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Why did animals need to eat/be fed for a year in the Ark?

"Oh, because they need to eat", you'd say, but really the Mabul was one big miracle, overriding all laws of nature - physics, geology, zoology, biology, genetics and whatnot.

Why in this huge miracle did animals need to eat? This problem was easily "circumvented" for the Israelites in the desert with Mannah. This "natural behavior" actually caused more additional miracles to be performed - miraculous preparing of the food for all animals, miraculous feeding, taking care of poop etc.

Why couldn't G-d simply stop them from eating for a year?

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    This question could be improved by adding sources 1) that the animals did eat 2) for the miracles that occurred to allow this 3) for the other flood-related miracles. Commented Nov 2, 2019 at 23:39
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    The rule is we generally try to 'minimize' a miracle as much as possible. Why should this be any different? Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 1:19
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    So Noach could have merit enough for his offspring to be permitted to eat their meat. If the animals had just survived miraculously the right to eat meat could have been questionable Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 1:30
  • Simply put, animals actually need to eat. So why isn't it a miracle? For the Exodus, it was the mana. The flood, it was the arc. They each served their own special purpose. Noah and Moshe had to account for logistics. But if the flood was local to Mesopotamia, Noah can easily pack grains and other foods. The only time G-d needs to perform miracles is to imagine a flood where millions of animals cannot be raised, bred and cared for, however, if we assume it was local, you can easily imagine Noah feeding hundreds of animals.
    – Jonathan
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 6:36
  • how would a miracle of not needing to eat for a whole year impact the nature of the animals on the teva?
    – Dude
    Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 22:33

3 Answers 3

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R Ari Wasserman explains the ark was a "chesed school" and that feeding animals became the mechanism to teach Noah and his family a value which would be fundamental to the new world being created.

As Chazal tell us, feeding all these creatures was a full-time, round-the clock job, as some were nocturnal, some ate more often than others, etc. Noach and co.’s constant giving was part of Hashem’s rehab program for humanity.

As Rabbi Mordechai Gifter explains, Hashem created the world solely to bestow chesed and to enable man to do likewise. But Noach’s generation couldn’t manage it. Either people rejected chesed altogether, committing violent crimes, or – along with the animals – they perverted this precious value by engaging in forbidden relationships. Their inability to live in harmony destroyed the world. To rebuild it, humankind had to become humankind, mastering chesed anew.

That’s what Noach and his family did aboard the ark. Aside from protecting them from the flood, this craft served as a floating chesed academy in which they learned to work together and give unstintingly. Only after “graduation” were they permitted to exit the ark and embark on the sacred task of reconstructing the world. (Pirkei Torah, parshas Noach)

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  • I enjoyed this answer because it not only provided a "how" but a "reason" to feed the animals. I would add that the Chazal's message is in line with the last 7th law of Noah. That is to say, that it commands us not only to have respect for fellow humans but also show respect for animals, for they too have feelings. In short Chazal, as well as the Noahide laws, teach morality and respect.
    – Jonathan
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 8:32
  • Thank you, Musar-wise it's a great lesson +1! Albeit factually irrelevant I think as many Mussar interpretations. Noah was already a Tzaddik, nowhere else G-d spoke or asked or commanded about Chessed and nowhere else did he or his sons practiced Chessed. Gentiles have no Chessed Mitzvahs IMHO.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 16:03
  • To Al Berko, you write that "nowhere... did he... practiced Chessed", but Rashi states: and only Noah…survived: אַךְ means “only” Noah. This is its simple meaning, but the Midrash Aggadah (Tan. Noach 9) [states]: He was groaning and spitting blood because of the burden [of caring for] the cattle and the beasts, and some say that HE DELAYED FEEDING THE LION, and it struck him, and concerning him it is said (Prov. 11:31): “Behold a righteous man is requited [for his sins] in this world.” - [Tan. Noach 9]
    – user16403
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 22:17
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Why couldn't G-d simply stop them from eating for a year?

Because it was all part of G-ds plan, in recreating a perfect species.

Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, also known as the Meshech Chochmah, writes that the reason why the animals that were inside the ark were fed, is because it was part of G-ds "rehabilitation" programme. Animals also acted sinfully during the generation of the flood, so they needed to be "re-schooled" so to say.

The Meshech Chochmah explains that by feeding the animals, they would learn (re-learn) faithfulness (part of explanation below).

ובגמרא פרק חלק למשפחותיהם יצאו אמר ר' יוחנן ולא הם והענין דהמבול היה שוהה שנים עשר חודש (עיין עדיות משפט דור המבול י"ב חודש) אף שכל ענין המבול היה שלא ע"ד הסדור הטבעי, וקיום נח והבעלי חיים היו בענין השגחה מיוחדת להתקיים באויר כזה אשר היה משחית ומכלה ולזה אמר ויזכור אלקים את נח ואת כל אשר אתו בתבה פירוש בעוד היותם בתבה זכר אותם בהשגחה מדויקת וכן דרשו בב"ר מה זכירה נזכר לו שזן ופרנס אותם כל י"ב חודש שבתבה וא"כ היה ביכולת ההשגחה למחות כל היקום כרגע אולם כי השחית כל בשר את דרכו על הארץ [לבד מה שלא השחיתו במקרה] ונשחת תכונת הבע"ח לגמרי וטבעם היה לאהוב הרע והחמס ולזה היה צריך חנוך י"ב חודש ולהיות נעצרים

See also this wonderful article, written by Daf Yomi Digest on Sanhedrin 108:

During these twelve months the animals themselves refrained from procreating, became accustomed to minimal rations, were fed by man and would once again fear him. After this reinitiation they could leave and remain eternally faithful to their families and no longer mate with other species. This is what Rav Yochanan meant when he said that “they left to their families and not they themselves,” as the animals had undergone such a drastic change in their behavior and nature that the original group which entered were now truly different animals than those which had entered the ark.

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    Good answer. This whole question could easily be dismissed by saying "there are many parts that didn't need to happen non-miraculously, why pick this, each has a reason", but you went ahead and found the reason, shkoyach
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 20:20
  • Ty! I was looking for a commentary on that Gemara, and found this really helpful article. Glad to be of help!
    – Shmuel
    Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 20:35
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I take issue with your premise. I'm not a fan of endless explanations of miracles, because I think it makes theology and philosophy lazy. I take a similar issue with Christians inserting Jesus into every Angelic or Miraculous event in the Hebrew Bible. They are using "miracles" or divine intervention to explain things in the Bible that don't need to be explained that way.

As far as I'm aware, the ONLY Miraculous thing that happens in the mabul/flood is God creates rain, and opens up the floodgates of the Earth and the water covers the land. The Bible is really clear on this part.

The Bible doesn't make clear about any other miracles, but we assume them to make sense of the story in our current understanding. The idea that the animals would come on their own, in pairs and families without a human to lead them sounds miraculous. The idea they'd live peacefully in an ark for a year and not each other sounds miraculous. The fact that Noah and the animals would eat the same food sounds miraculous. Or Noah sending off birds who come and report back can sound miraculous.

But the Bible doesn't describe these events as truly outside the norm. And I argue that this is the case because the Bible considers animals to both be sentient AND talking until the Tower of Babel. If we accept this Biblical premise, then suddenly the prior paragraph has zero miracles. Not only that it helps explains why God felt He was able to make a covenant with Noah AND all the animals that came off the ark. Because God isn't usually known for making covenants with creatures that can't understand the terms of the deal.

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