October 4, 2021 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm #2012287abukspanParticipant
Classics and Beyond Noach — Taking Leave: The Ark as Both Refuge & Atonement and The Need For a Command To Leave After The Flood
וידבר אלקים אל נח לאמר:צא מן התבה אתה ואשתך ובניך ונשי בניך אתך:כל החיה אשר אתך מכל בשר בעוף ובבהמה ובכל הרמש הרמש על הארץ הוצא [היצא] אתך ושרצו בארץ ופרו ורבו על הארץ
G-d spoke to Noach, saying, “Go out of the ark: you and your wife, your sons, and your sons’ wives with you. Every living thing that is with you of all flesh, of birds, of animals, and moving things that move on the earth — have them go out with you, and they shall swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth” (Bereishis 8:15-17).
When Noach is commanded to bring the animals out of the teivah, we find a kri u’chesiv, a word that is written one way but read differently. The word is read הַיְצֵא, meaning that the living things should come out on their own, but written הוֹצֵא, implying that they should be taken out. Rashi explains that Hashem commanded Noach, “Tell them that they should come out; if they do not wish to come out, you take them out.”
A couple of questions present themselves. First, while the animals were kept safe in the teivah, they were still trapped there for an entire year, and on the outside was a fresh new world. Why would the animals want to remain inside, requiring HaKadosh Baruch Hu to issue Noach specific instructions regarding what to do if they chose to remain? Second, even if they would not want to leave, Noach would have understood on his own to take them out. Why did Hashem have to tell him the obvious?
Living things have the ability to adapt and conform to all types of difficult situations. You can coop up a person in deplorable conditions, feed him meager rations, and he will get used to it, making the best of what is clearly an imperfect situation. That is the positive side of the ability to adapt to difficult situations. Yet there is a negative side. Although given the opportunity to leave their current deplorable situation, some people would rather hold onto the slight good to be found in that situation and will therefore choose not to leave. Once having gotten used to a certain way of life, change becomes difficult to achieve.
This was the situation with the animals in Noach’s care, where all their needs were provided and they may have been “thinking” to themselves, I may be cooped up in cage, but I get fed every day and I do not have to fend for myself. As such, perhaps some animals would be dismissive of roaming free and living a normal life, and would instead choose to stay in the teivah. They would be willing to opt for the terrible conditions, with their slight benefit, rather than risking re-entering the world and normal life.
This is a lesson for all of us, and especially Noach, who was at the threshold of rebuilding. A person must think to himself, Is this the best situation for me, or is there a great wide world of better opportunity out there? Am I just staying in a prison of my own making, my personal teivah, because of fear of change?
The Torah is teaching us to constantly say, “I can do better! I can achieve more! I should not stay in my cramped quarters. I can have better relationships. I can have greater spiritual growth.”
Inasmuch as we saw a lesson from the fact that HaKadosh Baruch Hu had to command Noach to take the animals out of the teivah, there is also a lesson in the fact that Noach himself had to wait for Hashem to tell him to leave. The Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 34:4) says that just as Noach only entered the teivah after receiving permission from Hashem (Bereishis 7:1), he only left with permission (ibid. 8:16).
Why was Noach not allowed to leave without express permission from Hashem? Had he done something wrong, making his time in the teivah like a prison sentence that required a pardon in order to leave?
The time Noach spent in the teivah did indeed serve as a purification and rectification for him. When building the teivah, Hashem commanded Noach (ibid. 6:14), “Kinnim taaseh es hateivah — Make the ark with compartments.” The Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 31:9) says that just as birds, which live in nests (called kinnim), purify the metzora, the teivah (with its kinnim) was meant to purify Noach.
What connection is there between a metzora, who is commanded to live apart from society on account of his sin, and Noach, who was commanded to live in the teivah? Also, how does the purification of a metzora resemble the year Noach spent in the teivah?
Rav Baruch Yitzchak Yissachar Leventhal (Birkas Yitzchak, Noach 6) explains that Noach sinned by not reproving the people of his generation before the decree of the Flood was issued. The construction of the teivah allowed for Noach to atone for this misdeed. During the 120 years it took Noach to build the teivah, people would come over and ask him what he was doing. Noach would reply that he was building an ark to protect from the Flood, and that the only way to avoid the upcoming deluge was by repenting (Rashi 6:14). So although Noach may be faulted for not speaking up before the decree, certainly, argues Rav Leventhal, he delivered reproof all the years it took to build the teivah and in so doing atoned for his sin.
Thus, the Midrash is telling us that just as the bird purifies the metzora for his sin of chirping and chattering like a bird, so did the teivah’s construction, which was accompanied by Noach’s rebuking the people, purify him for not rebuking them earlier.
In Yalkut Yehudah, Rav Yehudah Leib Ginzburg suggests that Noach’s kapparah, which is compared to that of the metzora, took place not before the Flood, but during the year spent in the teivah. Just like the metzora is “musgar,” locked up in his house, until the Kohen gives him permission to leave, Noach was locked up in the teivah: “Vayisgor Hashem ba’ado — And Hashem closed off in front of him” (7:16), until he received permission from Hashem to leave.
While Rav Ginzburg advanced our understanding in regard to the connection between Noach and the metzora, he did not explain why Noach was punished. Rav Moshe Teitelbaum (Yismach Moshe, Noach 16:2) explains that Noach was punished for not praying for his generation, as through his prayers they could have been saved. Rav Teitelbaum cites the Midrash HaNe’elam (Zohar 254b) quoted in Yalkut HaReuveni (Bereishis 8:18), which records a dialogue between HaKadosh Baruch Hu and Noach: When Noach left the teivah and found a destroyed world, he began to cry and demanded of Hashem, “Aren’t You a merciful One? Why didn’t You have mercy on Your creations?” To this HaKadosh Baruch Hu responded, “Foolish shepherd! Now you are saying this, but when I told you I was going to bring a Mabul, you knew you would be safe in the teivah, so you didn’t daven for the rest of the world.”
By not trying to stop the Flood through tefillah, Noach demonstrated a lack of concern for the inhabitants of the world. As Rav Teitelbaum writes, by not advocating for humankind and thus, to an extent, agreeing with the mekatreg, the prosecutor, it was like he himself was prosecuting against them. That is why the Flood is called “mei Noach — the waters of Noach” (Yeshayahu 54:9), because he was, in a way, to blame for it.
This explains the Midrash that says that just as the birds purify the metzora, so did the teivah purify Noach. The sin that connects the metzora to Noach is the act of prosecuting against mankind. This can come about through actively speaking lashon hara, as in the case of the metzora, or failing to speak up in their defense, as in the case of Noach.
Finally, writes Rav Teitelbaum, the punishment of being banished to the teivah was one of middah k’neged middah, measure for measure. This can be compared to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who had to return to the cave in which he had hidden for an additional twelve months, for not showing compassion toward the inhabitants of the world (Shabbos 33b). Similarly, Noach had to remain in the teivah for twelve months for not showing compassion. Since Rabbi Shimon and Noach did not have mercy on the people of the world, middah k’neged middah, they were not be able to see the world for twelve months: one in a cave, and one in a teivah.
Perhaps we can suggest another way to explain how Noach’s time in the teivah was commensurate with his sin. Since Noach isolated himself all those years by choosing not to go out and give reproof, now he was required to sit in isolation (in the ark) as a means of atonement.
I believe there is yet another way to explain Noach’s need to be purified like a metzora. The Zohar (Vayikra 46b; see Metzora, Two Chirping Birds, in this volume) says that the two birds brought by the metzora allude to two types of crimes connected to improper speech. There is the bad and forbidden speech, represented by the bird that is killed. There is also the withholding of necessary and good speech, represented by the second bird that goes free. The Zohar says that a person is punished for engaging in improper speech and also for withholding proper speech. Noach had the opportunity to speak words of reproof and also to daven for the people of his generation, both examples of proper speech. Yet he chose to keep his mouth closed and thus needed the reminder of the birds, to see the harm caused by not using speech properly.
Since his time in the teivah was a form of punishment, it is clear why he had to wait for the go-ahead to leave his place of confinement.October 5, 2021 9:30 am at 9:30 am #2012395Reb EliezerParticipant
Noach had to earn his keep by staying in the teiva and feeding the animals as Yosef was a tzadik through feeding his family.October 6, 2021 1:29 am at 1:29 am #2012726Always_Ask_QuestionsParticipant
> when I told you I was going to bring a Mabul, you knew you would be safe in the teivah, so you didn’t daven for the rest of the world
interesting, this sounds more Lubavich than Satmar. We are, indeed, are all in the same boat.October 6, 2021 9:45 am at 9:45 am #2012822Reb EliezerParticipant
AAQ, the Midrash says, just that, one boring a hole under his seat sinks the whole boat.
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.