In this week’s Parsha, Noach prepares for a year-long voyage aboard the worlds very first cruise liner, “The Crown Teivah, Zoo Oasis of the Seas.” In his preparation he is commanded to gather together provisions for his family and for all the animals on board. An entire year’s supply of food for eight people and all the animals of the world; that must have been some pantry! But who paid for this colossal grocery bill? The Kli Yakar derives the answer to this question from the language of the following pasuk:
“And as for you, take yourself of every food that is eaten and gather it in to yourself, that it shall be as food for you and them.” (Bereishis, 6:21)
“Kach l’cha,” The word “l’cha, yourself” is commonly used to express ownership. Noach was told to take from his own food, to use his own money to gather everything they would need for their voyage. What is the purpose of emphasizing that the food had to be coming out of Noach’s own bank account?
The Kli Yakar suggests that Noach was tempted to take from others. After all, the entire world was about to perish in the flood, they wouldn’t have any use for all their belongings anyway. Hashem therefore told Noach that even with these justifications he may never steal from others.
Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz is not satisfied with this explanation. He argues that Noach is described as a tzadik, a righteous man; a tzadik does not need to be told not to steal. Rabbi Shmuelevitz offers his own answer to the Kli Yakar’s question saying that the Torah stresses the need for Noach to use his own money to teach us an important lesson in life.
Noach and his family were about to assume the responsibility of a lifetime. They would soon become the caretakers for every species of animal for an entire year. The Medrash Tanchuma (Noach, 9) describes Noach’s experience on the teivah as nothing short of miserable. Day and night he went from animal to animal trying to juggle all their feeding schedules. For an entire year he barely slept, and the one time he was late to feed the lion he paid a price for it! Hashem needed to prepare Noach for this grueling undertaking; He did so by requiring Noach to gather his own personal resources to pay for the provisions for the entire trip.
How does this prepare Noach to care for the animals? Rabbi Shmuelevitz explains that if Noach was invested by giving so much of his resources to feed the animals, he would forge a bond that would give him the strength to make the sacrifices it would take to survive the trip.
Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler discusses this idea in one of his more famous essays (Michtav M’Eliyahu, Chelek 1, Kuntres HaChesed Chapters 4 and 5). He observes that love and giving go hand in hand, but the question is, which comes first? I would venture to say that the average person thinks love comes first. There are certain people that I love, and those are the people that I give to. Rabbi Dessler proves through many examples that the opposite is true-I give, and therefore I love. Giving of our time and resources creates that bond, that feeling that we call love. Rabbi Dessler explains that this concept reveals much deeper meaning to the commandment of “V’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha, love thy neighbor as thyself.” The language of the Torah is not only expressing the extent to which we should love our fellow Jew, but the source of that love. When we give to others, when we invest in others, they become an extension of ourselves, and then love comes naturally. Then we truly love them as we love ourselves. I encourage you to study Rabbi Dessler’s essays to appreciate the full power of this idea.
When we find strained relationships in our lives, let’s begin with giving. Give something to that person with whom you don’t get along. When we want to deepen our love for a spouse or a child, give them a gift, a trinket, a toy, or better yet-some quality time. Let us learn from Noach that when we give, we are not giving a simple gift; rather, we are giving the gift of love.
Rabbi Yosef Alt