Parshas Noach – The Dove and Raven

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The end of the Mabul is when HaShem commands Noach to leave the Teivah. But Noach desires to know when the waters have receded and the land is dry. Just as when the world was created, the waters needed to be contained and the dry land appear, so too by the Mabul this process needed to take place. He first sends out the raven and then the dove. Both are sent to ascertain the status of the world. What needs clarification is the purpose of the birds.

The raven and dove represent opposites in many ways. One of them is that the dove is completely loyal to its spouse. Chazal teach that the dove will never take another spouse, even after the death of its first spouse. That is why the relationship between Klal Yisroel and HaShem is described as the relationship between a pair of doves.

The raven on the other hand has no concept of family at all. When Noach sends it out, it refuses. Chazal explain[1] because it thinks that Noach has designs on its mate. That may be because it doubts the fealty of its mate. This same idea is found in the reason why it is cruel to its children[2]. It thinks that its mate has strayed, and these are not really its children. Even though there is reason he should think that, since they appear different; but this doubt in its mind, is a sign of a lack of faithfulness.

But the raven on the surface shows what seems to be an overwhelming connection to its mate. It is one of the creations that had relations on the Teivah[3]. Even though HaShem commanded that this should be suspended, they did not refrain. What do we learn from this?

The Maharal explains[4] that the raven is not part of the world’s order. It is cruel to its own children. Its entire existence represents being egotistical and self-centered. A creation like that contradicts the purpose of the world. The world was created through Chesed. One who is completely self-centered is not part of this interconnected world of Chesed. Even though it seems to have a relationship with its spouse, this is not about the connection, but about its own desires. Therefore, the raven thinks that the same is true of everyone else, and can suspect Noach of desire.

The dove is the opposite. Its relationship is not about itself, but about the couple. The proof being that when its mate dies, it does not try to find satisfaction with someone else, but views itself as incomplete forever.

One of the reasons for the destruction of the generation of the Mabul was its licentiousness. As Rashi brings from Chazal[5], the punishment of the Mabul was forty days of a deluge of rain, corresponding to the beginning of the conception of a child. They ‘forced’ HaShem to create unwanted fetuses ‘against His will’. The idea is that what is meant to be an act of Chesed and creation, is used in the opposite way. Instead of being a partner with HaShem, we are coercing Him to do something ‘against’ His will. The dove is the epitome of the Chesed of the world. The raven is the opposite.

In the antediluvian era, the fabric of the world was affected by the sins of the people. Even the animals were affected by the actions of people, and also engaged in such incorrect behavior. The Teivah was to be a place of recreating the world, without the outside influences. It was sealed against the influence of the world. In that miniature world, Noach and those with him were to recreate a spiritual world. From within there, the new world that was being recreated would be cleansed of the impurity that had previously been introduced.

When Noach wants to see if the Mabul has completely ended, he wants to see if the influence of the Mabul has ended. Noach specifically sent the raven to see what it would do. If the influence of the world had ended, then the raven would willingly fly away since its nature had changed. When it did not, Noach realized there was still work to do. Even though it seems that a week is a short time, it still represents another effort to make the world better.

Chazal teach us that the raven actually had two reasons to not want to leave. The first is its doubt about Noach and its mate. The second is that it is designated for another mission later[6]. When Eliyahu is in the desert hiding from Izevel and Achav, HaShem sends him food brought by a raven. But why is that a problem? Why can the raven not do something now, centuries earlier?

The Maharal explains[7] that the point is not that the raven does not have the time. It is two different types of responsibilities. In the time of the Noach, the world needed to become pure. Noach wanted to see if even the raven had reached that level. But the raven was not meant for that mission. His mission was in a world of bad, as represented by Achav, he could do some good. Therefore, Noach then sends the dove, who represents purity. But the raven is to show that even in a world of evil, there can be good. That is not the purpose now, but later on by Eliyahu.

[1] סנהדרין דף קח/ב – וישלח את העורב אמר ריש לקיש תשובה ניצחת השיבו עורב לנח אמר לו רבך שונאני ואתה שנאתני רבך שונאני מן הטהורין שבעה מן הטמאים שנים ואתה שנאתני שאתה מניח ממין שבעה ושולח ממין שנים אם פוגע בי שר חמה או שר צנה לא נמצא עולם חסר בריה אחת או שמא לאשתי אתה צריך אמר לו רשע במותר לי נאסר לי בנאסר לי לא כל שכן

[2] כתובות דף מט/ב – ועורבא בעי בניה והכתיב לבני עורב אשר יקראו

[3] סנהדרין דף קח/ב –  תנו רבנן שלשה שמשו בתיבה וכולם לקו כלב ועורב וחם

[4] חדושי אגדות חלק שלישי עמוד רנח – מסכת סנהדרין – וזה כי אלו שלשה הם רחוקים מן הנבראים, ומפני שהם בעצם רחוקים מן הנבראים, לא נמשכו אחר הסדר הזה שסדר הש”י שלא יהיה פריה ורביה בשעת הפסד הנבראים. וזה כי העורב הוא אכזרי ואין לו חבור אל שאר הנמצאים, וכמו שאמרו עליו (עירובין כ”א ב’) כי העורב הזה הוא אכזרי ואף על בניו הוא אכזרי, וכתיב (תהלים קמ”ז) לבני עורב אשר יקרעאו כ”ש על אחרים.

[5] רש”י על בראשית פרק ז פסוק ד –  ארבעים יום – כנגד יצירת הולד שקלקלו להטריח ליוצרם לצור צורת ממזרים:

[6] רש”י על בראשית פרק ח פסוק ז –  עד יבשת המים – פשוטו כמשמעו אבל מדרש אגדה מוכן היה העורב לשליחות אחרת (כשיבשו המים) בעצירת גשמים בימי אליהו שנאמר (מלכים יז) והעורבים מביאים לו לחם ובשר:

[7] גור אריה על בראשית פרק ח פסוק ז – [טז] אבל מדרש אגדה וכו’. וקשה על מדרש זה (ב”ר לג, ה) למה לא היה מוכן העורב לשליחות נח, והיה מוכן לשליחות אחרת בעצירת הגשמים, ויראה לי שהעורב הזה הוא אכזרי, כמו שדרשו רז”ל (עירובין ריש כב.) “שחורות כעורב” (שה”ש ה, יא) ‘אין התורה מתקיימת אלא במי שעושה עצמו אכזרי על בניו כעורב הזה’, והכתוב אומר (תהלים קמז, ט) “נותן לבהמה לחמה לבני עורב אשר יקראו”, אם כן אכזרי הוא, ומפני שרצה נח לשלוח העורב לדבר טוב, להגיד לו כי קלו המים, והוא ישוב הארץ, ואין העורב מוכן לשליחות טוב כזה לבשר טובה בעולם, ולא היה מוכן אלא לשליחות אחרת לפרנס את אליהו, שהיה אליהו מביא פורענות לעולם והוא הרעב, ואל זה היה מוכן, לפי שהוא אכזרי גם כן, ואילו לא היה לאליהו מי שיפרנס אותו לא היה מביא הרעב לעולם, ואלו העורבים היו עושין שליחותו של מקום כדי שיהיה רעב בעולם.

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