Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

Vegetable Soup for the Jewish Soul

Shira Yehudit Djalilmand

Over the last few decades, there’s been a growing global trend toward vegetarianism. That trend is also influencing frum Jews. But is a vegetarian lifestyle compatible with Torah hashkafah? And how are vegetarians regarded in the frum community? Torah-observant vegetarians share their opinions and experiences.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

soupMany early cultures were vegetarian, living on the plants they gathered. And throughout history, there have always been those who eschewed meat for whatever reason — both Jews and non-Jews. Scientists Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton, authors Leo Tolstoy and Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Greek philosophers Socrates and Plato were all vegetarians.

Vegetarianism really took off in United Statesin 1971, with the publication of the best-selling Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé. This book provided the first sparks, quoting dramatic statistics such as the fact that roughly 16 pounds of grain and soybeans are needed to produce just one pound of beef. Many vegetarians in the '70s believed in promoting world peace and preventing hunger, causes stereotypically associated with hippies, and so vegetarians gained an often negative image of being radical hippies.

When the '90s swept in, it brought a new breed of vegetarians. Medical research showed numerous health benefits to a vegetarian diet, and many new converts to vegetarianism were created. And today, with increasingly widespread concern about the ecological damage human acts are causing to the planet — coupled with evidence that vegetarianism is more environmentally friendly — acceptance of vegetarianism is at an all-time high, especially among the younger generation. According to a recent poll, the number of vegetarian youth in theUSincreased 70 percent in the last few years.

But among Torah-observant Jews — who see chicken soup and cholent as essential parts of their lifestyle — vegetarians are very much a minority. There have been, and still are, some very prominent frum vegetarians. For example, Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohein Kook, the first chief rabbi of Israel, abstained from meat except on Shabbos and Yamim Tovim, while the “Nazirite of Jerusalem” Rav David Cohen was entirely vegetarian, as is his son Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, chief rabbi of Haifa. Yet they are the exceptions rather than the rule.


To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription.

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

When the Fog Lifts
Rabbi Moshe Grylak In retrospect, we will understand everything
Coming Full Circle
Yonoson Rosenblum A final goodbye to my special father-in-law
Right Turns Left
Eytan Kobre Conservatives can no longer speak their minds
Searching for Olam Haba at Disney World
Rabbi Elchonon Zohn A distorted and perverted view of life and the afterlife
5 Out of 10
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Top 5 Shabbos Dips
10 Questions for Eli Samuel
Rachel Bachrach “SafeTelecom really is the refuah before the makkah”
Work/Life Solutions with Fran Jakubowicz
Moe Mernick “I turn to daas Torah whenever I encounter a gray area”
A Debt of Gratitude
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman If Ina Perlmuter believed in me, others would follow
Gemara Detective
Jacob L. Freedman “Tell me a bit about the bochur behind the medication”
Tidal Waves
Riki Goldstein “Holding Back the Tide” is comforting on so many levels
Ari's Picture of Redemption
Riki Goldstein Ari Fuld’s incredible photo gives a visual to this song
Not Just for Kids Who Love Music
Riki Goldstein “Every Yiddishe kid is essentially a part of Yingerlach”
Dream Duet
Riki Goldstein “He’s been my singing idol since I was a little kid”
Nix the Nickname
Faigy Peritzman A name is so much more than a name
Do Your Homework
Sarah Chana Radcliffe What are you teaching your kids during homework time?
Day of Confinement
Mrs. Elana Moskowitz If Asarah B’Teves isn’t a day of destruction, why fast?