The Rainbow – An Ominous Message Through A Beautiful Medium, By R’ Pinchus Gershon Waxman

rainbowChazal explain that the Rainbow did not appear in the “generations” of Tzadikim, as the Tzadikim protect the world from the destruction that is implicit in the Rainbow’s message.  Moreover, the way that Tzadikim “dwell” makes the Rainbow and its message – that humanity warrants another Flood (Mabul) – unnecessary and irrelevant [the word דור means both generation and dwell].                                 
The Mishna B’rura (229, 1) quotes the Chayei Odom that if one sees a rainbow; he should not relate this event to others as it is Motzei Diba (speaking slander) because the rainbow reflects that the world deserves the punishment of a flood, which would occur if not for Hashem’s promise. If so, the question is compelling: Why is a rainbow so magnificent and beautiful? Should it not be dark, ominous and foreboding?
In addition, if the rainbow is a sign of tragedy, why does the Piyut (Yom Kippur Musaf) compare the appearance of the Kohain Gadol leaving the Kodesh Ha’kadashim to the glorious glow of a rainbow? Why reference the rainbow if it is intertwined with ominous foreboding and sadness?
Chazal (Nedorim 38a) teach that “Hashem only rests his Shechina (Prophecy –נבואה) on one who is a chacham (wise), strong, rich and humble”. Most Rishonim learn that the qualities are literally translated, as the Gemora learns them from Moshe i.e. his ability to personally erect the Mishkan, and from him becoming wealthy from the remnants of the Tablets (Luchos – לוחות) [see Kesef Mishna Hilchos Yesodei Hatorah 7, 1]. The question is, why is physical strength and material wealth a criteria for prophecy?
Likewise, members of the Sanhedrin should be free from physical handicap, and preferably be tall and handsome (Rambam Hilchos Sanhedrin 2:10). Similar to this, a Kohein baal-mum (physical defect) may not do Avoda in the Beis Hamikdosh. The question is, why are the handicapped precluded from doing the Avoda or sitting on the Sanhedrin? Does Hashem not love them and want their communal Avoda?
The Ramban (Shemos 4, 13) and the Ran (Drasha 3) explain that Moshe argued and pleaded that he is not the appropriate leader to redeem the Yidden from slavery because he felt that it would be disrespectful for him to represent Hashem in that mission as he stuttered when he spoke.
Hashem’s messenger should be perfect, being flawless both spiritually and physically. Therefore, explains the Ran, a Navi should also be perfect in all material aspects as he represents Hashem and conveys the message of Hashem. That is why a Kohein with a מום (blemish) may not do Avoda in the Beis Hamikdosh, and those who judge and teach from the Sanhedrin should be physically tall and fully presentable [in a way comparable to soldiers at “Changing of the Guard” who must be perfectly in step and in synch.]
The Gemora (Chagiga 17a) states: “If one stares at [one of] three things, his eyesight becomes weakened: at a Rainbow, at a Nasi, or at Kohanim when they give Blessing.” The Kohein conveys the Bracha of Hashem and there is Shechina on his hands while he does so. So too, the Nasi transmits the eternal lessons of Hashem (Torah Temima Bamidbar 27,20); that is why Klal Yisroel could not view Moshe’s face as it was a vehicle of Shechina.
Likewise the Rainbow. Though the message may be ominous and tragic, the Rainbow is Hashem’s messenger and reflects Shechina. Hence, the messenger must be gorgeous and the epitome of perfection.

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  1. I think that a person’s eyesight might become weakened if he tries to read this article with all the distracting ads popping up without respite.

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