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Question: Now that we have begun the new cycle of the Torah reading, I read in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch that one is to say a blessing upon seeing a rainbow but that it is forbidden to gaze upon it excessively. Is this not such a beautiful phenomenon? Why should there be any prohibition connected with it?

Zelig Aronson
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Synopsis: Last we cited the Mechaber (O.C. 229:1) that upon seeing a rainbow one is to recite the blessing, and it is thereupon forbidden to gaze upon it further. Ba’er Heitev (ad loc) explains that gazing excessively causes one’s eyes to become dim and weak. Mishna Berurah (ad loc) adds that if one sees a rainbow, it is best not to tell his fellow. The Rambam in codifying this halacha makes no mention of the above prohibition. Rashi (to Berachot 59a) further codifies that upon encountering a rainbow one is to fall upon his face. The Torah in Parshat Noach relates that Hashem set forth the rainbow as a reminder whenever He is so angry that He wishes to destroy the world, that he promised Noach never again to destroy it. Now the question is, does Hashem need a reminder? We then cited the source of this unique sign as being in Parshat Noach, where G-d says that this will be a sign “…l’dorot olam – …for everlasting generations. However, we noted that in the Hebrew, l’dorot is written deficient – minus the two vovs. We noted different views as to the implication of this deficiency. We also noted that the word Keshet refers to something hard or harsh, such as judgment from above; however, when from below, G-d’s judgment is softer.

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Answer: We note that some espouse a false belief that man is “destroying” the earth, slowly depleting all its resources. We know that one of Hashem’s names is Kel Sha-dai – G-d who said: “My world is sufficient.” This means that all the earth’s resources are provided by Hashem for the needs of man.

Sforno (to Genesis 9:11 end of verse) write, “There will be no further flood that will destroy the earth.” He explains “Under no circumstances will there be a ruin or loss such as destroys the essence of the earth.”

What we see from Sforno is that we are all witness to constant floods and other types of devastation, both weather-related and man-made, yet the world goes on. What Hashem has told us is that there will be floods (or other devastations) but not a flood or other disaster that so completely in its wake imparts utter destruction of our mother earth. The truth is that the “greens” are agnostic at best but mostly atheistic, and even those who go to church on Sunday still buy into this entire green scenario about the planet.

Sforno (to verse 9:13), “I have placed My rainbow in the cloud…” explains, “I have set in place that it [the rainbow] shall be part of nature and shall be an everlasting sign of the covenant. Further, since the rainbow is double (or full with multiple layers) and because the wise men who research [probably “men of thought] – scientists – have been unable to provide understanding about the order of the colors of the second rainbow [ours], in the colors are in the opposite order of the colors of the first rainbow. It serves as a sign to the righteous – the tzaddikim of the generation – that their generation is guilty.

He now cites the Talmud (Kesubot 77b).

The Gemara records the encounter between Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and R. Yehoshua b, Levi when the latter ascended to Heaven (upon his passing). R. Yehoshua was heralded by Eliyahu HaNavi: “Clear a place for bar Liva’i – the son of Levi.” Rabbi Shimon asked him: “Are you the son of Levi? R. Yehoshua replied in the affirmative; to this Rabbi Shimon asked: “Has a rainbow been seen in your lifetime?” He replied: “Yes.” To which Rabbi Shimon exclaimed: “You are not the son of Levi!” The Gemara concludes that there was never a rainbow during his lifetime, but R. Yehoshua felt acknowledging that fact would show a lack of humility.

Rashi (ad loc “im kein leis at bar liva’i“) explains that Rabbi Shimon was saying: “You are not worthy of such greeting by Eliyahu because I heard that the rainbow is only a sign of the covenant that Hashem will not destroy the world and if there is a tzaddik gamur – a completely righteous person in that generation – there is no need for that sign.” Of course, R. Yehoshua was just such a tzaddik but it was only out of his abundant humility that he refused to acknowledge his greatness.

Sforno (to verse 9:16) – “And the rainbow shall be in the cloud and I shall see it to remember the enduring covenant between G-d and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth” – explains as follows: I will see it to remember the everlasting covenant; I will observe from that that surrounds it, and that is the prayers of the righteous who stand in the breach so that My anger be assuaged from causing destruction.

Now we see that Hashem does not need a reminder; rather, He searches for the righteous, whose prayer (and may we add Torah study and charity) save the world.

Rashi at the very beginning of the Torah (Genesis 1:1), citing Midrash Tanchuma, explains that the reason for creation is the Torah and Israel. Thus, the world only stands due to our people Israel and their upholding, observing and studying the Torah. Would our enemies accomplish their goal of destroying Israel and the Jewish people, the world will return to null and void.

Israel (and world Jewry) is currently in a war of survival fighting against terror that threatens their very existence. While our soldiers are on the battlefield fighting gallantly, there is a second battle going on in Israel and abroad of Jewish people observing and studying Torah and piercing the Heavens with prayers and recitation of Tehillim. There is also an unprecedented unity of most segments of Jewry, both in Israel and in the Diaspora, and an outpouring of support, both financial and otherwise, from Jews and gentiles alike reaching the State of Israel in its time of need.

The world – those 120 member nations of the United Nations voted to censure Israel for its war in Gaza, which was a defensive response to the unspeakable atrocities committed upon Israelis and their hostage-taking on Simchat Torah. Yet they say nothing to an ongoing civil war in Sudan that has claimed far more lives (as well as other battles throughout the world). Yet it is only Israel that they attack. Have no fear – for from that and all the Hamas terror will ultimately emerge Israel’s triumph, please G-d!

(Next week, a citation from the new book, The Sapphire Bricks of Torah, by my colleague Rabbi Aharon Ziegler.)

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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.