SALT - Thursday, 2 Cheshvan 5780 - October 31, 2019

  • Rav David Silverberg
            We read in Parashat Noach of God’s command to Noach to construct an ark in which he and representatives of every species of animal would find refuge from the flood which God would bring upon the earth.  Many years later, after Noach complied with this command and completed the ark, just before the onset of the flood, God spoke to Noach again, instructing, “Go – you and all your household – into the ark, for I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation…” (7:1).
            Malbim observes that whereas throughout the entire narrative of the flood the Torah refers to God with the Name “Elokim,” in this verse the Torah uses the Name of “Havaya.”  The reason, Malbim suggests, lies in the different denotations of these two divine Names.  “Elokim,” he explains, refers to God as the Creator, who maintains the natural order, in the capacity of which God wanted to the world to continue even after the flood that was necessary to eliminate all living creatures on earth.  The Name of “Havaya,” by contrast, is associated with direct, personal providence, God’s protecting righteous individuals.  Malbim explains that God rescued Noach both in the capacity of “Elokim,” in order to maintain the earth which He created, but also as “Havaya” – in order to reward Noach personally for his piety.  Just before the flood, Malbim writes, God spoke to Noach with the Name “Havaya” and told him that he and his “household” may enter the ark – referring to his belongings.  If God was rescuing Noach only as “Elokim,” to preserve the earth, Noach would not have had the right to spare his clothing, his riches, his utensils, and his cattle.  And therefore, just before bringing the flood, God told Noach that he may bring his “household” onto the ark – referring to all the personal belongings that he wanted with him on the ark during the flood and wished to protect from the destruction.  Since he was saved also by virtue of his piety, and not merely because of God’s desire to preserve humanity, he was permitted to bring his belongings with him.
            This point is made by Netziv, as well, in his Ha’ameik Davar commentary to this verse.  Later (8:7), Netziv adds that the birds which Noach sent from the ark after the flood to determine whether the earth was inhabitable were birds which he had kept as pets.  After all, Netziv contends, it seems implausible that Noach would take the liberty to send out of the ark a creature which he was commanded to keep with him on the ark to preserve its species, until he received God’s authorization.  The only explanation, Netziv writes, is that Noach had brought his pet birds with him onto the ark, and when he wanted to determine whether the floodwaters had subsided, he sent these birds out to see whether they would find dry land.
            Returning to Netziv’s comments to the verse which speaks of Noach’s “household” going onto the ark, Netziv surprisingly asserts that Noach had servants whom he was permitted to bring with him onto the ark to protect them from the flood.  According to Netziv, the permission granted to Noach to bring his “household” included not only his family and belongings, but also his hired helpers.  Rav Shmuel Ha-kohen Rozovsky, writing in the journal Kovetz Beit Aharon Ve-yisrael (vol. 37, p. 119), strongly objects to this theory, noting numerous statements by Chazal to the effect that nobody but Noach and his family survived the flood (with the lone exception of Og, whom Chazal describe as having been saved by holding onto the ark), and all humankind after the flood descend from Noach.  Interestingly enough, Rav Rozovsky goes so far as to insist that this theory was not advanced by Netziv himself, and this point was incorrectly added by a student during the preparation of Netziv’s posthumously published Torah commentary.