Earth Etude for Elul 4 – Rainbows

by Rabbi Margaret Frisch Klein

“Red and yellow and pink and blue, purple and orange and green. I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow tune.” There are many songs about rainbows. This is one that I learned at Girl Scout Camp many years ago. Since that summer rainbows have had a special place in my heart.

Learning the story of Noah in a parshat hashavua class in college was one of those moments. In order for there to be a rainbow, there has to be a perfect balance between sun and rain. Without that balance, no rainbow. Without G-d and a certain balance, no world. For me, in that instant G-d was perfection. So what would be more appropriate that G-d would choose a rainbow as the sign that G-d would never destroy the world again by flood. Rain is good. Too much rain leads to flooding and destruction.

Rainbows have appeared at my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, my daughter’s high school graduation, my installation as rabbi. They are often a quiet, private reminder that the world is good and G-d is in charge. An almost private blessing, usually when I need that reassurance the most. What I have discovered is that you can’t go chasing them. You need to be surprised by them.

On Rosh Hodesh Av, a day when we begin to feel the sadness of the impending Tisha B’av, I was surprised by a rainbow. It was particularly surprising because the night before I had gone looking for one and didn’t find it. Remember it is about that perfect balance. This one was beautiful, exquisite, full, double rainbow over Lake Charlevoix, in northern Michigan. You could actually see both ends reflecting in the water. Now the slogan for Charlevoix is “Once in a blue moon there is a Charlevoix”. This was not a blue moon. This was even rarer. Cars stopped on both sides of the road to take pictures. Everyone said, “Wow.”

Sometimes you can capture such images on your camera. Other times you cannot. Each time they are a reminder of G-d’s covenant with us. Each time they are an opportunity to recite the blessing, “zocher habrit”, that G-d also remembers the covenant with us, is faithful and keeps G-d’s promise. Each time, I wonder how I keep my end of that covenant. How do I make good on the promise to be a partner in G-d’s creation, to never destroy the world. How do I leave this world better for my children and my children’s children? The rainbow while offering that reassurance of G-d’s love and promise also demands an answer to that essential question.

Baruch ata Ado-nai Elo-heinu melech ha'olam zocher ha'brit v'ne'eman bivrito v'kayam b'ma'amaro. Blessed are You, Adonai our G-d, Ruler of the universe, who remembers in faithfulness the covenant and the promise to keep the covenant forever.


Rabbi Margaret Frisch Klein is the rabbi of Congregation Kneseth Israel in Elgin IL. She blogs as the Energizer Rabbi, and enjoys chasing rainbows in northern Michigan, in Ogunquit, Maine or wherever she can find them.

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