"I've noticed that quite a lot of people who are prominent in the animal liberation movement are Jews. Maybe we are simply not prepared to see the powerful hurting the weak." --Peter Singer (Author, Animal Liberation)


Vegetarians and Mezuzot

Following my October post about vegetarians' options for tefillin, I received an e-mail from someone who was curious about mezuzot. (I suggest reading the tefillin post before this one.) According to Aish, "A 'kosher' mezuzah is hand-written on genuine parchment, prepared from the skin of a kosher animal." What options are available to Jewish vegans who shun animal products but want to have mezuzot?

One option is simply using mezuzot and other ritual objects that involve animal products when they are deemed halachically necessary. I do not know of any mezuzah scrolls that can be confirmed as having come from humanely treated animals. Jewish Vegetarians of North America takes the following position:
The number of animals slaughtered for [ritual object] purposes is minute compared to the billions killed annually for food. The fact that there would still be some animal slaughter to meet Jewish ritual needs shouldn't stop us from doing all we can to end the horrible abuses of animals. Also, most problems related to flesh-centered diets -- poor human health, waste of food and other resources, and ecological threats -- would not occur if animals were slaughtered only to meet Jewish ritual needs. Our emphasis should be on doing a minimum amount of harm to other people, the environment, and animals. The fact that some animal products are required for sacred uses (a very small amount) should not prevent a person from becoming a vegetarian.

Another option is knowingly using non-kosher, vegan scrolls instead of animal parchment. It's not the same as using the real thing, but the argument could be made that it's better than doing nothing at all. The late Dr. Daniel Kliman (click here to read my obituary post) once noted in a VeggieJews e-mail, "You can get [mezuzah scrolls that aren't made from animal hides] in just about any Judaica shop or synogogue gift shop. You can usually get them for about $2. The problem is, they ain't Kosher." If you're looking for a DIY non-kosher approach, check out Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi's thoughts on making your own mezuzah scroll.

These issues can be hard to deal with when thought of as a battle between different parts of a person's identity or a conflict between religion and ethics. Nevertheless, it's important to confront them head-on and with integrity, as was discussed at Dr. Kliman's memorial service. It might be hard to reach a definitive conclusion, but that's OK. As Rabbi Steve Greenberg (the first openly gay Orthodox rabbi) has said about such conflicts, "Often, the holiest place to be in is the place of being stuck and not knowing what to do."


  • At 1/07/2009 10:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Anoher important consideration is that for hiddur mitzvah (enhancement of the mitzvah), it is best if ritual items are made from the skins of animals who lived a cruelty-free life and died a natural death Unfortunately, perhaps for economic conditions, it is hard to find such items. However, there is one sofer (scribe) in Israel who is willing to do so, but such items may be more expensive.

  • At 1/07/2009 1:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


  • At 1/07/2009 1:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Maybe if we look at this from a non-Orthodox viewpoint: just like the Conservative allowed driving on Shabbat and women in the minyan/rabbinate, why couldn't a group just say, "enough of using animals for teffilin/mezzuzot/scrolls/sefer Toras"?
    If- as R.Zalman pointed out- it(Tef./Mez.) is a mitsvah that "you" do, and I- ala Maimonides- have been weaned beyond animal slaughter, and I drive to schul on Shabbos/holidays(which I assume is a much greater sin- starting a fire/death penalty- in Orthodox eyes than making my own vegan mez/Tef.)- then maybe I should make my own, since which is worse: not wearing/affixing a slaughtered animal to my arm/head/door at all, or affixing/laying a vegan mez./tef. on?
    My point is that why wait for the Orthodox change? I go to a Conservative/traditional schul. If they(the Conservatives) told me that I'm doing a solipsistic Judaism by laying/affixing vegan tef./mez., I could say that you are liable for the death penalty by driving on Shabbos(i.e. starting a fire).
    The Conservatives allowed women to do those things because not allowing them just isn't "moral" anymore in todays world. I could say the same for tef./mez./and Tora scrolls: it's just not moral anymore in todays world to do that. If the Conserv. are wrong(about women), then so is 80%? of Jews. My point is, I just want non-Orthodox ideas to enter in to this question of vegan tef./mez./(and Tora scrolls).

  • At 4/13/2009 2:47 PM, Blogger Sandy said…

    Wow. Thank you for the nudge...Just found your site while searching for new mezuzot scrolls for my new house....sometimes there are just these hidden lacunae lurking deep in one's psyche: I've been a vegetarian since 1973, but never really thought about the mezuzah scroll until now. And I am a Hebrew calligrapher, and a member of Renewal Judaism. I think I'll make my own scrolls a la R. Zalman. Thank you and keep up the great blog!

  • At 5/05/2011 1:08 PM, Anonymous Inversiones en oro said…

    hello, i think that is important to read post like this, because help us to find good information.


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