Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Elul Challenge Day 9 - Rainbow Connection


The other day I was driving to a dinner meeting. It was drizzling and the road was slick. I Took my time going around the twists and turns in the road, when I hit a straight patch of roadway. Up ahead I was greeted with the glorious sight of a multi-colored bow in the sky. It was so close in fact; I could just make out the end of the rainbow. I thought for a moment I should pull off to the side of the road and search for my pot gold.

Rainbows have been part of our collective imagination since time immemorial. Not only are we familiar with rainbows of leprechaun lore but they also can be found in our music as well. Most famous is Somewhere over the Rainbow by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg performed by Judy Garland and countless others, though I have a partial preference for the Rainbow Connection written by Paul Williams and sung by my second favorite green muppet, Kermit the Frog.

Jewishly speaking, the most famous rainbow is the one established to seal the covenant between Noah and God at the end of the flood story. Noah and humanity promised to follow seven central laws, and God promised not to destroy the world again by flood.

These laws include:
1. Not worshipping idols
2. Not committing murder (different from not killing by the way)
3. Not stealing
4. Not committing any of a series of sexual prohibitions, which include adultery, incest, rape, and bestiality.
5. Not blaspheming God's name (to blaspheme basically means to refute God and God’s ability to make and uphold this and other covenants)
6. Not eating the flesh of a living animal (i.e. shark fin soup). Genesis 9:4, as interpreted in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 59a)
7. The requirement to set up courts of law

Six of these laws relate to how we treat each other as individuals, whereas the seventh law has to do with how we are to set up a just and righteous society. Because of this, the rainbow became a physical, visual reminder of how we as Jews are to behave in an ethical and moral way, and not just search for our pot of gold.
In this period of Elul, when there are regular ethical reminders surrounding us (i.e. the sounding of the shofar), what sort of actions will you be reminded to do? And what reminders are helpful to you?

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