Sunday, May 13, 2007

Can Carnivores and Omnivores become exclusively Herbivores?

In yesterday’s Parsha we read (Vaykra 26:6)[1]:

וְהִשְׁבַּתִּי חַיָּה רָעָה, מִן-הָאָרֶץ - and I will cause evil beasts to cease out of the land

Ramban quotes a Torat Kohanim where Rabbi Yehudah understands it to mean a natural result of prosperity. As the inhabitants follow the ways of the Torah, Eretz Israel is populated and wild animals will no longer roam freely. Rabbi Shimon understands it to mean that although the wild animals will remain, they will no longer be aggressive and attack people. Ramban accepts Rabbi Shimon’s approach. He notes that in Breishit in the story of creation we read:

ל וּלְכָל-חַיַּת הָאָרֶץ וּלְכָל-עוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם וּלְכֹל רוֹמֵשׂ עַל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר-בּוֹ נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה, אֶת-כָּל-יֶרֶק עֵשֶׂב, לְאָכְלָה; וַיְהִי-כֵן.

30 and to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creeps upon the earth, wherein there is a living soul, [I have given] every green herb for food.' And it was so.

Suggesting that there were no carnivores originally and only after Adam’s sin some became meat eaters. He therefore argues that all animals and beasts were originally meant to be vegetarian which is their natural state. As a reward for the Jews following the Mitzvot, they will revert to their natural state. In his discussion Ramban brings the following verse in Yeshayahu 11:7-8 as proof text:

ז וּפָרָה וָדֹב תִּרְעֶינָה, יַחְדָּו יִרְבְּצוּ יַלְדֵיהֶן; וְאַרְיֵה, כַּבָּקָר יֹאכַל-תֶּבֶן.

7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

ח וְשִׁעֲשַׁע יוֹנֵק, עַל-חֻר פָּתֶן; וְעַל מְאוּרַת צִפְעוֹנִי, גָּמוּל יָדוֹ הָדָה.

8 And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the basilisk's den.

The first verse where the bear joins the cow in the pasture (תִּרְעֶינָה) proves that the bear is no longer a carnivore as does the lion and the ox. The second verse proves that children will play with snakes without being harmed; the snakes having lost their carnivorous interest are no longer aggressive to humans.

The preceding verse to these two reads as follows:

ו וְגָר זְאֵב עִם-כֶּבֶשׂ, וְנָמֵר עִם-גְּדִי יִרְבָּץ; וְעֵגֶל וּכְפִיר וּמְרִיא יַחְדָּו, וְנַעַר קָטֹן נֹהֵג בָּם.

6 And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

Rambam in Hilchot Melachim 12:1 addresses this as follows:

רמב"ם מלכים יב:א

אל יעלה על הלב שבימות המשיח יבטל דבר ממנהגו של עולם, או יהיה שם חידוש במעשה בראשית, אלא עולם כמנהגו נוהג, וזה שנאמר בישעיה וגר זאב עם כבש ונמר עם גדי ירבץ משל וחידה, ענין הדבר שיהיו ישראל יושבין לבטח עם רשעי עכו"ם המשולים כזאב ונמר, שנאמר זאב ערבות ישדדם ונמר שוקד על עריהם, ויחזרו כולם לדת האמת, ולא יגזלו ולא ישחיתו, אלא יאכלו דבר המותר בנחת עם ישראל, שנאמר ואריה כבקר יאכל תבן,[2]

Paraphrase/translation/comments as usual:

Do not think that during the times of Mashiach the way the world works will change [i.e. miraculous events will occur] or that new natural law will come about. The world will continue in its regular ways. The verse “And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid” [which seems to indicate a change in nature] is an allegory and riddle. It means that Israel will exist securely together with the evil nations who are compared to the wolf and the leopard as it says (Yirmyahu 5:6) a wolf of the deserts doth spoil them, a leopard watches over their cities, [clearly a reference to human enemies] and they will all turn to the law of truth, they will no longer rob and destroy but eat what is permissible to them [as opposed to spoils of war] while living peacefully with Israel as it says “and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.”

Rambam does not accept the approach of Ramban that nature can change fundamentally. Interestingly in Iggeret Techyat Hametim[3] Rambam discusses this verse and suggests two other interpretations, one as Rabbi Yehudah explained that prosperity will bring about greater urbanization. The other possibility is that it applies only to the Beit Hamikdash as the verse continues:

ט לֹא-יָרֵעוּ וְלֹא-יַשְׁחִיתוּ, בְּכָל-הַר קָדְשִׁי: כִּי-מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ, דֵּעָה אֶת-יְהוָה, כַּמַּיִם, לַיָּם מְכַסִּים. {ס}

9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. {S}

The Mishna Avot 5:4 lists ten things that were unusual in the Beit Hamikdash, among which are that a snake or scorpion never bit anyone. Rambam in his Pirush Hamishna explains them all as natural occurrences. He explains that there was never a wind that spread the smoke coming off the altar and that people who were standing in a crush were able to bow comfortably because they were respectful to each other out of awe in being in such a holy place. He would therefore understand that snakes and scorpions were not present intimidated because of the throngs of people that were there.

In MN 3:11 Rambam dedicates a whole chapter to this. It is part of his introductory chapters to the long discussion on Providence:

“All the great evils which men cause to each other because of certain intentions, desires, opinions, or religious principles, are likewise due to nonbeing, because they originate in ignorance, which is absence of wisdom. A blind man, for example, who has no guide, stumbles constantly, because he cannot see, and causes injury and harm to himself and others. In the same manner various classes of men, each man in proportion to his ignorance, bring great evils upon themselves and upon other individual members of the species. If men possessed wisdom, which stands in the same relation to the form of man as the sight to the eye, they would not cause any injury to themselves or to others: for the knowledge of truth removes hatred and quarrels, and prevents mutual injuries. This state of society is promised to us by the prophet in the words: "And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb," etc.; "and the cow and the bear shall feed together," etc.; and "the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp," etc. (Isa. xi. 6 seq.). The prophet also points out what will be the cause of this change: for he says that hatred, quarrel, and fighting will come to an end, because men will then have a true knowledge of God. "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (ibid. ver. 9). Note it.”

Another clear difference between the understandings of these two great thinkers.

[1] רמב"ן ויקרא פרק כו פסוק ו

והוא הנכון, כי תהיה ארץ ישראל בעת קיום המצות כאשר היה העולם מתחילתו קודם חטאו של אדם הראשון אין חיה ורמש ממית אדם, וכמו שאמרו (ברכות לג א) אין ערוד ממית אלא חטא ממית. וזה שאמר הכתוב (ישעיה יא ח) ושעשע יונק על חור פתן, וכן ופרה ודוב תרענה ואריה כבקר יאכל תבן (שם פסוק ז), כי לא היה הטרף בחיות הרעות, רק מפני חטאו של אדם כי נגזר עליו להיות טרף לשניהם והושם הטרף טבע להם גם לטרוף זו את זו, כידוע כי בטרפם האדם פעם אחת יוסיפו להיות רעים יותר, וכן אמר הכתוב (יחזקאל יט ג) וילמד לטרוף טרף אדם אכל:
והנה בבריאתו של עולם נאמר בחיות שנתן להם העשב לאכלה דכתיב (בראשית א ל) ולכל חית הארץ ולכל עוף השמים ולכל רומש על הארץ אשר בו נפש חיה את כל ירק עשב לאכלה, ואמר הכתוב "ויהי כן", כי הוא הטבע אשר הושם בהם לעד, ואחר כך למדו הטרף פני החטא הממית כאשר פירשתי. וכשהותר שחיטת בעלי החיים לבני נח אחרי המבול והזהיר על האדם (שם ט ה) ואך את דמכם לנפשותיכם אדרוש וגו' את נפש האדם, ולא נפש חיה מיד חיה בחברתה, נשארו על מנהגם לטרוף. ובהיות ארץ ישראל על השלמות, תשבת רעת מנהגם ויעמדו על הטבע הראשון אשר הושם בהם בעת יצירתם, וכבר הזכרתי מזה בסדר תולדות נח (בראשית ט ו):
ועל כן אמר הכתוב על ימי הגואל היוצא מגזע ישי, שישוב השלום בעולם ויחדל הטרף ורעת הבהמה וכל הרמש כאשר היה בטבעם מתחילה. והכוונה היתה בו על חזקיהו שביקש הקב"ה לעשותו משיח (סנהדרין צד א), ולא עלתה זכותם לכך, ויהיה המעשה על המשיח העתיד לבא:

[2] . +/השגת הראב"ד/ אל יעלה על הלב שבימות המשיח כו' עד משלים. א"א והלא בתורה והשבתי חיה רעה מן הארץ.+
Note the Ra’avad comment where he reads this like Rabbi Shimon!

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