I awoke in Kailua, the Island of Oahu, Hawaii, to a chorus of tropical birds singing loudly and melodiously, and distant waves in the background. The scent of plumeria and the local varieties of jasmine and gardenia continually perfumed the air. I made my way to the upper deck of the house where we were staying and watched the sunrise over the Pacific to the east:  first a glowing purple horizon, then gray clouds tinting pink, finally a giant ball of orange fire lifting into the heavens.

One morning of my visit, just after sunrise, there was a misting warm rain shower, and suddenly a huge full arc rainbow appeared above the house amid the palm trees to the west, refracting the dawn’s light into colors.

A few places in my life have given me that sense of being on a peak surrounded by a vast vista: on top of the Bluff at my childhood ranch in Utopia, Texas, and atop Mt. Zion in the Old City of Jerusalem. Up on that rooftop deck, I felt like the captain of a boat floating in a 360 degree tropical vista, steering toward the rising sun. And beyond that, I got a sense of the whole earth turning toward the sun, and the Earth herself being an Island in a giant sea of space, and suddenly the turn of the planet and the spectrum of light were more miraculous and mystical than the most cherished myths we have made about sunrises and rainbows. As I chanted the prayer, “Nishmat kol chai, the soul of all that lives praises Your Name!…and even if our mouths were filled with song as the sea, we still could not praise you enough,”  I felt joined to the chorus of creation.

–Rabbi Julie Hilton Danan


Featured photo, Kailua, Oahu (Hawaii), JHD


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