What Is the Blessing over Meat?
The Beet-Eating Heeb was asked recently if there is a Jewish blessing for kale.
Yes, there is, and it’s the same blessing we recite for all vegetables:
That translates as:
Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who creates the fruit of the ground.
You might be wondering, then, what is the Jewish blessing for meat?
Here it is:
It bears repeating. Here’s the blessing for meat again:
There is no mistake here. There is no specific blessing for meat in the Jewish religion.
There is a blessing for bread and grains. For wine. For fruit. For vegetables. But not specifically for meat.
What does that tell you?
If a Jew wishes to recite a blessing before consuming the flesh or secretions of an animal, he or she is to recite a catch-all blessing that doesn’t refer to food or sustenance at all. And that generic blessing is only to be recited after one has recited the blessings for plant-based foods.
Why is this the case?
Because the Torah literally describes meat-eating as an act of human lust, not as something that God wants us to do. In fact, the Torah tell us that God on multiple occasions sought to create a vegetarian, or vegan, world, only to be frustrated by the depravity of humans.
The rabbis of yore who developed our system of blessings understood that it would be inappropriate, if not an outright apostasy, to bless an activity that explicitly contradicts a Torah ideal.
If meat-eating reflected God’s will, you can bet your tuchus that there would be a specific blessing for it.
Posted on June 10, 2014, in Torah/Bible and Veganism and tagged blessings, Judaism, Veganism, Vegetarianism. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.
It must be noted that Kale is nearly impossible to clean of bugs and therefore causes a problem greater than eating meat as an act of “lust” since by eating bugs one comes to transgress more than 6 Biblical sins. There is green house grown kale which is an option however its quite expensive and only available on the east coast.
An interesting side note is that it was once brought to my attention that the word for bread has a the word meat for a cognate in Arabic. Presumably, both are individually associated with what would constitute “meal”. Not sure what the larger cultural/semantic implications are.
Although English is my mother tongue, being born in London, England, I was a Sergeant in the Israeli Defense force, serving in the National Defence College, in Kfar Shemaryahu, and one of the lessons I was taking was in the local spoken Arabic, (a few different dialects) and in Arabic Literature (written and read out loud) and liked to pay attention to the commonality of semetic words, such as have “roots” that were comparable… The question you raised about the three letter root: L H and M (bread in Hebrew, and Meat in Arabic) at the time, was explained to me by my hearing how they were commenting that the Israelis (speaking Hebrew) made war over land, in which they could plant wheat to bake bread for the “Hamotzie” blessings, (the word for “WAR” in Hebrew, is “Milhama” which comes from the same root of the word as “bread” Lehem) and the fact that the similar root is used for “meat” in Arabic, pointed to their “fighting” for land, upon which to grow livestock for slaughter, to consume their meat… Oh, and bread, in Arabic, is Hoobbs, by the way, which corresponds to the Hebrew word of similar root in Hebrew, which means to find, “Happes,” or to seek, (In Arabic typically there is no letter “P” and in transliteration, the letter B is often substituted for the letter P…) and the question may pop up, why are we looking for hidden bread? Well, interestingly enough, we look for the Afikoman on Pesach!
Thanks for this BEH. So encouraging : )
All blessings to you. A long-time vegan and longer time Jew, I really enjoy your work.
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According to this reasoning, Hashem also doesn’t want us to drink water or eat any of the foods that fall under the shehachol blessing such as cottage cheese, corn tortillas or chicken soup. That’s unlikely, especially regarding parve chicken soup! A vegetarian diet is to be respected if eating meat does not bring one joy. But to say that the Torah describes meat eating as an “act of human lust,” a “depravity” and “an outright apostasy” is a grossly inaccurate and twisted distortion of the holy text. Contrary to what you say, the Rabbis did provide a blessing for eating meat, namely shehachol. They simply didn’t provide a specific blessing.
When you refer to the Torah presumably equating eating meat as an act of human lust, you may be alluding to the Israelites craving meat and being stuck dead for eating the quail for 30 days. The sin here is not eating meat, but the way that they ate: namely they craved in defiance of God’s will at that time to eat manna and and be satisfied. Remember that Adam and Eve were punished because they also ate in opposition to God’s will, but in this instance they ate fruit. So it’s not the specific food, but the act of unholy and defiant appetite that is the sin. Otherwise, we should also be prohibited from eating fruits.
As you must know, one of the fundamental foods of the sacrificial offerings involves eating meat, which becomes holy if sanctified through the prescribed rituals. When we entered the land of Israel, Hashem realized that we couldn’t always visit the Beis Hamikdash, so we could instead use the money to buy food and drink, as “our soul desires,” never excluding meat.
What this means is that we must be very careful to elevate whatever we eat through saying the appropriate blessing, benching and eating the food with an attitude of sanctity and gratitude to God. We must engage in “holy eating” and if so, all kosher foods are permissible. We must be especially careful with regard to eating meat because it does take life. It is said that a boor or ignoramus should not eat meat because he or she is not on a level to sanctify and elevate the experience and use the energy to do mitzvots and learn Torah. But it does not say that a Talmid Chochim or learned person should not eat meat. In fact, if it brings joy, especially on a festive occasion, the Torah indicates the opposite, that it is permissible, even commendable.
The correct reading of the Torah is not that eating meat is prohibited, let alone depraved. The transgression is eating anything in an unholy manner, even kale.
Thank you Robert for your comment. However, your argument is theologically flawed, and in multiple ways.
Nowhere in the Torah is drinking water, for instance, presented in a negative light. Eating meat, in contrast, is presented in a very negative light in the Torah, over and over again. Furthermore, meat is large category of food — like fruits, grains and vegetables — and thus the absence of a specific blessing is rather conspicuous.
I doubt that you presume to know the Torah better than Rabbi Soloveitchik — yes, The Rav himself — who drew the connection between the Graves of Lust in Numbers 11 and the lust of meat-eaters in Deuteronomy 12.
There is a reason why so many leading rabbis espouse vegetarianism on Torah and rabbinic grounds. And there is a reason why attempts to defend meat-eating rest on theologically porous arguments.
I’m a Christian vegan who loves your blog. I’ve just read this post to my omnivore husband who has a question: how does one reconcile the directive to consume the Passover lamb with a vegan lifestyle? (He’s not being argumentative, really–he just wants to understand.)
Your question is easily addressed. The Passover offering has not been in effect for more than 2,000 years. It’s one of the many mitzvot that only pertain to the period of the First and Second Temples.
You can find more information on the Temple sacrifices, including the Passover offering, here: http://www.jewishveg.com/content/faq03.html