In Genesis 6:1-11:32, we read of God’s dismay and response to the growing wickedness and moral devolution among the descendents of Adam. God levies a catastrophic flood upon the earth in order to eradicate every living thing, but not before identifying Noah as a singularly righteous individual among humankind. Through explicit instructions, God commands the ever obedient Noah to build an ark to save and shelter his family and to bring along a male and female pair of all earth’s creatures, seven pairs of clean animals and all the foods necessary for the ark’s inhabitants during the 40 days of devastating rain and torrent.
Following the flood and its lengthy aftermath, Noah, his family and the creatures aboard the ark eventually emerge to a new world with the weighty, providential opportunity to begin again and to lead subsequent generations towards a brighter future. Pleased with Noah’s efforts, God establishes a covenant with him in which He vows never to destroy humankind again and marks this promise by setting a rainbow among the clouds.
To this day, the rainbow, one of nature’s loveliest and most ephemeral phenomena is an enduring and indelible sign of hope. It has emerged, especially powerfully, in recent years to signify tolerance and inclusion. Fortunately, biblical floods and thunderbolts have been replaced by education, awareness and progress. The world of today is not as binary or quantifiable as in Noah’s time. The divine seven-color rainbow bestowed by God has evolved into a symbol that represents the complex, modern spectrum of life. Indeed, God’s reminder to Himself now adorns clothing, flags, storefronts and bumper stickers as a charge and message of better, kinder days to come, but only with our attention and efforts.
Like the rainbow, though, progress can sometimes be hard to discern or see clearly. In an era of growing hate crimes, parochialism and antisemitism, the citizens of the earth must be put on notice to develop sensitivity and respect when it is lacking, to be upstanders against turpitude and not to slip silently into egocentrism and passiveness through complacency or habit. Let us not forget again our dangerous ability to destroy ourselves by forsaking the personal and shared morality we must show towards each other and the world.