Testing the Waters – Our Responsibility to the World

by | Oct 30, 2006 | 0 comments

Noach was responsible for the whole world!

As the flood subsided Noach faced an awesome responsibility.

The entire future of the world was on his ship. If he docks his boat too early the future may be lost.

At the end of the fortieth day Noah opened the window to his ark and sent out a raven. He wanted to see if the world was ready. The raven “kept going and returning until the waters dried from the Earth”.

Unsatisfied with the results he sent out a dove to see if the waters had subsided. The dove came back. He waited another seven days and again sent out the dove from the Ark. “The dove came back to him in the evening – and behold! An olive leaf it had plucked with its bill! And Noach knew that the waters had subsided from upon the Earth.”

Still unsatisfied with the results Noach waited another seven days and sent the dove out again. “And it did not return to him anymore.”

“G-d spoke to Noach saying, Go forth from the Ark”

Noach’s behavior is puzzling. Noach conducted extensive testing to learn whether the Earth was dry enough for landing. He did the raven test and then the dove test. It became clear that the Earth was dry, yet, Noach didn’t budge. He waited for the word from above. Only when G-d said, ‘Go forth from the Ark…’ did Noach make his move to dock and unload the future of world history!

There is a deep lesson to be learnt.

A search through the Torah gives the raven mixed reviews. (See Reb Tzadok HaKohein Likutei Mamarim pg 63) On the one hand the ravens miraculously fed Elijah the Prophet during his very difficult time on Mt. Carmel. On the other hand the Talmud teaches that ravens hurt their young and can be ruthless. The raven fends for itself and knows how to survive under the worst of circumstances.

The dove is a bird of purity. (ibid Kometz HaMinchah pg 16). The Jewish people are compared to a dove.

When the raven didn’t return Noach understood that there was a possibility for survival but only for a raven. Anyone who was fit enough, ruthless enough and persistent enough would make it in the world. Noach wasn’t satisfied.

He then sent out the dove. The Midrash (B”R 33) reveals that the dove flew all the way to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem and plucked a branch from an olive tree. When Noach saw the dove return with the olive branch in his beak he knew that Jerusalem would survive and the Jews would have a future. He still wasn’t satisfied.

Noach was responsible for the whole world! Not just the survivalist, not just the Jews, but the entire world had to survive. Noach was the first universalist.

It wasn’t until G-d said, ‘Go forth from the Ark…’ did Noach feel that he fulfilled his responsibility.

Our responsibility.

We can be like the raven and look out for ourselves and our immediate surroundings.
We can be like the dove and guard the welfare of our people and the Land which G-d gave us.
We can be G-dly and be concerned with the welfare of the whole world. Noach waited for the word of G-d.

We pray for a time that “no nation will rise up against another nation” and there will be peace and safety in the entire world. Speedily in our days!

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Rabbi Yaacov Haber has been a leading force in Jewish community and Jewish education for over forty years. He lived and taught in the United States, Australia and in Israel. He is presently the Rav of Kehillas Shivtei Yeshurun, a vibrant community in the center of Ramat Bet Shemesh, Israel, and serves as the Rabbinic guide to many of its wonderful organisations.


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