Sitting on top of my dresser is a stack of papers - drawings that my son brought home to me during his years in preschool. Each of them was a gift from him to me, and each has a rainbow on it. Like with many young children, drawing rainbows was kind of his "thing" during his younger years. He doesn't draw them much anymore.
Last week, the lower school students at Krieger Schechter drew prayers for Israel, which are now hanging under a large banner with the words "Oseh shalom bimromav...." painted on it. When my son was telling me about how they made their prayers for Israel, he wanted me to know how to find his. "It's the one with the rainbows on it," he proudly told me.
One of the most evocative symbols from this week's parashah, Parashat Noaḥ, is the rainbow. After the flood, after Noah and his family descend from the ark and receive a blessing from God, God explains that the rainbow will serve as a sign of God's covenant with all life and the promise never to destroy the world again. Numerous commentaries explain that the rainbow is God's personal reminder - not for humanity, but for God - not to destroy the world. It's a sign that God is angry with the world, but is staying the Divine hand.
For this reason, many see rainbows as a sign of God's fury, a hint that we've done something gravely wrong which, but for God's ancient promise, would put us in danger of being wiped out.
This has never been how I've seen rainbows, but right now, with the current situation in Israel and Gaza, it feels closer to the experience of so many of us over the past 2 weeks. It can feel like the world is falling apart, like destruction is imminent, all around us. So much that is deeply troubling.
But like I said, this is not how I've ever seen rainbows. It's possible to look at the traditional commentaries with different eyes and see not darkness, but hope. Yes, the rainbow may be a sign that God has taken note of our failings. But instead of punishment and destruction, we have beauty and color and light. We have a promise.
And while I remain devastated and intensely concerned about the ongoing losses and pain of the war, its impact on the psyche of the Jewish people, the implications for the future of peace, I also see glimmers of light. I see people coming together, putting their imagination and tenacity to work to bring support to people in Israel and boost morale both there and here in the diaspora. I see countries around the world showing their support for Israel. I see people holding each other and communities working to put aside differences and take united action.
So this week, as we read about the rainbow and consider its true meaning for the Torah and for us, I'm choosing to see it as a symbol of hope - hope that things can get better and that we can be the ones to make that happen.