All the rain we’ve had in the last two weeks may be annoying, but I’d hardly consider it frightening. From the picture the Torah paints in this week’s Torah portion, Noah, I imagine that the victims of the flood would have been terrified from the moment the skies opened and the rains came down in a torrent.
In the ancient world, rain was always potentially devastating. Our ancestors believed that the heavens were oceans suspended above them, and only through divine blessings did they remain suspended. So they had an instinctive and healthy appreciation for nature and the tenuousness of human survival. Even in the time of the rabbis, this is apparent in a Talmudic discussion about what to do and what blessing to say upon seeing a rainbow.
The version that we have in our tradition is “Praised are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the Universe, Who remembers the covenant, and is faithful to God’s covenant, and keeps God’s promise.” Something is clearly strange about this blessing–the “and”s are noteworthy. There seem to be three blessings in one! On Shabbat morning, we’ll look at the rabbinic discussion that led to this compound blessing, and consider what Jews might think when they encounter the rainbow and other symbols in nature.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,