The Jew And The Carrot

Parshat Noah: Pondering the Eating of Meat

By Rachel Kahn-Troster

  • Print
  • Share Share

In this week’s parsha, as Noah stands outside the ark surveying a post-deluge world, God blesses him and gives him new dietary parameters: “Every creature that lives shall be yours to eat; as with the green grasses, I give you all these.” (Genesis 9:3) This divine permission to eat meat is a big departure from the instructions given generations earlier to Adam and Eve, who were only allowed to eat a vegetarian diet.

No explanation is given in the torah for this change, which is bundled together with other injunctions against eating the blood of animals and against murder. But the rabbis argue that the permission to eat meat is an attempt to put boundaries on something people were doing prior to the flood, killing animals wantonly and without regard to the fact that to eat an animal was to take a life. God was setting up checks and balances to explicitly prevent this cruelty.

But “This concession to human weakness is not a license for savagery,” argues scholar Nahum Sarna. Meat cannot be eaten without recognition of its origins in life; God’s permission can be seen as the original injunction to eat mindfully.

Today, there are growing options for the consumer who wants to eat mindfully through sustainable, humanely raised kosher meat. But, the availability of this meat brings up a serious ethical question: have we fulfilled our obligation to God by eating humanely raised meat, or should we be aiming for Edenic ideal of not eating meat at all?

Can eating meat ever be a holy act? I posed this dilemma to Naftali Hanau, owner of Grow and Behold, an ethical kosher meat company. Hanau, a former vegetarian (because of the historical lack of humanely raised kosher meat), argues that questions of sustainable eating must go beyond whether or not one should eat meat.

There are many overlooked trade-offs in the food system. “How is it any better to eat conventional tofu, made from genetically modified soy and grown on a field covered in petrochemical fertilizer? Conventional food does not get a free pass on environmental sustainability just because something is a vegetable.” He pointed out that Amish farmers who raise his chickens – moving the coops by hand and restoring the soil – leave a smaller environmental impact than conventional vegetable farming.

One question I posed to Hanau was whether having greater access to sustainable meat meant he ate more of it, as I have found to be true in my house. He said that it had not, but that it was still an ongoing conversation in his family about how much meat to eat. Purchasing sustainable meat is not a license to eat it mindlessly, he says.

All forms of eating can be savagery. All of them can be holy. This was the challenge to Noah and to us.

Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster is director of education and outreach for Rabbis for Human Rights-North America.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Grow and Behold, Meat

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.