The Flood

Oct 11, 2015

Last week’s portion reported that God was dismayed with the deterioration of mankind. He opts to wipe out His creation and start again, selecting the righteous Noah as progenitor. He commands Noah to build a three-story boat of gopher wood and fill it with animals — one male, one female of each, and seven pairs of each clean animal — as well as food for everyone. He tells Noah that He will make it rain for forty days and forty nights and flood the Earth, wiping out all life outside the ark.

 

The rain begins to fall in Noah’s six hundredth year of life. The waters fill the Earth, covering the mountaintops, and remain there for 150 days before beginning to recede. When Noah notices the water levels dropping, he sends first the raven, then the dove, to see if the land is habitable again. The raven returns from its fruitless search, but the dove brings back an olive branch, now a symbol of peace, from its first foray. On its second trip, it does not return, and Noah realizes it is safe to leave the ark. All told, the family spends one year and ten days aboard the ark.

 

Upon leaving the ark, Noah makes a thanksgiving offering, and God decides never to wipe out all life again.

 

The Sages teach that during the flood, the Land of Israel had a special status, which the Israel Bible details. Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi explains that the purpose of the flood was to purify the land, but Israel is inherently pure, and does not need such purification. Although the waters rose over the mountaintops, covering Israel as well, it did not rain there, since the purity of the Land of Israel can never be contaminated. As such, the trees there survived the flood, allowing the dove to return with its olive branch. In addition to the dove being an image of peace, it represents the Jewish nation. Just as the dove found no rest on its first foray into the world, so, too, the Jewish people will never find rest in exile. Like the dove returning to the ark, the Jews will always come back to Israel.

 

Virtual Classroom Discussion

We are told that Noah is “righteous and whole-hearted” in his generations. (Genesis 6:9) This has prompted rabbis throughout the centuries to argue over the significance of the qualification “in his generations”. What do you think this comment says about Noah’s righteousness?

 

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