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Burst of Inspiration

6. The Ark that Noach Built


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If Hashem determines every outcome, we have to understand our role in the equation, what’s our part? And Rabeinu Bachaye says you can look in the Torah in one place and very clearly see what our role in the equation is. He explains, if you read the parashah (Torah portion) of Noach, there is a very clear description of the dimensions of the teivah (ark). Three hundred amos (cubits) long, 50 amos wide, 30 amos tall. Asks Rabeinu Bachaye, what do we, thousands of years later, need to know the exact dimensions of this ark that Noach built? Explains Rabeinu Bachaye that the Torah is teaching us a fundamental principle. And that is that if you do the math you’ll quickly see that such a boat cannot possibly hold all of the animals in creation.

Let’s assume an amah is about two feet. So the ark was 600 feet long, 100 feet wide, maybe 60 feet tall. If you think about the rhinos, the hippos, the cows, all the animals, you’ll quickly see that 50 such teivahs could not possibly house all the animals in creation. The Bronx Zoo is on some 265 acres and they don’t have anywhere near all the animals in creation.

Explains Rabeinu Bachaye, if you look at the dimensions of this teivah you’ll quickly understand that Hashem was commanding Noach in a tremendous miracle. Bring in these animals, even though you know fully well that they’ll never fit into such a small area. Bring them in and there will be I guess a miniaturization process. The huge elephants will become smaller; the rhinos will somehow fit in. Hashem was commanding Noach to build a teivah while Noach was fully aware that there would be a tremendous miracle. And explains Rabeinu Bachaye that’s what the Torah is teaching us. The Torah is teaching us that Hashem commanded Noach to do as much as he can in the derech hateva (way of nature), because only when a person has exhausted the way of nature is he allowed to rely on a miracle.

Meaning to say, Hashem said to Noach to build a teivah large enough to house all the animals in creation is well beyond one human being’s capacity. On the other hand, you can’t not do anything. Do as much as you can. About 100 amos long, about 50 amos wide, that’s as much as we could expect a human being to do. Explains Rabeinu Bachaye, the Torah is teaching us the dimensions to teach us this concept, that a person is obligated to go in the derech hateva. Only once a person has fully exhausted the ways of nature then he is allowed to rely on the neis (miracle), Hashem’s involvement. But explains Rabeinu Bachaye this is a principle in the entire Torah. The Torah obligates us to use the world in the ways of the world, only then are we allowed to rely on Hashem coming in and filling in the rest.

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