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Rashi in his commentary to Genesis 7:7 writes:

אף נח מקטני אמנה היה מאמין ואינו מאמין שיבא המבול ולא נכנס לתיבה עד שדחקוהו המים

I see (at least) two ways to read this:

  • Noah believed in general (in God?) but did not believe the specific idea that a flood would come. (I.e. a comma after the first word מאמין.)

  • Noah believed-but-did-not-believe in the specific idea that a flood would come. (I.e. מאמין ואינו מאמין is one phrase meaning that he partially believed it, or he vacillated in his belief.)

Is there any evidence that one of these readings is (more) correct?

(I have seen some early Midrashic sources with the same idea, but they didn't use the specific wording of מאמין ואינו מאמין, so I don't know if any proof can be brought from them.)

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  • +1 Compare Bereishis Rabbah’s wording of נח מחסר אמנה היה אילולי הגיעו מים עד קרסוליו לא נכנס לתבה. Even if we assume Rashi is just rephrasing the Midrash, either reading would fit. – DonielF Nov 13 '19 at 3:51
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    I don't think Chazal use the phrase מאמין intransitively, the way we do nowadays (saying that someone is אדם מאמין); so on your first reading I would have expected "מאמין בהקב"ה ואינו מאמין שיבוא המבול". – Josh Friedlander Nov 13 '19 at 10:24
  • There are definitely those who read Rashi as your first option, but I feel it's more b'derech drush: sefaria.org/Be'er_Mayim_Chaim%2C_Genesis.7.5.2?lang=bi books.google.com/… – Joel K Nov 13 '19 at 11:16
  • There is a 3rd way to read it. "נח מקטני אמנה" is not necessarily a negative thing.The same expression, "מקטני" is used in connection with Yaacov שׁהןמו to describe his humility. ״קָטֹ֜נְתִּי מִכֹּ֤ל הַחֲסָדִים֙ וּמִכָּל־הָ֣אֱמֶ֔ת אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָשִׂ֖יתָ אֶת־עַבְדֶּ֑ךָ״ So he had faith and didn't believe that G-d would bring the flood to destroy all flesh. (Remember, this was a consequence of an accusation being brought against mankind by the Angel of Death, Samael.) And Noach believed this so strongly (Only good comes from Above.) that he refused to enter the ark until forced because of the waters. – Yaacov Deane Nov 13 '19 at 14:22
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    I think your second reading is the only comfortable way to read the Rashi. That being said, I heard another (strained) reading, that Noach had faith in the men-of-little-faith and trusted they would repent, and therefore he did not believe the flood would come. – simyou Nov 13 '19 at 14:32
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The way I heard Rav Aharon Feldman shlit"a explain it (sorry it was a lecture so I don't have a link), Noach believed intellectually but he did not internalize the belief. So he knew and believed what Hashem told him, but he hadn't accepted it deep down.

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