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Genesis 8:1 – Ark and Word

וַיִּזְכֹּ֤ר אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶת־נֹ֔חַ וְאֵ֤ת כׇּל־הַֽחַיָּה֙ וְאֶת־כׇּל־הַבְּהֵמָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר אִתּ֖וֹ בַּתֵּבָ֑ה וַיַּעֲבֵ֨ר אֱלֹהִ֥ים ר֙וּחַ֙ עַל־הָאָ֔רֶץ וַיָּשֹׁ֖כּוּ הַמָּֽיִם׃

“And E’lokim remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark, and G-d caused a spirit to pass over the earth, and the waters descended.”

Why did G-d have to remember that Noah (and his wife and his children and their wives) had spent a whole year feeding the entire animal kingdom that was with him in the Ark, by playing “waiter” for them, after all, would He ever forget anything? The beautiful image of “waiter” is that Noah thereby carried out G-d’s will, namely that he would take care of the animals, in the Ark. And by performing this task, he provided a piece of Divinity in the Ark.

The phrase in the Torah wanted to emphasise that G-ds greatest concern was Noah and not the mammals….

But the Tenach could also have used a word other than “remember”. Radak, one of the Jewish sages, points out to us that when the Torah uses the word “remember” for G-d, it is used as a figure of speech that allows the reader to use his imagination and realise that such wording is now going to introduce an activity of G-d that was there all along, but in a hidden state for Noach.

G-d would save Noah, and He would let him go out of the ark into a renewed world. But for Noah, as long as he was in the ark, this was not yet clear and certainly not yet visible. He could only hope and trust that G-d was going to give that salvation. Now comes the moment when Noah starts seeing and experiencing that his hope and trust are coming true.

The same is true for Noah’s people. We all consciously chose to seek our safety in the ark. Not in a physical ark, although with sea levels rising that wouldn’t be so silly either, but in a spiritual ark. But what is that a spiritual ark? For that I want to take a little foray into Hebrew….

The Hebrew word for ark is tevah תֵּבָ֑ה Now I found that this word can also be translated as “word”. Thus, the Hebrew expression for “acronym” or “initials” is rashay tevot, i.e. “the heads of words”. ראשי תבות also written in modern Hebrew as ראשי תיבות. I found this remarkable because the “normal” word to say just like that is the Hebrew word מילה. So this made me curious.

The word תבה often appears in Scripture as התבה. The ark. Written this way, it has the numerical value of 412 (Mispar Hechrachi). The word בית has the same numerical value of 412. And that is what we also see from the ark, it is a house for Noah and his family and the animals, a house in which they could live safely during the flood.

You can think of the smallest letter, the yod, as a Name of G-d. Recall that the Four-letter Name of G-d begins with this letter. A house is only really a house if G-d is there too. And so too the ark, the ark for Noah could only be a real house if G-d was also present in it. Present in Noah’s life by putting his trust in G-d. If we take this yod from beit and place it in the Teva, it does not say תבה but תיבה (This is a spelling that is grammatically correct but not common). When we are using the commond gematria of this word, we have the numerical value of 417 but when we are using de Reverse Avgad method we will have the numerical value of 314.

This is the same numerical value as Torah, 314 when we are using the Avgad method instead of the common gematria method, in which Torah has the numerical value of 611. And brings us back to the other meaning of the word Teva that we already saw “word”. For the ultimate word is the Word of G-d, G-d’s Torah through which He makes Himself known. Noach knew he was safe in the Ark, knew he was safe in G-d’s Torah.

The same applies to us. When we connect with G-d through His Word, through His Torah, when we immerse ourselves in the 7 Noachid Laws, we know ourselves secure and feel safe, and like Noach, we may trust that G-d will lead us to a renewed world. Already here and now because we will learn to see His help and guidance better, but also in the world to come. Which He promised to those who come in the ark.

And this promise to us He will remember. Our salvation is a fact, just as Noah’s salvation was a fact, just not yet visible. Not because it is not there yet, but because it is still hidden from our eye. But what the eye cannot yet see, one can sometimes already feel just as one cannot see the wind, but can feel it.

In Genesis 1 we read: and the Ruach of Elokim hovered on the surface of the waters, which is the beginning of creation. Here in Genesis 8, we read that the Ruach of Elokim blows on the earth. Which is the beginning of a renewed world. And so we know that the Ruach of Elohim also blows now and that the future World will come. That that wind blows we see because we see the fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah 56:7 being fulfilled.

כִּ֣י בֵיתִ֔י בֵּית-תְּפִלָּ֥ה יִקָּרֵ֖א לְכׇל-הָעַמִּֽים

For my house shall be called
a house of prayer for all nations.

When we feel secure in the Tevah, when we establish a relationship with G-d through His Torah, His Word, we want to go up to His House to worship Him.

As written above, the Hebrew word for “word” is “Milah”. When we pray to Hashem, we do so through our word, through our mouth. The Hebrew word for “mouth” is “Peh”. When we are using the common gematria method, both have the numerical value of 85. So from this we learn how important it is not only to say a prayer in the heart, but also to utter it physically, literally with the mouth.

And worship we will, not only in this life, in this world but also in the future World, a renewed World. That is what He has promised us if we live according to His Will and observe His Laws because we feed on the Tree of Life, then there is life לעלם forever which has the value of 85 and 85 is 170.

Praising and worshipping Him is easiest when you get to know Him, through His Torah, and by reading other inspiring books.

By Angelique Sijbolts

Mispar Hechrachi (Mispar ha-Panim, absolute, standard, normative value) (Heb: מספר הכרחי) is the most commonly used method of calculating gematria where each of the 22 letters is assigned a basic value. For example the alef is one and the beth is 2.

Avgad (Heb: אבג״ד) replaces each letter with the next one. (ex. “Aleph” becomes “Beis”, “Beis” becomes “Gimmel”, “Tav” becomes “Aleph”).

Reverse Avgad replaces each letter with the previous one. (ex. “Beis” becomes “Aleph”, “Gimmel” becomes “Beis”, “Aleph” becomes “Tav”).

Sources: Chabadapp: chumash with Rashi, Sefaria – Chizkuni, Or HaChaim and Radak.,Chabad Article: Dealing With the Flood of Life Noach, Toracalculator

With Thanks to rabbi Baruch Simcha for the input and Dr. Michael Schulman for the feedback.

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