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Thursday
Oct112018

FEEDING YOUR ANIMAL IN THE ARK AND IN THE MESSIANIC AGE

“…FOR YOU AND FOR THEM TO EAT.”

When G-d gave Noach instructions concerning the Ark that was to save him, his family and all living creatures, He stated the following:

“As for you, take for yourself from every edible food and bring it in with you. It will be for you and for them to eat.”

A question has been raised: why did G-d mention food for the people first and then for the animals. Doesn’t this contradict the Torah’s well-known instruction for us to feed our animals before feeding ourselves? This is derived from the words in the second section of the Shma:

“I will provide grass in your field for your livestock, and you will eat and be satisfied.”

The Torah mentions the grass for the animals before mentioning the food for humans. The Talmud (Gittin 62a) derives from this:

“It is forbidden for a person to eat before he feeds his animal.”

Why, then, does the Torah reverse the order here?

“PUT YOUR MASK ON FIRST”

A simple, practical answer is that there were only eight humans to tend to a myriad of other creatures. If they had to wait to feed all the creatures first, they would hardly have an opportunity to eat themselves. In the grip of starvation they would hardly be able to assist the animals.

This is similar to the instruction given on planes that in case of an emergency we should place the oxygen mask on ourselves before assisting our children.

EXCEPTION TO THE RULE

Another suggested answer is that this rule, giving precedence to feeding our animals, is only valid when it is not a matter of our own life and death. G-d instructed Noach to bring food into the Ark as a stark matter of survival. In that situation, human lives definitely take precedence over the welfare of animals.

One can still ask why was it necessary for the Torah to specify that Noach was to bring food into the ark for both human and animal consumption. Obviously, if they were to remain ensconced in the Ark for a year, they would all need food, and lots of it.

HUMANS AND ANIMALS WERE NOT CREATED EQUAL

Perhaps the Torah wanted to make it clear to Noach and his descendants that there was a qualitative difference between humans and animals.

Before the flood, humans were not permitted to eat meat. Adam had been commanded by G-d to consume only vegetation, which he would share with the animals. This could have left the mistaken impression that G-d wanted humanity to consider itself equal with animals.

THE SIN OF CAIN

According to the famous Jewish Philosopher, Rabbi Yosef Albo, the sin of Cain was motivated by his belief that humans and animals were qualitatively equal in importance. Cain’s error came after G-d rejected his offering, which consisted of vegetation, but accepted Abel’s offering from an animal. Rabbi Albo explained that Cain did not offer an animal sacrifice because he regarded people and animals as equals. He therefore felt that he had no right to take the life of an animal, even for the purpose of serving G-d, just as it would be wrong to take the life of a human being.

When G-d accepted Abel’s offering instead, Cain should have recognized that as a sign that his philosophy was fundamentally flawed; animals are not equal to humans. Instead of reaching this conclusion, he reasoned that, on the contrary, if it is acceptable to take the life of an animal, so too would it be morally correct to take the life of another human.

It is fascinating to recall that, according to our Sages, as cited by Rashi, Cain was ultimately killed by his descendant Lemech, who mistook him for an animal. His own demise came from the confusion of human life with animal life, the underlying motivation for the murder of his brother Abel.

The lesson we are taught by the above is that when we attempt to equalize animals and humans, it usually results in the devaluation of human life rather than the promotion and advancement of animal welfare.

To be sure, the Torah commands us in so many ways to treat animals humanely. Indeed, the law that requires us to feed our animal before we eat is evidence of this principle. Even so, these laws do not support the idea that animals are equal with people.

Since this prohibition of consuming animals remained in effect at the time of the Flood, G-d wanted Noach and his progeny to know without any doubt that humans take precedence over animals.

Once the principle of human superiority was firmly established and seared into the consciousness of humanity, there was no longer a basis for fearing that we might trivialize human life. It was then “safe” for the Torah to exhort us to feed our animals first.

WHY DO HUMANS HAVE TO EAT LOWER LIFE-FORMS?

On a deeper level we can explain why the Torah gave precedence to feeding the humans in the Ark, even though we were later commanded to feed our animals first.

The great Kabbalist, the Arizal, asks why humans, the putative “crown” of creation, must depend on lower forms of life for their subsistence. Why would G-d create a system in which higher forms of life must depend on the lower forms? It would have made more sense if humans were nurtured by a higher spiritual source of nutrition.

The Arizal’s answer is that the sustenance we receive from animals (or plants) is not from the animal itself but from the Divine spark embedded in every physical being.

This, the Baal Shem Tov added, is the deeper reason for hunger. The body’s appetite is sparked by the soul’s appetite to consume the Divine spark in the food.

The Alter Rebbe raises a related question. Why do we need to be sustained by the Divine spark in the animal or plant? Don’t we humans also contain our own spark of the Divine?

SOURCE OF THE ANIMAL: WORLD OF TOHU

The Alter Rebbe answers that the source of the animal’s soul is the higher world of Tohu-Chaos which transcends the ordered world of Tikkun-Perfection or order, which is the source of human souls.

While the world of Tikkun has the advantage that its spirituality is attenuated so that it can be accessed properly, the world of Tohu is known for its powerful energy. So powerful, in fact, that it shattered the vessels intended to contain it, much like a surge of energy that shorts electrical circuits and burns the wires. Shards of these shattered vessels, with remnants of the powerful energy of Tohu embedded in them, descended into the objects and food of the physical world.

We can now understand the proper spiritual dynamic of food consumption. When we eat food that contains these exalted sparks from the sublime world of Tohu we enhance our own spirituality.

By extension, Chassidic thought explains, what is true of animals is also true of our own Animal Soul. This provides a spiritual explanation why feeding animals takes precedence over feeding humans. It underscores the superior source of our Animal Soul. When we refine our Animal Souls and transform them into agents of love for G-d, it energizes the G-dly Soul.

This is what our Sages had in mind when they translated the words of the Shma, “And you shall love G-d with all your heart,” as a reference to both parts of our heart: our good impulse (which derives from our G-dly Soul) and our evil impulse (which derives from our Animal Soul).

It is not enough to engage our G-dly Soul in the quest to get closer to G-d; we must also harness the Animal Soul, which adds much more power to the love for G-d.

We can now understand why the Torah wants us to feed the animals first. The animal, both external and internal, possesses a hidden spark which, when harnessed properly, energizes and enhances our own spirituality.

By feeding our animals first we recognize that our mission in this world is first and foremost to deal with the challenges that stem from our Animal Soul, because it is the animal that will nurture and elevate our G-dly soul.

PRE – AND POST-REDEMPTION

However, this is true only for life prior to the Final Redemption. The purpose of the pre-Messianic period – from the creation of Adam until the Redemption – is to refine the physical world in general and the Animal Soul in particular. In doing so, we enrich the G-dly Soul, enabling it to reach higher levels. As mentioned above, this occurs because the spiritual source of the internal and external animal is higher than the source of the G-dly Soul.

However, the ultimate source of the G-dly Soul, its essence, is actually beyond the powerful world of Tohu. Indeed, it stems from G-d’s very essence! When this essential state of the soul is fully actualized in the Messianic Age, we will no longer have to give precedence to the animals.

We can now understand why the order of feeding was reversed for Noah’s Ark. Our Sages tell us that while in the Ark the animals did not harm one another. They experienced a foretaste of the Messianic Age, of which it is said that the “wolf will lie with the lamb.” In this unique “Messianic-esque” atmosphere there was no need to place feeding the animals before the humans, for at that time they experienced a fleeting advanced state of humanity.

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