Health, and Vegetarianism
protective of your lives." (Deuteronomy 4:15)
Judaism requires of us that we mind our health. In Deuteronomy,
we are told "Be extremely protective of your lives."
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explained, "You may not in
any way weaken your health or shorten your life. Only
if the body is healthy is it an efficient instrument for
the spirit's activity....Therefore you should avoid everything
which might possibly injure your health.... And the law
asks you to be even more circumspect in avoiding danger
to life and limb than in the avoidance of other transgressions."
G-d repeatedly exhorts us to take care of ourselves: "Do
not commit suicide!" "Do not injure yourself!" "Do not
ruin yourself!" "Do not endanger yourself!" "Do not weaken
yourself!" "Preserve yourself!" According to
Maimonides, "Since maintaining a healthy and sound body
is among the ways of G-d - for one cannot understand or
have knowledge of the Creator if one is ill - therefore
one must avoid that which harms the body and accustom
oneself to that which is helpful and helps the body become
stronger." Jews are thus required to keep themselves
Rabbi Alfred Cohen
has said, "Following the many precedents prescribed in the Code of Jewish Law,
we would have little difficulty in arriving at the conclusion that, if indeed
eating meat is injurious one's health, it is not only permissible, but possibly
even mandatory that we reduce our ingestion of an unhealthful product to the minimal
level." Historically, the rabbis believed that eating meat was necessary
for our health, and thus accepted its consumption. Today, however, the scientific
evidence has shown that animal products are harmful to us. Today, eating
animal products is a violation of our obligation as Jews to care for our health.
The consumption of animals products
has been linked to higher rates of heart disease, cancer,
diabetes, osteoporosis, hypertension, stroke, impotence,
and other diseases. Vegetarians have just 40% the cancer
rate of meat-eaters.
On average, vegetarians outlive meat-eaters by six years.
Heart disease in particular kills 50% of Americans--
more than all other diseases put together-- yet only
4% of strict vegetarians suffer from it. In
fact, the average vegan cholesterol level is 123, and
no one with a cholesterol level below 150 has ever been
documented as having died from a heart attack.
The only two studies ever to successfully reverse heart
disease have included vegetarian diets.
The American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of
Canada has clearly stated the nutritional science: "It
is [our] position that appropriately planned vegetarian
diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and provide
health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain
diseases... Vegetarians have been reported to have lower
body mass indices than nonvegetarians, as well as lower
rates of death from ischemic heart disease; vegetarians
also show lower blood cholesterol levels; lower blood
pressure; and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes,
and prostate and colon cancer." 
Rabbi David Rosen has said, "As it is halachically
prohibited to harm oneself and as healthy, nutritious
vegetarian alternatives are easily available, meat consumption
has become halachically unjustifiable." If
we value our life, if we care about our health, we as
Jews should become vegetarians.
Back to Jewish Vegetarianism
(1) Deuteronomy 4:15
(2) Rabbi Samsom Raphael Hirsch, Horeb, Chapter
62, Section 428
(3) Ibid., Section 427
(4) Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Deot
(5) Rabbi Alfred Cohen, "Vegetarianism From a Jewish
Perspective", Journal of Halacha and Contemporary
Society, Fall, 1981, p. 61.
(6) William Castelli, M.D., Director of the Framingham
(7) John Robbins, Diet For A New America.
(8) Dean Ornish, Eat More, Weigh Less.
(9) Ornish and Esselstyn.
(10) "Position of the American Dietetic Association
and Dietitians of Canada: Vegetarian Diets,"
Journal of the American Dietetic Association,
2003, 103:748-765. Quoting further:
"Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian
diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle,
including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood,
and adolescence. . . A vegetarian, including vegan,
diet can meet current recommendations for all of these
nutrients. . . Vegetarian diets offer a number of
nutritional benefits, including lower levels of saturated
fat, cholesterol, and animal protein as well as higher
levels of carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium, potassium,
folate, and antioxidants such as vitamins C and E
(11) Rabbis and Vegetarianism, Micah,