In this week’s Torah portion, Noach (Noah), we read that after the flood, Noach sent a dove out of the ark. It returned, “and behold, it had plucked an olive leaf with its beak,” and Noach knew that the water had subsided from the earth.
Why does the verse tell us what kind of leaf it was? And why does it say that it was plucked? What about this olive leaf told Noach that the water had subsided from the earth? And where in the world was the leaf from?
Why an olive leaf? Rashi explains that olives are bitter and the dove was hinting, that he would rather have bitter food from the hand of G-d, than sweet food from the hand of man.
Even more. Olive trees are very hardy trees, and we see that Noach knew this, as Rashi tells us, that Noach took on to the ark a “(grape) vine and a fig sapling.” However, he didn’t take an olive plant, because he was certain, that being a very strong tree, some would survive. Therefore, it makes sense that the dove would have found an olive tree.
Why does it say that it was plucked? This means that Noach was able to tell that it was a fresh leaf and not one that was found floating on the water. It was a new leaf that grew after the flood.
This was also what indicated to Noach that the water had subsided from the earth. Because even if the tree was on a mountain, the fact that it had enough time to grow new foliage, indicated that there had been enough time for the water to subside.
According to a number of our Sages, the olive tree was in Israel, which as also purified by the flood. But why would Israel, the Holy Land, need to be affected, i.e. purified by the flood?
The flood had a positive impact on the earth as well. First, it purified the earth from the evils of the generations that preceded the flood. Second, we must conclude, that the flood also added a new level of holiness to the earth, because, what point would there be to send the whole flood, just to have the earth return to its prior state. (We also see this from the fact that our Haftora calls the flood, the “Waters of Noach.” Noach also means, “it is good,” that is that the flood had a positive side, it raised the status of the earth.) This is what the Holy Land gained by having the flood, it was raised to an even higher level of holiness.
The flood is symbolic of all our troubles. Just as the flood’s ultimate purpose was to raise the status of the earth, so too, every difficulty in life is really a positive in disguise. It is a necessary hardship, which is there for your benefit, to bring you to a higher place, spiritually and physically. And if you can see it this way, life will start to become easier and happier.
Soon all the floods will end. There will be healing, livelihood, children, all our desires for good with the coming of Moshiach. Then, we will not be the same as before the struggles, we will have been elevated to a higher state, both physically and spiritually. May it happen soon.