Reader: Many of us learned in the past that before Noah’s time, eating animals were completely forbidden. But once Noah saved all the animals, Hashem gave him permission to eat any animal he wanted. My question is as follows: where’s the direct cause and effect relationship between saving ones life and being able to eat that life later on? If I saved your life from drowning, would I be allowed to Chas VeShalom eat your flesh? Does that really make sense? I’m NOT a vegetarian, but I would like to understand this entire case a little better. Any suggestive answers would be helpful.
Mesora: One error is assuming that Noah saved the animals. He did not, God did. More primary, is your assumption that the salvation of animal life and Noah’s subsequent permission to eat flesh is related; these may not be related at all, although the latter follows the former on its seeming coattails. Proximity in time does not indicate an real relationship.
A Rabbi once explained that according to the Medrash, man used to walk across the Earth in a few steps, uprooting cedars, and beasts were to him as fleas. The Torah itself conveys that man used to live to 1000. In other words, he was formerly of great stature. This undoubtedly caused his self-aggrandizement, allowing him to rape, steal and violate other people’s rights; the reason for the Flood. God’s response was a destruction of that helpless generation, and a sharp decrease in man’s years and stature. Thus, he now required flesh to compensate for his physical deterioration. Meat – a nutrient – was not permitted due to the salvation of animals, but due to God’s decrease in man’s original physical perfection.