Noah's Ark

While most animals entered the ark two-by-two, each kosher species received 14 boarding passes. Why?

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

The week’s Torah portion is “Noah” (Genesis 6:9-11:32) and it is one of everyone’s favorites.

I would like to discuss the animals who had “boarding passes” to the ark. Many miss the fact that there were two types of animal “admission packages.” It’s true, most animals were brought in as pairs, couples. One male and one female.

However, any animal species that was destined to be kosher for the Jewish people later on was given 14 boarding passes. As it says, “From the pure (read: kosher) animals take for yourself seven by seven, a male and a female” (Genesis 7:2).

So let’s try to get to the bottom of this. The Torah was not yet given. There was no such thing as a Jewish people and there wouldn’t be for yet another several hundred years. There was no such thing as kosher (up to that point in time, the only non-kosher item mentioned in the Torah was the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge!)

Moreover, before the flood, man was not yet even permitted to kill animals for food.

So why were so many more animals from the “pure” species taken onto the ark?

The answer, it is explained, is that upon leaving the ark, God wanted Noah to have the opportunity to offer sacrifices. And the only animal sacrifices that are EVER permitted are what are now known as kosher animals. Offering a sheep as a sacrifice is permitted, but a horse or dog was never acceptable.

The Lesson of Fourteen

But a question still remains. Granted, God wanted Noah to be to offer animals as sacrifices (which was the equivalent to prayer nowadays). But why 14 of each kosher species? Did you know that the ark was awfully overcrowded, it had an open garbage dump, and Noah was busy serving the animals 24/7. Why make Noah’s job so hard? So bring in 3, 4, or 8 of the kosher species.

Why 14?

It is explained that God was trying to convey a very important message to Noah and his family by having so many kosher animals on the ark.

The overabundance of kosher animals, or, animals eligible for sacrifice, was God’s way of telling Noah that He wanted a relationship with him.

Even though God was angry and destroyed the entire world, God was excited to give Noah a new world, an opportunity to have a relationship with Him — an extensive and elaborate relationship “seven times” greater than what was.

The opportunity to offer sacrifices, was, in the olden days at least, was a sign of connection and relationship. And so it was right through to the two Temples in Jerusalem until they were destroyed and animal sacrifices ceased.

This is why it was important to have the extra kosher animals brought along for the ride.

The lesson for us is, no matter how far we strayed, even if we are worthy of destruction, God is always looking to renew and have a relationship with us!