The animals came in two-by-two hurrah, huraah!
The words to this nursery rhyme are an ear-worm whenever I consider the instruction to Noah to round up “two of every kind of birds, cattle and every creeping thing on earth.”
The mind cannot help but boggle at the enormity of the task Noah would have faced.
Even assuming the ‘earth’ might have been a smaller entity in Noah’s day, how would he have the wherewithal in capturing all the species of the earth so alive and healthy?
Then in the Ark itself, how would each animal be separated so that the ‘laws of nature’ were suspended? How would you prevent the lions or wolves from feasting? How would you stop the birds from flying away or the ants from getting squashed?
Perhaps the nursery rhyme and wooden toys of arks filled with various animals is the most appropriate way of ‘literally’ understanding this Torah story – it was something for the children.
However, children’s stories still contain plenty of meaning.
One of the morals I get from this tale is that it answers the question, ‘why Noah?’ What made him such a tzaddik (righteous person) that God would save him and his family above all others?
The Rabbis applied a number of Proverbs to Noah: “A wise man captivates people” and “the righteous man, who knows the needs of his beast.”
If God wanted to hit reboot on the world, a partner on earth was required to preserve and nurture life.
Noah was that man who would put his needs behind those of preserving the life of the planet… all the while perhaps humming, “the animals came in two-by-two hurrah, hurrah!”
Rabbi Aaron Goldstein is senior rabbi at Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue