Vegetarian says Jewish law doesnt require meat at a seder

Passover and vegetarianism? Can the two be related? After all, what is a seder without gefilte fish, chicken soup, chopped liver, chicken and other meats?

What about the shank bone to commemorate the paschal sacrifice.

And doesn't Jewish law mandate that Jews eat meat to rejoice on Passover and other Jewish festivals?

An increasing number of Jews are turning to vegetarianism, and they are finding ways to celebrate vegetarian Passovers while being consistent with Jewish teachings. For many years, Jonathan Wolf, a Jewish vegetarian activist, has had up to 50 people at his Manhattan apartment for completely vegetarian seders.

Contrary to a common perception, Jews are not required to eat meat at the Passover seder or any other time. According to the Talmud (Pesachim 109a), since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, Jews need not eat meat to celebrate Jewish festivals. In scholarly articles by Rabbi Albert Cohen in the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and Rabbi J. David Bleich in Tradition magazine, this concept is reinforced. Also, Israeli chief rabbis, including Rabbi Shlomo Goren, the late Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel and Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Haifa, were or are strict vegetarians.

The use of the shank bone originated in the time of the Talmud as a means of commemorating the paschal lamb. However, since the Talmudic scholar, Rabbi Huna, states that a beet can be used for this purpose, many Jewish vegetarians substitute a beet for the shank bone. The important point is that the shank bone is a symbol, and no meat need be eaten at the seder.

Jewish vegetarians see vegetarian values reinforced by several Passover themes:

1. At the seder, Jews say, "Let all who are hungry come and eat." As on other occasions, at the conclusion of the meal, birkat hamazon is recited to thank God for providing food for the world's people. This seems inconsistent with the consumption of animal-centered diets, which involve the feeding of 70 percent of the grain grown in the United States and two-thirds of the grain that we export to animals destined for slaughter.

2. Many Jewish vegetarians see connections between the oppression that their ancestors suffered and the current plight of the billions of people who presently lack sufficient food and other essential resources. Vegetarian diets require far less land, water, gasoline, pesticides, fertilizer and other resources.

3. Jewish vegetarians view their diet as a practical way to put Jewish values into practice. They believe that Jewish mandates to show compassion to animals point to vegetarianism as the ideal diet for Jews (and others) today.