After leaving the obscurity of the darkness of the ark, and the winds of change cleared the waters of destruction, in a still doomful sky of clouds, Noach and family witnessed the sign of the brit, the covenant- a sparkling rainbow. “I have set my bow in the cloud and it shall be for a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall be seen in the cloud and I will remember my covenant which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh ….” (Berieshit 9:13) This is the brit of the restitution of Hashem sustaining the world. The 7 mitzvot Bnei Noach, the commandments given to Noach’s sons, that were instituted this time were meant to benefit humanity and be the foundation for the “new world”. Its ethical principles laid down the guidelines for how this world can live in harmony and peace. The seven universal mitzvoth spoken of : 1) not to worship idols 2) not to blaspheme G-d 3) to establish courts of justice 4) not to murder 5) not to commit adultery or incest 6) not to steal 7) Not to eat flesh from a living animal (Sanhedrin:56b, tosefta avoda zara 9:4)
In Kabbalah the 7 colors of the rainbow are represented by the 7 lower sefirot, Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzach, Hod, Yesod, Malchut. The mystical vision of Yechezkel upon seeing the merkava is likened to the expeience Noach and family had when gazing at the rainbow. A prophetic voice spoke out of this vision. Yechezkel describes:” like the appearance of a bow which shines in the clouds, such was radiance”. Its appearance in the cloud brings to mind another more powerful “new world, the torah on Mount Sinai.
Interestingly, the 8th commandment, surpassing the Noachide Laws, is brit milah- circumcision. This is performed on the 8th day of life and is considered the highest level of spiritual perfection for mankind, even transcending the physical. This is why even the most assimilated Jews perform this mitzvah- it has been engrained in them that there are no compromise in fulfilling this commandment. It takes the next generation “somewhere over the rainbow” and back to Abraham, the trailblazer of the brit. Both the sign of the rainbow and the brit-circumcision are called the same word: the covenant.
Here in Israel, it is just about getting cloudy and we hope for rain. It is usually around the time of Parshat Noach that the first of rainbows appear in the sky. When a person sees a rainbow, he recites a blessing:” Blessed are you Hashem Who remembers the covenant, and is faithful in His covenant and fulfills His word.”
Even though it is early in the year, with only 1 parsha behind us in the torah, we look at the rainbow and see it as a sign of the time to recognize mistakes we have already made in this new year, strive o correct them and make a restitution, as Hashem did with us then in the days of Noach, and now as He does always.
Shabbat Shalom, Leah Goldsmith