This week’s Torah portion is Parshat Noach. The narrative describes how Hashem caused a flood to wipe out all life except for a select few that remained on the Ark with Noach. When the survivors disembarked from the giant wooden ship, Hashem promised He would never again wipe out the planet’s population through a flood, saying: “את קשתי נתתי בענן והיתה לאות ברית ביני ובין הארץ,” I have set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.
Why would Hashem choose a rainbow to symbolize this peace? Why not something else? Ramban explains how a rainbow can symbolize peace. On the field, one who comes with the curve of their bow facing the other way, like the rainbow, is providing a sign of peace. So too, Hashem is showing us peace by pointing the curve of the rainbow away from us, toward Shamaim (heaven).
While this explanation shows how a rainbow can be peaceful, there must be more significance behind the specific choice of the rainbow. But what is it?
The Torah teaches that the generation of the flood was characterized by stealing and rampant immorality. Both of these sins come out of selfishness and a lack of unity. The rainbow, consisting of the whole spectrum of colors, is a symbol of this disunity; light is in its pure form as white light. When humanity behaves selfishly like Noach’s ill-fated generation, Hashem places the rainbow in the sky for a dual purpose. Hashem shows that He will not destroy us, while also reminding us of the destructive capabilities of factionalism and a lack of unity. When you see a rainbow, remember that we should learn from the severe shortcomings of the people of the flood and work on our Achdut, or unity.
By: Jack Benveniste-Plitt (12th Grade)