The Jewish Chronicle - - Judaism -

Cus­tom and prac­tice with Rabbi Ju­lian Sin­clair

SHOULD ob­ser­vant Jews be veg­e­tar­i­ans? On the one hand, as the eth­i­cal and en­vi­ron­men­tal costs of meat pro­duc­tion be­come bet­ter known, eat­ing meat be­comes harder to de­fend. On the other hand, eat­ing meat has value in Ju­daism. “There is no joy ex­cept with meat and wine,” says the Talmud, re­fer­ring to cel­e­bra­tion of Yom­tov.

Mys­ti­cal texts dis­cuss the “rais­ing up of [the divine] sparks” which is ac­com­plished when we eat meat. Since meat is a higher, more com­plex level, of food than veg­etable prod­ucts, a greater mys­ti­cal tikkun (re­pair) can be achieved through eat­ing meat.

The great 20th-cen­tury Jewish mys­tic, Rabbi Abra­ham Isaac Kook achieved a cer­tain prac­ti­cal res­o­lu­tion of these ten­sions by eat­ing meat only on Shab­bat. It is clear to Rav Kook from a range of bib­li­cal sources that eat­ing meat does not rep­re­sent the high­est, most el­e­vated state of the hu­man be­ing. (He notes that in the Gar­den of Eden Adam was not al­lowed to eat an­i­mals; this was only per­mit­ted to Noah af­ter the flood.) In his teach­ings, Rav Kook pro­vides a set of prin­ci­ples that hon­our the place of eat­ing meat in Ju­daism, while af­firm­ing that we should do so mind­fully, sen­si­tively and less of­ten.

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