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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Noah (70)

This week's sedra deals with the Flood and its aftermath. It is a story of the continuing down trend of mankind. (One has a sense of d?j? view when we see our world situation today!)

Genesis 7:16

And those coming in, male and female, of all flesh, as G-d had commanded him. And Hashem shut him in.


And Hashem shut him in : Rashi: He (Hashem) protected him so that they shouldn't break it (the ark). He surrounded the ark with bears and lions and they killed them. But the simple p'shat of these words is: He shut (the door) in front of him against the waters. And all times the word "b'ad" in the Scriptures it means opposite - (or in front of.) "in front of every womb" (Genesis 20: 18); "in front of you and in front of your children" (2 Kings 4:4); "skin in front of skin" (Job 2:4); "a shield in front of me" (Psalms 3:4).


Rashi gives two interpretations; one as drash - that G-d surrounded the ark with animals as protection for Noah and one as p'shat - that G-d shut the door against the waters.


Rashi is dealing with the meaning of the word "b'ado". It could mean in front of him or it could mean behind him. The meaning of "in front of him" easily transforms into "for his sake" which is often its meaning. (See Leviticus 16:11)


But Rashi is also dealing with another problem.

What is it?

Hint: Read the words "And Hashem closed [the door] behind him (or "in front of him"). What strikes you as strange?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Why does G-d have to close the door (and how would He do it) ? Can't Noah close it himself? After all, he built the whole ark himself, closing the door would seem to be the easiest part of it all!

Do you see how Rashi answers this question?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Rashi's first interpretation, that the meaning of "closed him in" is not that he closed the door but rather that G-d placed ferocious animals around the ark to protect Noah. Certainly Noah couldn't do this himself. This is why Rashi offers this interpretation. In this sense He closed Noah in, surrounded him with animals.

But Rashi then offers the p'shat meaning. The p'shat, Rashi says, is determined by the best, most correct translation of the words - in his case, the word " b'ado". Since " b'ado" means "in front of him" more than it means "closed him in" so Rashi says it means "He closed him in front of him against the waters."


Since Rashi has stated that his main purpose in his commentary is to teach us p'shat, we may wonder why, when brings two interpretations, one p'shat and one drash, why doesn't he bring the p'shat first before the drash.

In our case we can answer that although the lions and bears are drash since there's no hint of them in the text, nevertheless this explanation best explains why it was G-d who closed Noah in and not Noah himself, as we had said.


But the question remains: Why couldn't Noah himself close the door of the ark?

The Reshonim (Bechore Shor and Chizkuni) have related to this question. Their clever answer is that since Noah had to let representatives of all the different animals in the world enter the ark, he could not be sure when every last one had entered. Only G-d could know this, so He closed the door? How did He shut the door ? By having a wind shut it closed!

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" is available at all Judaica bookstores.

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