Contact Us

Do I Have to Eat Meat on Shabbat?

Do I Have to Eat Meat on Shabbat?

 Email

Question:

I keep hearing and reading various sources stating that it is absolute halachah that one must eat meat on Shabbat. Is this actual halachah, or just a custom (albeit a very widespread one), and what is the reasoning behind this law/custom?

The reason I ask is that my wife and I are vegetarians. I have been a vegetarian since I was a small child, because I simply do not like the taste of meat. If there is a halachah that I must eat meat to “enjoy Shabbat,” how can I enjoy eating something that I don’t enjoy?

Thank you in advance for your always wonderful and knowledgeable responses.

Response:

The prophet Isaiah enjoins us to “call the Shabbat a day of delight,” and as a reward, we will “delight in G‑d” in the time to come. What a great religion—you have a delightful day and you get rewarded for it!

But what exactly is “delight”? The rabbis of the Talmud determined that at least one major component of delight is by food and drink. In their days, a fine meal meant a big fish. In later times, meat usurped the place of honor of fish. Does that mean that today we must eat meat on Shabbat?

The best way to determine whether something is halachah or not is by seeing what the halachic authorities have to say. As it turns out, they say something quite different than what you have been told. Shulchan Aruch HaRav sums up the halachah as follows:

There is no obligation to eat meat or drink wine on Shabbat. Rather, since it is assumed that most people take more pleasure in eating meat than in other foods, and in drinking wine more than other drinks, therefore they should increase in [consuming] meat and wine according to their means.

In other words, what exactly the menu should consist of is entirely up to the tastes of the individual, with the stipulation that it be the best he can afford. The main thing is how you enjoy a meal—not how others think you should enjoy it. On the contrary, for people such as yourself, eating meat may be counter to Isaiah’s “making the Shabbat a delight.”

While on the topic, here’s an excellent essay on vegetarianism in Judaism.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Moshe Goldman


Sources
Isaiah 58:13.
Sifra, Emor 12; Mechilta, Bo 89.
Shulchan Aruch HaRav 242:1–2; Tur, Orach Chaim 242; Magen Avraham 242:13; Tosefot Ri, Berachot, sec. 83; Siftei Kohen, Yoreh De’ah 341:7.
Rabbi Moshe Goldman is the Director of Chabad of the Waterloo Region in Waterloo, Ontario. He is also a member of the Chabad.org Ask the Rabbi team.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
11 Comments
1000 characters remaining
Anonymous Camarillo, CA, USA via chabadcamarillo.com November 21, 2015

Must we have wine if Pesach or Purim is on Shabbos The article says that we don't have to have meat or wine if we don't enjoy it. However, I've read elsewhere that wine is required on Passover and Purim. In the event that Purim or Passover falls on Shabbos, does the commandment to drink wine at seders and on Purim still apply or can we disregard it to avoid consuming unpleasant food on Shabbos? I think we eat bitter herbs at the seder even if it is shabbos, and those of us who don't like Matzah still eat it at seders on Shabbos, so I think the same reasoning would apply to wine, but I'm not sure. Reply

Acácio Florentino Santa Catarina, Brazil April 7, 2015

That is great to know! So a person can be both a chabad jewish AND vegetarian... That is great! But what if a person likes the taste, but disapproves it for ethical reasons? I guess it means it does not meet the "delighting the Shabbat" requirements, right? Reply

Ari Wilkes-Barre June 10, 2013

I found this to be very well written. I gained a lot from this. Reply

Anonymous February 26, 2012

eggless chalah You fulfill the mitzvah of eating challah with any bread that was baked after hafrashat challah, separating a piece of dough, as per Jewish law. Reply

Anonymous norfolk February 5, 2012

fish on shabbos I was under the impression fish was required Friday night and Saturday . Although the torah does not consider this "meat" for veg its meat. Reply

Judy Freedman Hashmonaim, Israel August 26, 2011

just a thought If on Shabbat we all eat what we want, and the most important element of the Shabbat meal is the atmosphere - singing, divrei Torah, listening to the kids, relaxing... then this is not the time to make the kids eat healthy and try new things. If the children want chicken legs and rice with ketchup, that's fine too. The best education for keeping Shabbat is to display the love for the day without tension and over-disciplne. Reply

Anonymous Pebble Beach, Ca US via jewcsc.com September 30, 2010

vegans I find that it is difficult to find eggless challah. can anyone direct a source for Jewish vegans? thank you in advance. Reply

Anonymous ny, ny November 1, 2009

further support for no meat requirement Eating meat outside of the context of sacrifices is referred to as "basar ta'avah" or meat for which one has an appetite; thus, the laws of non sacrificial slaughter were advanced for those who have the "ta'avah" ,. Absent such ta'avah for meat, and there are many people who just don't have that appetite for meat, it is hard to imagine that the intent of halacha was to mandate eating something on shabbat for which one has no particular appetite.

The answer might be that you should plan your Shabbat meal to be the best of the week - whatever the best is by your personal standards as your standards are what make "oneg" (pleasure) for you. Reply

charles hoffman ny, ny November 1, 2009

meat on yom tov -- The Rambam (Hilchot Hametz u'Matza VIII, 9) says that after eating the requisite matza and ceremonial items (marror , egg, etc.) he then eats "whatever he wants". Even at the seder, the quintessential holiday meal, the Rambam makes no mention of any obligation to eat meat. Reply

Anonymous London, U.K. May 4, 2009

Do I have to eat meat on Shabbos? A lovely direction from our Rabbi to young families whose children do not like formal, traditional food. "As long as you make kiddush, make the blessing over the challah and bentsch, you may eat whatever you choose - for instance, pizza if you wish." I shared this comment with a harrassed young mum; she burst into tears of joy and release from the burden of trying to get the children to eat the formal meal. Reply

R Yisroel M phila, pa April 29, 2009

Vegetarians eating meat on Shabbos Yasher Koach. I just loved the way you formed your teshuva (responsum). Thorough, sensitive, thoughtful, and a little twist at the end. All in the correct spirit of Halacha. Reply

Related Topics