Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim
In his Laws of Kings, Maimonides discusses Noahide laws. My friend Rabbi Leib Moshe Abarbanel noted an apparent redundancy. But as Maimonides is known for his precise formations, never repeating an idea, we seek a solution. Below are the two laws:
9:12 — A Jew who slaughters a domesticated animal, even cutting the [appropriate] two pipes, as long as the animal’s body quivers, a limb or flesh taken from the body is prohibited for a Noahide due to the prohibition of Eiver Min Hachai—eating from a living animal.
9:13 — All that is prohibited for a Jew due to Eiver Min Hachai is also prohibited for a Noahide. And there are some matters for which a Noahide is punished, whereas a Jew is not. For a Noahide, whether the animal is domesticated or wild, pure or impure, the Noahide is punishable [on two sins]: Eiver Min Hachai and due to Flesh from a living animal. And a limb or flesh that is taken from a quivering animal body—even though a Jew slaughtered the [appropriate] two pipes—this limb and flesh are prohibited due to Eiver Min Hachai.
Once slaughtered, despite the animal’s quivering, the animal is rendered “food” to the Jew. Ritual slaughter applies only to a Jew, and is all that is required to render animal into food. In a Jew’s world of Torah law, a slaughtered quivering animal is food. But slaughter does not register in the Noahide’s world of Torah laws. Thus, ritual slaughter is meaningless to the Noahide; a slaughtered quivering is quite literally alive. It would be no different if a Noahide tore and ate flesh from a walking animal, or from a slaughtered quivering animal. For both, the Noahide violates Eiver Min Hachai.
For wild or non-kosher animals, a Jew would not violate Eiver Min Hachai, since he is already punishable for eating a non-kosher animal. Prohibitions are not doubled on the same act except in rare cases.
The question is the apparent redundancy. In 9:12 Maimonides says, “as long as the animal’s body quivers, a limb or flesh taken from the body is prohibited for a Noahide due to the prohibition of Eiver Min Hachai.” In 9:13 Maimonides says, “And a limb or flesh that is taken from a quivering animal body—even though a Jew slaughtered the [appropriate] two pipes—this limb and flesh is prohibited due to Eiver Min Hachai.” As we already know from 9:12 that eating a limb or flesh from a quivering animal violates Eiver Min Hachai, what is the new idea stated in 9:13? Consider the problem before reading further to try and answer this yourself.
A careful read unveils Maimonides’ second lesson.
In 9:12, we are not told “when” the Noahide removed the limb…it could have been after slaughter but before the body started quivering. The law is, “while” the animal quivers, the Noahide cannot eat the separated limb or flesh. This is expressed by “as long as the animal’s body quivers, a limb or flesh taken from the body is prohibited.”
Law 9:13 teaches something new: “A limb or flesh that is taken from a quivering animal body” means just that: the Noahide separated the limb “while” the animal was quivering. This was not the case in 9:12. In this case in 9:13, Maimonides does not say the prohibition depends on the animal’s quivering as stated in 9:12, but in absolute terms, this limb or flesh is eternally prohibited. This law cannot apply to the Jew since slaughtered animals are permitted to Jews unconditionally, quivering or not. Therefore Maimonides places this laws in 9:13 where he discusses Noahides additional prohibition over a Jew.
Thus, the Noahide who removed a limb must not eat it while the animal quivers. Once it stops quivering, he may eat it. But if the Noahide removed the limb “while” the animal quivered, he may never eat that limb.
Can we answer the additional severity philosophically?
It appears that it is more vicious—thus meeting with and eternal prohibition—to remove a limb from a moving animal; it more closely resembles the primary case of Eiver Min Hachai which is removing a limb or flesh from a walking animal. Living animals are intended to offer man insight in God’s wisdom in His creation of the numerous animal species. Until an animal is lifeless, it functions for study or physical labor. Eating a live animal or a limb from it, we reject God’s intent that His wisdom be derived from the animal species; we relate to the animal only as food and we forgo our purpose to learn about God’s will, reflected in the diverse species. Only once lifeless is an animal rendered food. Eiver Min Hachai is also a vicious act where we pain an animal, and also act like one. Once lifeless, the animal can now be eaten without the Noahide’s violation.
We appreciate Maimonides clever formulations, where with slight rephrasing, he coveys an additional concept. A mandatory step further is to appreciate God for His laws that Maimonides only explained.