NOACH (Genesis, 6:9-11:32) — “No Pot of Gold…”

It’s beautiful; it’s a sign of ugliness. When you see it, you recite a prayer of thanks; when you see it, you’re not supposed to show it to anyone.  It is a sign of hope; it is a sign of frustration.  It is a sign of divine compassion; it is a sign of divine wrath.

Somewhere, over the rainbow, SomeOne is remembering a promise.  Somewhere, under the rainbow, someone has broken a promise.

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The world was destroyed. The children of Adam did not fulfill their mission. They lived lives of evil and corruption. They were petty and they were wicked. (See “Sweat the Big Stuff . . . and it’s ALL Big Stuff!”) They forfeited their right to exist. G-d destroyed them and started over with Noah.

G-d wanted to assure Noah and his descendants that He would never again destroy the world.  He therefore made a promise, and “signed” his promise with a divine signature — the rainbow:

“I will make My covenant with you . . . there will never again be a flood to destroy the earth. . . I have placed My rainbow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.  When I bring clouds over the earth, the rainbow will be seen among the clouds.  Then I will recall the covenant. . . (Genesis, 9:11, 13-15)

There is no Hebrew word for rainbow; is the same as the word for bow.  Whether it is a multitude of colors of refracting light in the moisture-laden atmosphere or a weapon that propels arrows, the word is the same – bow.  The symbolism of the rainbow is the direction of the bow.  When you shoot an arrow at a target, the bow arches in the direction of the target.  By setting the rainbow in the sky, arching toward Heaven, G-d is, in a sense, aiming His arrows AWAY from the earth.  He is remembering His peace treaty.

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After a rainstorm, you look up into the clouds, and there it is!  There is no denying the splendor of a rainbow.  The stark beauty of those colors in the clouds is uplifting; it’s inspiring.  It tells us of the calm after the storm.  It tells us that G-d is watching over us.  It reminds us that the Master of the World has committed Himself to the continued existence of mankind.  What wonderful news!  It compels us to recite a blessing: “Blessed are You, our G-d, King of the world, Who remembers the covenant, is trustworthy in His covenant, and fulfils His word.”

It is, therefore, curious that this bit of spiritual upliftment is not to be shared.  The Chayei Adam writes that if you see a rainbow, it is not appropriate to point it out to anyone else.

Why should that be?  Why should I not allow my friends and neighbors to be as inspired as I am?

Before I give you the Chayei Adam’s reason, let us analyze this a bit.

Moishie misbehaves.  His father gives him a whack.  Afterwards, Moishie’s father decides, “He’s just a little kid; he makes mistakes.  I will never again whack Moishie.  As a matter of fact, I promise I will never again whack Moishie.  I am going to write on an index card, ‘I will never again whack Moishie.’  I will keep that card in my shirt pocket as a reminder.’”

The next day we see Moishie and his Dad taking a walk.  Moishie is playing around, doing whatever little Moishies do.  Suddenly, we see Dad reaching into his pocket.  He takes out the piece of paper and reads out loud, “I will never again whack Moishie.  I will never again whack Moishie.”

What does this picture tell us?  It tells us that Moishie’s Dad WANTS to whack Moishie!  It tells us that Moishie is misbehaving again.  It tells us that if not for the promise that Moishie’s Dad made not to whack him, he would do it again!

G-d destroyed the world because it was wicked.  G-d then promised not to destroy the world again, even if it is wicked.  Then He designated the rainbow as a reminder of that promise.  What does it mean when there is a rainbow in the sky?  It means that if not for His promise never to destroy the world when it is evil, HE WOULD DO IT AGAIN!

That is why we recite a blessing.  We thank G-d for sparing us.  But why don’t we tell our friends?  Why don’t we announce to the world: “Hey, guess what, guys!  G-d’s annoyed!  In fact, he would destroy us if not for His rainbow-promise.  You’d better recite the blessing and get your act together!”

The Chayei Adam says that the reason we don’t point out rainbows to other people is that it is like spreading gossip.  When I show you a rainbow, I am saying that the world is evil, and G-d is tempted to destroy it.  I’m not allowed to say that.  I am bad-mouthing the entire human race.  That’s not right!

Our sages tell us that there were certain times in history when rainbows never appeared.  During the lifetimes of certain righteous people, the world didn’t need rainbows because the merit of those good people protected the world.

Perhaps the reason I see a rainbow is because G-d wants ME to see it.  If He wants you to see it, He will certainly make sure that you do.  It’s not my job to tell you that G-d is angry.

Perhaps the purpose of my seeing the rainbow is so that I will become a better person.  Our Rabbis tell us that a person should view the world as half righteous and half wicked.  He should view himself the same way.  As a result, one Mitzvah will tip the scales toward redemption of the world.  One sin will do just the opposite.

Do you see a rainbow?  Good.  First, thank G-d for His patience and His compassion.  Then, join Him in remembering His covenant.  Then, become a better person.  You’ll be better off, and so will the rest of the world.

Come to think of it, maybe there really IS a pot of gold out there after all.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

To leave a comment about this article, or to read other readers’ comments on this article, scroll down past the archive links.

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 Nimro-bama” (2009) 

…Society was uncomfortable with Abram’s “Inconvenient Truths.”  He said things that challenged their beliefs.  He contradicted Nimrod’s plans of absolute sovereignty.  He dared to accuse the “Great Leader” of being, well, merely mortal.  Therefore, he had to be silenced.

Last November, the people of America  displayed the “Audacity of Hope” and voted for “Change.”  As the bumper stickers ask, “How’s that ‘Hopesy-Changey’ workin’ out for you?” … 

Read more.

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“Murdering the Murderer?” (2008) 

“Two wrongs don’t make a right!  If it is wrong to kill, it is wrong to kill!  When we execute murderers we become no better than they are!”

So goes the argument of the anti-capital punishment crowd.  When we kill a killer we become killers ourselves.

There seems to be a certain amount of merit to that argument, except for one little detail.  G-d disagrees:

“He who spills the blood of man shall have his own blood spilled by man, for G-d made man in His own image.”  (Genesis, 9:6)

G-d made this statement to Noah and his children shortly after He wiped out almost every man, woman, and child from the face of the earth.  Although every human being is created in G-d’s image, G-d had no problem eliminating all but the eight members of the Noah Family.

Why not?…

Read more.

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“A Tale of Two Cities” (2007)

… G-d has limited patience with wicked people. Nineveh  was slated for destruction.  The prophet Jonah was sent to Nineveh  to warn them of their imminent doom.  They got the message.  They repented their evil ways and were spared.

As a result of their actions, the (belatedly) righteous citizens of Nineveh  serve as an annual Yom Kippur role model to teach us what we can accomplish by returning to G-d.

Now let us look at another Biblical city.  We will read in a few weeks about Eliezer’s journey to the city of Nachor…In Nachor he finds murderous, wicked people.  … “Laban, son of NACHOR”, (Genesis, 29:5) is one of the symbols of the enemies of Israel.  He is also identified with Balaam, who did everything in his power to curse and destroy Israel.

There you have it.  Two cities. Nineveh, which teaches us how to return to G-d and become better people, and Nachor, a city that teaches us treachery and unrepentant evil.

We, can, perhaps, see the roots of these cities’ differences in this week’s Torah Portion…

Read more.

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 “How to be an Orthodox Jewish Gentile” (2006)

Is it possible for a Gentile to practice Torah Judaism?  Isn’t that an oxymoron?  Not at all.  Actually, it is very much possible for a Gentile to practice Torah Judaism.  In fact, every member of the human race is obligated to do so.

We do not believe that every person is obligated to follow the 613 Commandments of the Torah.  There is nothing wrong with Gentiles eating pork chops or driving on the Sabbath.  They are, however, required by Torah Law to obey 7 key Commandments, known as the Seven Noahide Laws.  (“Noahide” = Children of Noah.)

What are they required to do?  Well, they could start off by disbanding the New Jersey Supreme Court!…

Read more.

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“No Pot of Gold…” (2005)

It’s beautiful; it’s a sign of ugliness. When you see it, you recite a prayer of thanks; when you see it, you’re not supposed to show it to anyone.  It is a sign of hope; it is a sign of frustration.  It is a sign of divine compassion; it is a sign of divine wrath.

Somewhere, over the rainbow, SomeOne is remembering a promise.  Somewhere, under the rainbow, someone has broken a promise…

Read more.

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 “Yerachmiel’s Ark” (2004) …

… As I lay on the grass in a not-very-rabbinic muddy suit contemplating my predicament, I started laughing.  Noah’s lion strikes again!…

Read more.

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 “Quoth the Raven . . .” (2003)

I hate ‘em!

My garbage pail gets knocked over by the wind, and before you know it, these big black, ugly birds are ripping open the trash bags, spreading the wealth all over my driveway!

Noah hated ‘em too…

Noah didn’t like the raven.  It was a cruel and selfish bird.  In fact, Noah didn’t mind endangering that miserable creature by sending it out of the Ark.  He didn’t understand what value there was in even allowing the raven back into the Ark.  He saw the raven as an unnecessary member of the animal kingdom. It was cruel to its own children.  It was inedible.  It could not be used as a sacrifice. AND, it was despicable…

Read more.

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 “You Can’t Climb a Grapevine” (2002)

… When Noah sobered up, he realized how his son and grandson had dishonored him, and cursed them. Noah blessed Shem and Japheth for their respect and sensitivity.

How did Noah, this great man, who is called “a man of righteousness,” descend so quickly to become “a man of the earth?” How did the savior of mankind so quickly find himself in a drunken stupor, subject to the scorn of his own son and grandson? …

Read more.

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 “Sweat the Big Stuff…and it’s ALL Big Stuff!” (2001)

… there is no such thing as “a little bit pregnant” …

Read more.

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 “A Pig by Any Other Name…” (2000)

… there are two types of laundry — clean laundry and dirty laundry. Would you reclassify these two categories as “clean laundry” and “laundry that isn’t clean?!” …

Read more.

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This is the weekly message at  TorahTalk.org. Copyright © 2000-2012 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (Brisrabbi.com) and chaplain in  Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on November 4, 2005 at 8:10 am  Leave a Comment  

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