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Don't Jews have to eat meat to rejoice on the Sabbath and on festivals?

Rabbi Yehuda Ben Batheira, one of the outstanding sages of the talmudic period, stated that the obligation to eat meat for rejoicing only applied at the time when the Holy Temple was in existence. (Pesachim 109a) He added that after the destruction of the Temple one could rejoice with wine. Based on this, Rabbi Yishmael stated, "From the day the Holy Temple was destroyed, it would have been right to have imposed upon ourselves a law prohibiting the eating of flesh." (Baba Batra 60b) The reason that the rabbis did not make such a law was that they felt that most Jews were not ready to accept such a prohibition.(Ibid)

Other sources who maintain that it is no longer necessary to eat meat on festivals are Ritva, Kiddushin 36 and and Teshuvot Rashbash, No. 176. In a scholarly article in The Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society (Fall, 1981), Rabbi Alfred Cohen, the publication's editor, concluded: "If a person is more comfortable not eating meat, there would be no obligation for him to do so on the Sabbath" and "we may clearly infer that eating meat, even on a Festival, is not mandated by the Halacha [Jewish law]." He also points out that "the Shulchan Aruch, which is the foundation for normative law for Jews today, does not insist upon the necessity to eat meat as simchat Yom Tov (making the holiday joyful)."

In a responsum, an answer to a question based on Jewish law, Rabbi Moshe Halevi Steinberg of Kiryat Yam, Israel, stated, "One whose soul rebels against eating living things can without any doubt fulfill the commandment of enhancing the Sabbath and rejoicing on festivals by eating vegetarian foods....Each person should delight in the S abbath according to his own sensibility, enjoyment, and outlook." In the same responsum, Rabbi Steinberg pointed out that there is no barrier or impediment to converting a non-Jew who is a vegetarian, since vegetarianism in no sense contradicts Jewish law.

Can sensitive, compassionate people enhance a joyous occasion by eating meat if they are aware that, for their eating pleasure, animals are cruelly treated, huge amounts of grains are fed to animals while millions of people starve, the environment is negatively affected, and their own health is being harmed?

All of the above is reinforced by the fact that there are Chief Rabbis, including Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Haifa, and Rabbi David Rosen, former Chief Rabbi of Ireland, who are strict vegetarians, including on Shabbat and Yom Tov. Also, the late Rabbi Shlomo Goren, former Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel, was also a strict vegetarian.