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"For Instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the L-rd from Jerusalem." -- Isaiah 2:3

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GENESIS — 1:29 food

The Torah pictures Adam and Eve’s Edenic diet as consisting of [this verse].  According to our people’s sacred myth, animal flesh was not permitted to humans by G-d until after the Flood; and then, apparently, only as a concession to human frailty Genesis 9:3.  Vegetarianism is the Torah’s ideal. If meat is later allowed, the principle of tzaar baalei chayim, of not causing needless suffering to an animal, is yet upheld.  Passages in the Torah such as those that require the working animal to rest along with its owner on the Shabbat Exodus 20:10, prohibit the slaughter of an animal and its young on the same day Leviticus 22:28, forbid one to eat before one’s domestic animals have been fed Deuteronomy 11:15, prohibit yoking together the larger ox with the smaller donkey Deuteronomy 22:10, and prohibit the muzzling of one’s ox when it is treading grain Deuteronomy 25:4, all serve to establish tzaar baalei chaim as an ikar g’dolah, as a major guiding principle.  Now consider: in creating the rules of sh’chitah, of “compassionate slaughter,” the Rabbis of the Talmud were more stringent about the taking of certain animals’ lives than about the taking of others (e.g., fish are not subject to the rules of sh’chitah).  Why? I am going to guess because of the Rabbis’ intuitive understanding that the more developed an animal’s consciousness, the more susceptible it is not only to physical but also to psychological suffering. When Jews consider their diet today, I would argue, it would be reasonable likewise to give added consideration to the effect diet has on the suffering most especially of animals of more highly evolved consciousness, to give the highest consideration to those animals that stand to suffer the most.  From this perspective, there is no question that a diet that includes meat means suffering for the one animal on this planet most susceptible to suffering.  That animal is the human animal. And that’s the bottom line of this argument: a meatless diet is the most ethical for a human being to follow because it is the diet that causes the least amount of suffering in other human beings. …  Over one billion people on the planet are either starving or are chronically undernourished.  That’s about one-sixth of the entire world’s’ population.  Indeed twenty million people—twenty million! – die each year due to hunger. Three out of four of those are children.  With the effects of climate change already upon us (unprecedented droughts, the disappearance of lakes and rivers, vast stretches of formerly fertile farmland turning to desert), those already staggering numbers are sure to go up, and dramatically.  Right now in the United States alone, more than half of all water consumed goes to support animal agriculture.  Given what climatologists tell us is coming, we will very shortly simply not have enough water to sustain that anymore.  Animal agriculture is inefficient in the extreme. Ever been on a farm? Animals eat a lot. You’ve got to invest eight to twelve pounds of grain for every one pound of edible beef you get back. Unbelievably inefficient.  If we gave up our meat-based diets, simply stopped raising animals for food, all of those crops we are now raising to feed those animals would be sufficient to feed every starving man, woman, and child on the planet.  Judaism obligates us to address this issue.  And with respect to those who are starving to the point of death, our moral obligation to act is, of course, an even higher one; the issue rises to the level of pikuach nefesh, the obligation to save human life. SACTAB 230-2
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GENESIS — 1:29 food

A careful reading of the Bible suggests that G-d’s ideal diet for human beings is vegetarian, not carnivorous.  (But see also comment Genesis 4:4).  Adam and Eve, the first human beings, are commanded by G-d to limit their eating to vegetables and fruit.  Generations later, after the sins of lawlessness and violence committed during the time of Noah Genesis 6:11-13, followed by the devastating flood G-d wreaks on the world, G-d permits human beings to eat animals Genesis 9:3.  The Bible never explains why G-d now permits the eating of animals.  Perhaps He was convinced that a vegetarian diet would be too difficult nutritionally for most people to observe, or perhaps He felt that people would not observe it since meat eating is a strong desire.  The late Bible scholar Nechama Leibowitz--summarizing an argument offered by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook--explained that the permission to eat meat had less to do with nutrition than with humanity’s propensity for violence: “…after the deluge, the descendants of Noah, that is, all mankind, were permitted to be carnivorous.  Since the land had become filled with violence and man had given free rein to his worst instincts, man was no longer required to make the supreme moral exertions required to forgo the slaughter of animals. It was far more important that he should, at least, utilize what moral fiber he still possessed to refrain from killing his own kind and respecting the life of his neighbor.” (Studies in Bereshit/Genesis, page 77).  Thus it should be viewed as no coincidence that immediately following the permission to eat meat is the law ordaining capital punishment for murders: “Whoever sheds the blood of man by man shall his blood be shed” Genesis 9:6.  On the other hand, the fifteenth century Spanish rabbi Joseph Albo argued that the slaughtering of animals was deleterious to man’s character development: “In the killing of animals there is cruelty and aggression and the ingraining in men of the negative trait of spilling innocent blood…” Sefer Ha-Ikkarim 3:15.   TELVOL 2:331
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GENESIS — 1:29 you

The Maharal (Judah ben Bezalel Low, ca. 1520-1609) provides the most explicit articulation of animals having an inherent value rooted in divine concern. “Everything, like grasses and fruits, were created for the sake of animals, which are flesh, for He gave them everything to eat, as the verse states, “I give you …” [this verse]. From this you see that everything else was created for the animals, while the animals were created in the world for their own sake” (Be’er Ha-Golah). OXFORD 424
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GENESIS — 1:31 all

The various manifestations … of G-d’s image within us give us each divine worth. We have that ultimate source of value regardless of our abilities and disabilities, our wealth or poverty, our personal qualities or defects, or the degree of our usefulness to others. We have divine worth even if we do not think very much of ourselves. The divine worth granted to each of us is a special blessing; we share in no less than the essence of G-d. It is also the source of many of our responsibilities to ourselves, to others, to our world, and to G-d. If we indeed know the difference between right and wrong, we have the responsibility to choose the right. If we are to be G-d’s partners in ongoing active creation, we must act accordingly. This concept has far-reaching implications when applied to the area of intimate relations. The sexual aspects of our being—physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual—are not base or obscene; they are part of the entire human being that G-d termed “very good” after creating us [this verse]. We must use our sexual faculties, like all other elements of our being, for good purpose, as defined by Jewish law and tradition, to activate their potential for divinity. And we have not only the ability but also the duty to do that. Intimate relations, then, are not seen within Judaism as simply physical release or the product of base, animalistic lust; they are, when carried out in the proper context, no less than an expression of divine image within us. DORFFLOV 76
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GENESIS — 1:31 and

It is the long rather than the short view of history that reveals the workings of G-d. Through suffering and judgment man moves toward the Messianic goal of triumphant righteousness and perfect felicity. The rabbis, as we’ve indicated above, found further comfort in the belief that the injustices of this life will be righted in the next. The doctrine of otherworldly compensation in a heaven and hell is largely derived from the human craving for a final balance. Accordingly Rabbi Simeon ben Lakish interpreted the Divine approbation of creation in the words “Behold, it is very good” [this verse] as applying to this world, and the additional conjunction “and” which precedes these words (“and behold, it is very good”) as referring to the hereafter. G-d beheld both worlds at one glance. The present order is completed by the next. In the words of Robert Browning: “Here, a broken arc, there a perfect whole.” R. Meir interpreted the same text, “And behold, it is very good” as applying to death. Other masters applied it to the evil inclination, to suffering, to Gehenna and to retribution. Genesis Rabbah 9:5-13 Seemingly evil, they all serve useful purposes in the Divine order. “No evil comes from above.”  Genesis Rabbah 51:3; Tanhuma, Buber, Vayera 18. Nahum of Gimzo’s moto, “This too is for the best” – gam zu letobah, Taanit 21a expresses the optimistic note in Judaism. R. Akiba teaches similarly, “Whatever G-d does is for the best.” Berachot 60b  It forms part of the Divine law of compensation. “There is no death without sin, and no suffering without iniquity.” Shabbat 55a  While coming as punishments, both have atoning power. The pious prized suffering because it purges men of sin.  The afflictions of the righteous are but blessings in disguise. They are the chastisements of love, visiting man in this life that he may be purified of the effects of evil and prepared for the bliss of the hereafter. Kiddushin 40a, b; also Berachot 5b; Sifre, Deuteronomy 307. COHON 56-7
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GENESIS — 1:31 good

With the French Revolution at the end of the 18th-century, the emancipation of the Jews of western and central Europe began. Equality and citizenship came slowly and grudgingly, but the fact that they took place at all seemed almost miraculous to the Jews of the period.  Wherever freedom was made available, Jews avidly took advantage of it. In the process, Jews radically transformed their view of human nature and its battle between good and evil. The society in which Jews enthusiastically immersed themselves was one of extraordinary economic expansion and cultural creativity, of scientific and technological triumph, and thus, of apparently well-founded optimism. Human initiative, not tradition or revelation, was credited for making all this possible. Human reason was viewed as the engine that empowered longer, fuller lives; if applied to great social problems, it was believed that reason would soon eliminate many of humankind’s ancient ills.  This certainly affected society’s understanding of the evil that people did to each other.  The problems we for so long blamed on the devil were really our own inability to shake our outmoded, self-imposed superstition and dimwittedness.  Now that human progress had finally begun to show its genius, we saw evidence of its benefits everywhere. Modern Jewry had special reasons to espouse the optimism embraced by the general society. In this new freedom we personally experienced the benefits of reason; we perceived our emancipation as a modern-day reenactment of that classic redemptive experience of the Jewish people, the Exodus from Egypt. Only this time the mighty hand and the outstretched arm were not G-d’s but humanity’s, acting through the new political and social order. Disproportionately, Jews became the prophets of education, culture and social betterment. The yetzer ha-ra now seemed a nightmare of an impoverished premodern imagination; the yetzer ha-tov was seen as a primal aspect of modern rationality, as championed by the philosopher Immanuel Kant. From early in the 19th century until the second half of the 20th century, Jewish teachers proclaimed the essential goodness of human nature and the benevolent power of human reasoning. They seized whatever rabbinic evidence they could find to convince those few who still doubted that we ourselves have the means to overcome the evil urge. For instance, “R. Samuel b. Nahman said: The words ‘Behold, it was good’ refer to the impulse to good, and the words “Behold, it was very good” [this verse] refer to the impulse to evil. But how can the impulse to evil be termed ‘very good’? Extraordinary! However, were it not for the impulse to evil, a man would not build a house, take a wife, or beget children. As Solomon said, ‘Again I considered all the labor and excellent work and found them to be the result of man’s rivalry with his neighbor’ [Ecclesiastes 4:4] Genesis Rabbah 9:5-11.  Judaism now taught that by using our G-d-given human intelligence, we could harness even the evil urge in the service of the good. BOROJMV 178-9
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GENESIS — 1:31 very

… in the Jerusalem Talmud Kiddushin 48b, we are given two important Jewish reasons to eat locally: the preservation of green spaces in towns and cities for the health of the residents, and the enjoyment of eating food. Eating locally grown food preserves farms in and around cities and towns.  Without a viable market for the food that is produced, it is difficult for farmers to keep farmland for agricultural use and not turn it over to residential or commercial use.  Agricultural land use is more easily sustainable than homes or businesses, depending on how the land is farmed. … Another reason to eat locally is that it preserves the diversity of what is grown: “The Rabbis said: Even though you may think them superfluous in this world, creatures such as flies, bugs, and gnats have their allotted tasks in the scheme of creation, as it says, “And G-d saw everything that G-d had made, and behold it was good” [this verse].  B’reshit Rabbah 10:7  This midrash reinforces how everything has a purpose in creation, even the things that we might think we would be better off without.  When we require our food to be shipped long distances, we reduce the number of varieties that are grown, thereby reducing the biodiversity.  The varieties of tomato that “travel well” – in other words, the tomatoes that can be shipped with minimal loss—become the predominant varieties of tomato that are grown.  When the characteristics of disease and pest resistance or adaptability to climate are added in, the number of choices represented in the supermarket can become even fewer.  Eventually this push to market eliminates the varieties of tomato that are available.  We lose more than taste as we limit the number of varieties of tomato or strawberry or corn or anything else that is grown for our consumption.  When we diminish biodiversity, our agricultural industry becomes vulnerable to one disease or pest that can threaten an entire crop.  The gains that we achieve in developing a tomato that is more marketable makes the tomato plant more vulnerable.  As Wendell Berry writes in his essay “The Pleasure of Eating,” “But as scale increases, diversity declines; as diversity declines, so does health; as health declines, the dependence on drugs and chemicals necessarily increases.” With the increasing demand for locally grown food, there is an increasing interest in “heirloom” varieties of tomatoes, as well as other types of produce.  These older varieties are more fragile and less disease resistant, but have amazing colors, flavors, and tastes.  SACTAB 175-6
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GENESIS — 1:31 very

“Behold it was very good” [this verse]. Rav Nahman bar Shmuel said in the name of Rav Shmuel bar Nahman, “It says, ‘good’ – this is the yetser tov, but it also says ‘very [good]’ – this is the yetser ha’ra.’  Is then the yetser ha-ra’ ‘very [good]’? [Yes, for] were it not for the yetser ha-ra’, a man would not build a house, marry a woman, have children, and engage in business as it says …  Bereshit Rabba 9:7 [note the tradition is from his father and that he bears his grandfather’s name].  COMMENT: This midrash on Genesis 1:31 proposes an answer to two questions: What is the “it” in the verse; that is, what is the antecedent to the implied pronoun? And, what is the meaning of “very”; that is, what kind of goodness would be “very” good? The answer given here is that the yetser ha-ra’, which in rabbinic psychology is the source of sinfulness, contains a germ of goodness in it, for it is the sexual and ego drives that move humanity to achieve.  The inclination to do evil, then, is part of the goodness of creation. (There is an alternate midrash that suggest that death is the kind of goodness that is “very” good and, hence, included in creation in Genesis 1:31).  BANAL 191
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GENESIS — 1:31 very

By ten pronouncements … Pirkei Avot V:1 Fashioned with care and supervision, this world is surely valuable and precious to its maker.  Then malicious indeed are the wicked who, with the heedless cruelty of the short-sighted, in any way destroy it.  As the Psalmist hymns, “let the Lord rejoice in His works”” Psalms 104:31.  At creation’s end, we read, “G-d saw everything He had made, and behold, it was very good.” [this verse]. He had joy and He seeks joy in His splendid creation.  When the righteous fulfill His purposes, they uphold the world and justify its existence: the Almighty can truly “rejoice in His works.” How great must be their reward.  SINAI3 5
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GENESIS — 1:31 very

As a creation of the divine in the image of G-d, the human body is a source of wonder, a manifestation of divine wisdom, an opportunity for profound gratitude. The following blessing, recorded in the Talmud, was later included in the liturgy Jews recite each day: “Blessed is G-d who created human beings with wisdom, and created in each of them many orifices and many cavities.  It is fully known before the throne of Your glory that if one of them should be [improperly] opened or one of them closed, it would be impossible for one to stand before You … [Blessed are You] who heals all flesh and who performs wonders” Berachot 60b. This blessing is to be recited after going to the bathroom.  According to the commentaries to this text, the phrase “who heals all flesh” means that normal excretory function is a product of divine grace, that “evacuation is a healing for the entire body.” I know of no comparable blessing recited on a comparable occasion in any other religious tradition.  Here one encounters what the novelist George Eliot called Judaism’s “reverence for the human body, which lifts the needs of the animal life into religion.” To suggest that the human body or its natural functions are repulsive by nature is considered an affront to G-d’s image and to divine wisdom.  In themselves, bodily organs and functions are beautiful and good.  Only when abused or misused do then become ugly and repulsive. According to the medieval ethical treatise The Holy Letter: “’G-d saw everything He had made and behold it was very good’ [this verse]. … Nothing in the human organs are created flawed or ugly.  Everything is related with divine wisdom and is therefore complete, exalted, good and pleasant.  When one sins, ugliness becomes attached to these matters.” (1976, 45, 48). Through the performance of sacred deeds, the body, which is good by nature, becomes holy by actions.  According to Judah Loew, when an individual acts properly, one’s body becomes sacred, expressing the image of G-d, but when one does not act properly, one’s body is indistinguishable from that of any other animal Netivot Olom, sec. “Netiv Koah ha-Yetzer,” 2:130   SHER20C 14-5
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