THE RAINBOW CONNECTION
“I have set My bow in the clouds, and it shall serve as a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.” (Genesis 9:13)
Who can forget the scene from The Muppet Movie where Kermit the frog, sitting at the edge of the swamp playing a banjo, sings, “Why are there so many songs about rainbows?” It continues with the lovely words, “Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers, and me.” The rainbow is the symbol of Kermit’s dream. He will one day leave the swamp.
Most experts believe the greatest song to ever appear in a movie was Judy Garland singing “Over the Rainbow” in The Wizard of Oz. Rainbows are powerful symbols of the human dream for something better. Most people do not know that the song was written by two Jewish young men, music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by Yip Harburg. It reflects their dream that America would be a better place than the Europe from which their families came. Rainbows symbolize a better place.
According to an old Irish legend, there is a pot of gold buried at the end of the rainbow. The pot of gold is guarded by leprechauns. In the classic Broadway musical Finian’s Rainbow, an Irish immigrant comes to the American south after stealing that pot of gold from a leprechaun. The lyrics to the show were written by the same Yip Harburg, and contains such classic songs as “How are things in Glocca Mora” and “That Old Devil Moon.” But one of the most beautiful songs is “Look to the Rainbow” – “Look, look, look to the rainbow, follow the fellow who follows a dream.”
In this week’s portion, the rainbow is a powerful symbol. God makes a covenant with Noah that he will never again bring a flood upon the earth. The rainbow is the symbol of that covenant. It is a reminder of God’s promise to humanity. Jewish tradition says that when we see a rainbow, we should recite a blessing. “Praised are You Lord our God King of the Universe, Who remembers the covenant, is faithful to the covenant, and keeps His word.” Rainbows touch our hearts in a unique way. We will run outside to look at a rainbow whenever it appears in the sky.
We humans are drawn to rainbows. In 1971, Jesse Jackson founded the Rainbow Push Coalition to seek racial justice. More recently, the rainbow has become the symbol of LGBTQ+ rights. A rainbow flag has become a powerful emblem of pride for those seeking equal rights for all people, regardless of sexual orientation. It was first created by Gilbert Baker in 1978 to fly in San Francisco’s gay pride parade.
Why has a rainbow become such a powerful symbol? It is more than the beauty of seven colors spread out in an arch. (In reality there are six colors, indigo is a kind of purple, but in the Middle Ages the number 7 had mystical significance.) A rainbow is multi-colored, but at its root is white light. Acting as a prism, the raindrops cause the light to separate into beautiful colors. A rainbow symbolizes difference, but at its root is a unity. We may all look different, have different nationalities and religions and sexual orientations. But beneath it all is an underlying unity.
The Talmud (Sanhedrin 4:5) says this explicitly. A human being creates a stamp to make coins, and every coin is the same as every other one. God made humans beings from a single stamp (Adam and Eve), and yet each one of us is different and unique. We may differ but beneath it all, there exists a fundamental unity. Deep down, we are one.
Let us celebrate the beauty of a rainbow. It symbolizes the dream of a better place. It leads us to pot of gold. It is a sign of God’s promise to humanity. But at its heart, the rainbow is proof that beneath our diversity is a fundamental unity. We are One. After all, we were created by the One God.