Eating meat on shabbat

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, August 18, 2011

Should observant Jews be vegetarians? On the one hand, as the ethical and environmental costs of meat production become better known, eating meat becomes harder to defend. On the other hand, eating meat has value in Judaism. "There is no joy except with meat and wine," says the Talmud, referring to celebration of Yomtov.

Mystical texts discuss the "raising up of [the divine] sparks" which is accomplished when we eat meat. Since meat is a higher, more complex level, of food than vegetable products, a greater mystical tikkun (repair) can be achieved through eating meat.

The great 20th-century Jewish mystic, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook achieved a certain practical resolution of these tensions by eating meat only on Shabbat. It is clear to Rav Kook from a range of biblical sources that eating meat does not represent the highest, most elevated state of the human being. (He notes that in the Garden of Eden Adam was not allowed to eat animals; this was only permitted to Noah after the flood.) In his teachings, Rav Kook provides a set of principles that honour the place of eating meat in Judaism, while affirming that we should do so mindfully, sensitively and less often.

Last updated: 10:18am, August 18 2011