Parashah Bereishit

This past Shabbat, the parashah was Bereishit (Bereishit/Genesis 1:1-6:8). This is the story of creation and the first humans, up to Noach and the prologue to the flood.

The Garden of Eden by Cole Thomas (1828)

Bereishit 1:29-30

וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים, הִנֵּה נָתַתִּי לָכֶם אֶת-כָּל-עֵשֶׂב זֹרֵעַ זֶרַע אֲשֶׁר עַל-פְּנֵי כָל-הָאָרֶץ, וְאֶת-כָּל-הָעֵץ אֲשֶׁר-בּוֹ פְרִי-עֵץ, זֹרֵעַ זָרַע:  לָכֶם יִהְיֶה, לְאָכְלָה.
‎וּלְכָל-חַיַּת הָאָרֶץ וּלְכָל-עוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם וּלְכֹל רוֹמֵשׂ עַל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר-בּוֹ נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה, אֶת-כָּל-יֶרֶק עֵשֶׂב, לְאָכְלָה; וַיְהִי-כֵן.

God said: Here, I give you all plants that bear seeds that are upon the face of all the earth, and all trees in which there is tree fruit that bears seeds, for you shall they be, for eating; and also for all the living things of the earth, for all the fowl of the heavens, for all that crawls about upon the earth in which there is living being- all green plants for eating. It was so.

The diet outlined by God for man and beast is that of plants, and only plants. Humans are intended to ideally eat a vegan diet, however, as we will read later, God did permit man to eat meat. Veganism is the summit of the nonaggression principle. Few libertarians are able to reach it. I know of a few, notably George Donnelly (if he still is vegetarian) and Bella Shortt, who even feeds her dog a vegetarian diet! Both may be vegan, but I dont know for sure, so I will say vegetarian.

The first steps to approaching nonaggression are with our fellow humans. This is fairly easy and everyone agrees to it, even Hitler and Stalin would. They just felt that they were acting in self defense against threats. But the principle can be taken further. Where can we draw the line between human and animal? And, much of liberty having a moral basis, is it moral to draw a line? Many animals express intelligence on par with or greater than that of humans. Should they not be accorded similar rights? I believe that we should leave that case open. In a future free and voluntary society, I predict that some courts will grant rights to nonhuman animals and some will not. We will have the freedom to choose where we want to live, so we can be with people of similar values.

At a very minimum, we might say that animals should not be killed (murdered). The right to not be denied life is the first right. Beyond that, we can add the right not to be injured. In addition to this, we could acknowledge that other animals have the right to their property and to their liberty. Chattel property is easy. Dont steal a squirrels acorns. And unfortunately, no more honey or eggs or wool. That makes one a vegan. Would you like it if someone took your labors (honey), your children (eggs), or your hair and immediate property (wool)? Of course not.

Real property (land) is a tougher issue. Animals can and do set out large swaths of land they mark as their own (something completely lost on Marxists and mutualists who insist that land cannot be marked). You are welcome to respect their markings, but usually we cannot identify them. Some animals do not even care if other animals walk their land. I would argue that if an animal does not defend its land, it is acceptable to walk on it, and share the resources with the animal.

The final part of this is keeping a pet. Most people essentially enslave and kidnap animals for their own pleasure. We would be strongly opposed to this if it were done to humans, but not so for animals. You might say that animals cannot think and cannot consent. But they can. A good friend of mine, I call her my cousin, has a cat. I found out long after meeting the cat, that Tigger was a stray who one day hopped into my friends dads car and refused to go. She clearly wanted to be with them and consented to living there.

But this is probably more exception than rule. Most animals prefer to mind their own business and be left alone. However, just like you can coax a human, whether friend or mate, to be with you, you can coax an animal. Is it aggression to offer food to a human in order to get them to visit you? As long as you do not aggress against them (steal, hurt, kill, rape, etc.), it is fine. The same with an animal. You can leave out food for it and it will come more and more often and one day you might invite it into your home.

Bereishit 2 and 3

Here, God creates the Garden of Eden and gives it to the man and the woman to live in. However, as His guests, they have a few rules, namely not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The woman disobeys and causes the man to disobey and God throws them off his property. This is the first violation of contract, and the consequences thereof. It also shows how just because someone induced you to act unlawfully does not exempt you.

Bereishit 4:14

הֵן גֵּרַשְׁתָּ אֹתִי הַיּוֹם, מֵעַל פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה, וּמִפָּנֶיךָ, אֶסָּתֵר; וְהָיִיתִי נָע וָנָד, בָּאָרֶץ, וְהָיָה כָל-מֹצְאִי, יַהַרְגֵנִי.

Hein Geirashta ‘otiy hayoum, mei’al peneiy ha’adamah, umipaneycha, ‘esateir; vehayiytiy na’ vanad, ba’aretz, vehayah khal-motze’iy, yahargeiniy.

Genesis 4:14 Here, you drive me away today from the face of the soil, and from your face must I conceal myself, I must be wavering and wandering on earth- now it will be that whoever comes upon me will kill me!

In this passage, we see a response to the question of how a free society would deal with murderers. Statists argue that a murderer needs to be locked up in a cage, even if he already paid compensation to the victim. However, this is completely unnecessary. A known murderer would be ostracized by society. Try getting a job after you have been convicted of a felony. Imagine telling a shopkeeper or a potential employer that you murdered someone and are finally freed from jail. Think about Casey Anthonys job prospects even tho she was acquitted. There is a French movie entitled Ive Loved You So Long about a woman who killed her son and is finally readjusting to society. When she tells a potential employer about that act, he tells her to get out.

In this story, Qayin (Cain) worries about the people trying to kill him because they know he is a murderer. In a natural, free society, no one wants a murderer aronud. It is hoped that we are far beyond the barbary of 6000 years ago and would merely shun a murderer, rather than kill him, but the point remains. Once a criminal has atoned by rebuilding the victim, they should be free to go. They will be confined to a social prison, but at least will still have some control over their own existence.

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One thought on “Parashah Bereishit

  1. Pingback: Parashah Balaq | Jewish Libertarians

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