These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

[PCJE Dvar Torah] Really, A Rainbow?

Posted on October 24, 2014 by Anna Pomson

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AnnaPomsonI’d like you for a minute to imagine the scenario. Hashem sent a message to the whole world that they were not acting right. How did he send the message? He killed all of them except one family and few animals. The heavens opened and it rained for forty days and forty nights. Just imagine the worst rainstorm you’ve ever experienced and then think, what would it have been like if it had lasted forty days? Personally, extreme weathers give me a taste of Hashem’s power. We humans have no ways of stopping extreme weather and to me that puts the world into proportion.

At this point in the story Hashem’s power is known. He has made it loud and clear who is boss and that Noah and his family better do it right this time. But Hashem doesn’t want Noah and his family to live in fear so he makes a covenant with them – Hashem will never destroy the world again using a flood. In fact, in case He forgets about this covenant He is going to create a sign as a reminder.

So after a forty day rain storm where Hashem proves to the world that he is in charge he surely has to create an equal awe striking sign. Right?

Let’s take a look inside:

וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים, זֹאת אוֹת-הַבְּרִית אֲשֶׁר-אֲנִי נֹתֵן בֵּינִי וּבֵינֵיכֶם, וּבֵין כָּל-נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה, אֲשֶׁר אִתְּכֶם–לְדֹרֹת, עוֹלָם.  אֶת-קַשְׁתִּי, נָתַתִּי בֶּעָנָן; וְהָיְתָה לְאוֹת בְּרִית, בֵּינִי וּבֵין הָאָרֶץ.  (בראשית ט: יב- יג)

“God further said, “This is the sign that I set for the covenant between Me and you, and every living creature with you, for all ages to come. I have set My bow in the clouds, at it shall serve as a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.” (Genesis 9: 12-13 JPS)

No thunder, no lightning, no. Hashem’s sign is a rainbow.

Many people have said that if we see a rainbow it means that we, the world’s population are doing a crummy job and that we should get our acts together. The rainbow is Hashem telling us that if he hadn’t made that covenant we would have been wiped out with a flood. Whether or not you believe that to be true, don’t you think Hashem’s sign should be a little more, well, noticeable?

Actually it turns out that this is not totally out of character for Hashem. In the story of Eliyahu Hashem tells Eliyahu to come out of his cave and experience the power of Hashem.

וְהִנֵּה ה’ עֹבֵר וְרוּחַ גְּדוֹלָה וְחָזָק מְפָרֵק הָרִים וּמְשַׁבֵּר סְלָעִים לִפְנֵי ה’, לֹא בָרוּחַ ה’; וְאַחַר הָרוּחַ רַעַשׁ, לֹא בָרַעַשׁ ה’.  וְאַחַר הָרַעַשׁ אֵשׁ, לֹא בָאֵשׁ ה’; וְאַחַר הָאֵשׁ, קוֹל דְּמָמָה דַקָּה.  וַיְהִי כִּשְׁמֹעַ אֵלִיָּהוּ, וַיָּלֶט פָּנָיו בְּאַדַּרְתּוֹ. (מלכים א, יט: יא-יג)

And lo, the Lord passed by. There was a great wind, splitting mountains and shattering rocks by the power of the Lord; but the Lord was no in the wind. After the wind, an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake, fire; but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire, a soft murmuring sound. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his mantle about his face. (Kings I 19:11-13 JPS)

Although wind, earthquakes, and fire may seem like more appropriate present for Hashem to be found in, it is in fact the quiet sound that holds Hashem. Maybe that is why Hashem’s sign is a rainbow. A covenant is between two people. Hashem can remember that he promised never to bring another world destroying flood, but we need to remember that He is capable of doing it. We should not be forced to remember by being jolted by a loud noise. Rather, we need to constantly check ourselves. It is only when we are looking will we actually notice the rainbow, the silent sign reminding us of what was, and what might be