To Dedicate Please Contact Hadrash Ve-Haiyun
The dove came back to him in the evening and behold an olive leaf it had plucked with its mouth. (Bereishis 8:12).
Rashi here quotes the Midrash that interprets the symbolic meaning of a bitter leaf in the mouth of the dove. The Midrash explains that the dove was in essence saying that it preferred that Hashem provide its sustenance even if it is bitter as an olive rather than come from man and be as sweet as honey.
We may ask the following. We are aware that Noach labored 120 years to build the ark. Further, during the year of the flood Noah worked tirelessly day and night to serve food to all creatures in the ark. We may also note that each creature in the ark was extremely fortunate that it was chosen by Hashem to survive the flood. Every creature in the ark owed a great debt of gratitude to Noah for all he had done. How then can the dove, at the conclusion of this ordeal say to Noach that it preferred the bitter sustenance of Hashem rather than the sweet sustenance of man. The message of the dove may be true but it does not seem that this is the appropriate time and place to make such a statement. Instead of the dove saying thank you to Noach it is as if the dove said that it would have been better off with out him. How can the dove show such great disrespect to Noach?
This question forces us to take a deeper look at the message of the dove.
We are aware that the purpose of punishment is not to harm the sinner but to inspire him to repent from the evil that is the root cause of his punishment. It is perhaps for this reason the flood and its aftermath took an entire year. The survivors had one complete year to contemplate the root cause of the destruction and repent. Chazal teach us that the final verdict of destruction for the generation of the flood was sealed on account of theft. Theft defines the attitude that one may freely consume from the labor of his fellow. Such an attitude is extremely dangerous. If this attitude is not restrained it may develop to the extreme that is expressed in the posuk “stolen waters are sweet.”
We must now assume that the survivors of the flood would not be allowed to rebuild the world until they repented from the sin of theft, otherwise there would have been no purpose in destroying the world. Indeed, this is the message that Hashem sent Noach. The dove was not delivering a personal message. It was delivering a message from Hashem. Hashem was speaking to Noach through the dove. Hashem who knows what is in the heart of man was testifying that the survivors had sincerely repented and therefore may now leave the ark and rebuild the world. After a year of isolation the survivors have reflected on the root cause of the flood. They changed their sinful attitude with the understanding that it is better to be sustained with bitterness from Hashem rather than take from another with sweetness. The message of the dove was the antitheses of the sinful attitude which was responsible for the flood. The lesson of the flood was learned and they were now ready to rebuild.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5762/2002