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Per Rashi, in Noach (Genesis 7:13), בעצם היום הזה/"In the selfsame day" expresses the notion of a face-off. God's way of creating a showdown between good and evil. "I will call your bluff."

בעצם היום הזה. לִמֶּדְךָ הַכָּתוּב שֶׁהָיוּ בְנֵי דוֹרוֹ אוֹמְרִים אִלּוּ אָנוּ רוֹאִים אוֹתוֹ נִכְנָס לַתֵּבָה, אָנו שׁוֹבְרִין אוֹתָהּ וְהוֹרְגִין אוֹתוֹ, אָמַר הַקָּבָּ"ה אֲנִי מַכְנִיסוֹ לְעֵינֵי כֻלָּם וְנִרְאֶה דְבַר מִי יָקוּם:

בעצם היום הזה IN THE SELFSAME DAY — Scripture teaches you that the people of his generation said: “If we see him enter the Ark we will smash it up and kill him”. The Holy One, blessed be He, thereupon said, ‘‘I will let him enter before the eyes of everyone and we shall see whose word prevails” (Genesis Rabbah 32:8).

Noach thus isn't sneaking off - let's do this in broad daylight! What I find strange is the following. Noach should be snuck in the backdoor because he doesn't quite believe in the flood. He's not exactly the poster child for this moment of truth. Picture the scene - an evil mob gathers to kill Noach and smash the ark, and he, in full view, is checking to see if the water is really getting higher. "Is it up to my ankles yet?" What gives?

Rashi, Genesis 7:7:

מפני מי המבול. אַף נֹחַ מִקְּטַנֵּי אֲמָנָה הָיָה, מַאֲמִין וְאֵינוֹ מַאֲמִין שֶׁיָבֹא הַמַּבּוּל, וְלֹא נִכְנַס לַתֵּבָה עַד שְׁדְּחָקוּהוּ הַמַּיִם:

מפני מי המבול BECAUSE OF THE WATERS OF THE FLOOD — (מפני properly means ‘‘from before”) — Noah, also, was of those people who are wanting in faith: he believed and he did not believe that the Flood would come, and he would not enter the Ark until the waters forced him to do so (Genesis Rabbah 32:6).

The Chizkuni sums it up best (Genesis 7:7). Noach entered the ark out of desperation and NOT because God commanded him to do so:

מפני מי המבול ולא מפני הצווי.

מפני מי המבול, “on account of the waters of the deluge, and not on account of G-d’s command to enter the ark.

Did the mob notice that Noach was only a quasi-believer? If so, doesn't this spoil the powerfulness of אֲנִי מַכְנִיסוֹ לְעֵינֵי כֻלָּם וְנִרְאֶה דְבַר מִי יָקוּם?/‘‘I will let him enter before the eyes of everyone and we shall see whose word prevails” The evildoers, indeed, drown, but the last thing they perforce see is the incredulous and unwilling Noach enter the ark ...

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    Hi A H and welcome to Mi Yodeya. Thanks for the edits and imo a great question.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Dec 25, 2023 at 12:25

3 Answers 3

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The mob said they were going to do something, and Hashem showed them that they were powerless to do it. Noach's relative level of belief does not enter into it.

P.s. We have to keep in mind that Noach was strong enough to spend 600 years resisting an evil society and 120 years building the Ark.

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Hi @AH welcome to Mi Yodeya this is a great question!

Two possible approaches...

  1. The approaching mob may not necessarily have seen a retreating Noach, but rather a pack of lions protecting the teiva. Refer to the Bereishis Rabbah 32:8:

בִּקְּשׁוּ לַהֲפֹךְ הַתֵּבָה, וְהִקִּיפָהּ אֲרָיוֹת שֶׁלֹא יִגְעוּ בוֹ

People sought to overturn the ark, and He surrounded it with lions so they would not touch it.

  1. Refer to the Zohar 1:68b which also puts a different spin on Noach's entering the ark vis-a-vis the lingering mob.

וְעַל דָּא קוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא בָּעָא לְחַפְיָא לְנֹחַ לְאִסְתַּתְּרָא מֵעֵינָא דְּלָא יָכִיל רוּחַ מְסָאֳבָא לְשַׁלְטָא עֲלֵיהּ בְּגִין דְּלָא יִתְחַבֵּל וְהָא אִתְּמָר. וַיָּבֹא נֹחַ כְּמָה דְּאִתְּמָר לְאִסְתַּתְּרָא מֵעֵינָא. מִפְּנֵי מֵי הַמַּבּוּל (דהא) דְּמַיִין דָּחֲקוּ לֵיהּ. אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹסֵי חָמָא מַלְאַךְ הַמָּוֶת דְּהֲוָה אָתֵי (ד"א ל"ג לגביה) וּבְגִין כָּךְ עָאל לְתֵיבוּתָא וְאִסְתַּמַּר בָהּ תְּרִיסַר יַרְחֵי (שתא).

Therefore, the Holy One, Blessed be He, wanted to protect Noach by hiding him out of sight, so that the impure spirit could not rule him and destroy him, as has already been explained. The words "And Noach went in" apply to what has previously been said - that he entered the ark to be hidden from sight. The words, "because of the waters of the flood" indicate that the waters actually pushed him (into the ark), meaning that he saw the waters of the Flood and was afraid. As a result, he "went...into the ark." Rabbi Yosi added that Noach saw the Angel of Death arrive and that is why he entered the ark.

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    Thx. for sharing ...
    – GratefulD
    Dec 26, 2023 at 11:10
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בעצם יום הזה is a buzzword for Yom Kippur, not necessary high noon or broad day. The day Abraham was circumcised, as the verse says the same phrase. This is well known in the Midrashim. So maybe he did go not in the broad daylight.

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