By Rabbi Y Dov Krakowski
This week’s Sedra gives the account of the Mabul (the Flood), of how Hashem destroyed the then existing world – with the exception of Noach, his family, and of a male and female from each of the animals to regenerate after the Flood. Hashem saved them by sending them all into an Ark (Teiva) that He had commanded Noach to build for the purpose of shelter during the Mabul.
The Torah tells us that Hashem remembered “Noach and all the beasts and all the animals that were with him” in the Teiva after 150 days. This is given as the reason as to why Hashem caused the waters to settle and then to recede. The Passuk insinuates that Hashem only allowed the waters to recede for the sake of Noach and the beasts and the animals that were with him. What would have happened had Noach not been in the picture? Would Hashem have let the water stay forever? Would Hashem not start the world anew? Furthermore, the text states “Noach and all the beasts and all the animals that were with him.” We could have understood had the text said that this was being done for Noach’s sake since he was a righteous man. The animals, however, were being saved simply for procreation. Why does the Torah make it sound as though Hashem wanted to release the animals from the Ark because He had some sort of Rachmanus on them?
Without this Passuk the assumption would be that after Hashem had destroyed the entire world and wiped out all of the living aside from those aboard the Teiva – that indeed Hashem would allow for the waters to recede and for those aboard the Teiva to emerge to start a new beginning not so much so for their sake but for the sake of starting the world anew. Noach may have been the man chosen to be saved for his virtuousness. From the fact that there were at least two of every animal saved, however, it was quite evident that the purpose in saving man was in order for the world to have a fresh beginning without having to be recreated.
The Targum Yonoson strengthens our questions by adding in a few words in his translation of the Passuk. The Targum Yonoson explains that Hashem mentioned Noach and all the animals with him, and Hashem had mercy on the land. It seems that Noach and his animals were the entire reason for the mercy on the land, but were the animals really a reason to have mercy on the land?
It may be true that it was necessary for some people to have been saved. What is of importance, however, is that the Passuk still stresses the importance of Noach, and even of the animals that were with him in the Ark. What is being stressed is that Hashem remembered the importance of every living thing aboard the Teiva, and that their remembrance alone was sufficient to necessitate the waters to recede. It may be true that Noach and all aboard were Shluchei Makom – Divine Emissaries, yet nonetheless they were individuals with individual significance. Hashem didn’t view these Shluchei Makom as merely His pawns; rather He marked each one with his own individual importance.
If Hashem tagged all the animals aboard the Teiva with their own individual importance then Hashem certainly tags each and every one of us with that individual importance. While in life we may function as Shluchei Makom to carry out Hashem’s Master Agenda we still nonetheless at all times maintain that level of individual importance. Thus everything that happens to us is just – just for us.
If Hashem, while in the midst of using even animals as Shluchei Makom treats them with regard, then we must always make sure to treat all others no matter where they fit into our agenda with such respect. We may never use other human beings, and more particularly our fellow Jews as tools or human pawns.A Very Warm Good Shabbos, Rabbi Y. Dov Krakowski