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Karaites, God and Vegetarianism

Updated on August 8, 2009

If you're reading my latest hub because somehow you believe I'm going to promote a vegetarian lifestyle, then stop reading now. If you think I'm going to suggest that God approved of vegetarianism, then once again you're sadly mistaken. And if you've heard that in some way Karaism indoctrinates its followers into vegetarianism, then let me assure you that is just one more falsehood that has been levelled at Karaites.

The reality is that the Bible instructs us to be anything but a vegetarian. And if I have to sit through one more family dinner where some young, impressionable and misguided member of the mishphachah starts telling me that she's sick (and it's usually one of the female members in the family) of watching us eat meat when she knows for a fact that God intented mankind to be herbivorous I think I'll throw the shank bone of a lamb from off the Passover Seder plate at her. Where did she think the tradition over the last 3000 years for that bone to be present on the plate had come from?

This hub is not being written to state that all vegetarians are agressive in their promotion of their personal lifestyle choice but I have to admit that I don't see too many of us "flesh-eaters" as they like to refer to us, standing up and berating a table full of people over the fact that they're only eating their vegetables. I have one friend that is a bone fide vegetarian and although she often looks piqued and her skin pasty, not too mention she suffers an inordinate number of illnesses, I love her dearly and she has never once tried to force her lifestyle literally down my throat and I appreciate that aspect of her character most. She recognizes that her choice is exactly that and she neither has to justify it to me or force me to accept it. She is the rarity amongst them.

So to all those that have insisted that I am not following God's instructions and that in their deluded imaginations they think man with his pointed canines, cutting incisors, single stomach, reduced colon and lack of an appendix was intended to be herbivorous, read on if you dare! Because I'm also involved in the medical sciences I will render an opinion based as well on physiology which may surprise some of you on how much scientific knowledge God had at his fingertips and why I refer to Him as being the ultimate scientist.

And God Said

If you're going to make a statement that the bible supports vegetarianism then I would first suggest you read the book. Why don't we start at the beginning in the Garden of Eden. You know, the place where God figuratively raised man above the rest of the animals. Those who say God intended mankind to be vegetarian quote Genesis 1:29 and 1:30. If you notice God is speaking of the early evolution of life on earth. Before everything was set in motion. The perfect garden of paradise where the lamb lies down with the lion. It was an image, and given that our scientific age knows that the herbivourous creatures most likely preceded carnivourous ones in biological development then you have to appreciate that God is trying to present an understanding of the processess upon which he based life to an age of mankind where they would not understand the sophisticated teaching of dynamic processes. But He quickly switches from what was to what is, and how He appreciates that mankind has become carnvorous in its development. No where is it more clear than in Genesis 4:2-6. Cain as representative of vegetarians and Abel as representative of mankind that now has herds of sheep to consume each offering God a sacrifice of their respective crops. God accepts the burning of the lambs and their fat from Abel but rejects the fruits of the earth from Cain. Interestingly, Cain whom has just had his lifestyle rebuffed by God becomes enraged and so furious that he kills his brother. It reminds me of the scene at the dinner table when the family refuses to accept our vegetarian advocate and she in turn becomes abusive and insulting. It would appear that nothing has changed since the dawn of time in respect to some vegetarians' character. Even in the current song by 303, the singer looks forward to a fight with the boyfriend of the girl that he wishes to take advantage (it's actually a very insulting song to women if you listen to the verses) of saying that he's a vegetarian and he's not f***in scared of him. The singer is in the wrong and with his shutup and lie there, do the Helen Keller and move your hips, etc. you can sense the abusive and violent nature and wonder about his emphasis on being a vegetarian.

But does God himself truely appreciate the eating of meat or is it just something that he lets man do because He could see no way around it? Well, the answer to that lies in Genesis 18:7-8 when Abraham was visited by three angels. He prepares a calf for them to eat and they do so willingly. In examination of this event, if divine beings eat meat, can their be any doubt that this is the normal behaviour for mankind and vegetarianism is for lack of a better word, 'abnormal'.

So when Abraham took his son Isaac up the mountain for a sacrifice as we see in Genesis 22:13 God provides him with a ram instead to sacrifice and burn on the alter and God is pleased with the offering. Need I say more.

And let's not overlook the episode in which Jacob tricks his father in obtaining the blessing of the firstborn in Genesis 27. Isaac wants to give his oldest son Esau the blessing but won't do it until he's had a meal of his favourite meat, venison. But Rebekah wants Jacob to have the blessing and knows how to savour goat's meat so that it would taste the same as the venison. Jacob goes out and gets two goats for the stew. There is no mistaking here the value of a good meat meal. As far as blessings go it was worth its weight in gold.

Probably the most significant eating of meat is the Passover meal. It is the heart and essence of Judaism. The meal represents the making of a nation and God's instructions are exceedingly clear in Exodus 12:3-11. God even provides the recipe on how it's to be cooked and insists that everyone at the meal must eat of the lamb so that nothing remains. Clearly there is no greater indication in the Bible of man's requirement to eat meat and why an outburst at the Passover Seder meal by a young girl with her vegetarian misguided beliefs was met probably for the first time in her life by a degree of angst in the voices of others at the meal. She may have been able to push around her parents and elders any other time, but not at this meal, not now, not ever.

I can go on forever, ad infinitum with more and more examples of God's approval and insistence that man is carnivorous by nature but I would think by now I've proven my point. Not to mention that in the New Testament, Peter even increases the number and variety of animals that can be eaten when he speaks of the cloth spread out with every animal he could imagine and was told to partake in them. Then again, the Last Supper where Jesus sat with his disciples would have been a traditional Passover meal and everyone would have eaten the lamb. So lets accept that God is not a vegetarian and move on.

Karaites Are Not Vegetarian

As I pointed out in an earlier hub, the spiritual founder of Karaism, Anan ben David talked about the diet that Karaites should eat in exile. At first appearance it would look like sheep and cattle were off the menu. But this was a statement to be understood that those in exile should not live comfortably as if it was a normal situation getting fat on sheep and cattle. They should do something symbolic such as return to the hunting of their food like Esau hunting venison. They should also eat squabs and doves instead of raised chickens.

More importantly Karaites are adherants to the Torah and as has been demonstrated, the Torah states emphatically that man is to eat meat. This is contrary to the Rabbanites whom have alway been willing to veer from the Torah in order to pursue their own personal agendas. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935) was one such Rabbi. As Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of the Pre-state of Israel he advocated what he described as his vision of Vegetarianism and Peace. He believed strongly that God wanted people to be vegetarian and that meat was permitted only as a concession to people's weakness. Instead of seeing the Torah as instruction from God he told his followers that the many prohibitions related to the slaughtering and eating of meat were meant as a scolding and that if they all became vegetarian then this would bring about the coming of the Messiah. Remember, this was the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi, not only distorting the Torah but creating a link between vegetarianism and Messiahship. He's suddenly telling Rabbinical Jews that God wasn't a postive influence on their lives, giving them instruction on how to do things properly, He was actually punishing them through food. What is surprising is how many Rabbanite Jews actually paid attention to this abusive rendering of God's words.

So let there be no uncertainty regarding this issue, Karaites are not vegetarians by religious doctrine. If there should be Karaites that are practicing vegetarians, then I would wonder as to how they can follow Torah, with its strict demand that they partake in the Passover lamb and still be vegetarian. To me the two would be mutually exclusive but as I stated earlier, I'm not here to pass judgment on vegetarians, just stopping them from continually trying to pass judgment on the rest of us.

Medically Thinking

As I mentioned earlier I'm involved in the medical sciences. So I can probably take the entire argument against vegetarianism to a much higher degree. I'll try not to bore anyone with my arguments in the process. To give some credit to those advocating the vegetarian way of life they will tell you that they don't have to worry about Salmonella from infected fowl, Mad Cow from infected cattle and a host of other diseases that one can obtain from eating badly prepared meat.

But that is specifcally why the Torah contains many verses pertaining to and instructing on the preparation of meats and restricting which ones can be eaten.

Why don't we take a close look at the sacrificial and dietary laws in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. From Dueteronomy 12:23 God specificaly dictates that you will not eat the blood for the blood is life and you will not eat life with the meat. So God is basically telling us not to eat our meat rare and if you don't want to appreciate the religous aspect of this then at least appreciate the scientific and medical aspects. Today we understand that blood does carry the viruses (viremia) and bacteria (bacteremia) and the purulence of disease (septicemia), not to mention cancer cells (metastases) throughout the body. You may say there is no way that Moses knew of this 1300 years ago but then a higher knowledge (ie. God) would have. In my mind, God is the ultimate scientist, afterall he created life and the laws of physics, chemistry and biology. As Einstein said, "God does not play dice." There was a logical thinking behind the universal laws of nature and science and they could not have happened by accident. So too, God is instructing us not just to eat meat but how to eat it. If you don't know why then at least be reassured that He knows why!

Leviticus 11 restricts what can be eaten. But if you take a good look at the restricted or condemned animals on the list you are amazed that many of those forbidden are common carriers of diseases that affect mankind. Pigs carry many of the same viruses as man and the trichinosis parasite in particualr would result in blindness as it lodges in the back of the eye. Shell fish as we know have issues with shellfish toxins. Animals with higher incidence of leptospirosis and listeria are on the list too. Animals that scavenge and therefore are exposed to the flesh of rotting animals that possibly died from disease are off the menu. Again, one has to be impressed by God's knowledge of medical diseases that we only became aware of in the last hundred years. We know more about these diseases now and how to prevent them but in 1280 BC none of this was known, let alone understood.

For God to have gone to such great effort in identifying how to prepare meats, which meats can be eaten and even identifying which insects can be eaten, one can only conclude that the eating of meat was not only divinely sanctioned but divinely inspired as well. But did God have a reason to do so? Again, since it would appear God had knowledge exceeding our own, he would have known that the iron in food is essential for our health. Without iron we cannot manufacture blood cells. There would be no heme to carry oxygen. As God said, blood is life, without it there is only death. Since we can only absorb about 5% of the iron from plants whereas we can absorb a minimum of 25% from meats, then there is good scientific reason for eating meat. Let's also recognize that meat provides us with amino acids in the proper ratio and form to build our own body proteins. Having the amino acids in a usable form upon ingestion means we develop faster both physically and mentally. The water-soluble vitamins of the B-complex from meat and certain entrails make an important contribution to a human being’s vitamin supply. Humans are particularly dependent on foodstuffs from animal sources for the supply of Vitamin B12. With 100 g of muscle meat, the need for individual B-vitamins can be covered to between 20 % and 100 %. In case vegetarians haven't noticed as humans we have lost our appendix. It's only a vestigial appendage, therefore unlike herbivores we no longer have a capacity to manufacture our own vitamin supply.

It is important to understand that humans are unable to digest cellulose because we lack the appropriate enzymes to breakdown the beta acetal linkages. Animals such as cows, horses, sheep and goats have symbiotic bacteria in the intestinal tract that possess the necessary enzymes to digest cellulose in the intestines. Therefore animals which are herbivores have the required enzymes for the breakdown or hydrolysis of the cellulose; the animals like us humans do not and therefore we are by physiological nature carnivores. Next time you wonder why all that corn is being past from your body when you haven't had corn for days, you can understand that you just wasted a lot of time and effort trying to extract nutrition from that meal!

It is also of great interest to read about studies on humans that do not obtain their normal ingested levels of minerals and vitamins from ingestion (ie. vegetarians). Anthropologists have long known that vegetarian tribes, while smaller in stature than omnivorous tribes, are far more dangerous and war like and they are also more territorial. The vegan Kikuyu tribe in Kenya were the initiators of the of the African Nationalist movement that led to the murderous Mau Mau War in the 1950s, not their wholly carnivorous, but peaceful, neighbours, the Maasai. Studies on rats fed a diet entirely derived from plant materials showed a higher incidence of cannibalism in these groups as compared to those rats fed animal sourced proteins. And a man like Adolf Hitler was the ultimate vegetarian who had no trouble justifying the murder of millions of innocents, particulary taking offense that many due to their religious customs were meat eaters. Perhaps the song by 303 has more significance behind the lead singers obvious agression than we at first notice?

So to all you vegetarians that didn't take my earlier advice to desist from reading this article as it would not support your beliefs nor would it vindicate the error of assuming God advocated vegetarianism, I can only hope that you've learned that you are practicing an alternative lifestyle and that those of us that choose to eat meat are actually adhering to guidelines given to us by God. That we will tolerate and accept your right to do as you please goes without question but only as long as you stop trying to intimidate and abuse us into doing likewise.


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