Among God’s instructions to Noach in preparation for the flood was to collect food with which to feed himself and the animals that he would bring with him onto the ark: “And you shall take for yourself from all kinds of food that are eaten, and collect it with you, and it shall be for consumption, for you and for them [the animals]” (6:21). The simple reading of this verse is that Noach was charged with the task of collecting all the various types of foods that would be necessary to feed all the various creatures on the ark.
Netziv, however, in his Ha’ameik Davar, explains this verse differently. He contends that to the contrary, God instructed Noach to collect only the kind of food that he (and his family) ate – assuring him that this food would miraculously suit also the animals on the ark. Netziv notes that God formulated his command to Noach with the expression “kach lekha” – “take for yourself,” which might suggest that Noach was to take only the kind of food that he ate. God then told him, “and it shall be for consumption, for you and them” – promising Noach that this human food would satisfy also the needs of the animals. One of miracles performed for Noach, according to Netziv, was that the animals on the ark were content with human food, a miracle which God performed in order to spare Noach the all but impossible task of collecting food for each and every different species on the ark.
This miracle may perhaps teach us the importance of flexibility, of being prepared to accept conditions to which we are unaccustomed. Often, we find ourselves rigidly bound to certain conditions, and feel incapable of managing with anything less or anything different. It might be certain types of food, a certain schedule, a certain environment, or certain material objects that we decide for ourselves that we cannot live without. The miracle described by Netziv perhaps shows us that we must be prepared, when necessary, to exercise flexibility. Just as the animals on the ark were able to subsist on human food throughout the period they spent on the ark, we should similarly be able to feel content even when circumstances change, when we face conditions with which we are unfamiliar and unaccustomed. We should never chain ourselves to any particular set of circumstances, and must instead be willing and ready to adapt and to feel satisfied with new conditions.
More specifically, we are to exercise flexibility especially when somebody else’s convenience is at stake – as in the case of Noach and the animals. God had the animals feel satisfied with human food in order to ease Noach’s burden – perhaps teaching us that we should never be strict and unyielding at somebody else’s expense. At times we need to be flexible and lower expectations in order to spare others inconvenience – just as the animals ate different food in order not to overburden Noach. This miracle should perhaps serve as a model of flexibility and sensitivity, teaching us that our preferences should never impose an unnecessary burden on somebody else’s shoulders.