© 2017 by Rabbi Zvi Aviner
BLOODSHED-9/Noah’s Ark and its Moral Messages
Noah’s Ark is a central symbol for Noahides. It is often misunderstood. You can see the Ark depicted on ‘biblical children books’ as a boat loaded with grinning animals standing by a pleasant, bearded old man with rainbow over his head. The Ark itself has no significance.
But in the Torah’s eyes, the Ark conveys an important message of its own.
ELoKiM’s Instructions to Noah
ELoKiM gave Noah TEN instructions to save himself from the coming Flood:
1. Make yourself an Ark
of hollow gofer canes
Make the Ark of enclosure for animals,
And cover it inside and out with a pitch…” (Genesis 6: 14)
ELoHiM could have saved Noah in a miraculous way. He could have created a bubble around him, or lift him up above the clouds or perform any other miracle.
Instead, ELoKiM orders Noah to build himself a smart, floating Ark, using a scientifically-sound formula. ELoKiM, the CREATOR of Nature, wants Noah to save himself in a natural, logic way.
How scientifically sound was the Ark?
2: Make it out of hollow gofer canes
ELoKiM’s advises Noah to use water proof canes.
3: Build it along a formula
Moreover, ELoKiM gives Noah the precise dimensions of the Ark:
and the breadth of it fifty cubits,
and the height of it thirty cubits.” (Genesis 6: 15)
The Ark was built along a smart formula:
Its breadth was one sixth of its length,
Its height was one tenth of its length.
The rabbis observed that many people built their arks along these dimensions, and their arks never capsized.
4: Make it a pyramidal Ark
and to a cubit shall you finish it above.” (Genesis 6:16)
Unlike what you see depicted on popular Bible stories, the Ark was not a boat or a ship. It was no supposed to go anywhere, just to stay afloat. It had neither front nor back, neither deck nor sail. The Hebrew word for Ark, teiva, refers to a box. According to the text, Noah’s teiva had a rectangular base, 300x 50 square foot dimensions.
But as the verse describes, the rectangular base had four walls that culminated in a small square-foot window at the top. Hence, the Ark MUST have had a pyramidal shape (Talmud.) Its four slanted walls washed off the heavy rain into the sea. When loaded, its center of gravity was below the water-surface so that it did not capsize (Ibn Ezrah). It was indeed a smart, scientifically sound floating device.
The Midrash says that in order to add stability, Noah attached four large boards to the Ark’s four sides. The area that they covered was large, as the size of “the Sea of the Galilee between Tiberia and the Jordan River” (Talmud,) which is several city blocks large!
5. A square foot Window at the Ceiling
The word ‘Tzohar ‘refers to a window in the ceiling; an outlet for the heat and a way of ventilation. It is another feature of the Ark’s scientifically sound design. (there are other, kabalistic meanings to the Tzohar, which are beyond the scope of our classes.)
6. Three Floors
ELoKiM continues His instructions to Noah:
with lower, second and third stories shall you make it.” (Genesis 6: 16)
The Ark had three floors: (1) The one at the bottom, for storage (2) the middle, for the animal’s residence (3) the top, for human dwelling.
It represented our world: the material and vegetation at the bottom, the living creatures in the middle, Mankind at the top.
A door for entrance
The trivial details of the Ark, even its door, only emphasize the natural character of the Ark by which ELoKiM wished Noah to save himself.
Water proof cover
Again, ELoKiM told Noah to protect the Ark in a natural way: coat it by water-proof gofer.
An inspiration for the ancient Egyptians Inscriptions on walls of the Egyptian Pyramids explain that they were built to “help the deceased’s soul to float over the river of time.” Since the person Egypt was Noah’s grandson, there is no wonder that the Egyptians retained the memories of Noah’s Pyramidal Ark, though that memory was corrupted by their idolatry.
7: Enter the Ark
and your wife and your son’s wives with you.” (Genesis 6: 17)
While ordering Noah and his family to enter the Ark, ELoKiM addressed “Noah and his sons” and “his wife and his son’s wives,” so that they would enter the Ark apart, separated. Hence, He forbade on them any marital relationship during the Flood. They should have no pleasure and joy, while their fellowmen perish outside; a lesson for posterity. Interestingly, it is not YHVH who orders sympathy for suffering people. It is rather ELKM who orders it, as a Law.
Preserve the Species
ELoHiM then addresses the saving of the animals:
males and females they will be…” (Genesis 6: 19)
ELoKiM obliges Noah, or Mankind, to save the species on Earth. A message for us, for posterity.
so that it shall be for food for you and them.” (Genesis 6: 21)
ELoKiM did not shower Manna on Noah inside the Ark. Instead, He ordered Noah to feed the animals and himself by natural food.
A note: as we’ll see, the Ark also stands for the extension of the Eternal Sabbath into our world. ELKM wants Noah to PREPARE and PROVIDE for the Sabbath, a major principle in our observing the weekly Sabbath.
The righteous Noah complied with ELoKiM
As ELoKiM ended His instructions, the Torah says:
The Torah spears no effort to say that Noah fully complied with ELoKiM. It fits Noah righteousness, as it says “Noah was a righteous man; with ELoKiM Noah walked.”
Had he followed MERCY only, he wouldn’t be saved.
The right usage of science
ELoKiM, the CREATOR of Nature, instructed Noah to save himself and his family FIRST OF All by a smart, scientifically sound floating device. But that wasn’t enough.
Once ELoKiM had spoken, YHVH stepped in to tell Noah Her perspectives how to save him.
The moral message is clear. When we face a calamity, a disease, a catastrophe, we need to seek a logical solution first. It is not true that we should only pray and wait for miracles to happen. Thus, we should seek medical advice, scientific advice and natural ways to solve our problem. Seeking such solution is NOT a rebellion against G-d, as some other religions teach.
YHVH’s Instructions to Noah
As ELKM spoke, YHVH stepped in, giving Noah Her advices to save himself.
1: YHVH’S Invitation
come in you and all your households to the Ark,
For I’ve seen you righteous before me in this generation.” (Genesis 7:1)
YHVH starts where ELKM has finished. She too tells Noah to enter the Ark, with the animals.
But there is an important difference:
Whereas ELoKiM has said “Noah, go to the Ark,” go there…
YHVH says: ”come into’ the Ark, come in, I am Waiting for you.
The rabbis said: YHVH speaks like “the woman of the house,’ who invites her ‘guest’ Noah to come in.
It fits: we’ve always treated the Attribute of MERCY YHVH as a BRIDE, who enters ELKM world.
Now the BRIDE is already in control of the house, of Noah’s Ark.
Why was She inside? Earlier we’ve learned that YHVH was “saddened to her heart” by Man’s evil heart. She retracted in sadness b from the world, not to Her Sabbath, but rather into Noah’s Ark. She did not leave our world completely in the Hands of ELKM. She was still exercising Her Mercy in this world, but only in Noah’s Ark (Midrash.
ELoKiM would bring the Flood outside the Ark,
While YHVH would protect Noah inside the Ark.
Noah’s Ark in fact was equivalent to Moses’ Holy Ark (Zohar.)
The Shechinah of YHVH dwelled in both: in Noah’s Ark, and in Moses’ Holy Ark.
Noah’s Ark as the Sabbath
The Eternal Sabbath is a Day when ELoKiM would cease (abstain) His Work, cease His judgment, and where YHVH would reign awesomely alone. The Eternal Sabbath is a Day that knows neither sickness nor death.
Noah’s Ark had similar features to the Eternal Sabbath: the wolf did not prey on the lamb, and a child played safely on the snake’s pit; an inspiration for the prophets of Israel.
In In Moses Holy Ark there was no decay. Any item placed there lasts forever. Thus, the Manna that Moses placed in it remained fresh for generations. So was Aaron’s staff. And so is the Tree of Life that Moses used to make a wood handle to the Torah scroll he wrote and gave to Israel. As long as Israel keeps the Torah, Israel lives forever.
2: Do not fall in love with me
Surprisingly, YHVH now says:
YHVH uses the term ‘righteous,’ which is ELoKiM’s verdict.
Why would the ‘Woman of the House’ use the Husband’s vocabulary?
The rabbis said: To remind Noah of the Groom EloKiM outside the door!
In other words: She was saying to Noah, do not fall in love with me. Do not forget the JUDGE ELoKiM outside. Do not fall into the trap of Enosh!
It is easy to fall in Love with MERCY. It is easy to feel Her warmth around and inside us. And it is very easy to forget ELoKiM and say that His Laws are abrogated. Hence the warning: Do Not Forger My Groom!
3: Bring samples of Seven from special species.
and of animals that are not clean by twos, male and female,
to keep seed alive upon the face of the Earth…” (Genesis 7:2-3)
Unlike ELoKiM, YHVH is NOT concerned about the preservation of the species. This She would leave to ELoKiM. Instead, She ordered Noah to bring certain species in seven samples. Why?
Noah himself wondered about that. Later we’ll see that he took one of each of these pure species and offered them to YHVH.
In fact, these very pure species would become what we call today ‘kosher meat.’
In YHVH’s eyes, all meat should NOT be consume, APART from these few ‘kosher’ species. Moreover, unless the slaughtering was done like Noah did, in a very human, painless way.
4: Pray to me
The Hebrew word for ‘window in the ceiling,’ Tzohar, also means ‘word.’ YHVH therefore invites Noah to pray inside the Ark. Science is crucial and important, yet it would not work FOR GOOD without accompanying prayer.
Noah complied with YHVH
YHVH had commanded him’ (Genesis 7: 5)
The Torah does not spare words to tell us again, that Noah abided by both, YHVH and ELoKiM in ONENESS. Without this he wouldn’t be saved.
And YHVH shut the door for-whom?
The rain stsrted, and Noah and his company entered the Ark “as ELoKiM had ordered him” (Genesis 7:16).
Closed for whom?
(a) Shut the Door for ELoKiM
Imagine the drama! ELoKiM executed the harsh verdict outside, while YHVH protected Noah and his family inside.
(b) YHVH shut the door for Noah!
Another interpretation: YHVH ‘shut the door’ for Noah! He tried hard to open it for his family and friends, but YHVH did not allow. Tradition says that Naama’s twin sister, the Demon Naama. Aspired too to be saved by the Ark, but was rejected by YHVH. She knocked on their door, but then was carried away by the gushing waters. Legend tells that she did not perish by the waters but rather was washed away. She still appears in our “wet, sexual dreams” (Zohar.)
(c) YHVH Shut the door for the wicked ones
Another interpretation: YHVH rejected the wicked people who tried to enter by force; by surrounding the Ark with ‘ferocious animals,’ or by ‘darkening the day’ so that they could not find the door.
(d) YHVH shut the door for the Angel of Death
YHVH made the Ark ‘invisible’ to the Angel of Death.
We should seek science to solve our troubles,
but only by prayer we might merit to have a to have a GOOD OUTCOME.