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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

No Ark For the Extinct

What are the lessons that we can learn from the foundational story of Noah and the Ark?

Perhaps I should change the title to Noah, His Family, a Raven, a Dove and the Living Creatures.

Noah, noted as a tzadik, a righteous man, was chosen to save the world which was covered with wickedness. God asked a great deal from Noah and Noah followed carefully the complex set of directions that God left him. Indeed the flood followed and all was destroyed minus the living things on the ark.

Stories in torah are not random. They are placed there for a reason. Noah has an entire detailed chapter devoted to the story of the destruction, the renewal, the covenant and the rebirth. What can we learn? To read the cues around us when things are looking bad? To be prepared for the worst of things? To come up with a definition of what wickedness is and then work hard to never cultivate such destructive habits?

In the story of Noah it was humanity who were wicked. Animals, birds, insects, reptiles are not wicked. They have the potential for violence, but they did not contribute to the wickedness of the time. They were saved, but so many generations later it is not a flood that is destroying them, but the actions of humanity. These actions are not wicked, so to speak, but they are thoughtless and selfish. Unfortunately for animals, there is no road back from extinction.

There is no ark for the extinct,

no glimmering rainbow in the sky as a sign.

Noah is not here to collect the birds,

the insects, the mammals;

it is just a one way street to the end.

There are no miracles to extinction.

There is no road back to safety,

no lifesavers thrown into the sea,

no ladder to escape,

There is no formula,

no prayer that will bring them back.

L'olam means forever.

The passenger pigeon will never return

There is no ark for the extinct,

for animals who once were,

who breathed the air

who shimmied through the waves of the deep,

who crawled, their bellies hugging the earth

and flew in flocks so large they darkened the sky.

They roamed the plains,

they howled at the moon,

they hunted and fished,

they fluttered and climbed

molted and charged.

They, descendants from that ark that Noah steered,

whose ancestors viewed the colors in the sky

through their animal eyes.

Did they understand that there were no guarantees?

Could they see as their numbers dwindled?

Thousands, to hundreds, to tens

There was no bargaining with God

and they were gone.

The ivory billed woodpecker is gone forever

There is no ark for the extinct,

there is only too much rain

and too much cutting,

too much burning.

Too much mining,

too much building.


there are species who want too much,

plan too little

and care even less.

Some tales have happy endings,

rainbows and regrets and promises.

Heroes who save the day,

and some tales just end.

There is no ark for the extinct.

To read this article in the New York Times, written by Catrin Einhorn go to:

Then the LORD said to Noah, “Go into the ark, with all your household, for you alone have I found righteous before Me in this generation.

Of every clean animal you shall take seven pairs, males and their mates, and of every animal that is not clean, two, a male and its mate;

of the birds of the sky also, seven pairs, male and female, to keep seed alive upon all the earth.

For in seven days’ time I will make it rain upon the earth, forty days and forty nights, and I will blot out from the earth all existence that I created.”

And Noah did just as the LORD commanded him.

Genesis 7:1-5 (Translation from Sefaria)

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ לְנֹ֔חַ בֹּֽא־אַתָּ֥ה וְכׇל־בֵּיתְךָ֖ אֶל־הַתֵּבָ֑ה כִּֽי־אֹתְךָ֥ רָאִ֛יתִי צַדִּ֥יק לְפָנַ֖י בַּדּ֥וֹר הַזֶּֽה׃

מִכֹּ֣ל ׀ הַבְּהֵמָ֣ה הַטְּהוֹרָ֗ה תִּֽקַּח־לְךָ֛ שִׁבְעָ֥ה שִׁבְעָ֖ה אִ֣ישׁ וְאִשְׁתּ֑וֹ וּמִן־הַבְּהֵמָ֡ה אֲ֠שֶׁ֠ר לֹ֣א טְהֹרָ֥ה הִ֛וא שְׁנַ֖יִם אִ֥ישׁ וְאִשְׁתּֽוֹ׃

גַּ֣ם מֵע֧וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֛יִם שִׁבְעָ֥ה שִׁבְעָ֖ה זָכָ֣ר וּנְקֵבָ֑ה לְחַיּ֥וֹת זֶ֖רַע עַל־פְּנֵ֥י כׇל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃

כִּי֩ לְיָמִ֨ים ע֜וֹד שִׁבְעָ֗ה אָֽנֹכִי֙ מַמְטִ֣יר עַל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אַרְבָּעִ֣ים י֔וֹם וְאַרְבָּעִ֖ים לָ֑יְלָה וּמָחִ֗יתִי אֶֽת־כׇּל־הַיְקוּם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשִׂ֔יתִי מֵעַ֖ל פְּנֵ֥י הָֽאֲדָמָֽה׃

וַיַּ֖עַשׂ נֹ֑חַ כְּכֹ֥ל אֲשֶׁר־צִוָּ֖הוּ יְהֹוָֽה׃

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