all flesh shall always glorify and exalt Your remembrance, our King.” The Keil Adon prayer that is generally sang by the chazzan and congregation together on Shabbat mornings, indicates that God “is blessed by the mouth of every soul.” 

9. Don’t the restrictions of shechita (Jewish ritual slaughter laws) minimize the pain to animals in the slaughtering process, and thus fulfill Jewish laws on the proper treatment of animals?

This question ignores the cruel treatment of animals on “factory farms” in the many months prior to slaughter, as discussed in the next section.


     The Seder leader and/or participants can pose additional questions and/or add additional concepts.

     Additional questions and answers on Jewish teachings on animals and related issues are in the section on animals at


Before drinking the first cup of wine or grape juice the following blessings should be recited:

Baruch atah Adonoi, Eloheinu Melech ha’olom, bo’rei p’ree ha’gorfen.

Blessed are you, Lord, our God, King of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine. 

     This blessing should be recited only before drinking the first cup and NOT before drinking the later cups.

Another blessing is below. It is appropriate here because it is recited by Jews at special occasions.

Baruch ataw Adonoi, Eloheinu Melech ha’olom, Sheh’hech’heeyanu, v’ki’amornu, v’heegeeyornu lazman hazeh.

Blessed are you, Lord, our God, King of the Universe, Who has kept us alive and sustained us and brought us to this season.

7. Before Cup #2: Discuss Current Abuses of Animals

    While, as discussed in the previous section, Judaism has very strong teachings on compassion to animals, the realities are quite different from these teachings. For example:

·      Egg-laying hens are kept in cages so small that they can’t raise even one wing and their beaks are painfully seared off without an anesthetic, in order to prevent them from harming other birds due to pecking from frustration in their very unnatural conditions.

·      Male chicks at egg-laying hatcheries fare even worse as they are killed almost immediately after birth, since they can’t lay eggs and have not been genetically programmed to produce much flesh.

·      Dairy cows are artificially impregnated annually on what the industry calls “rape racks,” so that they will be able to continue ‘giving’ milk, and their babies are taken away almost immediately, often to be raised as veal under very cruel conditions.

·      Nine billion animals in the U.S. alone are slaughtered annually after being raised under very cruel conditions on modern factory farms, where all of their natural instincts are thwarted.

     Many more examples can be given, 

      More information about the mistreatment of animals can be found in several books listed in the Bibliography, as well as in the section on animals at

Participants can be asked to research some example of animal abuse and to give a brief talk about it at the Seder.

     Some questions that could be addressed during this part of the Seder , even though they may be painful to some people, include:

     Since Jews are said to be rachmanim b’nei rachmanim (compassionate children of compassionate ancestors), can we as Jewish consumers, kosher or not, justify the cruelty of factory farms to mass-produce meat that we do not really need for nourishment? Can we justify the force-feeding of ducks and geese to create pate de foie gras? Can we justify taking day-old calves from their mothers so that they can be raised in very cramped conditions to be eaten as “tender” veal? Can we justify the killing of over 250 million male chicks in the U.S. alone immediately after birth at egg-laying hatcheries—a total waste of sentient animal life—because they cannot produce eggs and have not been genetically programmed to grow as much flesh as the meat-producing breeds? Can we justify artificially impregnating cows every year on “rape racks” so that they will be able to produce more milk; or artificially inseminating turkeys to get fertile hatching eggs, because the birds have been bred to get so fat they can no longer mate naturally? Can we justify the many other ways that animals are unnecessarily exploited and mistreated in our society to meet consumer’s claimed needs?

     The kosher industry tends to focus only on the actual moment of slaughter, and the packing and preparation of the meat afterward. Very little if any attention is paid to how the animals are treated before slaughter. One has to wonder if this can be reconciled with kashrut, because kashrut is designed to be humane. But how can it be humane if most kosher meat, dairy, and eggs come from the same abominable factory farm conditions as does non-kosher food? Shouldn’t we be concerned—indeed alarmed–about the ways that food is being produced?


If time permits, abuses of animals related to circuses, rodeos, hunting, experimentation, and in other areas can be very briefly considered.

*** Some synagogue, other organizations, groups or families might have a vegan meal here or before the readings for the fourth cup. There could be informal discussions of the above material and/or there could be several short divrei Torah.

     Depending on the foods served, there should be blessings before, during, and after the Seder. If a rabbi or other knowledgeable Jew is present, he or she can be put in charge of seeing that this is properly done. One of Judaism’s most powerful concepts is the saying of blessings related to eating food and at many other occasions. It prevents us from taking things for granted and doing things mindlessly, and reminds us of God, our provider of food and greatest source of blessings.

8. Before Cup #3: Discuss Jewish and Other Responses to How Animals Are Mistreated.

  1. God’s original dietary law

This section and the next one are here to show that vegetarianism and veganism have a very long tradition in Judaism.

1. 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

2. God did not permit Adam and his wife to kill a creature to eat its flesh. “Only every green herb shall they all eat together.”    Rashi’s commentary on Genesis 1:29

3. “You are permitted to use the animals and employ them for work, have dominion over them in order to utilize their services for your subsistence, but must not hold their life cheap nor slaughter them for food. Your natural diet is vegetarian.”

Moses Cassuto (1883 -1951) in his commentary From Adam to Noah

Adam was not permitted meat for purposes of eating.

     Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 59b)

B. Attitudes Toward Vegetarianism and Veganism

1. “The removal of blood which kashrut teaches is one of the most powerful means of making us constantly aware of the concession and compromise which the whole act of eating meat, in reality, is. Again it teaches us reverence for life.”

     Samuel Dresner, The Jewish Dietary Laws, 29

2. “Apparently the Torah was in principle opposed to the eating of meat. When Noah and his descendants were permitted to eat meat this was a concession conditional on the prohibition of the blood. This prohibition implied respect for the principle of life (“for the blood is the life”) and an allusion to the fact that in reality all meat should have been prohibited. This partial prohibition was designed to call to mind the previously total one.”

    Rabbi Moses Cassutto, quoted by Nehama Leibowitz, Studies in Genesis, 77.

3. “The Torah teaches a lesson in moral conduct, that man shall not eat meat unless he has a special craving for it… and shall eat it only occasionally and sparingly.”

   B.T. Chulin 84a

4. “Only a scholar of Torah may eat meat, but one who is ignorant of Torah is forbidden to eat meat.”    B.T. Sanhedrin 49b

5. “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 even this only after the trouble and inconvenience necessary to satisfy his desire. Perhaps because of the bother and annoyance of the whole procedure, he will be restrained from such a strong and uncontrollable desire for meat.”

    Rabbi Solomon Efraim Lunchitz, Kli Yakar

6. “Accordingly, the laws of kashrut come to teach us that a Jew’s first preference should be a vegetarian meal. If, however, one cannot control a craving for meat, it should be kosher meat, which would serve as a reminder that the animal being eaten is a creature of God, that the death of such a creature cannot be taken lightly, that hunting for sport is forbidden, that we cannot treat any living thing callously, and that we are responsible for what happens to other beings (human or animal) even if we did not personally come into contact with them”.

     Rabbi Pinchas Peli, Torah Today, Washington, D.C.: B’Nai B’rith Books, 1987, 118.


Aharon Varady, a pioneer in restoring the New Year for Animals, put our relationships with animals into perspective:

When the second Temple stood [before 70 C.E., when it was destroyed by the Romans], the Rosh Hashanah LaBeheimot [as the New Year for the Animals was then called] celebrated one means by which we elevated and esteemed the special creatures that helped us to live and to work. Just as rabbinic Judaism replaced our Temple offerings with tefillot — prayers — so too the Rosh Hashanah LaBeheimot challenges us to realize the holiness of the animals in our care in a time without tithes. The New Years Day for Animals is a challenge to remind us of our responsibilities to animals who depend on us for their welfare. Are we treating them correctly and in accord with the mitzvah of tsa’ar ba’alei chayim — sensitivity to the suffering of living creatures? Have we studied and understood the depth of chesed — loving kindness — expressed in the breadth of Torah teachings concerning the welfare of animals? Rosh Hashanah LaBeheimot is the day to reflect on our relationships with domesticated animals, recognize our personal responsibilities to them, individually and as part of a distinct and holy people, and repair our relationships to the best of our abilities.

C. Statements By Some Recent Orthodox Rabbis

In considering the current treatment of animals, the following statements by Orthodox Rabbis are worth pondering:

1. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, a leading 19th century Orthodox rabbi,  indicated how great our concern for animals must be:

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.

2. Rabbi Aryeh Carmell, a Torah scholar who lived in Jerusalem in the 20th century, stated:

It seems doubtful from all that has been said whether the Torah would sanction ‘factory farming,’ which treats animals as machines, with apparent insensitivity to their natural needs and instincts. This is a matter for decision by halachic authorities.

3. Rabbi David Rosen, former Chief rabbi of Ireland,  uses even stronger language:

The current treatment of animals in the livestock trade definitely renders the consumption of meat as halachically unacceptable as the product of illegitimate means.

D. Additional Statemen\ts On the Mistreatment of Farmed nimals

1. “The very saddest sound in all my memory was burned into my awareness at age five on my uncle’s dairy farm in Wisconsin. A cow had given birth to a beautiful male calf. The mother was allowed to nurse her calf but for a single night. On the second day after birth, my uncle took the calf from the mother and placed him in the veal pen in the barn—only ten yards away, in plain view of the mother. The mother cow could see her infant, smell him, hear him, but could not touch him, comfort him, or nurse him. The heartrending bellows that she poured forth—minute after minute, hour after hour, for five long days—were excruciating to listen to. They are the most poignant and painful auditory memories I carry in my brain. Since that age, whenever I hear anyone postulate that animals cannot feel emotions, I need only to replay that torturous sound in my memory of that mother cow crying her bovine heart out to her infant. Mother’s love knows no species barriers, and I believe that all people who are vegans in their hearts and souls know that to be true.” Michael Klaper, MD

2. “How far have we the right to take our domination of the animal

world? Have we the right to rob them of all pleasure in life simply

to make more money more quickly out of their carcasses? Have

we the right to treat living creatures solely as food converting

machines? At what point do we acknowledge cruelty?10 . . .

Farm animals have always been exploited by man in that

he rears them specifically for food. But until recently they were

individuals, allowed their birthright of green fields, sunlight, and

fresh air; they were allowed to forage, to exercise, to watch the

world go by, in fact to live. Even at its worst . . . the animal had

some enjoyment in life before it died. Today the exploitation has

been taken to a degree that involves not only the elimination

of all enjoyment, the frustration of all natural instincts, but its

replacement with acute discomfort, boredom, and the actual

denial of health. It has been taken to a degree where the animal

is not allowed to live before it dies.”

     Ruth Harrison in her book “Animal Machines”

3. “Every year millions of animals are born and bred for the sole

purpose of satisfying those who like the taste of meat. Their

lives vary in length from a few weeks to a few years; most live

a fraction of the time they would in more natural conditions.

They die in slaughterhouses where, if the tranquilizers have

their effect, they know only a few moments of the awful fear of

death before they are stunned and their throats cut. This is what

all meat-eaters actively support, for there would be no batteries,

no sweatboxes, no need to castrate male animals or artificially

inseminate females, no cattle markets and no slaughterhouses if

there was no one insensitive enough to buy their products.”

     John Harris

4 “Aren’t humans amazing? They kill wildlife—birds, deer, all

kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice and foxes by the

million in order to protect their domestic animals and their feed.

     Then they kill domestic animals by the billion and eat them.

     This in turn kills people by the million, because eating all those

animals leads to degenerative—and fatal—health conditions

like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and cancer. So then

humans spend billions of dollars torturing and killing millions

more animals to look for cures for these diseases.

     Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed

by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being

used to fatten domestic animals.

     Meanwhile, few people recognize the absurdity of humans,

who kill so easily and violently, and once a year send out cards

praying for’Peace on Earth.’”

     C. David Coats, in his book, “Old McDonald’s Factory Farm”

9. Before Cup #4: Discuss Jewish Groups Working to Improve Conditions for Animals and Strategies to Increase Awareness of Jewish Teachings on Animals and to Help End Animal Abuses

  1. Messianic Times

This section is to show that the Messianic times that Jews yearn for will be a vegan period, according to Rav Kook and other Jewish scholars.

1. “And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb,

And the leopard shall lie down with the kid;

And the calf and the young lion and the falling together;

And a little child shall lead them

And the cow and the bear shall feed;

Their young ones shall lie down together,

And the lion shall eat straw like the ox . . . .

They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain…”

     Isaiah 11:6-9

2. The progress of dynamic ideals will not be eternally blocked. Through general, moral and intellectual advancement… shall the latent aspiration of justice for the animal kingdom come out into the open, when the time is ripe.

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook, A Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace


B. Prophets’Views on Sacrifices

1. “For I spoke not unto your fathers, nor commanded them on the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt- offerings or sacrifices; but this thing I commanded them, saying, “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.”      Jeremiah 7:22 -23

2. “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”     Hosea 6:6

3. ”To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me?” says the Lord. “I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs or of he-goats. . . bring no more vain oblations… Your new moon and your appointed feasts my soul hates; … and when you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; yes, when you make many prayers, I will not hear; your hands are full of blood.” Isaiah 1:11-16

4. “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I will take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Though you offer me burnt offerings and your meal offerings, I will not accept them; neither will I regard the peace-offerings of your fat beasts. Take away from me the noise of your song; and let Me not hear the melody of your psalteries. But let justice well up as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.”  Amos 5:21- 4

5. With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow before God on high?

6. “Shall I come before od with burnt-offerings, with calves a year old?

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,

   with tens of thousands of rivers of oil?

Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,

   the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?’

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what the Lord requires of you

Only to do justice, to love mercy. and walk humbly with your God.”

7.  Reinforcing the above material are the words of Jerusalem-based Orthodox rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo: 

“Does Judaism really need animal sacrifices? Would it not be better off without them? After all, the sacrificial cult compromises Judaism. What does a highly ethical religion have to do with the collection of blood in vessels and the burning of animal limbs on an altar? 

No doubt Judaism should be sacrifice-free. Yet it is not. . . . How much more beautiful the Torah would be without sacrifices. 

If Judaism had the chance, it would have dropped the entire institution of sacrifices in a second. Better yet, it would have had no part in it to begin with. How much more beautiful the Torah would be without sacrifices! How wonderful it would be if a good part of Sefer Vayikra [the portion of the Torah that refers initially to sacrifices] were removed from the biblical text, or had never been there in the first place.”

C. Current Jewish Veg and Animal Rights Organizations

[This section needs updating.]

Below is a discussion of current Jewish organizations working to increase awareness of Judaism’s splendid teachings on the proper treatment of animals and how they can be applied to reduce abuses of animals and to create a more humane, compassionate, just, peaceful, and environmentally sustainable world.

The Seder leader and/or some of the Seder participants might check out the websites of some of these groups and report on some of these activities. The important point is to recognize that there are already groups that are actively involved in applying Jewish values to reduce abuses of animals

Animals Now, formerlyAnonymous for Animal Rights is Israel’s leading animal rights group. They chose the name “Anonymous” out of “deep solidarity with the suffering of those sentient beings … who are subjected to systematic abuse, … imprisoned in laboratories, circuses, municipal pounds – but above all: in factory farms.” They often hold demonstrations aimed at improving conditions for animals.  (www. 

International Jewish Vegetarian Society, also known as the Jewish Ecological and Vegetarian Society, has since 1965 been a center for Jewish vegetarianism activism. Centered in London, the group distributes a quarterly publication, The Jewish Vegetarian that includes a wide variety of vegetarian-related material. (

Israeli Jewish Vegetarian Society (Ginger), centered in Jerusalem, helps educate Israelis about Jewish teachings on vegetarianism and animal rights, and brings Israeli vegetarians  together through monthly lectures, cooking demonstrations, pot-luck meals, and other vegetarian-related events, as well as annual Tu Bishvat and Passover Seders. (no website yet)

Jewish Veg, formerly  Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) argues that Jewish mandates to preserve human health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, help hungry people ,and pursue peace point to vegetarianism (and preferably veganism) as the ideal diet for Jews. In 2007, the group produced the acclaimed documentary A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World, and made it freely available at (

Shamayim; Jewish Animal Advocacy, a Center for Jewish Spirituality and Leadership, is a new group founded by Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, whose core mission is to educate about the benefits of kosher veganism, to empower others to show leadership on animal welfare issues, and to build Jewish spiritual community around these issues. (www.shamayimvaretz)

Concern for Helping Animals in Israel (CHAI) works on behalf of Israel’s animals through education, legislation, and rescue. Its sister group Hakol Chai is active in Israel. (


D. Some Thoughts About Promoting Veganism

Judaism teaches that “it is not study that is the chief thing, but action [based on that study]. (Kiddushin 40b). So, it is important not only to study Judaism’s splendid teachings about compassion to animals and to investigate the many ways these teachings are violated today by abuses of animals at factory farms, laboratories, circuses, rodeos, and other settings. It is important to apply Jewish teachings to eliminate or at least sharply reduce these abuses.

     In considering how much to be involved, it may be helpful to consider the many benefits to reducing the consumption of animal products, in addition to improving conditions for animals:

·      At a time when almost a billion of the world’s people are chronically hungry and an estimated nine million people die of hunger and its effects annually, 70 percent of the grain produced in the United States and over a third of the grain produced worldwide is fed to farmed animals;

·      At a time when clean water is becomingly increasingly scarce in many areas of the world, it takes as much as 13 times as much water per person on an animal-based diet that for a person on a vegan diet.

·      At a time when obtaining sufficient energy, especially types that do not pose major threats to the environment, is an increasing concern, it takes about ten times the energy to produce food for a meat-eater than for a vegan.

·      At a time when climate scientists are increasingly warning of serious threats from climate change, animal-based agriculture is a major contributor to this major threat to humanity. A 2006 UN Food and Agriculture report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” indicated that animal-based agriculture emits more greenhouse gases (GHGs) (in CO2 equivalents) than all the cars, plane, ships, and other means of transportation worldwide combined! A 2009 cover article, “Livestock and Climate Change,”  in World Watch magazine by two scientists associated with the World Bank argued that the livestock sector is responsible for at least 51 percent of all human-induced GHGs. A major reason for this huge contribution is that methane emitted by cattle and other animals is about 84 times as potent in warming the atmosphere (during the 20 years it remains in the atmosphere) than CO2. Another major factor is the burning of tropical rainforests to create pasture land and land to grow feed crops for animals.

·      At a time when medical costs are soaring, leading to major budget deficits in the US and other countries, animal-based diets have been connected in many scientific, peer-reviewed studies to heart disease, several types of cancer, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic, degenerative diseases.

     For these and additional reasons, a major societal shift to plant-based diets is essential to help shift our imperiled planet to a sustainable path.

Some steps that can help increase awareness and lead to positive changes include: 

1. Ask rabbis, Jewish educators, and other Jewish leaders to give sermons and classes on Jewish teachings on animals.

2. Ask Jewish school principals to see that tsa’ar ba’alei chaim is emphasized in classes and to provide vegetarian meals or at least vegetarian options.

3. Write letters to editors, politicians, educators, and others, stressing the importance of improving conditions for animals. If time permits, some time at the Seder could be devoted to writing such letters, with pens, paper, and model letters provided.

4.  Become knowledgeable on the issues and volunteer to speak at synagogues, Jewish schools, JCCs, and other Jewish settings.

    Please keep in mind that it is not only conditions for animals that is at stake (important as this is), but the future of humanity. If we want to leave a decent, clean world for our children and grandchildren, it is important that we get involved. We should not be discouraged by the immensity of the task. As our sages, indicated, “It is not [your responsibility] to complete the [entire] task, but you are not free to desist from [doing all you can].” As Margaret Mead put it, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

10. Conclusion of the Seder

This needs improvements.

     There could now be a discussion of why there is a need for Jews and others to be involved in efforts to improve conditions for animals. Some reasons this has not been happening include: failure to recognize how powerful Judaism’s teachings on animals are; failure to apply these teachings as much as we should to reduce the widespread, horrible abuses to animals; failure to have a diet most consistent with Jewish values; failure to recognize that the world is arguably approaching a climate catastrophe, food, water, and energy scarcities, and other environmental disasters, and to adequately respond to these threats.

Appendix 1. List of Rabbis Supporting the Renewal of Rosh Hashanah LaBeheimot

Rabbi Katy Z. Allen, Staff Chaplain, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Rabbi Lester Bronstein is immediate past president of the New York Board of 

     Rabbis; rabbi of Bet Am Shalom in White Plains, New York since 1989; on 

     the board of T’ruah: A Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.

Rabbi Howard A Cohen, Congregation Shirat Hayam in Marshfield MA; 

     creator and director of Burning Bush Adventures, a program that 

     combined wilderness travel with Judaism for 30 years; deputy chief and 

     chaplain of the Bennington Fire Department for the past 20 years.  

Rabbi Michael Cohen, teacher of Bible and the Environment at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies; teacher of courses on Conflict Resolution and the Bible at Bennington College. 

Rabbi Gabriel Cousens, M.D., Director of Tree of Life Foundation and 

author of Torah as a Guide to Enlightenment

Rabbi Yehoshua Engelman, psychoanalyst

Rabbi Ariel Edery, Beth Shalom, Cary NC

Rabbi Adam Frank, Israeli Masorti teacher and lecturer,

Rabbi Yonassan Gershom, writer and activist; his blog “Notes from a Jewish Thoreau” is at

Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin,President, The Schechter Institutes, INC.Jerusalem, author of many articles on Torah teachings.

Rabbi Irving (Yitz ) Greenberg, former President of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership; author of The Jewish Way: Living the Holidays

Rabbi David Mivasair, Ahavat Olam Synagogue, emeritus, Vancouver, British Columbia

Rabbi Linda Motzkin, co-director of the Bread and Torah project

Rabbi Yonatan Neril, Founder and Executive Director of the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development in Israel

Rabbi Arnold Rachlis, University Synagogue, Irvine, CA

Rabbi David Rosen, former Chief Rabbi of Ireland: KSG, CBE, International Co-President, Religions for Peace; Member of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel’s Commission for Dialogue with Religions; former Chief Rabbi of Ireland

Rabbi Jonathan Rubenstein, co-director of the Bread and Torah project

Rabbi Amy Sapowith, Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation, Ashburn, VA

Rabbi Sid Schwartz, Founding Rabbi, Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation, Bethesda, MD. Author, Jewish Megatrends: Charting the Course of the American Jewish Future.

Rabbi David Seidenberg, director of, author

Rabbi Gerald Serotta, director emeritus of Interfaith Council of Metropolitan, 


Rabbi Yedidya (Julian) Sinclair,  consultant to Israeli hi-tech startup companies;    

     Jewish scholar whose book on Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook’s great work on 

      shmita, Shabbat Ha’aretz will be published in September 2021

Rabbi Daniel Swartz,  Spiritual Leader, Temple Hesed; Executive Director, 

    Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of the Shalom Center; author of many Judaica 


Rabbi David Wolpe, Temple Sinai, Los Angeles; author of many books and 

     articles in the Jewish Week and the Jerusalem Post.

Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, founder and director of the Shamayim V’Aretz Institute 

     Promoting Jewish Veganism & Animal Welfare; author of over a dozen books 

     on Jewish values and ethics

Rabbi Rain Zohav, Director, JOTE- Jews of the Earth, a project of Aytzim

Appendix B: Jewish organizations that support this initiative so far:

Animals Now, formerly Anonymous for Animal Rights  (

Aytzim: Ecological Judaism, Parent organization of: EcoJews, Green Zionist Alliance, , Jews of the Earth , Shomrei Breishit: Rabbis and Cantors for the Earth (

Bread and Torah Project (

Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL).

Concern for Helping Animals in Israel (

EcoJews (

Hakol Chai (

Hazon: The Jewish Lab for Sustainability (  

Green Zionist Alliance (

Interfaith Council for the Protection of Animals and Nature (

Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development (

Jews For Animal Rights (

Jewcology (  Jews of the Earth ,

Jewish Veg, formerly Jewish Vegetarians of North America (

Jewish Vegetarian Society of Israel.   (

Jewish Vegetarian Society of the UK.   (

Jews of the Earth (

Neohasid (

Shamayim Institute: Promoting Jewish Veganism & Animal Welfare (

Shomrei Breishit: Rabbis and Cantors for the Earth (

Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center (

Vegetarian Mitzvah (

Yashar: The Institute for Jewish activism (website under construction).

cial action group.


Appendix C: Organizational leaders and other influential Jews who support this initiative

Syd Baumel, former editor of The Aquarian, a forum for shedding light on the path 

     to personal fulfillment 

Lara Balsam, Director of UK-based Jewish Vegetarian Society

Beth Bdrkowitz,  Chair of Jewish Studies and Professor of Religion, Barnard 


Jeremy Benstein, The Heschel Sustainability Center, Tel Aviv, Israel; author of The 

     Way Into Judaism and the Environment

Dan Brook, professor of sociology at San Jose State University; author of An Alef-Bet Kabalah and Eating the Earth; maintainer of  The Vegetarian Mitzvah website.

Jeffrey Spitz Cohan,  director of Jewish Veg

Lionel Friedberg, multiaward-winning cinematographer, producer, editor, and 

     writer, producer of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America documentary “A 

     Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World.”

A. J.  Frost, Senior Director of Operations/Assistant to the President & Dean of Valley Beit Midrash

Alex Hershaft, founder and director of the Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM)

Roberta Kalechofsky, PhD, author or editor of many books, including Jewish Vegetarianism, Rabbis and Vegetarianism, and Judaism and Animal Rights; founder and director of Jews for Animal Rights

Lori Kirshner, President of Advancing the Interests of Animals (AIA), which she founded in 2001;  host of Animals Today, a nationally syndicated radio show and podcast 

David Krantz, President of Aytzim: Ecological Judaism 

Miriam Maisel, MD, family practitioner, with emphasis on nutrition and lifestyle

Nina Natelson, founder and director of  Concern for Helping Animals in Israel (CHAI)

Becky O’Brien, director for food and climate for Hazon: The Jewish Lab for Sustainability

Lewis Regenstein, author of “Commandments of Compassion: Jewish Teachings on Protecting the Planet and Its Creatures,” Replenish the Earth, and other writings on Judaism and animals

Sahar Riemer, a leader of Animals Today

Nigel S. Savage, President & CEO of Hazon: The Jewish Lab for Sustainability

Richard Schwartz, PhD, president emeritus of Jewish Veg; author of Judaism and vegetarianism

Yael Shemesh, Professor of Bible at Bar Ilan University

Peter Spiegel, Vice President and Secretary of Advancing the Interests of Animals (AIA);  producer and co-host of the radio show Animals Today,.

Isaac Thomas, Founder and CEO of Vegan Nation

Jeffrey Tucker, director of Florida chapter of Earth Save

Aharon Varady, community planner & Jewish educator; founding director, the Open Siddur Project

Jonathan Wolf, founder of Jewish Vegetarians of North America; co-founder of L’Olam: The Jewish Environmental Network; executive director of Yashar: The Institute for Jewish Activism.

Yossi Wolfson, coordinator of the Israeli Jewish Vegetarian Society

AppendixD: Tips for Organizing and Carrying Out the Seder

1. Preliminaries

It is best to hold a New Year for Animals Seder at a synagogue or a Jewish Community Center. Of course, it can also be held at a home. To reach widespread audiences, Zoom can be used.

The Seder can be publicized through flyers, synagogue announcements, email messages, Twitter, facebook, and through word of mouth.

If held at a synagogue or JCC, members might be asked if they would like to be co-sponsors in honor or in memory of someone by contributing for food and other costs. The names of sponsors could be announced at the Seder and/or on a sheet that is distributed at the synagogue or other venue.

Getting maximum participation

Since this Haggadah is being made freely available as an eBook and online, Seder participants can be asked to review it prior to the Seder and to bring questions and comments for the Seder and to consider preparing a short dvar Torah to deliver at the Seder.

 As indicated before, if there are not a large number of participants, they could be asked to briefly introduce themselves and tell about why they are attending.


Since we are transforming an ancient holiday that did not involve eating directly, there is no tradition about the type of foods that should be served. And there is really no need for any food to be served, except for the grape juice or wine. However, since the renewed holiday is focused on compassion to animals, no meat or other animal products should be served. It is suggested that, in the tradition of another renewed holiday, Tu Bishvat, the Seder include foods from the seven species from Israel that are mentioned in the Torah (Deuteronomy 8: 7-10): wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and date honey

Appendix E: Sources for Further Information

There is much valuable material at the Jewish Vegetarians of North America website Jewish

Richard Schwartz’s collection at includes over 25articles, 25 podcasts of his talks and interviews, and the complete texts of his books, Judaism and Vegetarianism and Judaism and Global Survival, all of which can be freely accessed. Included is a self-paced course on “Judaism and Vegetarianism,” many questions and answers about Jewish teachings on animals, vegetarianism, and related issues, and articles relating all the Jewish holidays to vegetarianism.

The following websites also have valuable information:

[to be added]


[Needs updating.]

Aleichem, Shalom. “Pity for Living Creatures. In Some Laughter, Some Tears, New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1979.

Berman, Louis. Vegetarianism and the Jewish Tradition. New York: K’tav, 1982. 

Bleich, Rabbi J. David, “Vegetarianism and Judaism,” Tradition, Vol. 23, No. 1 (Summer, 1987).

Cohen, Rabbi Alfred, “Vegetarianism From a Jewish Perspective,” Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, Vol. I, No. II (Fall, 1981).

Cohen, Noah J. Tsa’ar Ba’alei Chayim – The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Its Bases, Development, and Legislation in Hebrew Literature. New York: Feldheim, 1979.

David, Nathan S., ed. The Voice of the Vegetarian (Yiddish). New York: Walden Press, 1952.

Dresner, Rabbi Samuel H. The Jewish Dietary Laws, Their Meaning for Our Time. New York: Burning Bush Press, 1959.

Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York/Boston/London: Little, Brown and Company: Back Bay Books, 2009.

Frankel, Aaron H. Thou Shalt Not Kill or The Torah of Vegetarianism. New York: 1896.

Green, Joe. The Jewish Vegetarian Tradition. South Africa: 1969.

Green, Joe. “Chalutzim of the Messiah-The Religious Vegetarian Concept as Expounded by Rabbi Kook”

Kalechofsky, Roberta. Haggadah for the Liberated Lamb. Marblehead, Massachusetts: Micah Publications, 1985.

Kalechofsky, Roberta, editor. Judaism and Animals Rights – Classical and Contemporary Responses. Marblehead, Massachusetts: Micah Publications, 1992.

Kalechofsky, Roberta, editor. Rabbis and Vegetarianism: An Evolving Tradition. Marblehead, Massachusetts: Micah publications, 1995.

Kalechofsky, Roberta. Vegetarianism and the Jewish Holidays. Marblehead, Massachusetts: Micah Publications, 1993.

Kalechofsky, Roberta. A Boy, A Chicken, and The Lion of Judea – How Ari Became a Vegetarian. Marblehead, Massachusetts: Micah Publications, 1995. H

Kalechofsky, Roberta. Vegetarian Judaism. Marblehead, Massachusetts: Micah Publications, 1998.

Kook, Rabbi Abraham Isaac. A Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace (Hebrew), edited by Rabbi David Cohen (the Nazir)..

Kook, Rabbi Abraham Isaac. “Fragments of Light: A View as to the Reasons for the Commandments,” in Abraham Isaac Kook, a collection of Rabbi Kook’s works, edited and translated by Ben Zion Bokser, New York .Paulist Press, 1978.

Pick, Philip, ed. The Tree of Life, An Anthology of Articles Appearing in The Jewish Vegetarian, 1966-1974. New York: A.S. Barnes, 1977.

Raisin, Jacob A. Humanitarianism of the Laws of Israel – Kindness to Animals. Jewish Tract 06, Cincinnati, Ohio: Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Robbins, John. Diet for a New America (25th Anniversary Edition)

Schochet, Rabbi Elijah J. Animal Life in Jewish Tradition. New York: K’tav, 1984.

Schwartz, Richard H. Judaism and Vegetarianism. New York: Lantern, 2001.


For section 7. Cup #2

1. Hirsch, Horeb, Chapter 60, Section 415.

2. Carmell, Rabbi Aryeh, Masterplan: Judaism—Its Programs, Meanings, Goals, New York/Jerusalem: Feldheim, 1991, 69.

3. Rosen, Rabbi David, “Vegetarianism: An Orthodox Jewish Perspective,” in Rabbis and Vegetarianism: An Evolving Tradition, Roberta Kalechofsky, ed., Marblehead, MA: Micah Publications, 1995, 53.

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