Noach 5779

Creating love towards another[1]

ואתה קח לך מכל מאכל אשר יאכל ואספת אליך והיה לך ולהם לאכלה
You shall take for yourself from all the food that will be eaten, and gather it to you, and it will be for you and for them for consumption[2]

As part of Noach’s preparations for the impending flood, Hashem commanded him to gather all the necessary provisions for his family’s yearlong[3] stay in the ark. They would not only themselves need to eat, there was also a need for food for all the animals that were with them in the ark. Some suggest[4] that the seemingly extraneous word לך, “for yourself”, is really meant to be understood as “from yourself”. That is, all the food gathered must be Noach’s own expense[5]. All the food had to be his. This command was so Noach wouldn’t think that he could take food away from other people. He may have thought it was permissible, as they were anyways going to die in the flood. It had to be specifically his own. However, there are many problems with this interpretation.

How could Hashem suspect Noach of stealing from other people[6]? Just because they were going to die, that’s no permit to steal from them. Noach is described by Hashem Himself as a pure, righteous one[7]. Thievery is hardly righteous behavior. Furthermore, how could Hashem suspect Noach of assuming everyone will die? The verse tells us that Noach didn’t go into the ark until the waters forced him[8]. We are taught[9] that this is because Noach didn’t think the flood would actually occur, as he hoped everyone would repent[10]. Hashem Himself was even hopeful the people would eventually repent[11]. All this makes it very difficult to say that Hashem had to command Noach against stealing from his neighbors. Why then did Hashem command Noach to specifically gather his own food for the flood[12]?

There are many sources[13] which teach us how a person can create feelings of love towards another. The formula is simple: perform acts of kindness for them. If a person not only strives towards this, but even suffers while doing so, they will create even more intense feelings of love. A classic example of this is a woman who undergoes childbirth. Since she struggled to bear this child to delivery, her love for her child is very intense right from the beginning. It could be that this psychological insight was the impetus for Hashem to command Noach to gather specifically his own food. For there to have been enough food in the ark for his family and all of the animals[14], he would have had to use all of his resources. He would have had to sell everything he owned in order to acquire the requisite food. This tremendous sacrifice would have instilled great feelings of love towards the animals. But why did Hashem want Noach to have this love?

We are taught that Noach, his family, and the animals, were in the ark for an entire year[15]. Noach and his family knew no rest during that entire time, as they had to feed all of the animals[16]. Some animals would eat only at a certain hour, and others a different one. They needed round-the-clock care. In order to maintain their existence for posterity, Noach had to give them their required nourishment. This was an endless job, which would have taken its toll. In fact, Noach suffered physically during his mission[17]. Any normal person would have given up this task pretty quickly. Hashem, not wanting any species to go extinct, ensured that Noach would be filled with compassion and love for these animals. Since Noach, before the flood started, made great sacrifices for these animals, it guaranteed that he would be faithful in his mission to feed them. In the end, this strategy proved quite successful.

Good Shabbos


[1] Based on Sichos Mussar § 6

[2] Genesis 6:21

[3] Bereishis Rabbah 33:7, brought by Rashi to Genesis 8:14

[4] Kli Yakar ad. loc.

[5] Similar to לכם by the arbah minim means you must own them (Leviticus 23:40 and Sukkah 27b)

[6] Stealing is forbidden also to benei Noach (Sanhedrin 56a; Mishneh Torah Hilchos Melachim 9:9). Further, the entire flood was decreed due to the thievery of mankind (Sanhedrin 108a, brought by Rashi to Genesis 6:13). Noach’s salvation implies his righteousness in this regard

[7] Genesis 6:9

[8] Ibid 7:7

[9] Rashi ad. loc.

[10] See for more on this topic

[11] See Genesis 7:12 with Rashi

[12] The Kli Yakar himself suggests that it was to greaten the miracle of the salvation, as there was no way for Noach to have enough food on his own to survive for twelve months. The food lasting so long would then also be a miracle

[13] Derech Eretz Zutah 2:9; Vayikra Rabbah 34:8, Ruth Rabbah 5:9; Orchos Tzaddikim Sha’ar HaAhavah. A source more contemporary with Sichos Mussar which discusses this idea is Rav Dessler’s Kuntres HaChessed, Chapters 4-6, found in Michtav MeEliyahu I pp. 35 – 39

[14] As mentioned in note 11, there wasn’t even enough in the end. The food lasted through a miracle

[15] See note 3

[16] Midrash Tanchuma Noach § 9

[17] Ibid, Tanchuma Yashan § 3, both brought by Rashi to Genesis 7:23. See also Torah Sheleimah ad. loc. § 110