Permission to Eat Meat
Where's the Beef?
After creating humans, Hashem blesses them that they should be fruitful and rule the earth, fish, birds, and animals. Hashem then speaks of the diets of both man and animal:
(כט) וַיֹּאמֶר אֱ-לֹהִים הִנֵּה נָתַתִּי לָכֶם אֶת כׇּל עֵשֶׂב זֹרֵעַ זֶרַע אֲשֶׁר עַל פְּנֵי כׇל הָאָרֶץ וְאֶת כׇּל הָעֵץ אֲשֶׁר בּוֹ פְרִי עֵץ זֹרֵעַ זָרַע לָכֶם יִהְיֶה לְאׇכְלָה. (ל) וּלְכׇל חַיַּת הָאָרֶץ וּלְכׇל עוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם וּלְכֹל רוֹמֵשׂ עַל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר בּוֹ נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה אֶת כׇּל יֶרֶק עֵשֶׂב לְאׇכְלָה וַיְהִי כֵן.
Among the food listed are fruits, vegetables, and grasses, but, surprisingly, not meat. How is this omission to be explained? Were man and beast originally meant to be herbivores?
The omission of meat in the above command to Adam is even more striking when one compares it with the very similar one given to Noach in the aftermath of the flood. There, too, Hashem promises Noach dominion over the animals and then speaks of his diet:
(ג) כׇּל רֶמֶשׂ אֲשֶׁר הוּא חַי לָכֶם יִהְיֶה לְאׇכְלָה כְּיֶרֶק עֵשֶׂב נָתַתִּי לָכֶם אֶת כֹּל. (ד) אַךְ בָּשָׂר בְּנַפְשׁוֹ דָמוֹ לֹא תֹאכֵלוּ. (ה) וְאַךְ אֶת דִּמְכֶם לְנַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם אֶדְרֹשׁ מִיַּד כׇּל חַיָּה אֶדְרְשֶׁנּוּ וּמִיַּד הָאָדָם מִיַּד אִישׁ אָחִיו אֶדְרֹשׁ אֶת נֶפֶשׁ הָאָדָם.
Here, Hashem appears to expand man's food intake to include all living creatures. Hashem warns, though, that the permission to kill for food does not extend to killing humans; shedding human blood is prohibited.
- How does this command relate to the earlier one? Does it represent a new directive, undoing an earlier prohibition, or was meat always allowed, even if not mentioned?
- If this is indeed a new permission, what led to the change? If not, why was meat not explicitly included in the command to Adam?
- Hashem says nothing to Noach about a revised diet for animals. As many animals are predators, is it to be assumed that this was always the case, or were they originally enjoined to eat only grasses as might be understood from Bereshit 1?
- What do the varying commands suggest regarding the ideal diet and the Torah's perspective on killing animals for food?