by Rabbi Yisrael Kaniel – October 25, 2011
In the Torah section of Noach, we read of G-d’s decision, as a result of the corruption that engulfed the planet, to destroy all that was on Earth in an extraordinary flood except for those creatures spared by G-d in the ark that he asked Noach to build.
In order to prepare for the flood and ensure sufficient supplies for those in the ark, G-d enjoined Noach (Bereshit 6:21): “And as for you, take yourself of every food that is eaten and gather it in to yourself, that it shall be as food for you and for them.”
Upon reading the aforementioned verse, one may wonder about the seemingly superfluous wording of “food that is eaten” as well as how the ark could hold so much food to last for all of Noach’s family and all the animals in the ark during their extensive stay there. An insight by the famous Gaon of Vilna solves both questions.
The Gaon of Vilna notes (Pninim M’Shulchan HaGra al HaTorah, p. 36) that our Sages mention that the amount of food that can be consumed at once is the size of an egg (Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 80a). We can then infer that the words “that can be eaten” mean food the size of an egg that can be eaten at once. In other words, the Gaon of Vilna suggests that G-d enjoined Noach to prepare just the size of an egg of food per meal for those in the ark. G-d, in turn, blessed the food to satiate all those in the ark during their extended stay.
Consequently, both of the aforementioned difficulties fall away. The seemingly superfluous language is meant to indicate the small size of food that Noach was asked to apportion which, in turn, explains how all the food could fit in the ark. Then, since, with His unlimited powers and omnipotence, G-d can make a little go a long way, G-d was able to make the little stored in the ark last for all its inhabitants for their entire stay.