Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Noach
To dedicate this lesson

Eating Meat

Why was Noach - and all people thereafter - allowed to eat meat?


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Cheshvan 3 5781
Question: Why was Noach - and all people thereafter - allowed to eat meat?

Answer: Prior to the Flood, people were vegetarians; even animals could only eat other animals that were already dead. But after the Flood, Noach & the generations following were permitted to eat meat (9:23-24). Why? This may be because the flood-waters had destroyed all the vegetation, and there was nothing else to eat. Ramban says this is the "reward" which Noach earned by protecting the animals in the Ark and saving them. Others say that the animals acted in corrupt ways - unlike those in the Garden of Eden - and so are undeserving of being left alone. Rav Kook says that Man had descended to a lower level and, had he not been permitted to eat animal flesh, would have resorted to eating human flesh. He also says that Man needed to express his mastery over animals so as to prevent him mingling and mating with them.

Rav Kook - who, contrary to popular opinion, was NOT a vegetarian - said that in the End of Days, when both man and animals will be brought to a higher level, we will return to a vegetarian diet. This will apply even to animals, as Yeshayahu says, (11:6-7): "And the lion shall eat straw like the ox." Exactly how the positive commandment to eat the lamb offering on Pesach will be maintained is an open question.
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