The Torah portion of Noach is concerned with the total collapse of humanity, leading in the end to the almost complete destruction of all living creatures in the flood. The few people who survive the disaster are given a promise by the Almighty that there will never be a second flood. However, the author of the “Akeidat Yitzchak,” Rabbi Yitzchak Arameh, questions the logic of this promise: If the punishment of the flood was justified, why does G-d promise never to use it again? And if it was not a just punishment, how could it have been used in the first place?
Rabbi Arameh’s answer is that all judgment by G-d is certainly just, and there is no doubt that the flood was an appropriate punishment. The explanation of the Divine promise is that the world was about to change such that the situation that might lead to another flood would never happen again. In the era of the flood, mankind joined together with the objective of doing evil. “And the land was filled with corruption” [Bereishit 6:11]. However, from the moment of the flood, the world changed. All of mankind would never again gather together for purposes of evil. After the flood, G-d divided humanity into three different segments, descendents of Noach’s three sons, which are different in essence and quality.
This division was to continue for all generations to come, such that mankind would no longer have the ability to join together with destructive intentions. Thus, the promise by the Hashem is that any gathering of evil will not engulf the entire world. For example, the corruption of Sedom did not spread to nor infect the ethical nature of the rest of the world.
The Colors of the Rainbow
Rabbi Arameh notes that the symbol of the rainbow is also related to the division of humanity after the flood. Just as mankind was separated into different groups from the time of the flood, so are the colors of a rainbow separate from each other. The rainbow is a symbol of a world of division and separation. This symbolism is seen not only in the rainbow but also in what G-d told Noach, “For the remaining days of the earth, planting and harvesting, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night will never cease” [Bereishit 8:22]. The world climate is also divided into separate groups. When it is winter on one side of the world, the other side will be warmed by the summer. The different types of weather are another symbol of the division of mankind. Changes in weather are a reflection of the variance between different cultures and the gaps between them.
The events of the flood can teach us how great an opportunity can be missed by joining together for a no good purpose. Any attempt to gather together for evil purposes will end with division, isolation, and separation. Only when we learn to gather together in order to do good for each other will mankind once again be privileged to be joined together as one. Only after we mend the world will the divisions disappear, as if to say, “Everybody will become one association, in order to do Your will with a full heart” [Rosh Hashanah prayer]. In response to unity and a true peace, the Shechina will return to the land, as is written, “And G-d will be king over the entire world, on that day G-d will be one and His name will be one” [Zechariah 14:9].
Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth is the Executive Director of Beit Hillel and the Rav of Congregation Ohel Ari in Ra’anana. He served as Director of the Overseas Department of Tzohar and as the Rabbi of Bnei Akiva of North America. He also served as a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and is a former captain in the Israeli Navy Special Forces.
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