Richard H. Schwartz
Vegan, climate change,and social justice activist

Rabbi David Rosen’s challenging comments on vegetarianism

The following are among the many powerful statements that Rabbi Rosen, former chief rabbi of Ireland, has written about vegetarianism (They can all be found in Rabbis and Vegetarianism, edited by Roberta Kalechofsky (Marblehead, Massachusetts: Micah Publications, 1995) pp. 53-60.

As it is halachically prohibited to harm oneself and as healthy, nutritious vegetarian alternatives are easily available, meat consumption has become halachically unjustifiable.

. . the current treatment of animals in the livestock trade definitely renders the consumption of meat as halachically unacceptable as the product of illegitimate means. . .

Indeed a central precept regarding the relationship between humans and animals in Halacha is the prohibition against causing cruelty to animals – tsa’ar ba’alei chayim. As mentioned, practices in the livestock trade today constitute a flagrant violation of this prohibition. I refer not only to the most obvious and outrageous of these, such as the production of veal and goose liver, but also to common practices in the livestock trade, such as hormonal treatment and massive drug dosing.

Aside from the fact that both the original Garden of Eden and the Messianic vision of the future reflect the vegetarian ideal in Judaism, it is of course such a dietary lifestyle that is most consonant with the goal and purpose of Torah to maximize our awareness, appreciation, and sensitivity to the Divine Presence in the world. It is therefore only natural for us to affirm as did Rav Kuk (Kook), the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi in Israel, that a redeemed world must perforce be a vegetarian world.

Today not only are we able to enjoy a healthy balanced vegetarian diet as perhaps never before; and not only are there in fact the above mentioned compelling halachic reasons for not eating meat; but above all, if we strive for that which Judaism aspires to -namely the ennoblement of the spirit, then a vegetarian diet becomes a moral imperative – – the authentic Jewish ethical dietary way of life for our time and for all times.

. . . evidently the more sensitive and respectful we are toward’s God’s Creation, in particular God’s creatures, the more respectful and reverential we actually are towards God.

Indeed, Judaism as a way of life, seeks to inculcate in us a consciousness of the Divine Presence in the World, and respect for life accordingly. The more we care for life, the closer we are in fact to God. Accordingly, an ethical vegetarian way of life expresses the most sublime and noble values and aspirations of Judaism itself, bringing us to an ideal vision for society as a whole. Is it anything less than a “Chillul Hashem” (desecration of God’s Name) to declare veal for example, which is produced through wanton human cruelty to a calf to be kosher, simply because at points “Y” and “Z” the animal was slaughtered and prepared in accordance with halachic dictates, after the commandments affecting human responsibility towards animal life have been desecrated from points “A” to “X”. . . . Today’s concept of Kashrut is more permeated with crass indulgence and economic exploitation than the ennoblement of the human spirit that our sages declare to be its purpose. Today as never before, the cruelty in the livestock trade renders meat eating and true Kashrut incompatible .

. . . . at the same time we must clearly advocate dietary practices that are truly in consonance with the sublimest values of the Torah, and today more than ever before these are overwhelmingly incompatible with carnivorous indulgence.

Here is the brief biography or Rabbi Rosen;

Rabbi David Rosen was the Chief Rabbi of Ireland from 1979 to 1985. He completed his advanced rabbinic studies in Israel where he received his rabbinic ordination. In addition to military service in the armed corps of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), he served as Chaplain in the Western Sinai. Rabbi Rosen is an Honorary President of the International Jewish Vegetarian Society for Israel. He, his wife, and three daughters are ethical vegetarians, which he believes to be the most kosher diet of all, especially for our times. Rabbi Rosen and his family have lived in Israel for many years, from where he oversees American Jewish Committee’s international interreligious relations . He is the past chairman of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC) – the roof body representing world Jewry to other world faiths; and was formerly Director of the Israel office of the Anti-Defamation League (and the ADL’s co-liaison to the Vatican); Professor of Jewish Studies at the Jerusalem Center for Near East Studies, Mount. Scopus, Jerusalem ; and Dean of the Sapir Center for Jewish Heritage and Culture.

Rabbi Rosen was a member of Israel’s delegation on the bilateral commission with the Holy See which negotiated the establishment of full relations between Israel and the Vatican; he is an International President of the World Conference on Religion and Peace, the all-encompassing world inter- faith body; honorary president of the International Council of Christians and Jews; and a founder of Rabbis for Human Rights In 2005 the Pope made him a Papal Knight Commander and in 2010 Queen Elizabeth II made him a CBE (Commander of the British Empire).

About the Author
Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D., is the author of Judaism and Vegetarianism, Judaism and Global Survival, Who Stole My Religion? Revitalizing Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal our Imperiled Planet, and Mathematics and Global Survival, and over 200 articles and 25 podcasts at He is President Emeritus of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) and President of the Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians (SERV). He is associate producer of the 2007 documentary “A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World.” He is also a Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the College of Staten Island, which is part of the City University of New York.
Related Topics
Related Posts