Parshas Noach - Birds of a Feather

By BJLife/Reb Eliezer Bulka
Posted on 10/09/21

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my father, Reuven Pinchas ben Chaim Yaakov, a"h (who is also quoted below.)

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my Oma, Chaya Sara bas Zecharia Chaim, a"h.

When Noach is instructed to bring a sampling of the entire animal kingdom with him into the teiva, there is an interesting nuance with regards to the animals. The pairs are referred to (7:2) as ish ve'ishto, man and his wife. This is certainly an anomalous phrase to use with regards to animals as they do not marry and thus, there are no husbands and wives. To add to the intrigue, the very next pasuk discusses the birds and refers to them only as zachar unkeivah, male and female. Why is this special term used only with regards to the animals?

Another intriguing twist to this discrepancy is the fact that there are various species of birds (such as the albatross) that are completely monogamous and will have only one mate in a lifetime. This would seem to make the ish ve'ishto label more appropriate to birds.

Rabbeinu Bachye explains that the gestation of animal offspring is similar to that of humans and that's why ish ve'ishto is used. Birds, on the contrary, lay eggs that are hatched and so they are not similar enough to humans to be referred to in the same way.

Panei'ach Raza offers another approach. The animals were possibly subject to acts of bestiality. Therefore, not all animals were eligible to enter the teiva – only those that were not involved in such loathsome acts. Since this is not possible with birds, any males or females would suffice.

Maharil Diskin writes yet another novel suggestion. The term ish ve'ishto is not meant to refer to actual marriage, per se. Rather, it is used to indicate that the animals would be similar in size "as if" they could be husband and wife. We do find the term ishah el achosah used in a similar vein (Shemos 26:6.) The reason for this is because animals are subject to the prohibition of oso ve'es beno – that a parent and child may not be slaughtered on the same day. If the animals brought onto the teiva were of different sizes, it is possible that a parent and child might be in the mix which would present a problem when they are slaughtered. (This is only applicable for the kosher animals but is extended to the non-kosher animals, as well.)

Birds are not subject to the prohibition of oso ve'es beno. Therefore, it was sufficient to take all sorts of males and females, regardless of their size.


On the lighter side (since, as illustrated below, the teiva was quite heavy): A good friend of mine and noted author, Mordechai Bodek, wrote a humourous book called Extracts From Noah's Diary. Check it out!

Have a good Shabbos