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What are some understandings as to how animals populated different continents after the flood? Did some species of animals survive the flood? Or are we to understand that the flood only affected the parts of the world that were populated by humans? Or is there a source that animals were recreated in distant parts of the world after the flood? Or what?

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Pangaea!​​​​​​​ ;) –  HodofHod Dec 31 '12 at 2:44
    
If you mean this as a serious answer, there would need to be a an explanation as to how the continents drifted so drastically a mere 4000 years ago. I'm guessing it's not a serious answer based on the ";)". –  chaimp Dec 31 '12 at 2:50
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I think it's pretty well established that the whole story of Noach is a miracle from start to finish. There are a huge number of things in the story that would be impossible without a miracle. –  Ariel Dec 31 '12 at 3:59
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Yes, but many of the miracles are described to us. I would think something as spectacular as the repopulation of the planet with millions of species of animals would be mentioned at the very least in a Midrash somewhere. –  chaimp Dec 31 '12 at 4:36
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See here from the 2:32 mark for the best explanation I have seen youtube.com/watch?v=XEdgXzOQxyw –  josh waxman Feb 4 at 23:57

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One approach is mentioned in The Challenge of Creation, by R' Natan Slifkin, in footnote 2 on page 277:

... others explained that the deluge did not cover the entire earth, hence not every species of animal had to be taken on board; see Rabbi Dovid Tzvi Hoffman, commentary to Genesis, pp. 140-141; Rabbi Azriel Leib Rakovsky (disciple of Rav Yaakov Karliner, author of the Miskenos Yaakov), Shelemah Mishnaso to Berachos 56b, and Rabbi Gedalyah Nadel, BeToraso Shel Rabbi Gedalyah pp. 116-119. For further discussion of various approaches to the topic of the deluge, see Rabbi J. Hertz's "Additional Notes to Genesis" at the back of The Pentateuch.

(links mine)

Here's my translation of the particularly relevant part of BeToraso Shel Rabbi Gedalyah, from page 118, which can be found on page 65 of the PDF linked on the sidebar of this page (paragraph breaks and links mine):

"To destroy all flesh ... which is under the heaven, all that's on the land will perish" - We've already said that "which is under the heaven" refers to the heaven over this land, the land east of Eden. To a person living in this area, this is the whole world, everything that he can see and relate to.

One can bring evidence from a Gemara for this. In Bechorot (55a), we learned, "One who vows oneself off of the waters of the Euphrates is forbidden from all the waters in the world," because the sources of the Euphrates are high, and all the waters in the area go up and flow from them, due to the capillary action of liquids. Are there no places in the whole world higher than the origins of the Euphrates, that don't draw at all from the Euphrates? - Of course, there are, and the meaning of the phrase "all the waters of the world" clearly is: in the whole area, in the whole Middle East. That's "the whole world" to someone living in this area.

And we also learned in Zevachim (113a) that R' Yochanan and Reish Lakish disagreed about whether the Deluge descended upon the Land of Israel as well or not. Is the Land of Israel not "under the heaven"? We see that it's possible to think that the waters of the Deluge didn't cover the entire world. And one can understand that they disagreed with respect to the Land of Israel, since it's near Babel, if it was also afflicted as part of the area that the Deluge descended upon, or if - due to its holiness or some other reason - a land which "is not rained upon on the day of rage."

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I think I've finally pinpointed what makes me so uncomfortable about this approach - it's basically saying "G-d can't do that" c'v. In particular, this is also saying that Bereshis 7:19 and 7:23 are false. –  yoel Jan 1 '13 at 17:25
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@yoel Questions about the literality of particular words in the Torah need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis and may have nothing to do with theology. The difference between "he doesn't generally do that" and "He can't do that" is vast, as the former has nothing to do with His ability but instead describes a pattern in His relationship toward us that we have detected using the faculties that He gave us and exhorted us to use for that purpose. In any case, which of the cited sources contains the argument you're disputing? –  Isaac Moses Jan 1 '13 at 20:29
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Thank you. I think it is a perfectly valid answer and since sources are quoted, that is what I was looking for. Like many similar things, I think it is acceptable like so: If you are thinking in the realm of everything being miraculous, it is certainly acceptable to suggest that after the flood of the entire earth, Hashem re-populated certain areas with animals miraculously (such as kangaroos in Australia). But if you want to address the situation in something that can be understand in physical means, there are sources that would suggest that the flood only filled certain areas of the world. –  chaimp Jan 1 '13 at 22:46
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@yoel There's a lot of things He doesn't do that He can, as well. One thing God doesn't do is flood the world again. Another is destroy all the Jews. Somethings that God doesn't do very often is take Mount Everest to visit in New York, bring people back to life, reverse the direction of gravity, or create lots of new species and send them off to different corners of the Earth. He could do all those things (and maybe He has) but He certainly doesn't do them very often at all. So not often in fact that it would seem silly to expect them to occur anytime soon (absent a specific prophecy) –  Double AA Jan 2 '13 at 6:52
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Also, the difference betweem "He didn't do what the Torah says He did" and "the Torah contains untrue statements" is nothing except it is worth noting that the second statement isn't problematic if you take the Truth of the Torah to be more than that of a history book. I know I do. I mean, did the Jews live in Egypt for 430 years? You'll say no. Therefore the Torah contains untrue statements. We can argue about valid methods of interpretation, but saying literal truth is what is problematic about a method is a little simplistic. –  Double AA Jan 2 '13 at 6:58

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