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Shabbat Parshat Noach

10/23/2023 02:04:29 PM


Rav Yosef

In a week of intense anxiety and sadness, I looked to the parsha for … something. It is not surprising that it was the rainbow that caught my attention.

Ramban considers but then sets aside the idea raised by some of the other commentaries, that God created the rainbow at this moment, to be the sign of His covenant with humankind going forward. Ramban insists that we have no choice but to follow the science that “the Greeks” have taught us, about light and water and refraction, and to understand that the rainbow existed from the beginning of creation. What God did at this point then, was to choose the rainbow among all the other prior-created natural phenomena, to play this role, to be the sign.

Why? Why the rainbow?

The thought that came to me this week is that God chose the rainbow because it is beautiful, awesomely, splendidly, transcendently beautiful. To this day, people stop on the sidewalk and look and point when a rainbow appears. And the whole rest of the day we ask each other, “did you see it? It was beautiful.”

God chooses as His sign something that is beautiful. As a way of saying to us that even at a time of utter bleakness and destruction, that we should hold out for the beautiful. Expect the beautiful, work for it, believe in it. “Better” is better, and “good” is good, but hold out for the beautiful. The awesomely, splendidly beautiful.

We have seen in our lifetimes glimpses of the beautiful, glimpses of the rainbow. We watched on TV as the Berlin Wall came down. We witnessed Nelson Mandela emerge from prison. We remember Begin and Sadat sitting and joking together.

On Thursday I sat with my longtime friend Jihad in the food court at the Century City mall, he of Palestinian descent with many close family members living in Hevron, and I with a son who served in combat in the IDF. We talked about what we most feared and most dreaded in the days and weeks ahead, about the moral guidelines of warfare, about our hopes for what may come after. When it was time to go, we embraced, until our next conversation. 

Hold out for the beautiful, God says. Don’t settle for less.

This is the sign of My covenant.

Mon, June 17 2024 11 Sivan 5784