Community Rabbi Corner, October 8, 2021

Rabbi Jesse Olitzky ’02
Congregation Beth El
South Orange, NJ
Parashat Noach

Following 40 days of flooding that destroyed all life - besides the select few of Noah’s family and the species that ventured onto the ark - the waters subsided. God established a covenant with Noah and his descendants, a covenant to never again destroy the earth and all living creatures upon this earth. As a sign of this covenant, God sent a rainbow into the clouds.
Rabbi Toviah ben Eliezer, the 11th century Talmudist who compiled the midrashic work Lekach Tov, interprets the rainbow as a reverse bow, the opposite of a weapon of violence. When God previously brought a flood of destruction on the earth, God drew a bow to do harm. This reverse bow, the Lekach Tov writes, signifies that there should be no more arrows from Heaven. This rainbow is meant to be a reminder of God’s covenant, a reminder of God’s shelter Presence. After every rainstorm, once rays of sunshine slowly peak out through the clouds, we go outside and see the spectrum of colors shining in the sky; we see the same reminder that God showed Noah. We see a reminder that after the darkest of days and rainiest of nights, that the sun will shine again. We are reminded that life gets better. As the book of Psalms tells us (30:6): “We may cry ourselves to sleep at night, but joy comes again in the morning.”
There was not much that was normal about the last year and a half. These past 18 months often felt like a constant rainstorm, just torrential downpours with no sunshine in sight. The only thing that has been normal and consistent is my children’s experiences at Golda Och Academy, for which I am so grateful. This year slowly brings a return to some sense of normalcy for us. For some, that may be a more consistent return to our synagogues and sacred spaces within the Jewish community. For others, it may be a semi-regular return to work in person and away from Zoom (which means we actually have to put something on besides sweatpants!)
Some of us may still be concerned about interacting with others safely, a reminder that even with vaccines available for many of us (and hopefully available for all of our children soon), this pandemic is far from over. When the rain subsided, Noah sent out a raven and then a dove again and again, until he knew that there was dry land and the waters had subsided enough for them to disembark from their divinely-guided vessel. Even when the rain ceased, the impact of the flood continued. It took a great deal of time before Noah and his family, and all the species of earth, could rebuild. 
But eventually, that covenantal rainbow appeared in the sky. And they knew it would all be okay. Some days feel like it will never stop raining. Especially during those days, I find comfort in knowing that a rainbow will eventually appear, the sun will eventually shine again, and joy will come in the morning. May we find comfort in seeing rainbows, in knowing that they always shine after the rain, and may we be those metaphorical rainbows for each other and for our community - a reminder for each other that no matter what, it will be okay.