Vegetarians are “supremely un-Jewish”

A new article circulated by claims that being a vegetarian is supremely un-Jewish.

Rabbi Benjamin Blech (insert clever joke about last name here), in an article about Jewish food, makes a number of disturbing, shtupped-up slurs about vegetarians, and says that the Talmud says he can eat meat, so anyone who doesn’t is an asshole.

(As you can tell, I’m a little hyperactive about it.)

I kind of went off in a tizzy — started ranting about food, and Rambam and Rav Kook and Rav Kadouri, how the Arizal said that only a perfect tzadik has the ability to spiritually elevate meat, and then only on Shabbos. I’m not sure how objectively coherent I was (my post isn’t up yet), but I do feel a lingering sense of proudness at how much of a halachic argument I was able to make. Take that, formal yeshiva education!

In other news, I don’t really know why I know this: Anna Nicole, boruch dayan emes.

Filed under Food

21 Responses to “Vegetarians are “supremely un-Jewish””

  1. Sounds like a tizzy in a teapot to me. And, I also…oh wait, the press conference at the hospital in Hollywood is starting…

    crammed · February 8th, 2007 at 4:28 pm
  2. have you read richard schwartz’s judaism and vegetarianism ? i found it pretty impressive on halakhic discussion of vegetarianism with heavy attention to the sources.

    Sam · February 8th, 2007 at 4:45 pm
  3. i tried — at the time, i was looking for something a lot more authoritative, to say MEAT WILL ROT YOUR SOUL or something along those lines, or chasidus that would talk about purity of deed. but maybe i should go back and check it out….not like i need to be persuaded, of course….

    matthue · February 8th, 2007 at 5:02 pm
  4. i listened to like an hour long shiur on talking about how meat is really special and you shouldn’t eat it unless your mind is focused intently on doing it for the sake of G-dliness and then it goes on to talk about how if you eat it under other circumstances it can make you depressed or angry

    so this is surprising

    at any rate, i think ill continue to avoid meat.

    shmuel · February 8th, 2007 at 5:23 pm
  5. The talmud does have some harsh things to say about those who prohibit to themselves things which are permitted. But then how do we prohibit milk less than X hours after meat? Ah, its a fence so we shouldn’t mix them. So how about, if you’re vegetarian, you just don’t really trust the kashrut of any meat? Here – now everyone can be happy.

    Amit · February 8th, 2007 at 5:28 pm
  6. I’m not surprised this would come out of…..AskMoses has been a bunch of Lubavitchers pretending to be authoritative providers of Jewish knowledge since it started!
    My brother once asked a technical question (demonstrating his familiarity with the sources) and they got mad at him because he was interested in non-Chasidic minhagim!

    Alan · February 8th, 2007 at 5:52 pm
  7. “So how about, if you’re vegetarian, you just don’t really trust the kashrut of any meat? Here – now everyone can be happy.”

    That sounds like a much more positive way to go about living than riding around on your high horse preaching that:

    “MEAT WILL ROT YOUR SOUL or something along those lines”

    crammed · February 8th, 2007 at 5:59 pm
  8. Blech can suck it.

    I’m burning my copy of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Yiddish” (he wrote it).

    Don’t ask why I bought it.

    Balaam's Donkey · February 8th, 2007 at 6:10 pm
  9. I think perhaps they are afraid if Jews go vegan and start eating with their non-Jewish vegan friends, we’ll all intermarry.

    shamir · February 8th, 2007 at 6:17 pm
  10. I thought that Rabbi Blech’s article was exceptional. It was witty, and he backed up all of his points with legitimate sources. No where did he say that it was un-Jewish to be a vegetarian. He said that refraining from taking the life of an animal for food on account of the fact that any particular animal should be able to live out its life is not a Jewish idea in itself.

    So you don’t want to eat meat because you don’t want to kill a poor baby calf? Then don’t. However, don’t refrain from eating meat simply because you think that the life of a beast is equal to that of a human. Besides….aside from the recent controversies up in the largest Glatt Kosher slaughter house in Iowa, Schita according to Jewish law is very humane. Trust me – the kosher veal on your plate that was once a cute baby cow just a few days before died in a few seconds…

    Blech is a tzaddik. Anyone that says his article contains “disturbing, shtupped-up slurs about vegetarians” doesn’t really comprehend what Blech is getting at.

    Kelly · February 8th, 2007 at 6:24 pm
  11. Sales must be down at Aaron’s (Agriprocessors), the Postville, Iowa Lubavitcher-owned meat monopoly producer.

    BTW, that bit about no joy without basar- many rabbinic authorites consider that to be a reference to another kind of meat (wink, wink).

    judi · February 8th, 2007 at 6:29 pm
  12. An Orthodox person (who I still count as a friend) once told me that vegetarianism is to be avoided because G-d gave us the halachos of basar ve-chalav, shechittah, etc. — i.e., the existence of these halachos implies that He wants us to use them.

    I was a little stunned at that response — too much so to get into questions of the reason for the halachos of the eved Kenaani, the Sotah, ben sorer u-moreh, etc.

    Jordan · February 8th, 2007 at 6:55 pm
  13. Having taken another look at the article, the Rabbi certainly does not say that “Vegetarians are ‘supremely un-Jewish’”. I think this “tizzy” is just a case of veggie evangelists gone wild (again). As the Rabbi himself responded:

    “I sincerely hope all those looking for argument reflect more carefully
    on what the article actually said and don’t read personal attacks into
    essays where none are found – in order to personally attack the

    crammed · February 8th, 2007 at 7:27 pm
  14. crammed: i’m not actually talking about the way i DO look at life — just the mindset you get yourself into sometimes. i’m sure you have days when you wish something would ROT YOUR SOUL, too…..and nowhere did i say that i was preaching anything. i don’t even own a horse.

    alan: watch the lubavitch slams, please. doesn’t represent all of them — and, as far as i know, all the folks on there are have a pretty decent background. most or all of the men are rabbis, and the women are at that smart-enough-to-be-a-rabbi level. no doubt that there are people who would slam him for non-hasidic minhagim (i’m with him on that – i get slammed, too) but that’s just lame. and it’s definitely not everyone on the site.

    kelly: does calling a vegetarian diet “supremely un-Jewish” qualify as “disturbing, shtupped-up slurs about vegetarians”? i’d like to think that the Rambam, Rav Kook, Rav Kadouri, and the Arizal, all of whom have an all- or mostly-vegetarian diet, are not “supremely un-Jewish.” and I’d like to reiterate that this is not an attack on blech — just an attack on his attack on anyone whose principles don’t fit into his narrow-minded way of what is “acceptably Jewish.”

    matthue · February 8th, 2007 at 7:46 pm
  15. Am I the only one who realized that his guy is NOT a rabbi?


    I don’t think that it is a good idea to make generalizations about lubavitchers based on one article in this one website. They day has something shocking, then it will represent the whole lot.

    Hernan · February 8th, 2007 at 9:08 pm
  16. Hernan, Blech certainly indentifies himself as a Rabbi in the comments of the source blog. While the page you linked to doesn’t use the title “Rabbi”, this one does.

    “does calling a vegetarian diet “supremely un-Jewish” qualify as “disturbing, shtupped-up slurs about vegetarians”?”

    It could. But, that’s not what he wrote.

    Blech does not call a vegetarian diet “supremely un-Jewish”. That comment refers to the thought that “it is a sin to take an animal’s life in order to lengthen our own”. Basically, he contends that it’s un-Jewish (not to be confused with anti-Jewish) to say that something is a sin when it isn’t. I don’t see why anybody would dispute that.

    crammed · February 8th, 2007 at 10:39 pm
  17. “shtupped-up”

    That’s pretty good. In fact, I will be using that. I will probably be using that a lot.

    This is your hat tip ahead of time.

    DK · February 9th, 2007 at 12:50 am
  18. Hernan, Blech is a Rabbi. He’s also my professor.

    kelly · February 9th, 2007 at 4:48 am
  19. I know it’s off the topic, but please: “that lingering sense of proudness” is a lingering sense of *pride*. Some adjectives, like “proud,” already have perfectly good noun forms just waiting to be used.

    Batya · February 9th, 2007 at 5:47 am
  20. Okay, since I’m the one who initially posted Rabbi Blech’s comments on my blog, I’d to to add a little something (I’d like to add a lot, but if you want to see the dialogue between Rabbi Blech and I, go to ). Also, I want to clarify that this is a dialogue and not a personal attack on Rabbi Blech (who, by the way, is not a Chabad Rabbi).

    I received a prompt reply from, which
    I appreciated. Here it is.

    Your email address has been removed from our list. Indeed, it is true that meat is not healthy. Maimonides (who was himself a famous doctor) writes that red meat should NEVER be eaten (in his laws of dietary health). The article doesn’t touch upon this issue as you correctly pointed out. I apologize for any inconvenience and will try to be more careful in the future in the choice of featured essays – to look for one’s that are only positive. I hope you will have a more positive experience with Chabad in the future.
    Thank you for your help in improving our service,
    Rabbi Zalman Abraham

    Jessica · February 9th, 2007 at 11:16 am
  21. I haven’t read Rabbi Blech’s article, (I probably should), but I do own 2 of his books, one of which is “Idiot’s Guide to Judaism.” On page 243, there is the quote “Are any Rabbis vegetarians? Yes, including two chief rabbis of Israel! What’s clear is that a good steak is permitted by Jewish law today. But whether the permissible is the same thing as the ideal remains a fascinating question. Sometimes Judaism, with all of its laws, lets you make your own decision.” Also on that page, Rabbi Blech write’s “was it then a concession (permitting Noah to eat meat) to people who like meat or need the nutrients it provides, or a new G-dly policy? Jewish scholars have been arguing that one for centuries.” He doesn’t sound very unvegetarian to me.

    Upsididus · February 11th, 2007 at 9:21 pm

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"I may attack a certain point of view which I consider false, but I will never attack a person who preaches it. I have always a high regard for the individual who is honest and moral, even when I am not in agreement with him. Such a relation is in accord with the concept of kavod habriyot, for beloved is man for he is created in the image of God." —Rav Joseph Soloveitchik