The Raven's Lesson
By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim
The Torah describes how Noah opened the window above the ark and sent out a raven. The raven did not venture out and circled the ark continuously. Rashi quotes the Talmud (Sanhedrin 108b) that states that the raven refused to venture out fearing that Noah wanted to unite with the raven’s mate, the female raven. Why would the Torah find it necessary to share this incident with us? What possible lesson can we learn from this irrational raven?
The Talmud (Sanhedrin 108b) also teaches us that although all creatures were commanded not to engage in procreation in the ark, the raven was promiscuous and did not heed this warning. Maharal explains that although the raven acts instinctively and has no free will, we learn an important lesson regarding human nature from the raven. The raven irrationally projects its desires onto others. That is why the raven suspected Noah of desiring to cohabit with its mate.
We human beings do exactly the same thing. We often irrationally assume that our desires and worldview are shared by others. Making false assumptions based on our own desires and viewpoint is often a cause of stress in human relationships. The Torah is teaching us to become aware of this tendency and to use our human faculties to counter this tendency. One of the best ways to avoid this trap is to accustom oneself to ask others what they desire or for their viewpoint. This habit results in us being less focused on ourselves and more focused on others. This is the lesson of Noah’s raven.