Parashat Noah begins by describing the famous teivah, or ark, that God instructed Noah to build. Since the wooden craft would be challenged by the rainstorm and the elements, God instructed Noah to protect the ark with pitch on both the inside and the outside (Genesis 6:14).

The same Hebrew word, teivah, is employed by the Torah to describe the floating bassinet that was used to hide baby Moses from Pharaoh’s officers. This “ark” was water-proofed as well. As the Torah testifies, “And when she [Moses’ mother] could no longer hide him [Moses], she took for him an ark made of reeds, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child in it; and she laid it in the rushes by the river’s brink” (Exodus 2:3). The commentator Rashi, in both aforementioned sources, offers several reasons why Noah’s ark had pitch inside and outside while Moses’ ark only had pitch on the outside. First of all, Rashi notes, Moses’ ark only encountered tranquil and still waters, while Noah’s ark was to face a massive storm with a cataclysmic amount of water. Moses’ ark therefore only needed water-proofing on the outside.

Second, Rashi points out, the pitch was not placed on the inside of Moses’ basket so that “the righteous Moses would not need to breath in the foul-smelling pitch.”

This Treat was originally posted on October 12, 2018.

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