In this week’s parsha, Noah is told to build an ark (can I quote Bill Cosby?). And the Torah says he does it, but it says so twice:
And the context of those two assessments leads to an interesting point:
The two paragraphs use two different names of G-d: what is called שם אלוקים and שם הויה. So Julius Wellhausen and his academic followers developed the Documentary Theory: the different names represent different authors, who wrote their books in different times. Each was the scripture of a different Hebrew tribe. When they were later united, the various books were edited (or “redacted”) together to form what we now call the Pentateuch. So our question has an easy answer: the two paragraphs were from two different documents: J (for “Jehovah”), which used שם הויה and E (for “Elohist”), which used שם אלוקים.
Aside from the heresy of such a theory, the problem is that there is no evidence that this is true. There is no archeological “Book of E” or “Book of J” to tell us what part of the Pentateuch goes where (that isn’t exactly right; there does exist a “Book of J”. More on that later). The multiple documents come from looking at the complex text we have and assuming that primitive people without PhD’s could only have one thought at a time, and pulling the bits and pieces apart.
I bring this up largely to present a brilliant satire by The Byzantine Scotist, an anonymous Christian theologian:
Needless to say, I don’t take the Documentary Hypothesis seriously. And the different names of G-d don’t mark different texts; they are mixed throughout the Torah, including in our parsha:
But, the Torah does use two different names. While there is no archeological “Book of J”, in 1990, literary critic Harold Bloom published The Book of J, where he put together all the parts of the Torah that used שם הויה. And he reached a controversial conclusion:
Bloom concluded that J was
written by a woman because G-d in J is merciful, as opposed to the harshness of G-d in E.
So the academics came to the same conclusion as חז״ל, only 2000 years late:
So we have one pasuk in which Noah does what אלוקים commands, and one in which he does what ה׳ commands. Rashi notes the redundancy but seems unconcerned about the names:
Ramban is only concerned about the redundancy in the first pasuk itself: ויעש נח ככל אשר צוה אתו אלקים כן עשה. That is a Biblical Hebrew idiom for “exactly”, “no more and no less”:
But on the שם הויה pasuk, Ramban notes that saving Noah was an act of רחמים:
Rabbeinu Bachya says that the רחמים was to the rest of the world. ה׳ had decided to destroy the world if they didn’t improve in the next 120 years:
And now ה׳ gives them another week:
Sforno says the רחמים was to Noah’s family:
But that’s not what Ramban is saying. Ramban says הודיעו השם כי במדת רחמים ימלט אותו. Noah himself is being saved as an act of רחמים. Even though he is a צדיק, he would not pass the דין implied in שם אלוקים. That is because when the Torah says ויעש נח ככל אשר צוה אתו אלקים כן עשה it is criticizing him. Building the ark was not in order to save the animals but to save humanity:
When Avraham learns of the impending destruction of Sedom, he protests. He spends his life evangelizing the service of הקב״ה and the value of יראת אלוקים. As far as we can tell, Noah does nothing of the sort. I will quote Bill Cosby:
נח איש צדיק; תמים היה בדרתיו. But he had the potential to be much more.