by Richard H. Schwartz
There are many connections between vegetarianism and the Jewish festival of
1) According to the Talmud, Queen Esther, the heroine of the Purim story,
was a vegetarian while she lived in the palace of King Achashverus. She was
thus able to avoid violating the kosher dietary laws while keeping her
Jewish identity secret.
2) During Purim it is a mitzvah to give "mat'not evyonim" (added charity to
poor and hungry people). In contrast to these acts of sharing and
compassion, animal-based diets involve the feeding of over 70 percent of the
grain in the United States to animals, while an estimated 20 million people
die of hunger and its effects annually.
3) During the afternoon of Purim, Jews have a "seudah" (special festive
meal), when family and friends gather to rejoice in the Purim spirit.
Serving only vegetarian food at this occasion would enable all who partake
to be consistent with Jewish mandates to preserve health, protect the
environment, share with hungry people, conserve resources, and treat animals
with compassion (as well as the vegetarian practices of Queen Esther).
4) Jews make noise with "groggers" and other noisemakers, to drown out the
infamous name of Haman when it appears during the reading of the Megillah
(Book of Esther). Today, vegetarians are "making noise" in attempting to
educate people and drown out the very well-funded propaganda of the beef and
5) On Purim, Jews emphasize unity and friendship by sending gifts of food ("shalach
manot") to friends. Vegetarians act in the spirit of unity and concern for
humanity by having a diet that best shares the earth's abundant resources.
6) Because Purim commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people, it is
the most joyous Jewish holiday. By contrast, animals on factory farms never
have a pleasant day, and millions of people throughout the world are too
involved in trying to obtain their next meal to be able to experience many
7) Mordecai, one of the heroes of the Purim story, was a nonconformist. As
the book of Esther states, ". . . And all of the king's servants . . . bowed
down and prostrated themselves before Haman . . . But Mordecai would not bow
down nor prostrate himself before him" (Esther 3:2). Today, vegetarians
represent non-conformity. At a time when most people in the wealthier
countries think of animal products as the main part of their meals, when
McDonald's and similar fast food establishments are still popular,
vegetarians are resisting and insisting that there is a better, healthier,
more humane diet.
8) Purim commemorates the deliverance of the Jews
from the wicked Haman. Today, vegetarianism can be a step toward deliverance
from modern problems such as hunger, pollution, and resource scarcities.
9) Purim commemorates the time when conditions for
the Jews changed from sorrow to gladness and from mourning to festival.
Today, a switch to vegetarianism could result in similar changes for many
people, since plant- based diets would reduce health problems, pollution,
water scarcities, and hunger.
10) Jews hear the reading of the Megillah twice during Purim, in order to
reeducate themselves about the terrible threats to the Jewish people and
their deliverance. Jewish vegetarians believe that if Jews were educated
about the horrible realities of factory farming and the powerful Jewish
mandates about taking care of our health, showing compassion to animals,
protecting the environment, conserving resources, and helping hungry people,
they would seriously consider switching to vegetarian diets.
11) Hamantashen, the primary food associated with Purim, is a vegetarian
In view of these and other connections, I hope that Jews will enhance their
celebrations of the beautiful and spiritually meaningful holiday of Purim by
making it a time to begin striving even harder to live up to Judaism's
highest moral values and teachings by moving toward a vegetarian diet.
Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, College of Staten Island
Author of "Judaism and Vegetarianism," "Judaism and Global Survival," and
"Mathematics and Global Survival," and over 130 articles at JewishVeg.com/schwartz
President of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) and
Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians (SERV)
Phone: 718-761-5876 FAX: 718-982-3631