Jewish culture has long linked meat eating with the mood of celebration. A well-known Jewish aphorism (based on Pesachim 109a) declares: "There is no joyful meal [on a festival] except with meat and wine." To this day, mention a holiday meal to most Jews, and what immediately comes to mind are foods such as chicken, chicken soup, and gefilte fish, along with wine and challah. Some Jews assume that this aphorism mandates the eating of meat on the Sabbath and other holidays. In support of this position, they cite Maimonides' ruling that a person is obligated to rejoice during festivals along with his family and all those who are with him. "How is this done? He gives sweets and nuts to the children... and the adult eat meat and drink wine... and there is no joy except with meat and wine" (See "Laws of Holidays" 6:18). I understand this statement differently. Maimonides' insistence on eating meat and drinking wine was presumably directed at the large majority of human beings for whom meat eating and wine drinking were luxuries. In effect, he was telling them: "Don't be parsimonious on the holidays; although meat and wine are expensive, don't scrimp. Spend the money so that you and your family enjoy yourselves." However, to imagine that Maimonides would insist that someone who experiences unhappiness at the thought of eating meat must do so makes as little sense as expecting that he would force a child who disliked sweets to eat them or that he would instruct an alcoholic to drink wine on a holiday. For such a person, drinking wine destroys, rather than enhances, the Sabbath or holiday's spirit. [On the other hand, there is one annual holiday meal during which the Bible mandates meat eating: the Passover feast, at which every Jewish family is instructed to consume the Paschal Lamb (Exodus 12:21–27). So basic was participation in the eating of this lamb that a Jew subjected himself to the punishment of karet--which involves the possibility of premature death at the hand of G-d--by refusing to participate in this ritual [this verse]. It is, therefore, clear that Judaism in the past did not sanction a complete vegetarian lifestyle. However, Jews have not sacrificed Pascal lambs since the instruction of the Second Temple (70 C.E.), and so the issue today is a mood one (also, see the following paragraph, which cites Rabbi Kook's belief that in messianic times all sacrifices will consist of vegetation, not animals). Therefore, there is now no meal at which a Jewish vegetarian is specifically enjoined to eat meat.
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