Where’s the Grub? by Shlomo Tanenbaum

(2004/5765)

In Parshat Noach, the Torah says, “Ve’ata Kach Lecha Mikol Maachal Asher Ye’acheil Ve’asafta Eilecha Vehaya Lecha Velahem Liochla,”  “And you, take for yourself from all food that will be eaten and gather it to yourself, and it will be for you and for [the animals] to eat” (6:21).  The Kli Yakar on this Pasuk wonders why the Torah uses the terminology “Lecha,” “for yourself.”  What does this seemingly extra word add?  He answers that this word implies that the food had to come exclusively from Noach’s own belongings.  Just as the word Lecha regarding the Arbaah Minim is interpreted to mean that that the Minim must be “yours,” i.e.  not stolen or borrowed from others’ property, so too Hashem required that the food on the Teivah be Noach’s own.  This was to prevent Noach from reasoning that it should be permitted to take from others’ belongings, because today or tomorrow, the rest of the world would die anyway, and all their money and belongings would then be washed away and ownerless.  Therefore, Hakodesh Baruch Hu had to tell Noach take only of his own property, and not of others’.

The Kli Yakar also asks how it was possible for the Teivah to hold enough food for a full year; how could Noach supply enough for every single living creature (sometimes even sevenfold) and for his own family for such a length of time?  This question is strengthened by the Kli Yakar’s explanation of “Lecha” – if all the food had to come out of Noach’s own pocket, it is even less likely that he could have provided such a vast quantity of food!  The Kli Yakar answers that even though naturally the food supply should not have been enough for Noach and the animals, Hakodesh Baruch Hu would create a miracle to accommodate their needs.  He would send a Beracha when Noach fulfilled “Ve’asafta Eilecha,” “gather it to yourself,” so that the food Noach collected would be enough that “Vehaya Lecha Velahem Leochla,” “it will be [enough] for you and for them to eat.”  This same idea holds true for the Teivah, as well.  The commandment that Hashem gave to Noach was “Assei Lecha Teivah,” “make for yourself an ark.”  Hashem was telling Noach even though the Teivah would not be big enough for all the animals, He would perform a miracle so that all the animals would have sufficient room.

The Vilna Gaon also deals with this problem, but simultaneously deals with another question.  Like the Kli Yakar, he also wonders how Noach could have had enough food for all of the animals; it would certainly be impossible to store that much in the Ark!  In addition, he observes that the words “Asher Ye’acheil,” “that will be eaten,” are superfluous.  The Gaon explains both problems based on a Gemara in Masechet Chullin that discusses a similar phraseology in Vayikra.  The Pasuk there (11:34), discussing food that becomes Tamei, says, “Mikol Haochel Asher Ye’acheil,” “from all food that will be eaten,” which the Gemara understands as referring to food that can be eaten in one gulp.  The Gemara in Yoma states that the maximum amount the throat can gulp down in one swallow is the size of an egg, a Kebeitzah.  “Ye’achel,” “[that which] will (or can) be eaten,” implies this quantity of the largest possible single gulp.  This is also the meaning of the Pasuk here when it says, “Asher Ye’acheil” – an egg’s volume for everyone.  However, “Vehaya Lecha Velahem Leochla” – even though it will only be the minimal amount, it will be enough for everyone to eat to satisfaction.

Surely, if Hashem provided for Noach and the animals, He can and will provide enough for each member of His chosen nation, if we merit such a blessing.

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