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Vol. 19 No. 2
Leah Baila bas Aryeh Leib z"l
Striking a Balance
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)
Considering the numerous numbers of animals and birds that had to enter No'ach's boat, many of them huge such as elephants and buffalo, and bearing in mind that two of each and every species (and seven couples of those that were Kasher) had to spend a year in the boat, observes R. Bachye, based on the Ramban, fifty boats of the size of No'ach's would not have sufficed to hold them all. In other words, even after No'ach finished constructing his boat, the fact that it contained all the animals that it did was an incredible miracle. It was a classical case of a small area holding contents that were far larger than the space itself. According to this, the footnote explains (citing Targum Unklus) when the Torah writes (in Pasuk 18/19) "And you (together with all your family and two of all the animals) will come to the boat", this is not a command, but a promise - that in spite of the small size of the boat, you will all fit into it.
That being the case, the question arises - seeing as the salvation was anyway miracle-based, why did G-d command No'ach to construct the boat in the first place? What point was there in instructing him to use a special wood (that could protect him against the floodwater), and to construct the height, the length and the breadth according to G-d's chosen specifications, and three stories high. Why trouble the poor old man to spend a hundred years of his life building something that was, at the end of the day, inadequate? If a miracle was required anyway, why not simply enable those whom G-d wished to save, to walk on the water and to live there as if there was no flood, or to walk in the air?
And he gives two answers to the question. Firstly, he explains, since G-d created a natural world, He wants the world to run along natural lines. Consequently, He expects a person to do whatever he can in a natural way, and it is only when it becomes impossible to do so that G-d intervenes with a miracle. Hence, we find T'nach full of instances where the Jewish army are commanded to go to war employing regular tactics such as ambushing the enemy (see for example Yehoshu'a 8:2), even though the final victory came about through a miracle. In other words, even where G-d performs miracles, He makes sure that that it is accompanied by our natural participation, leaving open the possibility to ascribe the victory to the supremacy of our army. Notwithstanding there are those occasions, few and far between, where G-d decided to fight the entire war single-handedly, such as the drowning of the Egyptians at the Yam-Suf, and the wiping out of the entire army of Sancheriv overnight.
The second answer he gives is so that the people would see No'ach building his boat, day in, day out, for a hundred years, and when they would ask him what he was doing, he would inform them about the impending flood, and warn them to do Teshuvah. This would prompt the people to discuss the matter, and would encourage them to do Teshuvah (see how the people of Ninveh responded to Yonah's warning of the forthcoming destruction of their city unless they repented).
Their response would then determine their future. If they decided to do Teshuvah, then No'ach's efforts would certainly have been worthwhile. And if not, then they would have been proven to be resha'im, who deserved the punishment that the Midas ha'Din would subsequently unleash upon them.
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(Adapted from the Riva)
One Amah from the Top
"And to an Amah you shall finish it from the top" (6:16);
According to the simple explanation, says the Riva, this refers to the location of the light (one Amah from the top of the wall), which immediately precedes it. As for the roof, it sloped upwards to a minimum width of one finger-breadth, as do most sloping roofs.
But according to Rashi, who explains the above Pasuk in connection with the roof (mentioned two phrases before it), asks the Riva, one Amah would have been sufficiently wide for the water to accumulate on it and seep into the boat (so what was the point of making it narrower on top)?
Interestingly, Rashi himself indicates that technically, he disagrees with the Riva.
Iyov & Avraham
" … for you I have found to be Tzadik (7:1) …"
It does not say 'a perfect Tzadik', as it does by Avraham, comments Rashi, according to those who consider No'ach on a par with Avraham (see Rashi at the beginning of the Parshah). Rashi concludes that from here we learn that one only says part of a person's praise in his presence, (as was the case by No'ach), but all of it when he is not there (as was the case by Avraham).
The Riva, citing Rebbi Mord'achai b'Rebbi Nasan, queries Rashi from a Gemara in Bava Basra, which points out that what was said by Iyov - "Ish tam ve'yoshor, yerei Elokim ve'sar me'ra" is greater than what is said by Avraham, where the Pasuk describes him merely as a yerei Elokim.
According to the above-mentioned Rashi however, the statement is meaningless, since whereas the Pasuk in connection with Avraham was said in his presence, the Pasuk in connection with Iyov was not!
The Seven Sacrifices
"From all the Kasher animals take for yourself seven, a male and its partner …" (7:2).
Specifically seven, says the Riva, corresponding to the seven altars that the Avos between them were destined to build, as Rashi (commenting on Bilam's words "I have built the seven altars …") points out in Parshas Balak.
Sending the Raven
"And he sent the raven …" (8:7).
Why, asks the Riva, did No'ach opt to send the raven of all birds, to find out whether the water had subsided?
And he answers that this was because ravens tend to eat carrion; so he figured that if any of those who died in the flood, the raven would bring back a remnant in its beak and he would know that the water had dried up.
In that case, the question remains, why did he then follow up by sending the dove, which does not eat carrion? Why did he not wait a week or whatever, and simply send the raven again?
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HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE BA'AL HA'TURIM
Not Just No'ach
"And only No'ach remained …" (7:24).
What we have here is a double exclusion, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, and a double exclusion always comes to include something.
This, he explains, is Chazal's source in saying that Og Melech ha'Bashan survived the flood too (and they even discuss as to how he managed to do so, seeing as he was not allowed to enter No'ach's boat).
Indeed, the Ba'al ha'Turim adds, the Gematriyah of "ach No'ach" is equivalent to that of 'Og'.
On the Merit of Yisrael
"And the rain stopped (vayikolei [falling]) from the sky" (8:2).
The same word "vayikolei" (and the people stopped bringing - in connecting with the gifts for the Mishkan).
This hints, says the Ba'al ha'Turim that the flood terminated only on the merit of Yisrael.
What he probably means is that if not for Yisrael, who were destined to descend from No'ach, and in whose honour the world was created in the first place, the rain would have continued to fall, until eventually, it would have gone on to destroy the entire world.
All Set for Another Task
"And he sent the raven, and it 'flew' back and forth until the water dried (ad yevoshes ha'mayim) from on the earth" (8:7).
The Gematriyah of "yevoshes" is equivalent to that of 'nachal K'ris', where Eliyahu ha'Navi was destined to hide many years later, and where ravens brought him food from the kitchens of King Ach'av.
Ha'Kadosh-Baruch-Hu said to the raven "I have prepared you for another task in the days of Eliyahu … !"
And by the same token, the letters of 'yevoshes' are the same as those as 'Tishbi' (one of the titles of Eliyahu ha'Navi).
It picked the Leaf from a Tree
"And the dove came to him in the evening, and there was a torn (torof) olive-leaf in its mouth" (8:11).
The word "toraf" also appears in Hoshei'a (6:1), where the Navi writes "For He tore us up (toraf) and He will heal us".
Just as there, the Ba'al ha'Turim explains, the word has connotations of breaking, so too here, the dove tore the from a tree (and did not merely find a torn leaf floating on the water). And that explains how No'ach knew that the water had subsided, and that the trees were now exposed.
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