Noach

Upon examination of the psukim describing the dispatch of the birds from the Ark (8:6-13), an interesting ‘subplot’ is revealed.

The story may be divided into 2 birds and 4 sections/dispatches:

1. Raven: First and only dispatch of the raven (who comes up empty-handed);
2. Dove:
2a. Dispatch #1 of the dove/yonah (returning and informing Noach that “water was covering all the surface of the earth” – 8:9);
2b. Dispatch #2 of the dove (returning with an olive branch and informing Noach that “the waters had abated from upon the earth” – 8:11);
2c. Dispatch #3 of the dove (no return of the dove, informing Noach that it was time to remove the covering of the Ark and see that “the ground had dried” – 8:13)
I would like to humbly suggest, through a closer look at each of these dispatches, that there is a special relationship that develops between Noach and the Yonah. I would go so far as to say that it has romantic characteristics. To be very clear, I am NOT implying that Noach was involved in some inappropriate way with the Yonah. I do humbly believe, however, that there is a romantic overtone in this episode, and for a specific purpose (to be discussed at the end)…

I. To begin, the Dove – as a species – is used to invoke romance, multiple times in Shir HaShirim (1:15, 2:14, 4:1, 5:2, 6:9). So a dove generally has an innate romantic element. To quote 1:15 for good measure:

הִנָּךְ יָפָה רַעְיָתִי הִנָּךְ יָפָה עֵינַיִךְ יוֹנִים

II. Now to begin with the psukim in Parshas Noach, there is a clear difference between the sending of the raven and the sendings of the dove.

For the raven, the Torah simply writes that Noach “sent the raven” (8:7), with no description of a purpose for the sending:
וַיְשַׁלַּח אֶת הָעֹרֵב

By Dove Dispatch #1, the Torah says that (i) Noach sent the dove “from him” (implying a certain closeness) and (ii) for the specific purpose of ” seeing if the waters abated from the face of the earth” (8:8):
וַיְשַׁלַּח אֶת-הַיּוֹנָה מֵאִתּוֹ לִרְאוֹת הֲקַלּוּ הַמַּיִם מֵעַל פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה

III. More differences abound when looking at the birds’ return to Noach (or lack thereof):

The Torah does not record the raven returning. Rashi says that the raven did not even fly off to complete any mission, but rather just “flew around the ark.”
By contrast, upon the dove’s first return (having not found dry land), the Torah says:
וְלֹא מָצְאָה הַיּוֹנָה מָנוֹחַ לְכַף רַגְלָהּ וַתָּשָׁב אֵלָיו אֶל הַתֵּבָה כִּי מַיִם עַל-פְּנֵי כָל-הָאָרֶץ וַיִּשְׁלַח יָדוֹ וַיִּקָּחֶהָ וַיָּבֵא אֹתָהּ אֵלָיו אֶל הַתֵּבָה
The dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned to him, to the ark, for water was on the face of the entire earth, and he put out his hand and took her and brought her to him, into the ark.

It’s a fairly heavy passuk, if you really look at it. The dove returns not only to the Ark for shelter, but TO Noach himself.

IV. Furthermore, the Torah could have stopped there and we would know that the dove simply returned. Instead, we are told that Noach – seeing that the dove was unable to find “a rest for the sole of her foot” – outstretches his hand, to provide her a place of comfort to rest, and bring her back into the protective Ark.
“And he took her, and brought her to him” sounds awfully descriptive of a husband and wife. For example:

Regarding Yitzchak and Rivka (24:67):

וַיְבִאֶהָ יִצְחָק הָאֹהֱלָה שָׂרָה אִמּוֹ וַיִּקַּח אֶת רִבְקָה וַתְּהִי לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה וַיֶּאֱהָבֶהָ
Regarding Yaakov and Leah (29:23):
וַיְהִי בָעֶרֶב וַיִּקַּח אֶת לֵאָה בִתּוֹ וַיָּבֵא אֹתָהּ אֵלָיו וַיָּבֹא אֵלֶיהָ

V. Additionally, the Torah implements some word play in writing that the dove did not find “manoach” (rest) on her mission – she could not find a restful perch outside the Ark, away from Noach, so she returns to find manoach with Noach.

VI. The closeness is perhaps most apparent upon the dove’s second return. (8:11)

וַתָּבֹא אֵלָיו הַיּוֹנָה לְעֵת עֶרֶב וְהִנֵּה עֲלֵה זַיִת טָרָף בְּפִיהָ וַיֵּדַע נֹחַ כִּי קַלּוּ הַמַּיִם מֵעַל הָאָרֶץ
The dove comes back at night - why is the timing of the return important?
The night is generally a time of romance, and I believe some other instances of the phrase in Tanach support this contention:
a) Eliezer finds Rivka in the evening (Breishis 24:11-15). Eliezer kneels down – לְעֵת עֶרֶב – and asks Hashem to help him fulfill his promise to Avraham to find a wife for Yitzchak, and “before he is done speaking” (i.e. it still being evening), along comes Rivka:
וַיְהִי הוּא טֶרֶם כִּלָּה לְדַבֵּר וְהִנֵּה רִבְקָה יֹצֵאת
b) Dovid HaMelech sees Batsheva in the evening (Samuel II, 11:2):
וַיְהִי לְעֵת הָעֶרֶב וַיָּקָם דָּוִד מֵעַל מִשְׁכָּבוֹ וַיִּתְהַלֵּךְ עַל גַּג בֵּית הַמֶּלֶךְ וַיַּרְא אִשָּׁה רֹחֶצֶת מֵעַל הַגָּג וְהָאִשָּׁה טוֹבַת מַרְאֶה מְאֹד

VII. Also, the olive branch is not only a sign of the existence of foliage (and peace), but also materials a bird would use to build a nest – AKA a home.

The point of the evening (VI) and nest/home imagery (VII): More examples of closeness and relationship-building.
Important to note, however, in this second return, that there is a hint of distance that didn’t exist upon the first return of the dove; we don’t see Noach outstretching his hand, and only the single language of Noach brining the dove “to him” is employed (instead of like the first time, which employed the double language of, “to him, to the ark”).

VIII. Staying with passuk 8:11, the Torah says:

וַיֵּדַע נֹחַ כִּי קַלּוּ הַמַּיִם מֵעַל הָאָרֶץ
The first two times the Torah uses the word וַיֵּדַע – it is describing a man impregnating a woman (Breishis 4:17 and 4:25). Just saying.
Obviously nobody is getting pregnant in our passuk, but I do believe there is a romantic excitement on the part of Noach, brought on by the dove’s finding of the olive branch, that the waters have begun to recede and the world is returning to normal.

IX. Finally, for Dispatch #3, the Torah only says that the dove was sent (i.e. not “from Noach”, like in Dispatch #1 in 8:8), and the dove does not return – further diminishment of closeness as noted at the end of Point VII.

…SO what does this all mean (if anything)? Why indicate a close relationship between Noach and the Yonah? Why does it diminish?
I believe the whole relationship (spanning a grand total of a mere 5 verses) was to cultivate Noach’s compassion. Noach needed training; he needed lessons in compassion, and compassion is usually linked with affection and devotion, especially in a marriage, where ideally one cares more for a spouse than for him/herself.
Speaking of marriage, Noach waits 7 days to send out the Yonah between Dispatches #1 and 2, and #2 and 3…could this possibly be some allusion to the 7 days of Sheva Brachos after a wedding? I dunno. Maybe.

The most common admonishment of Noach in Chazal is that, unlike Avraham, Noach uttered not a single word of protest nor attempt to save his fellow man when Hashem informed him of impending destruction.
Noach needed to learn the lesson of thinking about and caring for others (kavod ha’brios and ahavas ha’brios), and he needed to do so on his own (note that Hashem does not instruct Noach to send out the raven or the dove; it is Noach’s own initiative). He cares for the dove, and the dove cares for him.

The evening (as noted above – the time of day when the dove climactically returns with the olive branch) is also a transitionary period. It transitions day into night; yesterday into today (per our lunar calendar). In the evening you transition from being a spouse away from your husband/wife during the day, to being reunited spouses in the evening (unless you’re a doctor, banker, lawyer, accountant during busy season, etc., in which case it’s more likely you reunite in the early morning hours). Perhaps Noach begins to make the transition into a more caring person. He is eager to take the olive branch – a sign of the earth healing – and imagine an improved world, replacing the “chamas” that had filled the world prior to the flood (6:11), with chessed.

As for the 7 day wait, and the dove’s lack of return, of course in a real (human) marriage, we hope that a spouse is not sent away immediately after Sheva Brachos never to return again, as in Dispatch #3. That would be rather sad.

Noach obviously was not going to carry on a romantic relationship with the dove. But having developed the characteristics of care for the dove during his time in the Ark, he no longer needed the dove, but not in a cold way. The relationship with the dove diminishes, because Noach begins to internalize the lessons of compassion and closeness. Noach is now ready to step out into the new world.
Infused with ahava and chessed, Noach is ready to properly return to his wife (with whom he was not allowed to have relations with while in the Ark) and his family, and shoulder the responsibility of rebuilding and caring for humanity.

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