Do animals have rights?
Why was meat-consumption forbidden to Adam but permitted to Noach?
If permitting meat was a reward for Noach saving the other species during the great deluge why is fish-consumption permitted?
… fill up the land and subjugate it. Have dominance over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky and over every living animal that creeps on the land. And Elokim said “I have given you all seedbearing greenery on the face of the earth, and every tree that has seedbearing fruit — it will [all] be yours — for your consumption. And for all beasts of the earth, and for all birds of the sky and for everything that creeps on the land —that contains a living soul — all plant vegetation will be food.” It was so.
— Bereishis 1:28-30
There shall be fear and dread of you instilled in all of the wild beasts of the earth and in all the birds of the sky, and in in all that creep on the land and in all fish of the sea, I have placed them in your hands. Every living thing that moves will be to you as food. Like plant vegetation I have now given you everything.
— Bereishis 9:2,3
Rav Yehudah, quoting Rav, said “Animal flesh (meat) was not permitted to the first Man [nor to subsequent human beings until Noach emerged from the ark] as a food. For it is written [when Elokim spoke to Adam, the first Man] ‘I have given you all seedbearing greenery … it will [all] be yours — for your consumption and for all beasts of the earth.’ But NOT ‘the beasts of the earth’ for you[r consumption. But when the sons of Noach came [out of the ark] He permitted it [meat consumption] to them, as it says ‘Like plant vegetation I have now given you everything.’
— Sanhedrin 59B
All the rivers run into the sea
— Koheles 1:7
Hillel would say: … “Do not believe in yourself until the day you die!”
— Avos 2:4
Once, Rabi Pinchas ben Yair was on his way to [perform the great mitzvah of] redeeming captives, and came to the river Ginnai. “O Ginnai” he said, “part your waters for me, so that I may pass through you”. It replied “You are about to do the will of your Maker; I, too, am [presently] doing the will of my Maker [by flowing naturally]. You may or may not accomplish your purpose; I am sure of accomplishing mine.”
— Chulin 7A
HaShem has made all things for His own purpose i.e. to praise Him.
— Mishlei 164 and Yalkut Shimoni ibid
Elokim saw the world and it was ruined. All flesh had perverted its way on earth.
— Bereishis 6:12
Even domesticated animals, wild animals, and birds would mate with those who were not of their own species.
— Rashi ibid from Midrash Tanchuma Noach 12
All creatures of the creation were brought into being with their full stature and capacities, their full assent, and their full beauty, as it says, “And the heaven and the earth were finished, and all the of their legions” [tzeva’am]( Bereishis2:1). Do not read the word as tzeva’am, but tzivyonam [their beauty].
— Rosh Hashanah 11A
Many great commentaries and thinkers have weighed in on whether or not meat-consumption was permitted to the first ten generations of humankind and if, indeed, it was not, why was it permitted to Noach, his sons and to all subsequent generations of humankind?
Sundry approaches maintain that early man was too exalted to be a carnivore (Abarbanel, Rav Kook) or that early man was too debased to be a carnivore (Keli Yakar). Some argue that the pragmatic nutritional concerns of the weaker, postdiluvian human bodies combined with a simultaneous dwindling in the capacity of botanic life to provide nourishment necessitated a switch to a meat-supplemented / based diet (Malbim, Tzeror Hamor). One school of thought maintains that the dispersion of mankind across the globe to far-flung habitats lacking reliable plant-food supplies rendered vegetarian/ vegan diets a recipe for starvation (Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch, Rav Dovid Tzvi Hoffman). Still others assert that mankind had “earned” the right to become carnivorous due to Noachs righteousness and/ or herculean efforts in saving and feeding all of the animal species (Ramban, Meshech Chochmah et al). This last approach begs the questions of why fish, which survived the mabul-great deluge; without Noachs intervention, are permitted for human consumption?
What all the widely divergent opinions do seem to agree upon is a human-centric line of reasoning. All concur that the solution to the riddle of why Adam and his descendants were prohibited from eating meat — while Noach and his descendants were not — inheres in some way or another in qualitative differences that occurred in those doing the eating; not in those being eaten. The Bais Yaakov, the second Izhbitzer, develops an approach that is, at least partially, animal-centric. However, to understand it we first need to appreciate the relative advantages in being human or in being animal.
The Gemara in Chulin that relates the “dialogue” between Rabi Pinchas ben Yair and the river Ginnai quotes the river as, essentially, using “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” argument — that the river’s fulfillment of G-d’s Will is a certainty whereas Rabi Pinchas’ is not. Rashi ad locum explains that Rabi Pinchas is not a “sure thing” because the captors might not cooperate with him. Presumably Rashi is just choosing one of many circumstances beyond Rabi Pinchas’ control that could possibly thwart the fulfillment of the mitzvah of redeeming captives. Many mishaps could have befallen him. He or the captives may have taken sick or died before the redemption deal was complete. The ransom money may have gotten lost or stolen; the prison/ pirate ship may’ve burned down/ sunk etc.
But the Lubliner Kohen understands the response of the river to have nothing to do with forces extrinsic to Rabi Pinchas ben Yair. The River was expressing it’s categorical superiority to Rabi Pinchas ben Yair because those endowed with free-will, including Rabi Pinchas himself, are not to be relied upon. For as long as a moral-ethical choice exists there is always a possibility, be it ever so slight, that the one exercising free-will might abuse it and choose evil over good and that, chalilah-Heaven forefend; G-d’s Will shall not come to fruition — whereas rivers, and all things non-human, are coerced by their natures and instincts to perform HaShems Will constantly and unfailingly.
To further illustrate this contrast between humans and non-humans the Lubliner Kohen cites a passage in Perek Shirah in which the frog boasts to Dovid the king “the sweet singer of Israel” that it sings G-ds praises day and night. To us it may seem that all the frog does is incessantly bellow a cacophonous, discordant concerto of croak. However, as “HaShem has made all things to praise Him” and as the frog has no choice but to ceaselessly behave according to its natural instincts, this croaking is sweet music to the Divine Ears kivyachol-as it were.
The Torah mystical tradition speaks of a four-tiered pecking order and food-chain in creation. In ascending order the levels are: domem-silent or inert mineral; tzomei’ach-sprouting or immobile botanic; and chai-alive or mobile animal; medaber-speech endowed or human. In addressing the issue of meat-consumption the Akeidas Yitzchok explains that upward spiritual mobility obtains in these tiers and that the lower tiers achieve fulfillment and elevation through being consumed by, and thus incorporated into, the levels above their own.
Based on this model the Akeidas Yitzchok explains that the wages of the primordial serpants role in the original sin “And you will eat dust” is not a curse because dust is dry, dirty of topographically low — but because it is two tiers down on the food chain hierarchy. It is more of an insult than an injury for a chai to be sustained exclusively by domem as domem normally nourishes tzomei’ach. Moreover he is troubled by the existence of predatory animals feeding on fellow members of the same tier and explains that, even within one tier, some members are of a higher spiritual form than the others such that the prey finds elevation and fulfillment by incorporation into the being of the predator.
Not only does being positioned higher within the hierarchy proffer the right to eat those positioned lower, but those on the lower levels actually have an appetite and thirst to be ingested by their superiors. As the Rebbe Reb Chaim Chernovitzer taught; this upwardly mobile food chain does not merely escalate inferior bodies into more highly developed bodies but transmigrates lower souls into higher, more exalted souls. And so, the “souls” of all tiers of creation yearn, as it were, to be eaten by the higher tiers to be poshet tzurah v’lovesh tzurah-to disrobe from one form and clothe themselves in a higher form; transmigrating from soul to soul and from tzurah to tzurah and until they assume the tzurah of the human being to “partner” in the service of HaShem through integration with the human who worships HaShem.
Of course all of this presumes that the human tzurah and mode of worship is in fact the greatest that any of G-ds creatures can hope for. The Bais Yaakov explains that this was not always a foregone conclusion, that in the earliest antediluvian period of world history the baalei chaim-animals; entertained a sense of equality, nay superiority, to medabrim-human beings.
The gemara in Rosh Hashanah teaches that all creatures, not only humans, were created with their full beauty and assent. The beauty of those tiers of creation that are not medabrim is their involuntary, invariable consistence with G-ds Will. Domem, tzomei’ach and chai were all created lacking free-will. The laws of nature that dictate their existence are expressions of the Divine Will and these laws, seemingly chiseled in stone, make it utterly impossible for them to deviate from the Divine Will.
As the river Ginnai lording it over Rabi Pinchas ben Yair, or the frog boasting to Dovid the king of its 24/7/365 singing of HaShems praises, the primordial chai actually felt superior to man as well and did not envy man his bechirah chofshis-free-will. After all, man must clarify, distill and refine himself within G-d’s will and hew to it through toil and effort, yegia kapayim-“the exertion of his palms”; to make sure that whatever he thinks, says and does in any given circumstance is directed toward the fulfillment of HaShems Will. Through the prism of Divine Hanhagah-conduct of the cosmos; man must perceive which stripe of Divine Middah-characteristic; is shining at any given time and on any given place; and adjust accordingly.
Man is constantly grappling with uncertainty. “As I am ambivalent and being pulled in so many directions; which path leads to G-d’s will?” While it is inarguable that when humans successfully clarify, distill and refine themselves that human service to HaShem is vastly superior to the praises being sung by, and the coerced service being rendered by, the domem, tzomei’ach and chai; the rub is that success is not assured.
From the times of Adam, the first man, until Noach, the baalei chaim-the animals; refused to be eaten, as it were. They did not view bechirah chofshis as a golden opportunity to be pursued but as a dangerous bad bet to be avoided. Hedging their bets, the baalei chaim, including the fish, thought it better to be in the thrall of G-ds Will through the chukim-chiseled laws; of their coercive natures and instincts, which they could pursue with full confidence than to partner with man through ingestion and live risky and arduous lives informed by the yegia kapayim of bechirah chofshis. There was “nothing in it for them” to be incorporated into the human form, body and soul.
Even what superficially appears to be an “repulsive” instinct in an animal is in fact beautiful in its hewing to G-ds Will. When a predatory animal attacks its prey it may seem vicious, cruel and merciless but , being instinctual and natural, its ferocious cruelty lacks a negative ethical charge. As Dostoyevsky put it “People speak sometimes about the ‘bestial’ cruelty of man, but that is terribly unjust and offensive to beasts, no animal could ever be so cruel as a man, so artfully, so artistically cruel.” We might say, so “cruel of their own free-will.” About their own apparent repugnance the baalei chaim say to all critics, as a the hideous human did to the antagonist mocking his ugliness “Go [complain] to the Artisan who shaped me [i.e. HaShem]” (Taanis 20B).
The Bais Yaakov elaborates that the sense of equality, or even superiority, that the baalei chaim felt was due at least in part to a more instinctual, animalistic self-perception that early humans possessed. Being so close on the timeline to Creation and the Divine Creator; early, antediluvian humans were much more trusting of their own yens and desires. They reasoned that if they desired something then HaShem, too, kivyachol, must Desire that they desire it. They saw no need to rein in their profligacy.
They did not perceive any difference between the instinctual hunger that compels the eating of the first portion to stave off starvation and the autonomous, self-gratifying appetite to indulge in the fifth portion because it is pleasurable. If HaShem Wills the former He must Will the latter as well. Their wickedness was caused not so much by insufficient strength to impose self-control but by their failure to recognize any need to impose self-control. After the great deluge humanity became far more skeptical of their “natural” yens and drives.
In defending his own vegetarianism George Bernard Shaw remarked ““Animals are my friends…and I don’t eat my friends.” Yet this is still a human-centric approach to vegetarianism. The Bais Yaakov’s approach to the universal herbivorousness that reigned from Adam until Noach could be summed up with this animal-centric declaration: “Humans are my inferiors, and I won’t allow myself to be eaten by my inferiors.”
But in the final period leading up to the great deluge a sea-change occurred in the baalei chaim. The natural, instinctual baalei chaim also began behaving in ways that were not consistent with the Divine Will. Even baalei chaim would mate with those who were not of their own species. Somehow baalei chaim became capable of deviation from the Divine Will. The non-human balance of creation had an epiphany and recognized that HaShem chose yegia kapayim of bechirah chofshis as the most exalted expression of avodas HaShem-Divine service. The non-human became cognizant of the truth that it was, in fact, subhuman. The glittery illusion of the gilded age of chukei hateva-the chiseled yet capricious immutable laws of nature; was shattered, and the truth of the preeminence of mishpat-the just, orderly laws refined and distilled by uniquely human rationale, became clear to all of creation.
When G-d bestows favor on one of His creatures that creature becomes irresistibly attractive to the balance of creation. After Noach and his sons emerged from the ark and the Divine Favor bestowed upon yegia kapayim of bechirah chofshis became clear, all of the baalei chaim (including fish) developed the appetite to be eaten. Seeing that it was to their own advantage they yearned, as it were, to be ingested by the higher tiers to be incorporated into the tzurah of the human and taste of the sweetness of avodah through yegia kapayim.
This Izhbitzer Torah tempts us to offer a new translation and one word insertion into Tehillim 128:2: “Yegia kapecha-exert your palms; if/ when you wish to eat [meat]; you will be fortunate, and it shall be well with you.”