“I have set my rainbow in the cloud”
we read about the covenant after the great flood in Genesis 9:13ff and may only rarely appreciate what an extraordinary idea this is. it is an explicit sign of covenant established between G’d and humankind, between G’d and all the living, between G’d and the earth. that much we all get. and it is a sign of the explicit agreement that never again will there be a “cutting off” of all flesh by the waters, and that never again will there be an earth-destroying flood. right. there’s the basics.
the idea of covenant of such a sort is astounding, but it is more extraordinary still in its implications. look carefully at the text (Genesis 9:12ff) and you will see why, i think. who looks at the rainbow and why?
“…I will remember my covenant….I will look upon it to remember my everlasting covenant….”
G’d is looking at rainbows….not us. it is a sign for G’d. for G’d to remember what is everlasting….to remember a particular judgment taken and punishment made, and to not follow that same course of judgment and punishment again.
G’d needs a reminder of what G’d has made everlasting?
well, yes, apparently. the rainbow is the great symbol of gevurah in malchut….self-restraint of sovereignty. and more….it is constraint of unlimitedness in a climate of repentance. and it is something repeated in each incidence of possible flooding rain forever. there is no taking for granted here….
do we have any images of rainbows from space? nope. but pilots high in the atmosphere report seeing the full circle of some rainbows…apparently all of them tend that way, but from our viewpoint, the circle is broken by features of the horizon. so we don’t see raincircles, but rather rainbows.
this is a strictly terrestrial sign, then. for G’d to see it, G’d would have to be standing where we are. and that is the point.
malchut is the Divine Presence amongst us as Shechinah. for us, then, the rainbow is a sign of the Indwelling Presence as much as it is of the covenant against world-destroying floods. malchut is described by kabbalists as the prism through which G’d’s unending light streaming through the upper sefirot is concentrated and then separated to shine into the lower worlds. malchut is a rainbow maker.
and one lesson of the prism is that we all need reminders about proper justice and severity. reminders to limit our desire/urge/tendency to limit strictly. to imitate G’d is to look to signs of restraint of constraint.
gevurah in malchut is in part the rainbow symbol of repentance on a cosmic scale….and the light that refracts is the light through chesed with which G’d created all.
mussar for gevurah she b’malchut
with another….bein adam l’chaveiro this one is easy….and, oh, so hard: do what you say you will do! you are master of a realm, and to be a good sovereign, you must do what you say you will….else you become arbitrary like a tyrant….and that is not the model of sovereignty.
with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo examine your motivations for your reactions to things in the world. if you are angry…why? if you are sad….why? “the unexamined life is not worth living”, said Thoreau….a bit extreme. it isn’t a matter of “worth”. rather the meaning might better be, “the unexamined life is not living”. examine your motivations…..
kabbalah for gevurah she b’malchut
in assiyah….the world of doing/completion you have unwritten covenants with all the people around you. unspoken, assumed agreements about intimacy, deportment, sharing, etc. consider, then, what would be the signs of these covenants that you would rely on, but like a rainbow, could also be seen by those affected? and how would you share those signs with the covenanted?
in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation many have suggested that G’d might have regretted having destroyed the world by flood. we’ve argued here that the rainbow is a symbol of repentance, the very heart of malchut. we know that confession is essential…that sort of facing up to wrong is necessary. and we know that resolve not to wrong again is essential. but can one repent without experiencing regret?
in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation it may be important to see clearly that G’d does not promise to never again destroy the earth and all the living, but rather promises only to not do so via flood. we could suppose that the myriad other options are still on the table….when one of us humans says “i’ll never do that again!”, do we mean a broad “i’ll never do anything that has that effect again” or i’ll never achieve the same result doing a particular thing again….but i might achieve it doing something else? consider this for yourself. when you repent of something, how specific or broad are you?
in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition a rainbow is a diaphanous and passing phenomenon on a massive scale. meditate on how the signs of G’d’s Presence that you perceive are like a rainbow.
kinyan 44 of 48 ways to acquire Torah
Lomed al M’nat l’Lamed…..Learning in Order to Teach. people talk of going to college theses days to learn a profession. specifically to get a good, well-paying, not-likely-to-be-outsourced sort of job/career for life. it has been a long-time since i’ve heard anyone suggest that they want to go to learn in order to teach what they learn. can’t really be a rabbi if you don’t teach….most of jewish practice individually and communally is do-it-yourself (or is intended to be). fortunately, we haven’t yet concluded that rabbis are amongst those who can’t do….so they teach! but so important is the intent to share your learning that Rabbi Yishmael, amongst the greatest of our teachers of Torah, says in Avot 4:5:
“who studies in order to teach is afforded adequate means (by G’d) both to study and to teach”