Call me picayune, but yesterday morning, I woke up annoyed with Chris Hayes, Alex Wagner and all my MSNBC friends. My husband was blasting All In over the internet. Alex Wagner was reviewing the new Russel Crowe movie about Noah and the flood.
All parties were amused that the Right Wing has gotten its panties in a bunch over the director's portrayal of Noah as a vegan environmentalist. But, any other fanciful science-fictioney or Gilgameshy deviation from the text notwithstanding, none of the panelists including a Biblical scholar seemed to realize that if one takes the Bible literally, then one must conclude Noah was a vegan environmentalist.
That's right. If you actually take time to read the text, you will find that Noah was a vegan environmentalist.
If he lived today, he'd be a champion of the Endangered Species Act.
This is not a defense of the movie. I haven't seen the movie and didn't even know one was made. I disagree with conceding the details of the defining mythos of our modern cultures to a bunch of yahoos who haven't read it. I take my my Torah seriously, and know the genesis in Genesis (or B'Reshit), of the Laws of Kashrut.
Most of God's early disagreements with his people involved food consumption.
In Genesis 2:15, the Lord places Adam in the Garden of Eden to till and tend it and enjoy a delightfully slimming raw food diet. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "of every tree of the garden you are free to eat; but as for the tree of knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat of it; for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die."
But then as most of us remember, the snake talked Eve into tasting the fruit of the forbidden tree, and Eve shared the fruit with Adam, and everyone donned fig leaves.
Then God cursed Adam by expanding his diet to include domesticated, cooked foods: "But your food shall be the grasses of the field; By the sweat of your brow you shall get bread to eat..." and dishes to wash. (Genesis 3:17)
Paradoxically, God cursed woman and man by expanding our diet from the raw fruit of trees to cooked grains.
But mankind was still vegan. And, according to Torah, man's role was to be a steward over the land.
Many Seventh Day Adventists, for this reason, are vegans. A group of Seventh Day Adventist physicians has developed an extremely successful obesity and diabetes management program based on the Biblical vegan diet of sprouted grains and whole, unprocessed foods (unless stuff shoved in a Vitamix can be considered processed). Bill Clinton lost a lot of weight and cured his heart ailments on such a diet, but this is neither here nor there.
The point is that a literal interpretation of B'Reshit supports the interpretation that Noah was a vegan.
In Parashat Noach (Genesis 7:19-21) God tells Noah, "And take two each of every living creature---of all flesh---into the ark, male and female, to keep them alive along with you: every type of bird, every type of beast, every type of creeping thing---let two of each come to you to keep them alive, and take along edible foodstuffs of every kind; gather them up so that there is food for yourself and for them."
God doesn't tell Noah to take the animals as food. He tells him to bring food for the animals and himself. Presumably, food means the fruits of the fields and trees.
A paragraph later, God tells Noah to bring seven pairs of all clean animals and one pair of all unclean creatures to keep them alive. Possibly, God included this paragraph to appease the American Right Wing because in His omniscience, He was expecting conservatives to one day people the earth and have dominion over Democrats.
But more likely, He needed Noah to remember food for lions, wolves and the rest of carnivorous creation.
After Noah released the raven and the dove and neither returned, he opened up the ark.
God told him to release all the animals, pure and impure, to populate the earth. And Noah did so.
But then Noah built an altar and offered up some pure beasts and some pure birds as burnt offerings upon his altar. Then God said "Never again will I bring doom upon the world on account of what people do, though the human mind inclines to evil from youth onward; never again will I destroy all living beings, as I have just done. As long as the world exists, planting and harvesting, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never end."
Only then does God say to Noah: "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, and let the awe and dread of you be upon all the land animals, and all the birds of the sky, and all that creep on the ground, and all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. Any small animal that is alive shall be food for you, like green grasses---I give you all. But flesh whose lifeblood is in it, you may not eat."
When Noah expresses his gratitude to God by sacrificing animals, God realizes that his given dietary laws are still too difficult to follow. Man is violent in his heart. So He restricts Noah from consuming blood, presumably to instill in future generations a respect for life. And later still, God further restricts the consumption of flesh, handing down kashrut, the Jewish dietary law.
Later still, He gives us brisket.
So, despite what we all think we know about Noah, the Noah of the Torah was in Biblical fact a vegan and an environmentalist deeply concerned about the preservation of endangered species.
How come, if the Christian Right is worried about literal interpretations, they aren't concerned about Noah being portrayed as a white guy? If the Bible is to be taken literally, Noah came from Ancient Iraq.
Take THAT Bill O'Reilly! And Alex Wagner too!