This year, on Shabbos Shuva, there was a sudden rainstorm in the Holy Land, followed by a spectacular rainbow. Hashem says in our Parsha, “I have set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth…. and the water shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.”
The rainbow is reassuring but dangerous.
“Someone who gazes at a rainbow [impinges on the honor of G-d], as it is written ‘Like the appearance of a rainbow that would be in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brilliance all around … the appearance of the likeness of the glory of Hashem.” (Chagigah 16a with Artscroll commentary) In other words, we have to be careful when we see something which resembles the “likeness of the glory of Hashem.”
Although water will “never again” destroy all flesh, each year Parshas Noach reminds us that life on this earth is fragile. If, G-d forbid, we try to disrupt Hashem’s Creation, the consequences will be disastrous.
I heard an amazing story recently from the beloved Rosh Yeshiva of Ohr Dovid, Rabbi Yosef Granofsky Shlita”h, which he heard directly from Rabbi Hillel Zaks zt”l, the grandson of the Chofetz Chaim. Decades ago, Rabbi Zaks’ first cousin, the Chofetz Chaim’s oldest grandchild, came to Israel. She was much older than he, and was, at that time, chairman of the mathematics department at a university in Moscow.
As a young girl, when she decided to enroll in a secular school, she went to see her Zayda, the Chofetz Chaim. Knowing that she was determined to follow this path, he told her the following: “You will see that tremendous discoveries will be made in the world of science in the years ahead. I would not be surprised if someday a man will walk on the moon. But all these discoveries will not make the world better. In fact, they will make it worse!” The cousin told Rabbi Zaks that she had not believed her grandfather at the time, but now she sees he was correct!
My friends, we must be
very careful not to fall into the trap which destroyed Noach’s generation. In
our own days, dense clouds of rebellion are swirling around the world.
Hashem is hidden, but – like a rainbow – His appearance can illuminate the darkness at any moment. “Yeshuas Hashem k’heref ayin … redemption [comes] in the blink of an eye.” (Pesikta Zutra on Esther 4:17) We have to approach Hashem with awe. The Torah says, “Behold, I come to you in the thickness of the cloud,” but then it says, “Beware of ascending the mountain …. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely die.” (Exodus 19:9-12)
Noach was a great man, but mankind was saved only by the descendants of Avraham Avinu, to whom Hashem said, “I will make of you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great and you shall be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2). We are the ones who illuminate the world.
“Ohr chadash … May You shine a new light on Tzion and may we all speedily merit its light!”
May we see it soon in our days!
Rainbow against dark clouds