“Every moving thing that lives shall be yours to eat… You must not, however, eat flesh with its life-blood in it” Genesis 9.3-4


Emerging from the trauma of the Great Flood, wherein he was tasked with preserving and caring for every species imaginable in his incredible floating zoo, Noah is now given guidelines about how to consume meat. 

Until now, humans were vegetarian. The prohibition against eating from a live animal appears immediately after God gives permission to slaughter animals for food. These verses encapsulate a balance: within reason, within the bounds of morality and humanity, eat from the animal kingdom, but recognise the power imbalance and respect that.This specific proviso is not just for Jews but for all of humanity and forms one of the seven Noahide laws.

In a karmic twist (which predates Buddhism) our sages explain that the action of inflicting extreme pain and suffering on an animal through eating it live has the potential to impact very negatively on the human consumer. 

In a broader sense, this sidrah holds us to a moral standard in our relationship with the animal kingdom. Earlier in the narrative this is modelled by Noah caring for (and feeding) his animals before himself. We are now tasked in the verses above to respect animals equally in their deaths as in their lives.

Nowadays we hear much of “clean eating” and “you are what you eat”; these woke concepts are increasingly relevant in a world of complex food production chains and obscure ingredients (the 2013 horse meat scandal comes to mind). 

Jews and non-Jews alike should concern themselves with the integrity and ethics of food production, from all angles. How was our cattle and poultry treated in life, not just in death? Perhaps “kosher” represents more than a stamp and a seal.

In these times of nebulous production chains and food sources, this episode is a reminder to eat true to our values and demand transparency in our meat production. We are urged to become conscious and considerate consumers. 

The sidrah reminds us of one of the basics of humanity: to treat all living things with respect. We recognise an inherent hierarchy in the living world and our power over it. But with power comes responsibility. 


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