As children we tend to grow up thinking that the rainbow is merely a beautiful decoration in the sky. It’s something we put on children's stickers, with occasional leprauchauns running around beneath it, clutching their pots o' gold. However, in this week's Parsha we find that Hashem gives mankind the rainbow as a sign to signify the covenant he made with Noach. It is to be displayed when He wants to destroy the world but refrains. Quite a change of pace from what we would expect.
אֶת-קַשְׁתִּי, נָתַתִּי בֶּעָנָן; וְהָיְתָה לְאוֹת בְּרִית, בֵּינִי וּבֵין הָאָרֶץ - "I have set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth"
Let us examine this phenomena a bit more closely in hopes to grasp its depth. Of all the signs that Hashem could have used to remember the covenant promising not to destroy the world – why choose the rainbow? Why not use something more intimdating. like lightning, tornadoes, or hurricanes? Furthermore, the Ramban comments that the rainbow symbolizes G-d's Middas Ha’Din, His Divine Attribute of Judgment. How does a beautiful rainbow allude to Divine Judgement?
R' Mordechai Gifter explains that we have to first understand what a rainbow is in order to understand its connection to Hashem’s Divine Judgment. A rainbow is essentially white light which is taken and broken down into it's various components. When a white light is directed into a prism, it becomes refracted and all of the the various colors within the light are noticeable. Interestingly enough, Hashem created water with the ability to serve as a prism. That's why after rainfall, while water is still present and hanging in the air, the sun's rays of white light forming a magnificent rainbow!
This process of refraction and dispersal is symbolic of Divine Judgement. When Hashem analyzes a person's actions, Hashem doesn't analyze a deed as a single sum-total item of what took place. Rather He divides or refracts each deed into its many various components, analyzing each one individually and specifically. Each action that is analyzed is transformed into a prism, which clearly displays to Hashem every aspect of the deed.
An example can be seen from gives money to tzedakah. Was it honor or publicity that motivated the act? Was that person careful to give the tzedakah in a way that avoided embarrassment to the recipient? How needy was the actual recipient for that tzedakah? Did the giver fulfill the mitzvah with joy and swiftness, or did they regret giving up the money after they gave it? Simply, this act of giving charity seems commendable and laudable; only Hashem can see each detail to discern the reward truly deserved - This is true Divine Judgement. It is in this respect that Hashem's rainbow, a refraction of simple rays of light into their magnificent array of colors represents the power and impact of the Divine Attribute of Judgement, and signifies Hashem's love for His people.
This is the lesson we can learn from seeing the rainbow, to take each and every mitzvah we perform and to fulfill it with a full heart and attention to detail. Through this, we can greatly alter the value and quality of each and every action we take.
Have a good Shabbos!
~ Ethan Katz is a Rabbi & Administrator in Lev Zion