A Failed Mission by Akiva Shmidman


        In this week's Parsha, the Torah states that when the dove could not find any resting place, she returned to Noach in the ark, because the water was still upon the surface of the earth.  Noach then put out his hand and took her, and brought her back to him in the ark (בראשית ח:ט).  The Netziv asks a question concerning the language which the Torah uses here in describing the actions of the dove.  Why does the Torah emphasize that the dove returned to the ark and not simply that she came directly to Noach?

            To answer this question, the Netziv suggests that the dove's sole purpose was to serve as a kind of messenger and to bring something back, as it had been trained to do.  By failing to bring anything back, however, she had failed her its mission and was thus afraid to return directly to Noach.  She therefore came back and stayed near the ark until Noach put out his hand and gently guided the dove back into the ark. 

            This behavior of Noach, says the Netziv, illustrates an important lesson which we should all learn from.  If one sends out a messenger to carry out a specific mission and he fails to fulfill that mission because of circumstances beyond his control, the sender should still be kind to him and treat him well.  This very lesson is mentioned as well in the Gemara in Bava Kamma (דף קט"ז.) which discusses a messenger who is sent to deliver food to a sick person, but who finds out when he gets there that the person has already died.  The Gemara says that nevertheless, the messenger has still performed his appointed task properly and therefore should be paid in full.  After all, it was due to no fault of his own that he was not able to successfully fulfill the mission, just as the dove, through no fault of her own, was unable to successfully fulfill her mission the first time she was sent out of the ark. 

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