The Rainbow Covenant & the Planet
Although we often first learn the story of Noah as children, as if it is just a colorful tale of a floating zoo, it is actually a terrifying story of destruction, chaos, and survival. After Noah, his family, and the animals survive the Great Flood, God chooses the rainbow, an existing natural phenomena, as the sign of a covenant of forbearance not just with one person or even a nation, but with the entire planet.
In our own days, with thousands of species endangered and being destroyed, with global climate change threatening the future of human civilization, the importance of a covenant with the whole planet–humans, animals, and plants–has new meaning. Now it is we human beings who must urgently make a covenant with all living things, not to destroy them from our greed and exploitation. Rabbi Arthur Waskow of The Shalom Center has made the Rainbow Covenant a central message of his teachings about imperative of to act for the future of the planet. Each of us must do our own part, not just in individual action but in urgent collective action, to protect the delicate ark of our planet floating in the vast sea of space.
Rabbi Waskow has conveyed a modern-day Haftarah like a modern prophetic message about the meaning of the Rainbow. Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi translated this powerful message into Hebrew.
אליכם אקרא להאיר את כל צבעי הקשת
להרים נס נראה לכל רואה
דגל הברית ביני ובין בני נח ונעמה
ולכל נשמה החיה עלי אדמות
כדי שלא ישבות לעולמי עד
זריעה וקציר קור וחום:
קיץ וחורף לילה ויום לא ישבותו:
I call you to light the colors of the Rainbow,
To raise once more before all eyes
That banner of the covenant between Me,
and all the children of Noah and Naamah,
and all that lives and breathes upon the Earth—
all the days of the earth, shall
sowing and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
–from the Rainbow Haftarah, by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Hebrew by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi
Another recognition of the Rainbow Covenant is the observance of Rainbow Day, the day Jewish tradition has it that Noah and his family left the Ark. Look on a Jewish calendar for Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) and Rainbow Day will be the day before. Here are some resources for Rainbow Day from Rabbi David Seidenberg, which can also be used when reading the Torah portion of Noah’s Ark or whenever you want to explore the themes of the Rainbow and world ecology.
Photo at left by Adam Segulah Sher.