Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cannibalism II

The first thing I ever wrote on the web was about cannibalism (link). I boldly came out against it. However, in discussing the various views, I made it clear that according to some opinions it is not forbidden on such a high level.

According to the Rosh it is rabbinically prohibited and according to the Rambam it is an implied prohibition from a positive commandment (while according to the Re'ah and Ritva it is biblically forbidden because people are non-kosher animals and according to the Nimukei Yosef it is part of the prohibition of ever min ha-chai).

Click here to read moreThe question might then arise, according to the Rambam and Rosh: What should someone do if he is forced to choose between eating non-kosher meat or human flesh? Should he choose human flesh because non-kosher meat is forbidden by a biblical prohibition? Does the lesser proscription takes precedence? A simple commandment calculus would imply that this is true but according to certain authorities, there is more to this issue than measuring the severity of the prohibition.

R. Moshe Shmuel Glasner, in the introduction to his Dor Revi'i on Chullin, writes that the moral value -- "natural law" -- prohibiting cannibalism takes precedence. Eating human flesh is so morally offensive that it precedes Torah.

R. Yehuda Amital, who quotes the above from Dor Revi'i, also writes: "It seems obvious to me that God does not want man to eat human flesh. the Torah fails to mention that the eating of human flesh is forbidden,not because it is permitted, but because certain things are so obvious that it is unnecessary for the Torah to state them." (Jewish Values in a Changing World, p. 39)

While this argument appeals to me, it leaves open the question why the Rishonim listed above do not say it. Why do they struggle to find a reason why it is not allowed? They could have simply said that it is a fundamental moral value, a form of derekh eretz that precedes the Torah. But they do not. I have no answer to this but would welcome suggestions.

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