Why Did Noach Leave The Ark Limping?

and only Noach and those with him in the ark survived–

(Bereishit 7:23) 

The word used for only in this verse also means “to be afflicted.” It indicates that Noach’s body was no longer whole when he left the ark.  Rabbi Yossi Haglili tells that Noach once delayed feeding a lion in the ark. The lion bit him so severely that he was crippled for life. He became unfit to bring offerings on the altar and his son Shem had to do in his stead.

What were Noach and his sons doing during the 12 months they spent in the ark?

Rashi writes that Noach left the ark groaning and spitting blood because he got ill  caring for the cattle and the beasts. Rabbi Levi says that Noach and his sons never got to sleep during the year they spent in the ark because they were busy feeding the cattle, beasts and different birds who were there. 

Ramban points out that the dimensions of the ark were not able to contain the thousands of species of cattle, beasts, birds and crawling animals. It was only by miracle that they fit in. Another miracle was needed to fit in a one year supply of food for them.

So why did Noach and his sons work so hard feeding and caring for the thousands of cattle, beasts, birds and crawling animals that they couldn’t sleep for an entire year? Couldn’t they have relied on a miracle to take care of the animals?

The Midrash Tehilim relates that Abraham asked Shem the son of Noach what merit did they have to remain alive after the flood. Shem told Abraham that it was due to the charity they performed in the ark. Abraham remarked that there weren’t any poor people in the ark only Noach and his family. Shem told him that they were busy doing charity with the animals and were busy round the clock taking care of them.

Abraham then declared that only because Noach and his sons did charity feeding the animals, they remained alive and left the ark after the flood.

The great obligation of feeding poor people and taking care of their needs should be delineated from this beautiful Torah teaching. We are here only because of Noach and his sons’ noble deeds and should emulate their righteous ways.

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