Is it proper to have or attend a vegan/vegetarian Seder?
One issue about having a vegan/vegetarian Seder is whether we must eat meat on each of the meals of Yom Tov. The Torah states, “V’samachta b’chagecha” (Devarim 14:14), that we should be happy during Yom Tov (i.e., simchat Yom Tov). Tosafot (Moed Katan 14b) states that in the days of the Beit Hamikdash, we satisfied this obligation by eating sacrificial meat, but today without a Beit Hamikdash, no Torah obligation to eat meat exists. However, the Rambam (Hilchot Yom Tov 6:17) rules that nowadays men fulfill the Torah obligation of simchat Yom Tov through eating meat and drinking wine and woman fulfill their obligation through wearing new clothes and jewelry.
It would seem, then, that even according to the Rambam, women have no obligation to eat meat on Yom Tov. There is also a debate between the Shaagat Aryeh and the Yam Shel Shlomo within the Rambam’s position as to whether men must eat meat in order to fulfill the mitzvah of simchat Yom Tov or whether men simply may fulfill the mitzvah of simchat Yom Tov through eating meat, but they could also fulfill that mitzvah in another way. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 529:1) rules that we are obligated to drink wine at each Yom Tov meal, but there is no mention of any obligation to eat meat. However, the Magen Avraham (529:3) writes that there is a mitzva to eat meat at the Yom Tov meals.
What emerges from this halachic discussion is that some halachic authorities rule that we must eat meat on the Seder night to fulfill the mitzvah of simchat Yom Tov, but there are grounds for men and certainly for women to be lenient and not eat meat on the seder night.
When it comes to the Seder plate, the custom is to use a meat or chicken bone for the “zroa” and an egg for the beitza. It would not be proper to replace these foods with vegetarian substitutes.
– Rabbi Jonathan Muskat is the rabbi of the Young Israel of Oceanside, a rebbe at Shulamith High School, and a pastoral health care liaison at Mount Sinai South Nassau.
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While most of us choose to enjoy the full bounty of food varieties (animal, vegetable, mineral) that G-d has allowed us to partake of, we must acknowledge that there are those who only partake of sources that identify them as either vegetarian or vegan.
As such how to reconcile with the Seder text where there are clear references to animal sacrifice – specifically the Korban Pesach. Now, the Paschal offering should not be a problem since today as we are bereft of our Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and we do not slaughter nor do we eat the Korban Pesach. (Although what will be placed on the Seder plate in lieu of the roasted shank bone?)
There are the other components of the Seder which we must consume: the wine, the maror and the matzah. Thus, if one does not consume any meat, fowl and/or fish, that will suffice as regards the evening’s requirements. However, if the references in the text of the Haggadah, as set forth by our sages, are altered to omit any mention of the animal sacrifice then the entire retelling of the age-old tale of our deliverance from the bondage of Egypt is not true to its historical facts. I dare say, as well, that it would not even meet the mitzvah of sippur yetzias Mitzrayim – retelling the tale of our deliverance from Egypt.
However, for those of us who do consume the full spectrum of G-d’s food, joining in such a Seder would probably leave us a bit unsatisfied, as to the evening’s menu offerings. Thus, though it would be permitted, and it would be proper, the question is would it be satisfying?
– Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu, Flatbush, Brooklyn; is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; he also serves as chairman of the Presidium of the Rabbinical Alliance of America He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and Rabbi@igud.org.
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While there is certainly nothing wrong with attending a Seder that is vegetarian or vegan, it is important to remember that the concept is very foreign from the Torah’s perspective. If a person doesn’t wish to eat meat because they don’t like the taste of it or because they have some calculation in terms of health it is certainly fine and appropriate.
The problem is that many people become vegetarian or vegan because of what they consider to be ideological reasons. As if to say, what right would one occupant of the planet have to kill another occupant of the planet, merely to consume them. That perspective is the opposite of the Torah perspective. It is very clear from Chazal and from mesorah that the entire reason that Hashem created everything in the world was for mankind. The reason for everything in creation is man, and everything in creation is only here to serve man. If man uses the world properly, he elevates it; if he misuses the world, he degrades it.
In that sense, if one abstains from eating meat for ideological reasons, he is violating a very basic precept of the Torah, as he is in his own mind being more moral and more righteous than the Torah. According to the Sefer Hachinuch, this would violate a lo sasuru, do not veer after your heart. The Sefer Hachinuch explains that one who absorbs a perspective, an outlook that is the opposite of the Torah, violates this lo tasei.
In terms of attending a vegan/vegetarian Seder, it would be appropriate but it is important to remember in terms of our own perspective that it is the opposite of the Torah perspective.
– Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier is founder of The Shmuz and author of 10 Really Dumb Mistakes That Very Smart Couples Make (available at theshmuz.com).