Is Vegetarianism a Jewish Ideal?
1 א

(כט) וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים הִנֵּה֩ נָתַ֨תִּי לָכֶ֜ם אֶת־כָּל־עֵ֣שֶׂב ׀ זֹרֵ֣עַ זֶ֗רַע אֲשֶׁר֙ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י כָל־הָאָ֔רֶץ וְאֶת־כָּל־הָעֵ֛ץ אֲשֶׁר־בּ֥וֹ פְרִי־עֵ֖ץ זֹרֵ֣עַ זָ֑רַע לָכֶ֥ם יִֽהְיֶ֖ה לְאָכְלָֽה׃ (ל) וּֽלְכָל־חַיַּ֣ת הָ֠אָרֶץ וּלְכָל־ע֨וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֜יִם וּלְכֹ֣ל ׀ רוֹמֵ֣שׂ עַל־הָאָ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־בּוֹ֙ נֶ֣פֶשׁ חַיָּ֔ה אֶת־כָּל־יֶ֥רֶק עֵ֖שֶׂב לְאָכְלָ֑ה וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן׃

(29) And God said: ‘Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is upon 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; (30) and to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creeps upon the earth, wherein there is a living soul, [I have given] every green herb for food.’ And it was so.

2 ב
(ז) וַתִּפָּקַ֙חְנָה֙ עֵינֵ֣י שְׁנֵיהֶ֔ם וַיֵּ֣דְע֔וּ כִּ֥י עֵֽירֻמִּ֖ם הֵ֑ם וַֽיִּתְפְּרוּ֙ עֲלֵ֣ה תְאֵנָ֔ה וַיַּעֲשׂ֥וּ לָהֶ֖ם חֲגֹרֹֽת׃
(7) Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they perceived that they were naked; and they sewed together fig leaves and made themselves loincloths.
3 ג
(כא) וַיַּעַשׂ֩ יְהוָ֨ה אֱלֹהִ֜ים לְאָדָ֧ם וּלְאִשְׁתּ֛וֹ כָּתְנ֥וֹת ע֖וֹר וַיַּלְבִּשֵֽׁם׃ (פ)
(21) And the LORD God made garments of skins for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.
4 ד
כתנו' עור. יש אומר כי בתחלה היו עצם ובשר ועתה קרם עליה' עור. וי''א כתנות לעורם. ואחרים אומרי' כי יש בהמ' בדמות אדם והשם צוה ונפשט עורה ואין לנו לבקש בזאת רק נאמין שהשם עשה לאדם גם לאשתו כתנות עור ומי ימלל גבורותיו ומי יספר מעשיו ונפלאותיו ואין חקר לגדולתו:

Garments of skin: There are those who say that originally Adam was just bone and flesh and now skin formed over him. And there are those who say "garments for their skin." And others say that there is a beast that looks like man and that God commanded him to shed his skin. But we should not inquire about this, just believe that God made for Adam and his woman garments of skin. And who can tell the greatness of God and who can recount his acts, and there is no way to understand his greatness.

5 ה

Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer 20

R. Eliezer ben Yaakov said: From the skin of the snake that the snake shed God made for them garments.

6 ו
(יא) וַתִּשָּׁחֵ֥ת הָאָ֖רֶץ לִפְנֵ֣י הָֽאֱלֹהִ֑ים וַתִּמָּלֵ֥א הָאָ֖רֶץ חָמָֽס׃ (יב) וַיַּ֧רְא אֱלֹהִ֛ים אֶת־הָאָ֖רֶץ וְהִנֵּ֣ה נִשְׁחָ֑תָה כִּֽי־הִשְׁחִ֧ית כָּל־בָּשָׂ֛ר אֶת־דַּרְכּ֖וֹ עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃ (ס) (יג) וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֜ים לְנֹ֗חַ קֵ֤ץ כָּל־בָּשָׂר֙ בָּ֣א לְפָנַ֔י כִּֽי־מָלְאָ֥ה הָאָ֛רֶץ חָמָ֖ס מִפְּנֵיהֶ֑ם וְהִנְנִ֥י מַשְׁחִיתָ֖ם אֶת־הָאָֽרֶץ׃

(11) The earth became corrupt before God; the earth was filled with lawlessness. (12) When God saw how corrupt the earth was, for all flesh had corrupted its ways on earth, (13) God said to Noah, “I have decided to put an end to all flesh, for the earth is filled with lawlessness because of them: I am about to destroy them with the earth.

7 ז
(ג) כָּל־רֶ֙מֶשׂ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר הוּא־חַ֔י לָכֶ֥ם יִהְיֶ֖ה לְאָכְלָ֑ה כְּיֶ֣רֶק עֵ֔שֶׂב נָתַ֥תִּי לָכֶ֖ם אֶת־כֹּֽל׃ (ד) אַךְ־בָּשָׂ֕ר בְּנַפְשׁ֥וֹ דָמ֖וֹ לֹ֥א תֹאכֵֽלוּ׃

(2) The fear and the dread of you shall be upon all the beasts of the earth and upon all the birds of the sky—everything with which the earth is astir—and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hand.(3) Every moving thing that lives shall be for food for you; as the green herb have I given you all. (4) Only flesh with the life inside, which is the blood, you shall not eat.

8 ח
הִנֵּה נָתַתִּי לָכֶם אֶת כָּל עֵשֶׂב זֹרֵעַ זֶרַע לא הרשה לאדם ולאשתו להמית בריה ולאכול בשר, אך כל ירק עשב יאכלו יחדיו כלם. וכשבאו בני נח התיר להם בשר שנאמר (להלן ט ג) "כָּל רֶמֶשׂ אֲשֶׁר הוּא חַי לָכֶם יִהְיֶה לְאָכְלָה, כְּיֶרֶק עֵשֶׂב נָתַתִּי לָכֶם אֶת כֹּל" — את כל כירק עשב שהתרתי לאדם הראשון התרתי לכם את כל. לשון רש"י. וכן פירש הרב במסכת סנהדרין (נט ד"ה לא הותר) "ולכל חית הארץ" לכם ולחיות נתתי העשבים ואת האילנות וְ"אֶת כָּל יֶרֶק עֵשֶׂב לְאָכְלָה". ואם כך יהיה פירוש "אֶת כָּל יֶרֶק עֵשֶׂב לְאָכְלָה" "וְאֶת כָּל יֶרֶק עֵשֶׂב" ואינו כן, אבל נתן לאדם ולאשתו "כָּל עֵשֶׂב זֹרֵעַ זֶרַע" וכל פרי עץ, ולחית הארץ ולעוף השמים נתן "כל ירק עשב" לא פרי העץ ולא הזרעים, ואין מאכלם יחד כלם בשוה, אך הבשר לא הורשו בו עד בני נח כדעת רבותינו, והוא פשוטו של מקרא. והיה זה מפני שבעלי נפש התנועה יש להם קצת מעלה בנפשם, נדמו בה לבעלי הנפש המשכלת, ויש להם בחירה בטובתם ומזוניהם ויברחו מן הצער והמיתה, והכתוב אומר "מִי יוֹדֵעַ רוּחַ בְּנֵי הָאָדָם הָעֹלָה הִיא לְמָעְלָה וְרוּחַ הַבְּהֵמָה הַיֹּרֶדֶת הִיא לְמַטָּה לָאָרֶץ" (קהלת ג כא). וכאשר חטאו והשחית כל בשר את דרכו על הארץ, ונגזר שימותו במבול ובעבור נח הציל מהם לקיום המין נתן להם רשות לשחוט ולאכול כי קיומם בעבורו. ועם כל זה לא נתן להם הרשות בנפש ואסר להם אבר מן החי. והוסיף לנו במצות לאסור כל דם מפני שהוא מעמד לנפש כדכתיב (ויקרא יז יד) "כִּי נֶפֶשׁ כָּל בָּשָׂר דָּמוֹ בְנַפְשׁוֹ הוּא, וָאֹמַר לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל: דַּם כָּל בָּשָׂר לֹא תֹאכֵלוּ כִּי נֶפֶשׁ כָּל בָּשָׂר דָּמוֹ הִוא", כי התיר הגוף בחי שאינו מדבר אחר המיתה, לא הנפש עצמה. וזה טעם השחיטה. ומה שאמרו (ב"מ לב) "צער בעלי חיים דאורייתא", וזו ברכתנו שמברך "אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו על השחיטה", ועוד אדבר בענין המצוה בדם בהגיעי שם (ויקרא יז יא-יד) אם גומר השם עלי. וטעם "אֶת כָּל עֵשֶׂב זֹרֵעַ זֶרַע" ואת כל העץ אשר בו פרי עץ זורע זרע לכם יהיה לאכלה, שיאכלו זרועי העשב כגרגרי החטה והשעורה והקטניות וזולתם, ויאכלו כל פרי העץ, אבל העץ עצמו אינו להם לאכלה, וגם לא העשב, עד שנתקלל אדם ונאמר לו: "וְאָכַלְתָּ אֶת עֵשֶׂב הַשָּׂדֶה" (להלן ג יח).
"Behold, I have given to you all of the herbs that gives seed:" "He did not permit Adam and his wife to kill a creature and to eat its meat; only every green herb were they all permitted to eat together. And when the Children of Noach came, He permitted them to eat meat, as it is stated (below 9:3), 'Every creeping thing that is alive, for you is it to eat, like the green herb have I given to you every thing' Like the green herbs, which I permitted to the first man, I have given you everything." [These are] the words of Rashi. And so [too] did [Rashi] explain in Tractate Sanhedrin 59b (s. v. lo hutar), "'And to all the animals of the land' - to you and to the animals have I given the herbs and the trees, and 'the green herbs to eat.'" And if so, the explanation of "all of the green herbs to eat" would be [that it is a continuation of the previous idea as follows]: and all of the green herbs. And it is not like this, but [rather] He gave to Adam and his wife, "every herb that gives seed" and all the fruit of the trees; and to the animals of the field and the fowl of the skies, He gave "every green herb" - [but] not the fruit of the trees and not seeds; and their food is not equally for all. However meat was not permitted to him until the Children of Noach, as per the opinion of our Rabbis, and that is the simple meaning of the text. And [the original prohibition to kill animals to eat their meat] is because moving souls have a bit of stature to their souls: they resemble intelligent souls and seek their [own] benefit and their food and run away from pain and death; and the verse states (Ecclesiastes 3:23), "Who knows the spirit of man whether it goes upward, and the spirit of the beast whether it goes downward to the earth?" And when they sinned and all flesh corrupted its way upon the earth and it was decreed that they would die in the flood, and because of Noach, He saved some of them for the preservation of the species, He gave them permission to slaughter and eat [animals] since their existence was for [man's] sake. And in spite of all this, He did not give them permission with regards to the soul and forbade them a limb from a living animal. And He added commandments for us to forbid all blood since it is the support of the soul, as it is written (Leviticus 17:14), "Since the soul of all flesh, its blood is in its soul; and say to the Children of Israel, 'the blood of all flesh do not eat, since the soul of all flesh, it is the blood.'" [This is all] because He permitted the body of an animal that does not speak but not the soul itself. And this is [also] the reason for ritual slaughter (shechita) - and for what they said (Bava Metzia 32:), "[the prohibition of causing] pain to living animals is from the Torah" - and this is our blessing for it: "who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us on ritual slaughter." And I will speak more about the matter of the commandment of blood when I get there (Leviticus 17:11-14) if God [permits].
9 ט

אמר רב יהודה אמר רב אדם הראשון לא הותר לו בשר לאכילה דכתיב (בראשית א, כט) לכם יהיה לאכלה ולכל חית הארץ ולא חית הארץ לכם וכשבאו בני נח התיר להם שנאמר (בראשית ט, ג) כירק עשב נתתי לכם את כל

יכול לא יהא אבר מן החי נוהג בו ת"ל (בראשית ט, ד) אך בשר בנפשו דמו לא תאכלו

מיתיבי היה ר' יהודה בן תימא אומר אדם הראשון מיסב בגן עדן היה והיו מלאכי השרת צולין לו בשר ומסננין לו יין הציץ בו נחש וראה בכבודו ונתקנא בו

התם בבשר היורד מן השמים

§ Rav Yehuda says that Rav says: Meat was not permitted to Adam, the first man, for consumption, as it is written: “And God said: Behold, I have given you every herb that brings forth seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree that gives forth seed; for you it shall be for food, and for every animal of the earth” (Genesis 1:29–30) but eating the animals of the earth is not permitted to you. But when the children of Noah came, God permitted them to eat meat; as it is stated: “Every moving thing that lives shall be for food for you; as the green herb I have given you all” (Genesis 9:3).

The Gemara raises an objection from a baraita to the assertion that eating meat was prohibited to Adam: Rabbi Yehuda ben Teima would say: Adam, the first man, would dine in the Garden of Eden, and the ministering angels would roast meat for him and strain wine for him. The snake glanced at him and saw his glory, and was jealous of him, and for that reason the snake incited him to sin and caused his banishment from the Garden. The Gemara answers: There the reference is to meat that descended from heaven, which was created by a miracle and was not the meat of animals at all.

10 י

Literal Blood Thirst​

You are permitted to make use of the living creatures and their service, you are allowed to exercise power over them so that they may promote your subsistence; but you may not treat the life force within them contemptuously and slay them in order to eat their flesh; your proper diet shall be vegetable food. It is true that the eating of flesh is not specifically forbidden here, but the prohibition is clearly to be inferred. ...Apparently the Torah seeks to convey that in principle man should refrain from eating meat, and that when Noah and his sons were granted permission to eat flesh, this was only a concession subject to the condition that the blood was not to be consumed. This prohibition implies respect for the principle of life (‘for the blood is the life’), and it serves also... to remind us that rightly all parts of the flesh should have been forbidden. It behooves us, therefore, to eschew eating at least one element thereof in order to remember the earlier prohibition.

Umberto Moshe David Cassuto 1883-1951, Comment on Genesis 1:29 (translated by Israel Abrams)

11 יא
(ו) וְגָ֤ר זְאֵב֙ עִם־כֶּ֔בֶשׂ וְנָמֵ֖ר עִם־גְּדִ֣י יִרְבָּ֑ץ וְעֵ֨גֶל וּכְפִ֤יר וּמְרִיא֙ יַחְדָּ֔ו וְנַ֥עַר קָטֹ֖ן נֹהֵ֥ג בָּֽם׃ (ז) וּפָרָ֤ה וָדֹב֙ תִּרְעֶ֔ינָה יַחְדָּ֖ו יִרְבְּצ֣וּ יַלְדֵיהֶ֑ן וְאַרְיֵ֖ה כַּבָּקָ֥ר יֹֽאכַל־תֶּֽבֶן׃
(6) 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 fatling together; And a little child shall lead them. (7) And the cow and the bear feed; Their young ones shall lie down together; And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
12 יב

The strongest support for vegetarianism as a positive ideal anywhere in Torah literature is in the writings of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook (1865-1935). Rav Kook was the first Chief Rabbi of pre-state Israel and a highly respected and beloved Jewish spiritual leader in the early 20th century. He was a mystical thinker, a prolific writer, and a great Torah scholar.

...

According to Rav Kook, because people had sunk to an extremely low level of spirituality (in the time of Noah), it was necessary that they be given an elevated image of themselves as compared to animals, and that they concentrate their efforts into first improving relationships between people. He felt that were people denied permission to eat meat, they might eat the flesh of human beings due to their inability to control their lust for flesh. He regarded the permission to slaughter animals for food as a “transitional tax” or temporary dispensation until a “brighter era” is reached when people would return to vegetarian diets. Perhaps to reinforce the idea that the ideal vegetarian time had not yet arrived, Rav Kook ate a symbolic small amount of chicken on the Sabbath day.​

(Richard H. Schwartz, "Rav Kook and Vegetarianism" ​http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/rav-kook-vegetarianism/)

13 יג
(יג) וְאֶת־אֵ֙לֶּה֙ תְּשַׁקְּצ֣וּ מִן־הָע֔וֹף לֹ֥א יֵאָכְל֖וּ שֶׁ֣קֶץ הֵ֑ם אֶת־הַנֶּ֙שֶׁר֙ וְאֶת־הַפֶּ֔רֶס וְאֵ֖ת הָעָזְנִיָּֽה׃ (יד) וְאֶת־הַ֨דָּאָ֔ה וְאֶת־הָאַיָּ֖ה לְמִינָֽהּ׃ (טו) אֵ֥ת כָּל־עֹרֵ֖ב לְמִינֽוֹ׃ (טז) וְאֵת֙ בַּ֣ת הַֽיַּעֲנָ֔ה וְאֶת־הַתַּחְמָ֖ס וְאֶת־הַשָּׁ֑חַף וְאֶת־הַנֵּ֖ץ לְמִינֵֽהוּ׃ (יז) וְאֶת־הַכּ֥וֹס וְאֶת־הַשָּׁלָ֖ךְ וְאֶת־הַיַּנְשֽׁוּף׃ (יח) וְאֶת־הַתִּנְשֶׁ֥מֶת וְאֶת־הַקָּאָ֖ת וְאֶת־הָרָחָֽם׃ (יט) וְאֵת֙ הַחֲסִידָ֔ה הָאֲנָפָ֖ה לְמִינָ֑הּ וְאֶת־הַדּוּכִיפַ֖ת וְאֶת־הָעֲטַלֵּֽף׃

(13) And these ye shall have in detestation among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are a detestable thing: the great vulture, and the bearded vulture, and the ospray; (14) and the kite, and the falcon after its kinds; (15) every raven after its kinds; (16) and the ostrich, and the night-hawk, and the sea-mew, and the hawk after its kinds; (17) and the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl; (18) and the horned owl, and the pelican, and the carrion-vulture; (19) and the stork, and the heron after its kinds, and the hoopoe, and the bat.

14 יד

“Ideally, humankind should be sustained by the produce of the earth. When, instead, other living creatures are used as food, as is permitted, such use should be restricted to living creatures that sustain themselves with what grows on the earth and that do not prey on other living creatures or attack man... Humans are unable to live up to the vegetarian ideal set forth at creation; God compromises and allows humanity to eat meat. But Israel wishes to adhere to that ideal, even in compromised fashion, and therefore Israel consumes only those animals that themselves have not killed other animals.” (Baruch A. Levine, Leviticus )

15 טו

The Original Paleo Diet… There can be no doubt in the mind of any intelligent, thinking person that when the Torah instructs humankind to dominate – "And have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves upon the Earth" (Genesis 1:28) – it does not mean the domination of a harsh ruler, who afflicts his people and servants merely to fulfill his personal whim and desire, according to the crookedness of his heart. It is unthinkable that the Torah would impose such a decree of servitude, sealed for all eternity, upon the world of God, Who is "good to all, and His mercy is upon all His works" (Psalms 145:9), and Who declared, "The world shall be built upon kindness" (Psalms 89:3). Moreover, the Torah attests that all humanity once possessed this lofty moral level. Citing scriptural proofs, our Sages explain (Sanhedrin 57a) that Adam was not permitted to eat meat: "Behold, I have given you every tree... yielding seed for food" (Genesis 1:29). Eating meat was permitted to the children of Noah only after the Flood: "Like the green herb, I have given you everything" (Genesis 9:3). Is it conceivable that this moral excellence, which once existed as an inherent human characteristic, should be lost forever? Concerning these and similar matters, it states, "I shall bring knowledge from afar, and unto my Maker I shall ascribe righteousness" (Job 36:3). In the future, God shall cause us to make great spiritual strides, and thus extricate us from this complex question. (Rav Yitzchak HaCohen Kook Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace)

16 טז

Animals During the Messianic Era… At the end of days an inner thirst will prompt each person to search for someone upon whom to confer benevolence, upon whom to pour forth his overflowing spirit of kindness, but none will be found. For all humanity already will have attained happiness, living lives of delight, gratification, and prosperity in every sense – materially, ethically, and intellectually. Then, with all its store of wisdom, its collective insight and experience, humanity will turn toward its brothers on lower levels of Creation, the mute and the downtrodden, including the animal kingdom. And they will seek means to share wisdom with them, to instruct and enlighten them according to their abilities, thus to elevate them from level to level. There is no question that humanity will take an active part in this when the time comes to accomplish this mission. Beyond all doubt, humanity will share the enlightenment of the Torah with the animal kingdom, affecting their physical development and, all the more so, their ethical and spiritual development. This state of enlightenment will reach such a lofty level that we cannot imagine it at present, due to our lowliness and lack of wisdom. All beings shall receive a new, exalted form – a new world. [This is implied by the words of our sages:] "If they so desired, the tzaddikim could create a world" (Sanhedrin 65b).” (Rav Kook A Vision...)

17 יז

The modern, mechanized, commercial animal factories that process most of the animal flesh we consume utilize methods that transgress the fundamental Jewish principle of “tsa’ar ba’alei chaim” - responding to the suffering of animals - and violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the kosher dietary laws. The contemporary commentator Rabbi Pinchas Peli, in Torah Today, writes that “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,...” the dietary laws should “...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 Jonathan Rubenstein, The Jewish World)