SALT - Sunday, 28 Tishrei 5777 - October 30, 2016

  • Rav David Silverberg

            Before the flood, God instructed Noach to bring two of each species of animal with him into the ark, the exception being “pure” animals, of which he was to bring seven, in order to offer sacrifices to God after the flood (7:2).  Rashi comments that the term “tehora” (“pure”) is used here the way it is used later in the Chumash, referring to animals which the Torah permits eating.  The fact that Noach understood the reference and was able to identify which animals would later be permissible for Benei Yisrael to consume, Rashi adds, demonstrates that “Noach learned Torah.”

            We might wonder what Rashi’s intent was in making this remark.  Why is it significant that Noach “learned Torah,” and why is this point relevant to the context of the kosher animals brought onto the ark to be sacrificed after the flood?

            Rashi’s comment perhaps conveys the message that we are incapable of knowing what to “sacrifice” to God unless we learn and study.  We cannot decide based on our own intuition and subjective feelings which “offerings” God wants from us, how He wants us to serve Him.  The distinction between a “pure” and “impure” sacrifice, between actions which God wants and values, and those which He does not, can be made only by learning, by consulting our Torah tradition.  Just as Noach is said to have been able to distinguish between kosher and non-kosher animals solely based on knowledge gained through study, we must likewise distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable forms of serving God based on knowledge, and not on the basis of our intuitive sense.