Whereas a Wannabe-Convert Talks About Torah and Animals

I’m normally quite secular in my blog posts–an attempt at universality perhaps. But as I spend a significant portion of my time these days reading translations of the Torah, and thinking about how I want to convert there is no reason for me not to share. I am nowhere near an authority–heck, I’m not even a Jew yet–but I don’t pretend to be an expert; just a person with a translation and a curious mind.

Often folks turn to Genesis in attempts to talk about animals, God, and humanity. Some turn to descriptions of Gan Eden to point out that in the original plan Adam and Havva did not eat animals. Others turn to Cain and Abel as a defense of Hashem’s preference for flesh and blood sacrifice.

But as I was rereading recently, I found myself drawn to Genesis 3:21. From the Everett Fox translation:

Now YHWH, God, made Adam and his wife coats of skins and clothed them.

This is an important moment–Havva is cursed with birthpains and enmity with serpents, and Adam is told he must labor for bread. They are being kicked out of the garden. They are going to die. Yet, even after cursing, them Hashem cares for them, and provides for them clothing of animal skin.

I read this act as a sign of Hashem’s care for people. Even after, or maybe especially because of, meting out consequences for their act, Hashem shows care. A lesson in ethics.

But what does it mean that this first showing of how to act ethically was also the first act of death. Not only has God cursed humanity to eventually die, Hashem has killed animals to cover the humans. What does it mean that God is the first to slaughter an animal–and that this act is one of the first lesson in ethics?

Perhaps it is a way of promoting care of humans, despite their faults, even before animals.

But also it means that even in Eden there was death. For Hashem performed this act even before sending out Adam and Havva into the world, at this point there was no more Eden. It takes death to live in this world.

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4 Responses to Whereas a Wannabe-Convert Talks About Torah and Animals

  1. riddlej says:

    This is a really interesting post. I had never thought about there being original death in Eden. I’m a Genesis fan myself, but hearing about it from a foodist point of view is new for me. I was recently researching ex-veganism as I was trying to figure out if there was a crowd for whom the high promises of veganism did not measure up. But I got side tracked by your post… thanks!

  2. riddlej says:

    Oh BTW, I just wanted to let you know that from a Christian point of view—and I am not trying to preach at you in ANY way– the fact that God killed an animal in “paradise” is supposed to be a symbol of Christ (or in Jewish terms, “messiah.”) You are supposed to live knowing that your life requires the death of another. That is a terrible burden for most vegans to live with, I bet– it seems that most of them turn to Buddhism or Hinduism because the idea that their life requires someone or some animal to suffer and die is heinous to the conscience– but for Christians and probably Old Testament Jews who did the sacrifices, it is a part of coming to God correctly. You must know that, as surely as God probably hated sacrificing that animal for Adam, that sin requires a payment in death/blood. That your life does require the death of something else. Christ or Messiah is supposed to do that for you, ultimately, and that is what is being foreshadowed there in the Garden.

    Just food for thought, no pun intended! 😉

  3. X says:

    I browsed a bit through your website, and what immediately struck me was this absurd longing to put a label (vegan, jewish …what’s next?) on yourself and to somehow stand out from the rest of society, as if you get a kick out of belonging to a minority, as if you get a kick out of ‘being special’, of not being part of mainstream society. To me that’s an unhealthy lifestyle. just be yourself,. you don’t need to put some kind of label on yourself to have an identity. be proud of your own heritage instead of trying to adopt someone else’s identity and heritage. it will only make you unhappy.

    • Royce says:

      It depends on if you think that words are prescriptive or descriptive. You may think I get a kick out of “being special,” but I just enjoy being myself.

      I would appreciate if you wouldn’t accuse me of adopting someone else’s identity or heritage.

      What may be unhealthy is dictating to people whether or not they can describe themselves.

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