Noach: Creating Bechirah

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rabbi-nosson-greenbergBy Rabbi Nosson Greenberg

In this week’s parsha we find that after the mabul Noach offered sacrifices using kosher animals and birds. Rashi, quoting chazal explains that Noach theorized that the only reason why Hashem had commanded him to bring only two pairs of non-kosher species into the ark whereas seven pairs from the kosher, was in order that after the mabul he would be able to use the excess number of the kosher species as sacrifices. But one must wonder, was this was actually Hashem’s plan for the extra kosher animals or perhaps He had a different reason for them and Noach drew the wrong conclusion? Rashi seems to be of the opinion that this was actually the ratzon –will of Hashem (see his remarks to Beraishis, 7:2). Such an opinion would explain why Hashem was very pleased with the bringing of the korbanos (Ibid 8:21) and immediately drew up a covenant with Noach together with a promise to never bring another mabul. However, the Pirkei D’rebbi Elozor seems to suggest otherwise. He says that Hashem’s plan for the plethora of kosher animals was a way of insuring that post-mabul the world would have an atmosphere of purity by being inhabited by a majority of kosher animals. (He also says that Noach only offered four sets from each kosher variety thus still keeping a majority of taharah [3:2], but it seems the saturation ratio Hashem wanted was one of 7:2). It seems, therefore, that Noach by bringing sacrifices, had gone against the ratzon Hashem. If so, why does the Torah tell us “Vayorach Hashem es ray’ach hanicho’ach” – And Hashem smelled the pleasing smell [of the sacrifices]? How could a violation of His ratzon be pleasing?

Perhaps we can suggest the following: Hashem wanted to give mankind a fighting chance of survival after the mabul by making it easier to connect with Him. So, He planned to saturate the world with taharah with an overwhelming ratio of 7:2. This would give the world such a level of purity that man, now cocooned within this rarified spiritual atmosphere, would have just a minimal struggle staying on the straight and narrow. Noach understood Hashem’s plan and realized that the future of mankind was one where spiritual life would be somewhat of a cake-walk. That also meant much less reward for man in the world-to-come.  And he rose to the occasion and started sacrificing some of the surplus kosher animals as if to say, “Ribono Shel Olam – we can do better. We do not want our relationship with You to be one of a spoon-fed variety. We want to be challenged. Yes, the world messed up before the mabul. Man then was just looking for physical gratification and could not sacrifice nor control his animalistic desires. Give us another chance, challenge us yet again, and I will try and teach my kinderlach that avodas Hashem can be achieved even in an atmosphere where taharah is not the dominant atmosphere. I will teach them that success demands much sacrifice”. And he took the kosher animals and offered them all to Hashem giving the aura of taharah back to Him, once again making the playing fields of life more even and more challenging.

And Hashem saw and understood what Noach was up to.

And it smelled great!

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Nosson Greenberg is rov of Khal Machzikei Torah of Far Rockaway, N.Y., and maggid shiur at Yeshiva of Far Rockaway.

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