ולא מצאה היונה מנוח לכף רגלה ותשב אליו אל התבה כי מים על פני הארץ וישלח ידו ויקחה ויבא אתה אליו אל התבהBut the dove found no resting place for the sole of its foot, so it returned to him to the ark because there was water upon the entire surface of the earth. So he stretched forth his hand and took it, and he brought it to him to the ark (Gen. 8:9).
Why does the Torah point out that Noah extended himself to bring the dove back into the ark? Why didn’t it just fly back home?
Rabbi Naftoli Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (1816-1893), otherwise known as the Netziv, points out that because the dove was not successful in its mission and returned without anything in its mouth, it thought that its master would be angry and not allow it to enter the ark. Noah, however, had compassion on the dove and took it in his hand to warm while it rested from the travails of her journey.
Even though the dove “found no resting place for the sole of its foot” — in other words it did not succeed in its mission — Noah treated it with compassion, and extended his hand to return the exhausted bird to its home.
In the eyes of the Almighty, it is the effort, not the result, that counts. How often do we do everything seemingly right, yet it ends in failure? This idea is apparent in today’s turbulent financial times, where we clearly see that success, or lack of success, is completely in the Almighty’s hands. With regard to spiritual pursuits, it is our responsibility to do our utmost, and we are rewarded accordingly.
A noted lecturer illustrated this idea with the following anecdote:
Dr. Levi was a famous heart surgeon who took his job very seriously. He made sure to keep abreast of all the latest medical developments and to be well rested and alert before beginning surgery. But although he took every possible precaution and reviewed all of Mr. Paloni’s tests and x-rays prior to the operation, Mr. Paloni’s heart stopped suddenly just minutes after beginning surgery, and he died on the operating table.
Dr. Simon was also a famous heart surgeon, but he did not take his job seriously. He laughed at those doctors who wasted their precious time reading medical journals. “After all,” he’d say, “after six years of medical school I should know what I’m doing.” A late night person, he often had to take a break during surgery to down a quick cup of coffee. The night before Mr. Almoni’s operation had been a particularly late one, and the good doctor was exhausted even before he made the first incision. Although he performed the surgery while half asleep, it was incredibly successful, and Mr. Almoni was given a new lease on life.
Although it appears that Dr. Levi failed while Dr. Simon succeeded, in the eyes of G-d it is completely the opposite. Dr. Simon failed — he was lax in his duties — while Dr. Levi was successful, as he did everything humanly possible to succeed.
Just as G-d treats us with compassion and rewards us for our efforts rather than for our accomplishment, we should treat others in the same way. If we ask someone to do something for us, and that person tries yet is unsuccessful, we should behave with compassion and treat him as if he had succeeded in his mission.