The Bible Says What? ‘The rainbow will always arrive’

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The Bible Says What? ‘The rainbow will always arrive’

Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein takes a controversial topic from Jewish texts and and looks at a Liberal response

Torah scroll (Photo by Tanner Mardis on Unsplash)
Torah scroll (Photo by Tanner Mardis on Unsplash)

As Progressive Jews, what can we make of the opening chapters of the Torah? We can see the scene for human history being set, with explanations for many aspects of our society.

Why women have a painful time giving birth is put down to Eve eating the apple. Why it’s no fun being a gardener is explained by weeds being the punishment for Adam having his own bite of the forbidden fruit.

We get Abel, the first shepherd and Cain, the first ‘tiller of the soil’ – modern commentators say this is a reflection of the ancient enmity between the settled farmer and the itinerant shepherd whose sheep might invade his land.

Enoch was the first to found a city, Jabal was the first herdsman and his brother Jubal “the ancestor of all who play the lyre and pipe”.

Then, chillingly, at the end of chapter six we are told that people are wicked and the world is to be destroyed because “God regretted making humankind on earth and God’s heart was saddened”.

In the very next Sedra, God carries out the threat to destroy the world, but not completely and it ends with the rainbow.

This all points to the brilliance of Genesis as religious literature, because it depicts the real world and at each stage urges humankind to learn from past actions.

We live in a time of climate change, pandemic, threats of war and countries tearing themselves apart. Maybe our Torah teaches us that from the very beginning it has been so, but God’s promise with the rainbow reminds us that in the nick of time God, or we, will somehow save our world.

  • Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein is president of Liberal Judaism

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