God looked out upon creation and saw that violence, chaos and mean-spirited self-centeredness engulfed the human heart. There was neither kindness nor justice in the world. Empathy had ceased. Fear and hatred supplanted peace and love. In Divine disappointment and righteous rage God determined to destroy creation and return everything to primordial darkness.
The Eternal mourned and recalled how great was the effort to create the heavens and earth, give life to growing things, design and fashion the birds, sea creatures and animals in all their variety, shape, color, function, and form. That thought grew within the Divine mind, and so the Creator hesitated and stepped back from the brink thinking how great a tragedy it would be to destroy that which had once been thought “good.”
God wondered: ‘Is there one human on earth, different from the rest, who can still fathom Me, who hasn’t been consumed by the sitra achra, the evil that brought such darkness to My creation.’
God peered into every human soul seeking that one, better than the rest, who though not yet a complete tzadik might be good enough to hear the Divine voice and save what could still be saved.
To God’s relief, there was one human named Noah, so God spoke to Noah and told him to build an ark and save his family and two of every creature that all might not be lost and that the world might begin anew.
As the Eternal wept in contemplating the devastation, Divine tears fell heavily to earth and continued forty days and nights.
When finally God’s tear ducts were dry the waters receded, dry land appeared, and the ark docked. The Eternal God spoke to Noah:
“I am God, Noah, Who created you and brought you into this new land. Look around you and see the cleansed earth. The world is once again new. There is no longer rage or hatred, violence or hubris in the human heart. I will make with you a covenant marked by a sign that will remind us both how I created the world in peace, but then destroyed it, and then allowed it to begin anew that it should remain a place of peace for all time.
And the sign of this covenant will be a radiant smile that stretches across the heavens and fills the sky, an arc of light shining through the flood waters, a vision of loveliness that will inspire awe and love for Me.
This promise, Noah, shall be called the ‘rainbow,’ and this bow in the sky will remind you, Me and your progeny that I will never again bring such devastation to the earth.
Your duty and that of your children and children’s children must be to protect My creation, to preserve and nurture it, for there will come no one after you to set it right if you destroy it.”
Then God bent towards the earth and stretched the Divine arm mightily across the sky and made an arc. And just where God’s hand had been, there appeared a sheltering bow of every color spread out across the blue canvas of sky.
And God spoke of the colors and the sign of the rainbow:
“First comes red to stand for the blood pulsing through human veins that carries My Godly soul and makes all things live; orange is for the comforting warmth of fire and its potential to create, build and improve upon what I created; yellow is for the glory of the sun that lights the earth and gives vision to earthly souls that they might see Me in all things and live; green is for the grass and the leaves of trees and their fruit, that all creatures might be sustained in life; blue is for the sky, sea and rivers that joins air and ground and makes clear that all is One, divinely linked and a reflection of Me; indigo appears each day at dusk and dawn to signal evening and morning, the passage of time and the seasons, the ever-renewing life force that is intrinsic to all things; violet is for the coming of night when the world rests and is renewed, and it carries the hope that all might awake in the morning and utter words of thanksgiving and praise.”
God explained that the rainbow appears to the human eye as a half circle, and said to Noah:
“Do not be fooled, my most righteous one! There is more to life than what the eye can see. There is both the revealed and the hidden, and the hidden half of the bow reaches deep into the earth that you and those who yearn after Me might come and discover Truth, and reveal and make whole both the revealed and the hidden in My world.”
God told Noah:
“Remember this blessing, My child, and you will remember My promise – Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, zocheir habrit v’ne-eman biv’rito v’kayam b’ma-amaro.
Praised are You, Eternal our God, Sovereign of the revealed and the hidden, Who remembers, is faithful to, and fulfills the Divine covenant and promise.”
Compiled and written by Rabbi John Rosove. Inspired by classic Midrashim. First published in October 2010.