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Tuesday, February 27, 2024 - 18 Adar I 5784
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Raising Animals
From a religious as well as a health standpoint, it seems that vegetarianism is the way to go. After all, if one sticks to a vegetarian diet they’ll avoid any halachic complications involved with slaughtering kosher meat, salting it to remove the blood, or mixing milk with meat. Healthwise, a vegetarian diet provides all the necessary nutrients for the human body without excess fat and cholesterol. Vegetarianism is also better for the planet, because fewer resources are required to raise food crops than to raise animals for consumption.

What is the Jewish take on vegetarianism? On the one hand, cruelty to animals is strictly forbidden. A Jew who owns an animal is obligated to feed the animal before himself, and it is permitted to milk a cow on Shabbat to prevent pain to the animal – although the milk itself is forbidden to be used.

On the other hand, the Torah does permit us to consume meat, and it is even a mitzvah to eat it on special occasions such as Shabbat and Yom Tov. How do we reconcile these two opposite approaches? *

Our sages say that when Adam was first created, G-d gave him dominion over all creatures, but did not give him permission to slaughter animals for food. Adam and Eve ate a vegetarian diet. Later, however, G-d gave the survivors of the flood permission to eat meat. The commentaries on the Torah explain that man had become so depraved that the boundaries between human and animal had become blurred. G-d wanted mankind to take the reins again, so to speak, and gave permission to Noah and his family to eat meat as a reminder to them that people and animals are different.

Along with the permission to eat animals came laws: Not to eat the flesh of a living animal, and not to drink the blood of a living animal. We are permitted to make use of animals but only within certain boundaries. These laws were given as part of the seven Noahide laws for all mankind.

Chassidic teachings explain that the natural world is categorized in four basic groups. The lowest is the domem, the inanimate objects. Above it is plant life, then animal life, and above them all is the human being, the only one with the ability to speak.

G-d created the world such that each level depends on and is sustained by the level below it. Plants depend on inanimate matter – water, air and sunlight – for survival, while animals live off plants. Each time an object or creature is used for its designated purpose, to sustain another creature, it becomes elevated to a higher level. When we slaughter an animal in a kosher manner and eat the meat with proper intentions, to use that energy to serve G-d, we elevate the animal itself and the entire animal kingdom. *

With the coming of the true and complete Redemption, it will become obvious how every action of ours helps bring the world to its ultimate state of perfection. However, to reach that point we need to fulfill our own responsibility. The fifth Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber Schneerson, once said that when Moshiach comes, the cobblestones will cry out and say, “Clod! How dare you tread on me without thinking words of Torah!” We have no right to make use of any natural resource merely for our own pleasure and comfort, but only to make them holy. When we do our part, G-d will do His part and usher in the era of Moshiach


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