From the Desk - Vegetarianism
Shalom Friends! Wow, what an amazing Shabbat we had last week! Rabbi Heshy led the davening with such uplifting tunes and so was ably helped by Irwin Ludmer's Aleinu Choir and by the Youth Choir. Cantor Abikhzer was so well received that people suggested we bring him here for the High Holy Days (he's the Cantor at Petach Tikvah so don't quite think it's going to happen :-) ). Well done to all those who participated and helped to make the service so uplifting - and thank you to Shimon and Guila Zrihan for preparing such a splendid TU B'Shvat Kiddush which was jointly sponsored by the Zrihan and Sherman families. If you were lucky enough to attend on Shabbat, take out your diary and note our next Kehillah Shabbat - March 11th - where we will be honoring the women of Beth Ora. Watch this space for more details. Coming Up at Beth Ora This coming Shabbat is also an important one in the Jewish calendar as we reach the part of the Torah when the Ten Commandments are given. We'd love to see you for this special Torah reading. Then, on Sunday, we have a special Teen Paint Night. Contact the office to secure your place. Our busy calendar also includes the next session of our Women for Women series. Erica Kwizak Tzabari will be speaking on Wednesday night about the experience of suffering from mental illness, the latest treatment options and preventing and recovering from an episode. This important talk will benefit both sufferers and supporters. You have the opportunity to give blood (if you are lucky enough not to be English) here at Beth Ora on Wednesday March 1st, between 1:30pm and 7:30 pm. This is an important opportunity to save lives and I'd strongly encourage those who can donate blood to attend. To schedule an appointment, call 1-800-343-7264. Closer to Purim, we have all kinds of events planned. After Shabbat, on Saturday March 4th, we have a special event for young families, including a beautiful havdallah ceremony and the opportunity for parents to learn about Purim together with their children before making special food packages (mishloach manot) to give to friends on Purim. Then, on Tuesday March 7th, we have more fun for the kids of age nine and older as they come to the synagogue to bake hamantaschen for the shul and Purim carnival. And of course, we have amazing things planned for Purim as itself. After Purim, we'll give you a few days for your inebriation to dissipate before inviting you to our special Scotch Tasting evening on March 16th. Please see all our posters or the synagogue bulletin for details of all these amazing events. Omer Character Project Once Purim is over, Pesach is just around the corner! During the period between Pesach and Shavuot, we will be doing a project together as a community in which we work on different character traits. Throughout this period, we will be sending short videos and blog posts to the community to motivate us and will be inviting you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter. We'll be letting you know more about this project nearer the time but, for now, we are looking for volunteers to make a video clip or write an article about a character trait which can be sent out as part of the project. I will provide material to assist. If you would like to participate, please speak to me. It is so exciting to see all these programs developing at Beth Ora and we hope that you find them meaningful and enriching. Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami
What's the Deal with... Vegetarianism This question was asked by Bernie Weinstein. In answering this question, I benefited greatly from an article by Rabbi Alfred Cohen in The Journal of Halacha. On Shabbat, there is a mitzvah of 'oneg', doing things that are pleasurable. The Rambam (1135-1204) describes this mitzvah as eating meat and drinking wine. From this, it seems that there may be a mitzvah to eat meat on Shabbat. However, there are those who define the mitzvah more subjectively and opine that there is only a mitzvah to eat meat if you actually enjoy it. The question is a little more complex when it comes to Yom Tov. On Yom Tov, there is a mitzvah to rejoice and this is, again, defined by the Rambam (as far as adults are concerned) as involving the eating of meat and drinking of wine. However, other authorities such as Rabbi Yosef Karo (1488-1575) don't make any mention of eating meat when discussing the mitzvah of rejoicing on festivals. The bottom line, with regard to Yom Tov, is that there is a debate as to how important it is to eat meat. Whilst the normative position does not insist upon eating meat as a necessity for festival rejoicing, there are many illustrious halachic authorities who maintain that it is certainly desirable, even if not strictly required, and that it is a mitzvah to mark the joy of the Jewish Festivals by eating meat. In this sense, vegetarianism is antagonistic to the spirit of Jewish thought on Yom Tov, even if not to the actual letter of the law. What about the moral issue of the propriety of eating meat? It's interesting to note that the consumption of meat was not part of the original Divine plan at the world's creation. After man is created, God tells him 'I have given to you all vegetations... for food.' Ramban (1194-1270) explains that this is because animals bear certain similarities with humans and so there is a measure of kinship between them. Nevertheless, a few chapters later, after the flood, God specifically permits Noah and his descendants to kill animals in order to eat their flesh. Many Rabbis viewed the Torah's license to eat meat as a necessary dispensation, a reluctant permission as it were, not as an indication that eating meat was a desirable pursuit. It is also interesting to note that certain rabbinic sources caution against excessive eating of meat. The Talmud indicates that one should only eat meat occasionally and the Chida (1724-1806) explains that one should only eat meat in cases where you need to in order to maintain a healthy and strong constitution. So we see that, according to some Rabbinic sources, the permission for eating animal flesh is limited to an occasional indulgence. Therefore, when a vegetarian is loath to eat meat because he does not want to take an animal's life merely for his own pleasure, that person is acting well within the spirit of Jewish belief and philosophy. A more recent argument in favour of vegetarianism is health considerations. There is a lot of debate on this issue but, from a Jewish perspective, health is extremely important. Therefore, if there is evidence that meat is injurious to one's health, there would be basis to say that it is, not only permissible, but possibly even mandatory to reduce our ingestion to the minimum level.