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Isn't it cruel to eat meat?

by Rabbi Tzvi Shapiro

  

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Question:

Rabbi, I am confused. How could you eat meat? What gives you the right to kill animals to feed your cravings? Aren’t you a preacher of love? Don’t you adhere to the Torah which teaches not to torture animals? Don’t you worship a G-d who created all beings? Rabbi, I am confused!

Answer:

Permission Granted 

Your confusion is understood. The Torah does prohibit inflicting pain upon animals. Furthermore the Torah forbids wantonly destroying trees, plants, and even grass. As a matter of fact the Torah is actually concerned with the dignity of stones, demanding that the priests in the Temple ascend the altar via ramp rather than steps, to prevent exposing the stones to the nakedness under their robes.1

So never mind meat; what gives you the right to eat anything? What entitles you to consume other organisms just to insure your own survival?

If you are an atheist, nothing. If you believe in G-d, the Torah.

The Torah2 tells us that G-d granted Adam and Eve (and the animals) permission to consume anything from the vegetative world. Ten generations later G-d informed Noah that mankind may now eat animals as well.3

The question remains, why?

The Food Chain 

They say “you are what you eat”. This is not just a cliché: Someone who doesn’t eat withers away, and someone who eats a lot expands in physical size.

So what are you? You literally are what you eat. This morning your cheerios were cereal, right now they are you. That apple snack was once a fruit, currently it is a human.

And in reality all of creation is like that.

The world is divided into four general specie-types: mineral, vegetative, animal, and human. The latter depend on the former to exist, and the former depend on the latter to transcend their existence.

Plants grow in the inanimate soil. To survive they rely on soil/mineral intake. The motionless soil thus begins to grow within its newly found format: a plant. Animals eat the plants. That becomes their nutrients which becomes them. The stationary plants soon begin to walk around in their newly found format: an animal. Humans eat animals. The meat we eat becomes our blood and flesh. The simple animal becomes a sophisticated creature in its newly found format: a human.

Who's on Top

The question is what does the human do? Where to from here?

The Talmud4 derives a dual message from the fact that humans were last to be created. When a person lives in accordance with G-d's Will we say human life is the pinacle of creation and the world is readily at your service. But when a man becomes arrogant and self-serving, we say even the gnat preceded you.

Thus when a human behaves in a G-dly fashion his food his happy to have metamorphosed into this lofty being. However, if the human is as idle as the mineral, as self-centered as the vegetative, and as impulsive as the animal, not only does he not have the right to consume an animal, but even the pavement beneath his feet screams "bully, who are you to step on me".5

So go ahead, sit down on your cherry oak chair, roll up your Egyptian cotton sleeves, pick up your 24 carrot gold fork, and take a bite of that succulent prime rib. But remember, every organism within creation is watching your next move.

Act divine and they are happy to have merged into your reality. Act selfish and they wish you would have never entered their world.6

Footnotes

  • 1. Exodus 20:23. (Even though the Priests were wearing shorts, it was considered disrespectful for the stones).
  • 2. Genesis 1:29-30
  • 3. Genesis 9:3 (Sixteen generations later G-d gave the Jews the laws of Kosher, prohibiting some of the previously permitted foods.)
  • 4. Talmud tractate Sanhedrin 38a
  • 5. Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe. (Quoted in Hayom Yom, 7 Adar II).
  • 6. Appendix: this is analogous to giving your hard earned money to charity. Money is, to a great extent, tantamount to your life - You put your blood and sweat into making money and that money can be used to enhance your life. But instead you give it away. You give it to an organization hoping they will use it for a noble cause. When they do, you feel empowered by what they did with your money. It is not easy to part with money, but it is rewarding to be involved in something greater than yourself. If, G-d forbid, you find out the money wasn’t used for its intended purpose, you will feel violated. It is as if they robbed you not just of money, but of life itself.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Miscellaneous » Animals/Pets
Mitzvot » Kosher » Miscellaneous

Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Noah
Tenth generation from Adam. Of all humankind, only he and his family survived the Flood which destroyed all civilization in the year 2106 BCE.
Adam
The first man, created by G-d on the sixth day of creation. He was banished from the Garden of Eden after eating from the forbidden fruit of the forbidden knowledge. Died in 2830 BCE.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.