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In Genesis 8:21 God thinks to himself:

וַיָּ֣רַח יְהוָה֮ אֶת־רֵ֣יחַ הַנִּיחֹחַ֒ וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהוָ֜ה אֶל־לִבּ֗וֹ לֹֽא־אֹ֠סִף לְקַלֵּ֨ל ע֤וֹד אֶת־הָֽאֲדָמָה֙ בַּעֲב֣וּר הָֽאָדָ֔ם כִּ֠י יֵ֣צֶר לֵ֧ב הָאָדָ֛ם רַ֖ע מִנְּעֻרָ֑יו וְלֹֽא־אֹסִ֥ף ע֛וֹד לְהַכּ֥וֹת אֶת־כָּל־חַ֖י כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֥ר עָשִֽׂיתִי׃

The LORD smelled the pleasing odor, and the LORD said to Himself: “Never again will I doom the earth because of man, since the devisings of man’s mind are evil from his youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living being, as I have done.

Then a few lines later in Genesis 9:11 (same link as above), God says to Noah:

וַהֲקִמֹתִ֤י אֶת־בְּרִיתִי֙ אִתְּכֶ֔ם וְלֹֽא־יִכָּרֵ֧ת כָּל־בָּשָׂ֛ר ע֖וֹד מִמֵּ֣י הַמַּבּ֑וּל וְלֹֽא־יִהְיֶ֥ה ע֛וֹד מַבּ֖וּל לְשַׁחֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ׃

I will maintain My covenant with you: never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

Paraphrasing, God thinks, I will never destroy all humankind; God says, I will never destroy all humankind with a flood.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe (an exceptional Torah scholar) maintains (see "concise" in the index of "Torah Studies a parsha anthology" for multiple references) that extra or superfluous words are avoided in the Torah. Hence, adding the words "with a flood" to what God says to Noah must be significant. What God says to Noah is much more qualified or limited than what He thought earlier.

Why the difference? What does this difference teach us?

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  • 1
    Is there a difference? I do not see a difference at all.
    – Turk Hill
    Oct 25 '20 at 16:49
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    @TurkHill there's a significant difference. If you only say that you won't destroy the world by flood, then you may still destroy the world another way. If Hashem meant He won't destroy the world at all, why differentiate when speaking to Noach and leaving a kind of caveat?
    – Harel13
    Oct 25 '20 at 17:22
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    "why even write Hashem's thoughts in the first place" is a great question to ask on this site. Go ahead, I guarantee my +1.
    – Al Berko
    Oct 25 '20 at 20:28
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    This happens a lot. You ask a question presuming something that on second thought is not so apparent.
    – Al Berko
    Oct 25 '20 at 20:46
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    @AlBerko Note however that the Torah is written as economically as possible. Things are said as directly as possible, extra words are avoided. Why then, if the aim is to say "I will not destroy humankind", are the extra words "by flood" added?
    – ron
    Oct 25 '20 at 22:24
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The Gemora Shevous 36A says the reason the promise not to destroy the world with a mabul was repeated twice was to give that promises the status of an oath. It is a complex question in the Rishonim about the parameters of that oath (e.g. was it only an oath about a mabul?)but that is why it was repeated twice to begin with.

See the Ohr HaChaim on the second posuk who discusses the Gemara and indirectly touches on this question.

Hashem did not tell Noach anything different than his original promise. Rather he was clarifying the parameters of his oath in relation to floods. Not only he will never destroy all of mankind again even if he will bring a flood to destroy some places it will not have the effect of destruction on the land that the Mabul which Noach experienced did. לֹֽא־יִהְיֶ֥ה ע֛וֹד מַבּ֖וּל לְשַׁחֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ

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  • So is your conclusion that God promised not destroy humankind by plague, fire, flood, pestilence, or any other means?
    – ron
    Oct 26 '20 at 18:24
  • That is what the Ohr HaChaim says
    – Schmerel
    Oct 27 '20 at 1:19
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The Akivian methodology suggests that what G-d "says" and "thinks" are two different things. Whenever the Bible repeats or adds a word, it must be there to teach a lesson.

Rabbi Ishmael disagreed. He felt that “the Torah [which is intended for humans] speaks in human language.” Thus, the Torah repeats itself for emphasis to make a point. It may even do so to make a flowery or poetic point. We should not read anything new into these repetitions (which are many). If G-d intended to teach an additional lesson, it would not be hidden in repetition, it would have been an explicit statement.

Referring to your question with Rabbi Ishmael's view shows that nothing is being added. Genesis 8:21 and 9:11 says the same thing. G-d will not destroy the world again. There is no difference at all between those two verses.

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    Thank you for elaborating on your comment.
    – ron
    Oct 27 '20 at 1:06
  • @ron Your welcome.
    – Turk Hill
    Oct 27 '20 at 2:13

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