“And he sent out the dove from himself to see whether the waters has decreased” Genesis 8:8

By Sally Berkovic, October 7, 2010

With cramped living quarters, poor sanitation and no television, perhaps it was inevitable that Noah favoured some animals. Consider his special relationship with the dove. On her first mission to see if the waters had receded, the Torah says, "He sent the dove from him", intimating that Noah would suffer at her departure. When she returns, the text says, "She returned to him, to the ark…and he sent out his hand, and he took her and brought her to him, into the ark."

There is something of a romantic novella in these short sentences, only emphasised by the words "The dove found no ma-noach [rest]" outside the ark. The play on the word noach for rest and Noah's Hebrew name reinforces her inability to manage outside the safety of the ark and her master's special affection.

For her second mission, the Torah says, "He sent the dove from the ark", clearly a more detached sentiment than his first despatch. This time when she returns with an olive branch, we read, "The dove came to him". She comes to him, she does not return to him, and the ark is not mentioned. She too is now slowly disengaging from their relationship and her home.

Finally, in his third despatch, the text flatly states "He sent the dove" and she never returns. It had to be like that - in a post-flood world, the dove would need her independence and Noah would emerge from the ark in a different psychic state with little room for old attachments.

Like Noah, parents must send their beloved treasures from themselves and from their home. Like the dove, children are ambivalent, they come and they go, until finally they leave. However, unlike the dove, a child knows that true love and real security means they are always welcome home.

Last updated: 11:34am, October 7 2010