Tree Hugger



Last night, DD#1 and I met some extended family members at a restaurant in Jerusalem. It was a dairy place, so at least I didn’t have to deal with meat in my face. These particular family members are people we see, and eat with, often. So I had to tell them about my new approach to eating.

I’m deeply into my research phase, reading everything I can get my hands on and taking notes on things I’ll need to remember. One of the vegan source books I’m reading has a whole chapter on dealing with people’s reactions to my diet. Now I understand why a whole chapter was necessary.

Wow. What strong reactions this decision engenders in others! Right away, I was confronted with the question of whether this was a health thing or was I some kind of crazy, misguided animal rights tree-hugger? This from someone who has known me for the past 25 years. Okay, in part, he was teasing. But the idea behind his reaction was clearly that one would have to be a loony non-conformist to give up meat and other animal products just on the basis of a concern for the ethical treatment of animals.

I can’t stop thinking about it.

Why should people who are committed to Torah, a Torah that requires that we feed our animals before we feed ourselves, be so threatened by this decision? We Torah Jews pride ourselves on being compassionate people (rachamanim bnei rachamanim). So if cutting down or completely eliminating animal products from my diet is an expression of that rachmanut, that’s completely consistent with Torah values.

I think the matter is one of ignorance more than anything else. A lot of people don’t go beyond the old saw that kosher shechita is the most humane way of slaughtering animals. If others knew what I have come to learn about factory farming and industrialized animal harvesting, I’m sure it would give them pause.

Two other, unrelated notes on my journey.

I decided to make this transition in my diet, in part, to break the hold sugar had on me. So it was instructive that a few nights ago, I tried the tiniest bit of a dessert a dinner companion was enjoying and found it massively too sweet.

And finally, yesterday I tried making kale chips for the first time. The attempt flopped, as it happens (too moist, too salty) but at the end of the process, I was left with the kale leaf stems. I was about to throw them away when it occurred to me that I could juice them. So this morning, I did just that. It worked out great.

More evidence of the changes I am going through.


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