In Bereshit 4:4, Hevel offers his choicest sheep as a sacrifice to G-d.

However, in Bereshit 1:29-30, Adam is told he is only allowed to eat vegetables, and Rashi explains that he was forbidden to kill meat (There are different opinions about what exactly is forbidden, but the Mizrachi explains that Rashi is saying that Adam was forbidden to kill living things - see here as well). Later, G-d gave Noach permission to kill and eat meat.

If Hevel was not allowed to kill meat, how was he allowed to offer an animal as a sacrifice?


3 Answers 3


even according to the mizrachi... he only says that the reason for the meat being asur was that he killed it but maybe it was only asur if he intended to eat it... also, its possible that hevel brought a live animal and hashem devoured it with fire so hevel would not have killed anything.

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    zukebutt, welcome to the site, and thanks for your suggestions. I hope you stick around and enjoy the site.
    – msh210
    Oct 30, 2011 at 5:47
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    I like the idea that Hevel offered a live animal. It doesn't say anywhere that the animal was slaughtered, just offered.
    – Menachem
    Oct 30, 2011 at 13:29
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    I quoted the Mizrachi in a comment to this answer: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/10994/… you can see he holds that Rashi says that it was taking the animals life in general that was forbidden
    – Menachem
    Oct 31, 2011 at 16:45
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    yes maenachem i saw it and thank u. I'm just saying that it is very possible that the issur for taking a beheimah's life was only if the intention was to kill it for personal gain. A good example of this is killing a goy. Of course it is assur but if Hashem were to tell you to go out to war with them, it would be a mitzvah.
    – zukebutt
    Oct 31, 2011 at 17:14

Where does it say that it was prohibited to kill animals, it only says that it was prohibited to eat them. There are many other uses for dead animals. Parchment, clothing, etc.

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    from the rashi I quoted above: ולא הרשה לאדם ולאשתו להמית בריה ולאכול בשר -- see for example the Tosafot Sanhedrin 56B that says that Adam was not allowed to kill them, but he could eat them if they died by themselves. e-daf.com/index.asp?ID=3722&size=2 -- if so, it would make sense that he could also use them for other purposes once they died. We're talking here about actively killing the animal.
    – Menachem
    Oct 30, 2011 at 2:52
  • @Menachem, that Tosafos also doesn't say he couldn't kill them for parchment or sacrifices.
    – msh210
    Oct 30, 2011 at 3:20
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    @msh210: There are many different opinions about what exactly Adam could and couldn't do with the animals, but see how the Mizrachi interprets Rashi: "ועוד שרש"‬י ‫ז״ל כתב כאן ולא הרשם לאדם ולאשתו להמית בריה לאכול בשרה דמשמע‬ ‫שלא נאסר הבשר אלא מפני הריגת הבעלי חיים שלא הותר לו ליטול נשמה‬ ‫אבל אם מתה מאליה מותר לו לאכול את בשרה‬ " - (almost at the end of the second column) hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14294&pgnum=23 - the mizrachi says Rashi holds that Adam wasn't allowed to kill animals at all.
    – Menachem
    Oct 30, 2011 at 4:39
  • Good find. :-)
    – msh210
    Oct 30, 2011 at 5:35
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    @msh210: since you deleted your answer on the related question I can't place this comment there, but indeed the Gemara in Avodah Zarah 8a states that Adam offered his korban on the morning after he was created (in gratitude for Hashem's bringing back the daylight). That would indeed have been before Hevel's korban, which was מקץ ימים, however that's defined.
    – Alex
    Jul 18, 2013 at 14:26

Sanhedrin 37b:

Rab Judah the son of R. Hiyya said: This teaches that Cain inflicted upon his brother many blows and wounds, because he knew not whence the soul departs, until he reached his neck.

(Original text)

We can see that Cain did not know how to kill before he killed Abel, though perhaps you could say that he only didn't know how to kill humans, although the Talmud says that he hit him a bunch of different places before reaching the neck. If he already knew how to slaughter animals, wouldn't he have started at the neck?

Rabbi Joseph Albo says in Sefer Ha'Ikarim That Cain thought that animals and humans were on the same level and consequently that animals were not to be killed. Abel had a similar thought process, with the exception that animals could be killed for the sake of Gd.

So it is evident that neither Cain nor Abel killed animals either up to this point, when they were told by Adam to bring sacrifices. If Abel had actually slaughtered his sacrifice, Cain would have at least had the idea to strike Abel in the neck and kill him, especially since he thought that humans and animals were equatable.

Based on this, I would argue that Abel did not kill his sacrifice, because no one knew how!

(I assume that Cain was present at Abel's sacrifice, to see that Abel's had been accepted and his rejected. This is plausible because they both brought their sacrifices on Erev Pesach, according to PdR"E that I cited up top. I also assume that Abel would have slaughtered his animal had he known how to kill.)

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    he did not know how to kill a human
    – eramm
    Jan 23, 2014 at 14:49
  • @eramm I have attempted to address your point.
    – Baby Seal
    Jan 23, 2014 at 16:59

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