It's my understanding that eating meat for a Jew is optional. We are not commanded to eat meat but if we have the desire we may do so as long as it follows kashrut restrictions. On the other hand, are not Kohens COMMANDED to eat qorban or do they have the option to abstain? In short, can a Kohen be a vegan or vegetarian?

EDIT: Obviously this only pertains to when the Beit Hamikdash existed and/or when it is rebuilt.

  • possible duplicate judaism.stackexchange.com/q/114950/759
    – Double AA
    Mar 15, 2021 at 19:33
  • Worth remembering: a) except for the Kohain Gadol and his deputy, Kohenim were divided up into "Bet Av" families, each of which served at the Beit HaMikdash for one week twice a year, so your average Kohain was only serving two weeks a year (see Mishna, Tractate Rosh HaShanah) and since there were bli ayin Harah more Kohainim than jobs to be done at the Beit HaMikdash, all tasks were assigned by lottery (ibid). Only those working on sacrifice crews actually ate of the Korbanot. So a Kohain could easily work years and never eat any sacrificial meat. Mar 15, 2021 at 19:49
  • According to the Rambam a person has to eat meat on yom tov to fulfill the mitzva of simcha
    – Shlomy
    Mar 15, 2021 at 20:10
  • @JoshK "Only those working on sacrifice crews actually ate of the Korbanot." Josh, are you sure about this? My impression was that anyone eligible (tahor) (and from the correct Bet Av) was allowed to take a portion, and ba'alei mum took a portion even though they were not eligible.
    – MichoelR
    Mar 15, 2021 at 23:42
  • As with other such issues, it might depend on why the kohain is abstaining. If he doesn't like meat, or has health issues, well, we have gemaras about chachamim who avoided drinking wine or wearing tefillin because of health issues. (Usually they did it once in a while anyhow, and tough about the health issues.) Whereas, if he has moral problems with eating meat, there may be something wrong with his opinions of the Torah. (If he doesn't have moral problems with some of the ways animals are treated today on factory farms, there may also be something wrong with his moral sensibilities.)
    – MichoelR
    Mar 15, 2021 at 23:49

2 Answers 2


The Talmud (Chulin 11b-12a) seems to assume that no one can be a complete vegetarian.

אמר רב אשי אמריתא לשמעתא קמיה דרב כהנא ואמרי לה רב כהנא קמיה דרב שימי ואמר ליה ודלמא היכא דאפשר אפשר היכא דלא אפשר לא אפשר דאי לא תימא הכי לר״מ דחייש למיעוטא הכי נמי דלא אכיל בישרא וכי תימא הכי נמי פסח וקדשים מאי איכא למימר

R. Ashi added: I put forward this argument to R. Kahana — others say: R. Kahana put forward this argument to R. Shimi — and he replied: perhaps the law is that where it is possible to ascertain the facts we must do so; it is only where it is impossible to ascertain the facts that we follow the majority. For if you do not accept this [argument], then the question will be asked: Did R. Meir, who is of the opinion that the minority must be taken into consideration, always abstain from eating meat? And if you reply that this indeed was the case, then it will be asked: What about the meat of the paschal lamb and of other sacrifices?

(Soncino translation, my emphasis)

  • 2
    This doesn't really answer the question. We know that everyone must eat from the korban pesach, and true they must also eat from korbonos on every yom tov. The question is if a kohen must also eat from other people's sacrifices during the rest of the year.
    – Mordechai
    Mar 15, 2021 at 20:46
  • 1
    @Mordechai the question asks whether a kohen can be a vegetarian or must eat from animal offerings. This answer says he must eat from animal offerings, and cites a source. Seems like a great answer to me.
    – msh210
    Mar 15, 2021 at 21:36
  • The answer is about eating meat in general; not about a kohen at all.
    – Mordechai
    Mar 15, 2021 at 21:41
  • @Mordechai A kohen is included with everyone else. There are parts of korbanos that a kohen must eat when he brings it to the altar for someone else. Additionally, a kohen is included in the requirement to eat from his own korbon pesach and chagigah. Mar 15, 2021 at 21:48

Yes, but first, some context and reasons why to be a vegetarian.

The Torah prefers vegetarians. In fact, vegetarianism is better for Jewish observances. One does not need to wait six hours after consuming meat for dairy. Only one pair of dishes is required, save for Pesach. One also saves money on kosher meat, which, if you avoid all meat products altogether, you can’t transgress at least twenty mitzvot!

For all the above reasons I think vegetarianism is superior. It also keeps the complexion of the face intact.

Second, the Bible prefers vegetarians (Genesis 2:16). Adam and Eve are only permitted to eat plant food. This changes when humans become cruel and eat meat, resulting in the flood. After the flood, Noah is told that he may consume “Every moving creature that lives will be yours to eat” (Genesis 9:3), with the exception of a live animal (Genesis 9:4; also see Rashi on Genesis 9:3). Noah was "allowed" to eat meat as a concession to human nature. Similarly, Rambam writes that G-d does not want or need sacrifices but "allowed" them as a concession for human needs. Rav Kook wrote that the sacrifices will not continue in the messianic age and that Jews will no longer be carnivores but enjoy plant food.

Since the ideal state for the world is a state when the world will return to the state of the Garden of Edan, an ideal world will sacrifice and meat-eating is barred, it is safe to assume that the Kohen will also be a vegan.

  • 1
    Again, the question was not about Jewish vegetarianism in general. It's specifically about kohanim in the Temple and if they were COMMANDED to consume qorban.
    – Ephraim77
    Mar 15, 2021 at 21:27
  • @Ephraim77 I answered this in the last sentence.
    – Turk Hill
    Mar 15, 2021 at 21:51
  • I think point about Adam and Eve is well taken. But the world changed after the Sin, and one needs to track down the prophecies of the future to see when and how that will be fixed.
    – MichoelR
    Mar 15, 2021 at 23:52
  • @MichoelR True, yet, we are told that the plan is to reinstitute a garden of Eden on earth. This is called the messianic age by some and 'The World to Come' by others.
    – Turk Hill
    Mar 15, 2021 at 23:53

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