BEHOLD, I HAVE GIVEN YOU EVERY HERB YIELDING SEED. He did not permit Adam and his wife to kill any creature and eat its meat, but all alike were to eat herbs. But when the era of “the sons of Noah” came, He permitted them to eat meat, as it is said, Every moving thing that liveth shall be for food for you; as the green herb have I given you all;217Genesis 9:3. even as the green herb that I permitted to the first man, so do I permit you everything. Thus is the language of Rashi. And so did the Rabbi218Rashi. explain it in Tractate Sanhedrin:21959b. “And to every beast of the earth220Verse 30. — to you and to the beasts I have given the herbs and the fruits of the trees, and every green herb for food.”220Verse 30.
But if so, then we must explain the expression, every green herb for food,220Verse 30. to mean “and every green herb.”221The intent of Ramban’s remark is as follows: if, as according to Rashi, man and beast were made alike with respect to their permitted food, then Verse 29, which specifies the food for man, and Verse 30, which begins with and to every beast of the earth and concludes with every green herb for food, are to be understood as one command since both man and beast were permitted the same food. In that case, Verse 30 should read: “and every green herb,” that is, in addition to every herb yielding seed… and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed mentioned in Verse 29, they could also eat every green herb. But this is not so. Rather, He gave to man and his wife every herb yielding seed and all fruit of the trees [as mentioned in Verse 29], and to the beasts of the earth and the fowl of the heaven He gave all green herb [as mentioned in Verse 30] but neither the fruit of the tree nor the seeds. The food of all of them was thus not the same. However, meat was not permitted to them until the time of the “sons of Noah,”222After the flood all people of all time were commanded to observe as a minimum the following seven precepts: (a) to establish courts of justice; (b) to abstain from idolatry; (c) incest; (d) murder; (e) robbery; (f) blasphemy; and (g) eating flesh cut from living animals. These are the laws of Noachids, or “sons of Noah.” (See further Ramban 34:13.) At that time permission was given them to eat meat, the reason for which is explained in the text. as is the opinion of our Rabbis. And this is the plain meaning of the verse.
The reason for this [prohibition of eating meat] was that creatures possessing a moving soul have a certain superiority as regards their soul, resembling in a way those who possess the rational soul: they have the power of choice affecting their welfare and their food, and they flee from pain and death. And Scripture says: Who knoweth the spirit of man whether it goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast whether it goes downward to the earth?223Ecclesiastes 3:21.
But when they sinned, and all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth,224Genesis 6:12. and it was decreed that they die in the flood, and for the sake of Noah He saved some of them to preserve the species, He gave the sons of Noah permission to slaughter and eat them since their existence was for his sake.225That is, Noah’s sake. The Tur’s version reads “their sake,” a reference to all three sons of Noah who were also righteous. See Ramban further, 2:3, where he discusses the profounder meanings of the elements created on the second day, and he writes that they symbolize Noah and his sons as all having been tzadikim (righteous men). Yet with all this, He did not give them permission regarding the soul thereof, and He prohibited them from eating a limb cut off from a living animal, and in addition He gave us [the children of Israel] the commandment prohibiting the eating of all blood because it is the basis of the soul, as it is written: For the life of all flesh, the blood thereof is all one with the life thereof; therefore I said to the children of Israel: Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh; for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof.226Leviticus 17:14. Thus He has permitted the eating of the body of dumb animals after death, but not the soul itself.
This indeed is the reason for the commandment of killing [animals in the prescribed manner before eating their flesh], and for the saying of the Rabbis:227Shabbath 128b. “The duty of relieving the suffering of beasts is a Biblical requirement.” And this is the meaning behind the benediction which we make before killing animals: “[Blessed art Thou, O Eternal our G-d, king of the universe] Who hast sanctified us by His commandments and commanded us concerning the killing [of animals].” I will yet discuss the purport of the commandment prohibiting the eating of blood when I reach thereto,228Leviticus 17:14. if G-d will reward me.
The meaning of the expression, every herb yielding seed… and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for food, is that they should eat the seeds of herbs, such as the grains of wheat, barley, beans, and the like, and that they should eat all fruits of the tree; but the tree itself was not given to them for food, nor was the herb itself until man was cursed and he was told, And thou shalt eat the herb of the field.229Genesis 3:18.