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More questions on vegetarianism & Judaism


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Kislev 23, 5782
I just watched both videos. I have never heard this within judaism before. Who else besides Rav Kook holds this view? Is it agreed upon amongst all rabbis? Which jewish sages of history were vegetarian/vegan? Spiritually, Rav Kook writes extensively on how the world was originally vegetarian until the Flood, and how the future and ideal world will return to that stage. ----was there a change in the nature of nature and thus a physiological change in the need to eat meat, or no? are our physical bodies the same, or different, as they were in the biblical days? Whether a particular individual is ready for that stage, and can be sure it does not come at the expense of other issues, -----how does one determine which stage to eat at? It seems very unclear if its physically healthy to be vegan, or even vegetarian, but also seems pretty obvious that its unhealthy to eat a lot of meat, so is the healthiest to eat mostly vegetarian, some fish, and infrequently some chicken here and there maybe? or is it Actually genuinely the most physically healthy to be 100% vegetarian (or is it healthier to be vegan?) there are so many contradicting views everywhere that I am just completely unclear about what is the healthiest. even among doctors there doesnt seem to be any agreement at all. Should someone cut out chicken completely? Should someone cut out fish completely? How else are the sparks going to get elevated? thanks
1. The Ramchal and all kabbalistic sources write that the world naturally improves and evolves until it will return to the original ideal world, as it was in the Garden of Eden, which includes being vegetarian. The One and Only God functions in 3 general roles: Creator, Torah-Giver, and He Who runs history. He created us with a conscious which leads us in the direction of morality and not wanting to hurt any being, including animals. Similarly, the same God gave us the Torah which includes many commandments educating us to be sensitive even to the feelings of animals (e.g. to slaughter painlessly; not to slaughter a mother and child together; to chase away the mother bird before taking her eggs, etc.). Similarly, the God of History is constantly helping man to mature morally, e.g. gradually leaving the way of war and violence in modern society and international relations, as well as technologically developing more vegetarian proteins and genetically engineered healthy and more-moral meat. All of these gradual phenomenon start with God, and similarly lead to the Godly ideals. So in addition to the kabbalistic sources, Rav Kook is solidly based on the logical ramifications of the Jewish faith in the Creator, His Torah and His running of history. Most other great scholars deal more with practical halachic issues, and Rav Kook is unique in his looking back and ahead, trying to understand, as much as we can, how God runs the world, and how He wants us to do so, as well. This is the basis of Sefer Hasidim of R. Yehuda HaHasid, to continue the direction of the "arrow which was fired in the Torah", or what's termed: "Ratzon HaBoreh", what does God really want from us? The lack of the aforementioned technological advancements basically prevented rabbis of previous generations from being vegetarian, although Rav Kook's student, the Nazir R. David Cohen, was. For additional examples, see: 2. Regarding your subjective medical issues, you should find an experienced doctor whom you trust and who is also sensitive to your ideological leanings. 3. Yes, the Rambam (Guide for the Perplexed 3, 12) writes that man's spirituality and physical well-being go together, e.g. a smoker or alcoholic's mental or psychological status also influences their physical health. Similarly, the Sforno (Breishit 6, 13; 8, 22) writes that after the Flood, the nature of the world sank, and according to both principles, life expectancy accordingly sank from a life of 900 years to 120, then down to 70 and then 50. Thanks God, today, mankind is on the "upswing", eating healthier, exercising more, better health-care, less wars, and searching and finding existential meaning in life, which inevitably once again is returning to raise our life expectancy, passing 80. True technology raises new problem of global warming and pollution, but as we see, it was just a matter of time until mankind inevitably learned from our mistakes: trial and error. Rav Kook writes that this idea of constant improvement is "built into" the world. 4. Rav Kook wasn't a doctor and addresses (based on the classic sources) general directions and ideals, without going into details which are relatively subjective to the individual, and obviously change with time. What's important is knowing the direction and recognizing that the Torah just obligates (!) the minimum which we can all do, while gradually (!) raising us spiritually and morally. Regarding "elevating the sparks", in the meantime most of mankind are still eating meat and fish, and you have nothing to worry about!
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