How can we “extend a hand” even when we are frustrated?
After the conclusion of the Flood, Noach needed a way to determine how far the waters had receded. Enter the dove. Or more precisely, exit the dove. Noach was hopeful that it would find a place to land, indicating that it was safe for him to disembark. Much to Noach’s dismay, however, the dove quickly returned, and its message was evident: The coast is not yet clear. The pasuk concludes that Noach stretched out his arm to bring the dove back into the ark (B’reishis 8:9), before waiting seven days to try again.
The last clause of the verse seems unnecessary. The pasuk need only have mentioned that the bird returned to the boat; why emphasize that Noach extended a hand to receive it?
The N’tziv has a remarkable explanation. Consider that, at this time, Noach had been cooped up in the ark for nearly a year – with his family, and every species of animal known to man. Talk about a difficult quarantine! Surely, by now, he was getting antsy, and was more than desperate to get off his boat, enjoy the fresh air, and soak in some rainbows. Given his extreme levels of restlessness, imagine how disappointed and frustrated he must have felt when he saw the messenger make a quick U-turn and “return to sender.” How much longer would he have to remain trapped aboard this floating prison?! Think how natural it would have been for Noach to take out his aggravation on the dove, the bearer of this terrible news.
And yet, Noach found a way to overcome this impulse. According to the N’tziv, this is exactly what the end of the verse is emphasizing. Despite the fact that the dove was unable to complete its mission, Noach still extended a warm hand to welcome it back. By symbol of his open arms, he showed the dove that he would be understanding, rather than critical. He chose to thank the bird for its efforts, rather than shoot the messenger.
There is an important lesson here. How often do we take out our frustrations on those who are simply relaying the information, or on those who just happen to be nearby? The tendency to do so increases tenfold at the end of a long day, or when we are juggling various life stressors. By showing appreciation for the efforts and good qualities of others, we can avoid misdirecting anger and blame their way. It is especially when our patience is spread thin that we must remember – like Noach – that there is no justification to shoot the messenger.