One of the great things about learning Torah is that one can always find new ideas and insights and develop a more fuller understanding, even on the same topic or from the same sources. This year, I noticed several more sources and ideas on the topic which we wrote about last year for parshas Noach, and so we shall add too, correct, and generally improve what we wrote last year. Anyone who is upset that we’re writing about the same topic as last year can have their money back! Here goes…
After forty days and forty nights of solid rain, and much longer for the earth to dry and reach normal water levels, Noach has seen that the dove is not returning, and so Noach knows that the land is now dry. He takes off the cover of the ark and knows it for himself. HaShem tells him to ‘go out of the ark’ (8;16) and Noach obeys orders and steps out onto land. The question to be asked here, however, is why did Noach need to wait for HaShem to command him to leave the ark - the ark was a means to survive the flood and thus once the flood was over, the natural thing to do would be to disembark. We ca bring a modern-day analogy…Picture the scene; you have landed at Ben Gurion Airport thirty minutes ago, and are waiting in the stationary airplane next to the terminal with the aircraft doors open…

and everyone is sitting there patiently waiting for the air stewardess to tell people that it’s ok to undo seatbelts and get off the plane. It just doesn’t happen! Once people realise that the journey has come to an end and there is no point of sitting still, they stand up and start moving around, and certainly if they could open the doors and exit themselves they would do so. Why did Noah wait for a command to disembark?
Let’s begin with an introduction. Any punishment that HaShem gives is not merely a forceful smack-on-the-bottom repercussion of having sinned, but is rather aimed at correcting the sin and is related to it [middah keneged middah; measure for measure]. The punishment or test is hand-picked to match the sin committed. There are numerous demonstrations of this. The Brisker Rav on parshas Yisro discusses the punishments of Iyov and Bilam and how they were related to their sins, and I heard Rav Moshe Shapira speak about how the earth swallowing up Korach was related to his sin. A corollary of this point is that one can receive reward for having learnt the correct lesson from the punishment. For example, Shimshon asked HaShem for the merit of one of his eyes that were poked out, despite the fact that the eyes being poked out were a punishment for running after Delilah’s physical beauty. How could he ask for reward for the punishment of a sin? Precisely because Shimshon was asking for the reward for having successfully gained from internalising the punishment and its lessons.[1] The bottom line is that punishments are related to the sin, and are in order that we should learn not to repeat the sin, better ourselves, and the punishment atones for the sin. And the same is true for tests in life; they are aimed to strengthen a specific point of one’s nature.
Let’s apply this to Noach. There are several sources which compare Noach and Avraham Avinu, finding Avraham as spiritually superior to Noach. Thus, whilst the ten generations from Adam until Noach ended with flood, the subsequent ten generations ended with Avraham Avinu getting their merit. (Pirkei Avos 5;2-3). In what way was Avraham Avinu more meritorious than Noach? Chazal[2] tell us that the principal distinction is that whilst Noach was content with his personal spirituality (‘noach’ means contentment/comfortable), Avraham went and recruited for ‘HaShem’s army’ - he was an av hamon goyim (father of many nations[3]) and called out to them in the name of HaShem. In short, Avraham was a man of chessed and shared his physical and spiritual tools with anybody he could, whilst Noach did not over-busy himself with aiding the world in its spiritual plight.
Consequently, HaShem set up the ark as the perfect trial for Noach to be put into in order to fully develop into an ish chesed. For the ark miraculously contained animals of all species, which Noach had to feed day and night. It was a twenty four-hour a day intensive chesed course! In fact, Rashi quotes[4] that once Noach fed the lion a bit too late and it bit him. So the ark was not merely a vehicle to prevent Noach drowning; HaShem could have given Noach and selected animals a special gift of a fish respiratory system to survive the flood like the fish did. Rather, the ark was a vehicle to ensure that Noach was to correct his trait of chessed, of focussing on and of giving to others. In the bigger picture, the ark was the means of sowing the seeds to create a new world based on a pillar of chesed, which Noach was going to take centre stage in (olam chesed yibaneh).
This is why at the end of the flood when the land was visible and the water had dried, Noach had to wait for HaShem’s command to exit the ark. Though the flood was over, what was to say the chesed course had finished? And so Noach waited for HaShem to say ‘go out, the course has finished.’ Perhaps the source for this explanation is the midrash rabbah,[5] which says that Noach is praised for not leaving the ark until told to do so by HaShem. Why the praise; one doesn’t need to wait for HaShem’s command to do something obvious - Noach didn’t wait for HaShem’s command to breathe?! The explanation is that Noach waiting for HaShem’s command before disembarking showed that Noach understood that his time in the ark was a chesed course and that is why he waited for HaShem’s command to leave, for that signalled that the course was over, as we said above.[6]
Now all this is beautiful (don’t you think so?!), but there is a glaringly obvious question which I only realised this year. If Noach realised that the ark was a chesed course and that the culmination of this course was not dependent upon the waters subsisting whatsoever, then why did he send out the dove and the raven to check if the flood had ended; this had no bearing on the time he would leave the ark?
To this question we shall present three answers. The first answer is that Noach knew that the flood was tailor-made to last the duration of time needed for Noach to perfect his trait of chesed inside the ark, assuming he utilised his time and opportunity correctly. Thus, Noach sent the birds to find out if the flood (and so too the chesed course) was coming to an end. Yet after the flood had ended, he still waited for HaShem to command him to leave the ark, just in case Noach had not worked well enough on chesed and needed to spend more time in the ark.
The second answer is to discard what we said above; perhaps Noach did not know the full extent of the fact that his time in the ark was to perfect his trait of chesed (see note 6), though the circumstances forced him to develop this trait anyway. And he sent the birds to see when the flood was over, knowing that the end of the flood would mean his departure from the ark. So HaShem’s command ‘go out of the ark’ has a different explanation. HaShem was telling Noach to make sure that he takes everything that he had learnt and internally developed in the ark and use it in the new outside world. Our third answer is simply another midrash rabbah,[7] which reveals that Noach refused to leave the ark, for he was afraid that any children he would have would be destroyed in another flood, until HaShem promised Noach that he would not bring a flood to the world again. Thus, the command to ‘go out of the ark’ was an assurance of introduction to the following psukim (8;21, 9;11) which promised not to bring such widespread destruction/flood to the world again.
It is the second answer which is the easiest to take a message from. I remember being told[8] in yeshiva that yeshiva is an ark wherein one develops themselves, but there comes a time to leave yeshiva - a time where we go out of the ark, ie that we make sure that we take the development and inspiration with us into the ‘outside’ world. But we can extent this analogy. Everyone has periods in their life which are mini-arks; moments of inspiration or religious commitment. Our challenge is to take something out of that ark; to keep alive that spark and use it when they have left the ark. This is particularly apt for the new month of Cheshvan - a ‘plain’ month empty of festivals, but a month to put into practice all the fervour and commitment of the festivals of Tishrei.
Have a great Shabbes,

[1] Rabbi Frand. The same applies to the midrash (quoted in Rashi Vayikra 14;34) which says that when we destroy our houses due to the tzara’as we will find treasure underneath; the reward is for learning from the punishment.
[2] Sforno Bereishis 6;8. Perhaps the cause of this is (Rashi 6;9) that whilst Noach needed prompting/supporting by HaShem, Avraham’s tzidkus was strong enough to stand up by itself. Someone who has strong emunah calls out to others to follow suit, whilst someone whose righteousness needs strengthening/supporting will find this harder.
[3] Gemarra Brachos 13a
[4] Rashi Bereishis 7;23
[5] Midrash Rabbah Parshas Noach 34;2, using the Peirush Maharzu there
[6] At this point I was also going to suggest the same explanation for the next section of the Midrash Rabbah (34;3) and Midrash Yalkut Shimoni, which praises Noach for saying ‘just like I entered the ark only with HaShem’s permission so too will I only leave with HaShem’s permission.’ Why does this follow; Noach had to be told to enter the ark because the flood was coming; why should that make him wait for HaShem’s permission to leave the ark? Rather, since Noach understood the ark as a chesed course, the invitation to enter the ark was the sign that the course had started and so waited for permission to leave as the sign that the course had ended. However, I then saw the Midrash Tanchuma parshas Noach 10, which says that when king Nebuchadnezar had Chanania Mishael and Azariah thrown into the fire and they survived unscathed, they refused to get out of the fire until the king had ordered them to be able to leave. Why? The Midrash says that they learnt this from Noach, who said ‘just as I entered the ark with HaShem’s permission so will I only leave with His permission,’ and they applied this to king Nubuchadnezar ordering them into the fire; they’d only leave with his permission. Now, if Noach’s reasoning was only because the ark was a chesed course, this doesn’t apply to Chanania and co’s situation whatsoever - the fire was not a chesed course! Perhaps the same could apply if one said that the fire was the test of their eumnah. But this is not the place to dwell on this Midrash.
[7] Midrash Rabbah parshas Noach 34;6
[8] Rav Shishar, Deputy Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Hakotel


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