I had two arguments this week, one with a vegetarian and the second with a businessman. No big deal, I'm always up for a debate. The crazy part was that my position was the same each time and I even quoted the same verse of Torah to prove it.

My vegetarian friend passionately believes that we have no right to eat animals. She claims that it is an act of callous disregard for life and tantamount to murder. According to her, when humans consume animals we sully our consciences and, to use her choice of expression, "engage in speciesism of the worst order."

To eat an animal is to elevate that animal to a higher level of beingI might have had to look up an exact definition of the term (kudos to Wikipedia), but I understood what she meant. From her perspective, there is no value differential between species and it is therefore morally indefensible for one species to partake of another. However, I questioned her premise and disagreed with her conclusion.

I believe that G‑d created humans as a higher order of being with concomitantly greater responsibilities and privileges. From this perspective, when we eat animals, we're actually doing them a favor.

We eat in order to gain energy from the calories we consume, and then utilize that energy in our daily service of G‑d. To eat an animal is to elevate that animal to a higher level of being, while conversely, refusing to eat (kosher) animals is to lose the opportunity of changing their beings for the better.


Not ten minutes after leaving the office where I argued with the vegetarian, after we respectfully agreed to disagree, I found myself wrapped up in an argument about our responsibilities to act morally and ethically in business. The businessman in question, who, for obvious reasons shall remain nameless, freely admitted to crooked dealings in the past and told me that the only thing stopping him from lying on his tax return, cheating his competitors and ripping off the public more often was his fear of getting caught. "It's a dog eat dog world out there," he proclaimed in all seriousness. "And if I don't do it to them, they'll just do it to me."

After silently resolving to never, ever have any financial dealings with him, I tried to explain the moral depravity of his position. I did my best, but unfortunately I felt I had more chance persuading the vegetarian to join me for a steak sandwich than I had convincing the businessman to go legit.

At first, he couldn't even understand the point I was trying to make. From his angle, there are two choices, to stay away from business completely, or go all-in for the kill. I claimed that many businessmen were both honest and successful and the synthesis could exist, but he wasn't even willing to try.

Jews have a greater responsibility to demonstrate morality in their daily interactionsIt's a pity because Jews have a greater responsibility to demonstrate morality in their daily interactions. Aside from the obvious duty to do the right thing for its own sake, along with the thousands of unequivocal statements in the Bible, Talmud and other holy texts that require us to act with strict financial rectitude, there are also practical reasons for a Jew to act ethically. Some people out there hate us and are looking for any opportunity to confirm their prejudices. When one of us slips up, we all cop the blame – and we don't need to give the anti-Semites more ammunition.

However, there is even a higher purpose for a Jew to act with honesty. When we are moral and resist temptation, we transform the world from a den of corruption into an earthly paradise. By subsuming our animal instincts and playing by a higher set of rules, we justify our existence and elevate mundane acts of business into G‑dly encounters.

In the Book of Deuteronomy (7:16), Moses continues his words of advice before the Jews cross into the Promised Land. "Ve'achalta et kol Ha'amim" – "you should defeat all the nations," he commanded. The Lubavitcher Rebbe pointed out that the word "Ve'achalta" is literally translated as "you should eat." Far from instructing us in some weird act of Biblical cannibalism, the Rebbe interprets the verse as referring to the need for probity in our financial and private lives.

Just as when eating with the correct intention one elevates the food from a lower to a higher level of existence, so too, when acting with probity in our interaction with others and then giving charity from the proceeds, we transform "all the nations," our businesses and even the world itself, to a higher state of being.

When other people see Jews acting fairly and honestly, aren't cutting lines or embarking on questionable endeavors, they are inspired to live their own lives to a higher calling. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we have the ability to change the world for the better, not by refraining from food or avoiding business, but by making sure that our eating and our business dealings are done for G‑d and deserving of His reward.