Noah And The Raven

Moshe Ben-Chaim

I would like to demonstrate the unique and enlightening style with which the Torah was written, along with expounding the following area. For one to gain full appreciation of the Torah, I feel it essential for to appreciate the depth and design of the Torah's words. As King Solomon wrote in Proverbs, 2:6, "Ki Hashem yitane chochma, m'piv daas u'svuna"."For G-d gives wisdom, from His mouth (comes) knowledge and understanding." The first part of this passage teaches that G-d is the Source of wisdom, and the latter, "from His mouth", teaches that the written words are vehicles through which this knowledge is conveyed. Therefore we must be careful to sense the apparent inconsistencies and nuances which are purposefully built in to the Torah, to direct us in deriving new concepts. This appreciation will generate in us, great awe and respect for the Author's intelligence. Through an understanding of the cryptic, and subtle Torah style, we learn new insights, and develop learning proficiency, which later assists our new searches for ideas.

There is an interesting series of passages in the story of Noah.

Upon the cessation of the rain, the Torah states (Genesis, 8:6-8):
(6) Noah opened up the window of the Ark which he made.
(7) And he sent the raven, and it went out to and fro, until the waters dried from upon the Earth.
(8) And he sent the dove from himself to see if the waters had ended from the face of the Earth.

A few questions present themselves: When did G-d instruct Noah to make a "chalon", a window? Earlier (Gen. 6:16), G-d instructed Noah to make a "tzohar". Even if one follows the opinion that tzohar means window, we still need to ask why the Torah changed the word from "tzohar" to "chalon". We also notice that the passage states "...the window which Noah made." Who else could have made it?! This seems superfluous. When we see something apparently repetitive, we know there must be a lesson. What was the purpose of sending the raven? Why is it not disclosed, as is done regarding the purpose of the dove in passage 8?

I believe a few proper questions will lead one to the answer.

What is a window for? For when was the window to be used? Prior to the flood, or subsequent? What are the differences between a raven and a dove?

A window can be used to look outside. We can determine that Noah knew what was on the outside as the flood waters began, as he was told by G-d that all life would be destroyed. (Gen. 6:17). Perhaps then, the window would be used subsequent to the flood. But for what? Sending out birds alone?

I think from the statements in the passages mentioned above, we can determine a concern of Noah's, which is not openly stated.

The Torah goes out of the way to tell us that it was Noah who made the window. This tells us what? Again, he made the entire ark, which includes this window. Shift the emphasis of the passage to detect a nuance: Do not read, "that Noah made", but rather, "that Noah made" - as opposed to G-d telling Noah to make it. Noah made this without G-d's instruction. The Torah is pointing out that Noah desired a window for some reason. If he knows what is occurring prior to the flood, and also as the flood waters engulfed the Earth, I suggest that he was concerned with the period subsequent to the flood. Meaning, Noah worried about what he would find after the flood was over.

In my opinion, Noah did not want to be faced with seeing the corpses of his society, once the ark landed. This is why, according to a Rabbi, Noah planted wine grapes upon his exit from the ark. He was experiencing depression from solitude as the only members left on Earth, and used drunkenness to escape the depression. This very same worry is what prompted him to create a window, on his own accord. But prior to seeing what was out there, he sent the raven. Again, the Torah is concealing something, as it did not tell us why he sent the raven, but it did tell us why he sent the dove.

What is the difference between the two birds? The raven is flesh eating. I believe that Noah was not yet interested in seeing if the land dried up, as he didn't send the dove, for whose purpose this served. But he first sent a flesh eating bird - with a Torah-concealed purpose. I believe that purpose was to discern whether there were bodies near the ark, something Noah did not want to face. If the raven did not return, Noah would then know the raven found food - corpses - and he would be prepared to face the tragic site outside of the ark.

By prompting us to ask new questions regarding a word change or repetition, or concealing an explanation, the Torah teaches us new insights. The Torah is also discrete and thus conceals more distasteful information.