Thought for the Day: Noach Earned Man the Right to Eat Meat; Yaakov Avinu Earned Klal Yisrael the Right to Have the Torah
Man was not allowed to eat meat until the end of parshas Noach. That's like 207 p'sukim (1656 years) without meat! If you don't think that's a big deal, then you clearly do not daven with the same people I do. For many of them and their mother, the four food groups are: meat and three others that nobody cares about. The Ohr Chaim HaKodesh brings three reasons that Noach was allowed to eat meat.
- Noach was chosen as the intermediary by whom the animals were saved. The animals had "gone off the derech" along with the most of the rest of mankind. Using the principle of "m'galg'lim z'chus al y'dei zachai" (HaShem chooses those who with merit to be the agents of good in the world), Noach is thus seen to be a meritorious fellow.
- Noach worked really, really hard feeding and otherwise caring for the entire animal population for a year -- under horrific conditions; cramped quarters, poor ventilation, 100% humidity (the epitome of the anti-OSHA factory) -- to sustain said animals. Noach thus proved himself a worthy employee.
- Noach brought korbanos (of kosher animals) that demonstrated to HaShem that mankind (all eight of them) had learned its lesson and could be trusted going forward (more or less). Noach thus recognized HaShem as the source of all life.
I, being a simple person, was satisfied with that. A good friend (who otherwise shows good judgement in his life choices) was less so. "So if you work for me, I can kill you?" (My close friends have learned you need to be very blunt with me if you want me to get the message.) Hmm... well... no, I don't think that's p'shat.
So I had to think about it (ouch!). Here's what I think. The question is not so much why Noach was allowed meat as why was Adam forbidden meat. After all, Adam was allowed to eat everything else, why not meat? The S'porno explains that before Noach, man was too similar to the beasts to be allowed to kill and eat them. Man had to distinguish himself to merit eating meat.
And what was so great about Noach's actions to merit that for all mankind? It seems to me that Noach's actions are reminiscent of the actions Yaakov took in his final encounter with Eisav. Yaakov sent gifts, prepared, and davened. That is, did chesed, hishtadlus, and avoda. Those are the three pillars upon which the world is built (Avos 1:2). Which means, explains the Rav mei'Bartenura, this world was created for no reason other than as a vehicle to express those three principles. Noach thus transformed himself from just the greatest of the creations, to the actual purpose of creation. (He failed to live up to that high standard, though, and that position was later reclaimed by Avraham Avinu... perhaps we'll discuss that soon-ish.)
Excuse me? What was the chesed that Noach did? Ah. He made himself the kind of person that is worthy to be chosen for a the job. Boaz told Rus that the chesed she did in marrying him was greater than her first chesed. The targum explains that her first chesed was to HaShem, when she chose to become a giyoress. The Sifsei Chaim explains that a person who steps up to be ready for avodas HaShem is doing a chesed for HaShem by enabling Him to infuse His Goodness into the world.
We tend to have a less that sterling view of Noach because of later choices he made. We really need to remember, though, that we are here because of Noach and his exalted character, noble choices, and dedication to avodas HaShem.