The gemora in Pesachim (49B) tells us that it is forbidden for an am ha’aretz to eat meat. The Arizal says that though it is forbidden for him to eat meat during the week, on Shabbos it is permissible. He explains that the higher levels of life which feed on the lower levels by ingesting them, are able to upgrade these animals to the next level. Because the am ha’aretz is lacking in spirituality, he does not have the ability to upgrade members of the animal kingdom to be part of the human world. On Shabbos, however, even the simplest of Jews such as the am ha’aretz are supercharged with spirituality which gives them the ability to elevate creations from the animal kingdom to a higher level.
The Chasam Sofer tells us that this was Moshe Rabbeinu’s question in this week’s parsha, regarding giving klal Yisrael meat to eat. Moshe saw the level that they were on, and he understood that although the food may go through their intestines, it would not be able to satiate them.
Some of the mefarshim tell us that the reason why Noach was able to eat meat was because he learned Torah. However, before the Flood, when learning Torah was not commonplace, man did not have permission to eat meat because he lacked the stature needed, to be above the animal kingdom.
Rav Chaim Volozhiner tells us, based on a pasuk (Devarim 8:3), that the human is satiated not only through the physical part of food. He is also satiated by the spiritual side of the food, which comes from Hashem’s command that this food should grow.
We often wonder why we don’t become satisfied from the food that we eat. I think that there is a metaphor that can be drawn upon. Being satisfied is not defined only by “filling one’s tank”. Rather, it has to bring a person to a state of contentment. In fact, I once met a man who just finished eating a scrumptious meal and I asked him “how do you feel now?” He responded “Happy!” At the time I was somewhat surprised by this response, for I expected him to say “Satiated” “Full” or similar. But it seems to me that he actually hit on the core issue. One can be satisfied with much less if he is content with what he has. Klal Yisrael at that time, were raised to a level close to melachim. Rav S. R. Hirsch tells us that they yearned for the physical feeling of satiation, rather than feeling exhilarated in their stance of being above the physical world.
With this thought in mind, I think we can sit down and eat knowing that we have earned our portion, through raising ourselves above the meat on our plate.