International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
Delhi/Bombay/Madras/Calcutta, India


THE HEBREW RELIGION OF
ISRAEL

(author not given)

In the very beginning, the Lord God said in the Garden of Eden unto Adam, the first man :

"And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb-bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree-yielding seed ; to you it shall be for meat.

"And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so." (Genesis, 1. 29-30)

So we see the people of Israel as a frugivorous people, not even eating the grasses.

"Thou Shalt Not Kill." (Exodus, 20.13) - the Sixth of the Ten Commandments given by the Lord to Moses for the people of Israel, on the journey out of the Land of Egypt, to the " Promised Land," the "Land of Milk and Honey."

On this journey they were nourished by manna from heaven, never from their precious herds.

Later when the people had fallen into sin and were seeking for burnt-offerings as scapegoats for their sins, they turned to meat and were in Leviticus taught the sacrificial use of meat. But even here they were not allowed to eat meat that had not been brought to the Tabernacle as a sacrifice. (Lev. 17.3 ) . Meat killed merely as food was regarded as "bloodshedding." And today the orthodox Jew will not touch meat that has not been offered to and sacrificed by a Rabbi or Priest, though the sacrifice has become a mere formality and it will be used freely as food. Also many creatures were forbidden to them to eat as unclean. All know that no real Jew will touch swine or its products, certainly a hygienic precaution when we know of its disease-prone quality. Nor were they permitted to eat blood, (Genesis) 9.4 which accounts for their peculiar method of slaughtering animals. Nor were they allowed to eat milk and meat together, thus insulting the mother by mixing with her own flesh her milk which she had so freely offered to her young. A truly "kosher" bakery does not use animal fats in its products, since they are to be eaten with milk. But one "meat-offering" that was enjoined (for meat only meant "food") was that baked from the flour unleavened, mingled with oil, offered with salt ; also the first fruits of green ears of corn (wheat) dried by the fire and beaten out of full ears.

The Hebrew prophets enjoined against blood sacrifices : Said Isaiah in the name of the Lord: "I am full of the burnt offering of rams and the fat of fed beasts, and I delight not in the blood of bullocks or of lambs or of the goats ... When you make many prayers, I will not hear: Your hands are full of blood." Hosea says : "I will have mercy and not sacrifice."

And the Psalmist, King David of Israel sings : "Sacrifice and offering Thou didst not desire ; mine ears hast Thou opened ; burnt offering and sin-offering hast Thou not required."

In the Book of Daniel we have a very interesting and amazing story of Daniel and his three companions as captives in the Court of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, refusing to defile themselves with the King's meat nor with the wine which he drank, which had been ordered to be given them at the command of the King. The Prince of the Eunuchs, who was much taken with Daniel, said : "I fear my lord the King, who hath appointed your meat and your drink ; for why should he see your faces worse looking than the children which are of your sort? Then ye shall make me endanger my head to the King." But Daniel replied: " Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days ; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenances of the children that eat of the portion of the King's meat; and as thou seest, deal with thy servants." So the Prince of the Eunuchs consented to wait the period they had asked and at the end of the ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children who did eat the portion of the King's meat. " The result of this was that Melzar took away from the others their meat and wine and fed them likewise with pulses and water. So again we have a vegetarian experiment vouched for in that sacred Book the Bible (Old Testament) or Torah, held in reverence by both Hebrews and Christians. It was this same Daniel who, thrown into a lions' den, came out unharmed - a testimony to the fact well known in India that wild beasts will not harm those who embody in their very lives the principle of compassion. Many children of Israel have died rather than pollute their bodies with food which they considered unclean. Especially is this noted in the Hebrew Apocrypha.

Among the Jews of later years were such highly spiritual sects as the Essenes, of which we are hearing so much today through a discovery of their ancient records in the " Dead-Sea Scrolls." The strictest dietary of harmlessness was enjoined among the Essenes, and many hold that Jesus had been initiated into their Mysteries.

We see here, as in many of the ancient religions, a fall from ancient religions, a fall from ahimsa or harmlessness in the Golden Age of the Garden of Eden to himsa or harmfulness in the dark ages of captivity and wandering, but now, at least, as we see in the article from Israel in "Vegetarianism in Many Lands," again the children of Israel are regaining in Palestine, their homeland, their 'promised land,' a new Garden of Eden.