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Rabbi Shaya's Thoughts

What Does The Rainbow Mean To You?

The rainbow, a beautiful natural phenomenon that is caused by the dispersion of light in water drops, results in a spectrum of multi-colored light appearing in the sky. That is how one might explain its natural phenomenon. However, we might also ask ourselves: Is there is a deeper message in the rainbow?

The rainbow has been adopted by many movements to symbolize peace and tolerance and variations thereof. However, those representations didn’t come out of thin air—they originated from somewhere. What does the rainbow really teach us?

In this week’s Torah portion, after the story of the flood, G-d makes a promise that He will never destroy the world again. If he wants the world to know that it should “clean up its act,” then he will show us a rainbow.

Now, if a rainbow were not a natural phenomenon, we could understand why seeing a rainbow might shake us to the core and move us to change our ways, knowing that G-d is giving us a second chance. But since we know that a rainbow is a natural phenomenon, why would a rainbow have any such kind of effect on us?

Allow me to give you another perspective.

G-d didn’t destroy the world and then create a rainbow to remind Himself not do so again. He pushed the “reset” button so that the world would never sink to such a low spiritual level again and need to be destroyed. As a result of this “reset,” the natural outcome was the rainbow! The rainbow became the reminder of the flood that will never occur again because the world is on a higher spiritual level! 

What is even more interesting is that it’s possible for the world to be elevated to an even higher spiritual level so that a rainbow will not be needed to give us this reminder, because the world is so holy!

There were actually two times in history, during the lifetimes of King Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah) and Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochi, when the world was on such a spiritual “high” that a rainbow was not seen in the sky. Theoretically, it can happen again!

The rainbow shows us G-d’s kindness. It’s not about destruction but about rebuilding. It’s not scary, it’s beauty.

When I see a rainbow, I see G-d’s miracle revealed, and I say a blessing thanking G-d for sharing it with me. I thank G-d for giving this world to me and allowing me to partner with Him in making this world a better place and creating a “home” for Him to “live in” and to be proud of, with the hope that Moshiach will come and there will be true peace in this world. Amen.

A Man Named Chanoch

 

Here is an interesting story. There are two brothers who give the same name to their sons: Chanoch. Both fathers wanted their sons to grow up to be successful, influential and productive men. Yet it doesn’t turn out to be that way.

Why?

To understand why, we need to know the rest of the story.

In the beginning, there were not only two brothers but three. Kayin (Cain), the bad guy, killed his brother Hevel (Abel). His parents were distraught, so they begat a third son and they named him Shiet (Seth). Sheit, like his older brother Hevel was a goody-goody.

What happened to Cain after he killed his brother? The Torah teaches us that he regretted his actions and did Teshuva—he changed his ways for the better. He turned his life around and he dedicated his life to serving G-d and to educating his children. The name Chanoch, is derived from the word Chinuch – meaning educate and renew. This was his new life's dedication.

What was Seth’s life like? Well, he was naturally a good kid and as he matured, he continued on the straight path. Did he educate his children? Yes, but was he committed to their education? Not really. 

That is why the Torah tells us that although the cousins grow up at the same time, each with the same name, with a city built for them, they have high hopes for a successful legacy. Only Cain’s son Chanoch, the son of the sinner and killer, is successful. His city is the one that prospers! Is it because he is also the son of the one who changed his way, the son of the one who did Teshuvah, the one who recognized his mistakes and who rededicated his life to his children’s education? 

On the other hand, we have the perfect father Seth. He might have done nothing wrong in his life, but he also did nothing extraordinary that would make an impression on his son. That is why his son’s city falters.

The lesson that we can learn from this story, one of the first that we read in this new year, coming off of the High Holiday season, is that we should not get caught up in our past, but look at the actions that we are taking today! What are we doing to advance our Judaism in our lives?  If we do something positive, we will succeed.

 

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