What is the reason that G-d brought rain during 40 days in the mabul; could G-d not do it a second?! Of course He could. So what's the explanation for this duration of 40 days?

  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/1608
    – DonielF
    Mar 25, 2020 at 1:43
  • See my (very similar) answer at judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/76318/6330#76330 In explaining what "40 missing one" means, I repeat what I remember of R Aryeh Kaplan's explanation of 40. Mar 26, 2020 at 20:24
  • "The same 40 shows up as a symbol of birth and rebirth in the number of days of rain in the flood, the number of years it took us to mature into a nation in the desert, the number of se’ah of water in a miqvah, the number of days after gestation before the soul enters the fetus as well as the gender is determined, etc… But of the 40 acts of creation..." Mar 26, 2020 at 20:24

1 Answer 1


Rashi to Genesis 7:4 explains that it's because of their sin of adultery:

ארבעים יום. כְּנֶגֶד יְצִירַת הַוָּלָד, שֶׁקִּלְקְלוּ לְהַטְרִיחַ לְיוֹצְרָם לָצוּר צוּרַת מַמְזֵרִים

"Forty days" – corresponding to the formation of the fetus, for their sins troubled their Creator to form the form of children of illicit relations.

Rashi here refers to a Talmudic tradition that the formation of the fetus is at forty days.

  • Maybe someone can help me out here. In the back of my mind I remember learning an Acharon (I think) that 40 also corresponds to their sin of Avodah Zarah, as they denied the foremost principle of the Torah given in 40 days, and to their sin of theft, as גזל has a gematria of 40, in addition to this line of logic here. I thought it was the Kli Yakar, but I'm struggling to find it.
    – DonielF
    Mar 25, 2020 at 1:42
  • המבול התחיל בתור גשם. (ז יב) "וַיְהִי הַגֶּשֶׁם עַל הָאָרֶץ אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם וְאַרְבָּעִים לָיְלָה". רק אחר כך הוא נקרא מבול: "וַיְהִי הַמַּבּוּל אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם עַל הָאָרֶץ וַיִּרְבּוּ הַמַּיִם וַיִּשְׂאוּ אֶת הַתֵּבָה וַתָּרָם מֵעַל הָאָרֶץ". מסביר רש"י שלפני שהתחיל המבול אם אנשי דור המבול היו חוזרים בתשובה, עוד הייתה עוד אפשרות למנוע את האסון. לכן התיאור של המבול מתחיל בגשם. שכשהוריד ה' את הגשמים "הורידן ברחמים. אם יחזרו - יהיו גשמי ברכה. וכשלא חזרו - היו למבול". yeshiva.org.il/midrash/12589
    – interested
    Mar 25, 2020 at 10:37
  • @interested I'm familiar with that Rashi. I fail to see your point in referencing it.
    – DonielF
    Mar 25, 2020 at 13:57
  • DonielF This answers the question @DonielF
    – interested
    Mar 25, 2020 at 14:48
  • @interested I'm not clear on how it does so. It doesn't address why forty at all; all it addresses is why there were two distinct periods – rain and flood.
    – DonielF
    Mar 25, 2020 at 15:07

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