AN INTRODUCTION TO THE NOAHIDE LAWS

Article Index

 

VII. Eating the Limb of a Living Animal

The prohibition against eating the limb of a living animal (or Ever Min ChaHai) is not as straight forward as it seems. There is no such thing as minimum amounts for Noachides (this is also important in regard to theft). If someone is cooking a stew and the tiniest amount of E”MC meat finds its way into the stew the entire stew is forbidden to be eaten.37

Ever Min HaChai (E”MC) in contemporary society

Many people believe that our world is too advanced, or civilized, to allow such barbaric behavior as eating the limb of a living animal.However, it may surprise people to know that even in our day and age these activities continue. Rocky Mountain Oysters (castrated testicles of bulls) is an example of E”MC.

Additionally if an animal is slaughtered but not yet dead by halachic standards when it is being cut up, the meat of that animal is considered E”MC.

Although it is possible to say the reason for the prohibition against eating the limb of a living animal is that God does not wish humans to be cruel to animals, it is important to note that we are never told that this is in fact the reasoning behind this law. It is a logical possibility. Although it may be argued that it is hard to say why any of the Noahide commandments is included to the exclusion of lots of other possibilities, other than the prohibition of idol worship.

“Kosher” Slaughter for Noachides

An animal is properly slaughtered if it has stopped moving before it is carved up. An animal is considered alive even if “one severs the two signs that distinguish it as having been slaughtered in a kosher manner, as long as the animal moves convulsively, the limbs and meat which are separated from it are forbidden…”38 However; if the head is completely severed from the animal then it is considered dead.

Punishment in the Noachide Laws

Many are shocked when they first study the Noachide Laws and learn that for any violation of the Noachide Laws the Noachide is punished with death.39 Two other factors make this hard to believe. This is not so for the Jewish people.

This is potentially the most difficult issue to get over. It is also the issue that brings the greatest amount of criticism against the Noachide Laws and those who live by it. Theft, for example, is not viewed as a capital punishment crime in our society. Nor does it seem to be the case in the Jewish world. However, some places punish rape by death, and it is "theft"; just like kidnapping.

It is important when struggling with any issue in Judaism and specifically in Halachah to consider the God's outlook as a whole and not in piecemeal form. There are several instances in the Torah where it seems like we are viewing an overly harsh command from God. For example, the rebellious son in the Torah is someone who is executed for rebelling against his parents. Many parents are horrified by this idea recognizing their own “rebellious” children. In the mind of many they are struck by the horror of putting to death their children for something as natural as teenage angst.40

Justice

Justice must be the basis of any law. It is the foundation of creation itself. The “laws” of the natural world were created to allow for the things in creation to function. If there are no laws, there is no reality. Without a particular way of how things work knowledge of any kind would be impossible.

Human relationships could not exist if not for law. Law is an explanation of how we ought to behave towards one another. This is true whether the relationship is between man and man or between man and God.

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