Question:

I'm a vegetarian. I'm having trouble reading about sacrifices in the Temple and harmonizing that with my worldview. Can you give me a hand here?

Response:

I can see your quandary, but then, as a vegetarian and a lover of animals, you should appreciate the idea of the sacrifices more than someone else. Here's why:

The Temple turned eating meat into a meaningful experience. A mindful act. A meal that made you a better person. It wasn't like eating a hamburger for lunch or munching on chicken nuggets while on the road.

The individual was quite aware of what it took for the meat to get to his plate. He saw the slaughtering and together with it, the singing and prayers of the Levites. Most vital were his own thoughts of repentance while bringing the offering. Without such self-reflection, the sacrifice was meaningless.

Torah acknowledges that eating meat is serious business. It isn't just another food. After all, if it's only about filling one's stomach, there are many foods that can do the job that don't require killing a living being. Eating meat therefore carries with it a greater sense of responsibility.

The nicely packaged lamb-chop in the refrigerator section of the grocery store comes from a place no different than the Paschal offering. The former is a mundane dinner—the latter, a mindful act and transformative experience.

Today, meat or no meat, it's our dinner table that takes the place of the altar. By inviting guests, enjoying a Shabbat Seudah, or engaging in a meaningful discussion with our children, we too can turn a meal into a holy experience.

You can find some excellent articles on the topic of vegetarianism under that keyword in our knowledge base.