Reading the parsha today, I noticed for the first time that Bereishit 9:3-4 seems remarkable (JPS translations):

.כָּל-רֶמֶשׂ אֲשֶׁר הוּא-חַי, לָכֶם יִהְיֶה לְאָכְלָה: כְּיֶרֶק עֵשֶׂב, נָתַתִּי לָכֶם אֶת-כֹּל

Every creature that lives shall be yours to eat; as with the green grasses, I give you all these.

.אַךְ-בָּשָׂר, בְּנַפְשׁוֹ דָמוֹ לֹא תֹאכֵלוּ

You must not, however, eat flesh with its life-blood in it.

Every living thing shall be for food for you, unless you eat its blood? I know the prohibition against eating the blood remains in the laws of Kashrut as we understand them today, but it’s surprising to think about Noah and his family eating animals that Hashem later prohibits His people from eating. Why is only this partial Kashrut included in Hashem’s covenant with Noah, instead of all the laws at once?

One thing that occurred to me: There are far fewer animals around for now, so perhaps Hashem is giving Noah and his family all the animals to eat for pragmatic reasons, until a sustainable number of animals are born. But then again, we see in Bereishit 7:2 that:

מִכֹּל הַבְּהֵמָה הַטְּהוֹרָה, תִּקַּח-לְךָ שִׁבְעָה שִׁבְעָה—אִישׁ וְאִשְׁתּוֹ; וּמִן-הַבְּהֵמָה אֲשֶׁר לֹא טְהֹרָה הִוא, שְׁנַיִם—אִישׁ .וְאִשְׁתּוֹ

Of every clean animal you shall take seven pairs, males and their mates, and of every animal that is not clean, two, a male and its mate;

So why, then, does Hashem command Noah to take more of the clean animals than the unclean animals, if not because clean animals are the ones fit to eat?

Shavuah tov and hodesh tov!


2 Answers 2


As we see farther on, the "clean" animals are the ones designated for the altar. While Noach and the others are allowed to eat any animal, the ones being given to Hashem as a sacrifice are restricted more.

See the relevant pesukim and the meforshim on the sacrifice upon exiting the ark.

Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, for example, goes into a long analysis of the word "tahor" and points to Zevachim 115a as a source that even Noachides may only bring a korbon from tahor species. He also says that Jews (because they are like "kohanim" to the rest of the world) may only eat that which can be brought as a korbon by the rest of the world (though this is only after matan torah).

Rabbi Sorotzknin in Oznayim Latorah (On Noach 7:2)states that it can be considered a hint that Hashem will (after the flood) allow the consumption of animals, however he does not elaborate on that. In Noach 9:3 he explains that the purpose of permitting "all" animals is to differentiate between people and animals and show that they are qualitatively different from human beings. In fact in Bereishis, the terms used for the vegetation that people ate and the vegetation that animals ate are different. Before the expulsion, Adam at "of the fruit of the garden". In the curse (Bereishis 3:18-19), Rav Hirsch say "If you would want to live as in the garden, you would have to eat grass. However, you will eat bread "by the sweat of your brow". This means that even after the curse people and animals are different.

Since people before the flood lost this concept, Hashem allowed animals as food in order to emphasize the difference and show how people must behave. Indeed we see that there are people nowadays (such as the members of PETA) who have lost sight of this and would hesitate (or answer wrongly) if asked "A child and a pet are drowning, which would you save?)"

In any case, Rabbi Sorotzkin does not refer back to the 7 (pairs of) clean animals in his explanation of the permission to eat "all" animals.

Rabbi Sorotzkin Noach 7:2

Take unto you seven pairs. "Unto you" - for all your future needs. Future offerings were not the only reason that extra kosher animals were gathered. Noach broughtt only four offerings (Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer Ch. 23). THese animals were for food as well; Hashem was hinting to Noach that after the Flood He would permit him to eat meat.

Rabbi Sorotzkin on Noach 9:3

Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. Many theories have been advanced to explain Noach's descendants being permitted what was forbidden to Adam. In my humble opinion, this allowance has the educational value of teaching man his great worth, his superiority over the animal.

The rest of this commentary is too long to type in, but this is the basic concept.


Ralbag in his commentary there explains why Noah and his descendants only got partial laws:

והנה הספיקו אלו המצות לבני נח לתקון קבוציהם לפי שכבר ידע השם יתע' שלא יאות בהם בכללם שיקבלו מהשלמות יותר מזה ואולם לבני ישראל צוה נימוס [יותר] שלם להגיעם אל השלמות האנושי להיותם נכונים להתנהג בו

And behold these commandments sufficed for the children of Noah, for upkeeping their settlements, for God already knew that it was not appropriate for them in general to accept greater perfection than this. However, to the children of Israel he commanded a law of [greater] perfection in order to let them reach human perfection, since they were fitting to act with it.

(Back in Parshat Bereishit he wrote that God forbade things to Israel that He had permitted to Noah because He intended Israel to be holier.)

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