Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Noach
To dedicate this lesson

The rainbow


Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon

Our Parsha speaks about the rainbow that G-d set as a covenant between Him and the world, which symbolizes that G-d will no longer bring a flood to the world:

"And I will confirm My covenant with you… This is the sign of the covenant that I give between Me and you…to generations forever: I have set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth…and the bow will be seen in the cloud, I will remember My covenant between Me and you…"

The word covenant is the central word in this section, and indeed it appears seven times! (a guiding word). From here, the purpose of the rainbow is the covenant.

We know that the rainbow is a natural thing. If so, how does it show a covenant that G-d is making? The Even Ezra is of the opinion that the rainbow is something supernatural, which was created by G-d in the days of Noah.

As opposed to him, Nachmanides wrote (Genesis 9:12) that the rainbow is natural: "However, we are compelled to believe the words of the Greek philosophers who say that the rainbow is a natural phenomenon resulting from the sun’s rays passing through moist air…Hence, we should interpret the verse thus: The rainbow which I have placed in the clouds – ever since Creation…" Nachmanides explains that it can be derived from the Torah itself, which writes "I have set My rainbow in the cloud" and does not say "I will set My rainbow". In other words, it is speaking about giving in the past. Since the day of creation G-d set the rainbow in the cloud, as a sign of a covenant between Him and the world.

In light of Nachmanides explanation, the question repeats – how can a natural thing express the covenant between G-d and His creations?

Usually, a person does not feel at every moment and in every act G-d’s existence. When something unusual occurs – the Splitting of the Sea, the Plagues in Egypt, etc – then he pays attention to G-d’s Hand which stands behind the scenes.

Therefore, G-d is showing us His covenant, His existence between us, specifically through the rainbow, through something natural. The natural rainbow reminds us that also natural things once stopped (during the flood), and that they too are activated by the Creator.

The Prophet Ezekiel prophecies (1:28):

Like the appearance of the rainbow that shall be upon the cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brilliance all around. That was the appearance of the semblance of the glory of G-d!

The prophet describes the semblance of G-d’s image like the vision of a rainbow. The rainbow symbolizes something complex (the colors of the rainbow) but existing within nature. So too is G-d’s existence, complex and deep, but located everywhere in nature.

These are difficult days. Wounded, Killed. But sometimes from within the difficult reality we come to understand how truly miraculous life is in Eretz Yisrael. We see how much terror our enemies seek to inflict upon us all the time. We see how the world is happy when they are successful. And we see how much we must thank and praise Hashem at every moment , at every hour, for our existence in Eretz Yisrael and for the very existence of the State of Israel.

Our enemies attack us with cruelty, killing civilians, children, babies. And we, as we protect ourselves are so careful not to hurt a living thing when there is no need to defend ourselves. The anti-Semitic world attempts to confuse and mislead, attempts to portray a two-sided war and equal losses on both sides. But we know the truth. We know that the goal of our enemies is to murder and to kill, to destroy and to annihilate – but ours is to defend and protect. Their goal is to add to the evil in the world and to harm us. And ours is to add to the good in the world and to bring light to its inhabitants. One who focuses on evil is temporary and fleeting and, in the end, will disappear. Am Yisrael that is intrinsically connected to good, connected to purity, has connected itself to eternity. And we will continue, continue to enlighten, continue to thrive, continue to grow for all eternity. "Hashem will not abandon His nation, nor will he forsake His inheritance."
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