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Parasha Insights

By Rabbi Yitschak Hacohen Tawil
October 9, 2018

“This is how you shall make it: 300 cubits the length of the ark, 50 cubits it’s width, and thirty cubits it’s height” (6:15).

The Torah informs us of the measurements of Noach’s ark – 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high. Apart from Noach and his immediate family, this ark was to hold two of every living species that kept to its kind, and seven of each of the kosher species, including all the different types of wild animals, tame animals, birds [there were over 120 species of birds], and insects! Rashi (6:20) citing Medrash informs us that the ark refused to accept those species which corrupted their ways and didn’t keep to their kind and hence those species did not survive the flood – they are since then extinct. All surviving species were captured by Noach’s ark! The ark also held food supplies for all the ark’s inhabitants for an entire year, and space for a year’s waste disposal! Obviously we need to come on to a miracle that the ark was able to contain so much in so little space – and a miracle it was indeed! Nachmanidies asks that since anyway a miracle was to be performed, why did G-d bother Noach for 120 years to build the ark the size that it was – why not allow Noach to make it much smaller and simpler, and perform the miracle a little larger?

One answer offered by Nachmanidies is that G–d in his kindness wanted to give Noach’s generation a chance to repent, and therefore commanded Noach to construct this ark, which took Noach a long time to erect. Noach built the ark slowly, and in public, so that everyone would notice him and take heed of the oncoming flood – hopefully they would wake up from their slumber and mend their ways! However, Noach’s generation was so corrupt that nothing moved them from their evil and selfish ways!

Very often G-d sends us “reminders”, making us realise that things aren’t quite as we had wished or expected them to be! Seldom will G-d punish a sinner immediately, He patiently waits for us to repent, giving us an opportunity to mend our ways! If man would receive punishment immediately upon sin that would also defeat the purpose of life, as man would have no free choice and be compelled to do only good! G-d wishes us to overcome our selfish nature, avoiding sin and choosing to do good from our own initiative! If we fail to overcome temptation, and fall prey to sin, G-d nevertheless kindly gives us a chance to repent, holding the punishment in pending, with the hope that we awaken ourselves for the better! So long as the flame of life is burning it is never too late to change our ways and accept upon ourselves to be good and loyal Jews, loyal to G-d and to His Torah.

Another answer given by Nachmanidies is that G-d doesn’t perform miracles unnecessarily, and doesn’t perform a miracle larger than the required! G-d wants us to do whatever we can, and only then is there room for miracles to commence! Often, we may feel that it is far beyond our capability to attain the level of spirituality required of us. This misconception is hazardous, and can lead to despair! G-d doesn’t expect from us more than we are capable – however we are expected to utilise our capacity to the maximum. It is therefore very important for us to recognise our good talents in order that we make use of them to the full potential! In Torah Study and Mitzvoth our aim must be perfection, and to achieve this we yearn and crave, even though it is beyond our capability! Armed with this aim, when we truly strive our best, we will not only reach those spiritual levels that were originally feasible for us to attain, but we will also receive a special Divine aid boosting us higher and higher, over and above our former capabilities! This Divine aid is awarded to he who truly wants to spiritually grow in Torah Study and Mitzvoth and tries his best, making the most of his talents. G-d helps those who help themselves and do their utmost, expressing their full will and interest in serving Him!

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