Bible studies with Don Isaac Abravanel’s commentary (also spelled Abarbanel) has withstood the test of
time. Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a preeminent Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
commentator. In Genesis chapter 9, the Bible turns to diet for Noah, his family, and their progeny. Is
Scripture biased toward veganism or, at least, vegetarianism?
“Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you, as the green herb
have I given you all. Only flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood
thereof, shall you not eat.”
The verses we have quoted above cannot be more explicit: the Creator gives man license to eat meat;
it’s kosher. But what changed? God stopped Adam and pre-flood mankind from ingesting animal flesh.
One Biblical commentator writes that plant life was violently uprooted during the great flood,
irretrievably so. That commentator isn’t right. God’s green light to Noah should not be viewed as an
emergency measure, based on a new reality on the ground. It’s just not true. In time, a soggy earth
would dry and bounce back. Agriculture would be restored to its antediluvian level. Actually, post-flood
soil was more nutrient rich than prior to the deluge.
Abravanel explains the diet change by way of a historical sweep. Recall, the Maker transported Adam
into the Garden of Eden. The place lacked for nothing. Plentiful fruit trees and other yummy edibles
grew marvelously, as per the verse: “And out of the ground made God Almighty to grow every tree that
is pleasant to the sight, and good for food.” Furthermore, with the exception of the tree of knowledge,
God welcomed Adam and Eve to enjoy the Garden of Eden’s delights: “And God Almighty commanded
the man saying, of every tree of the garden you may freely eat.”
Here is the thing. Though drenched loam had not been permanently ruined during the deluge, it had
taken a hit, forcing a setback. Neither fruit trees, vineyards, or berry bushes survived high waters. Had
Noah and family needed to attend to plowing, planting, sowing seeds, and harvesting produce, they
would have wasted away before gathering and filling their first basket. Recognizing an impending, albeit
temporary food crisis, God permitted Noah and his family to eat meat.
Based on Abravanel’s World of Torah, by Zev Bar Eitan