A beautiful shimmering symbol of peace, both a natural phenomenon and a Divine promise to protect and preserve the world, the rainbow is a living statement, a map, if you will, of what really transpires in our lives. A rainbow is formed when pure white light refracts into seven shades. Red is nearest the original beam, and violet is the furthest away from the pure white light. In our individual lives, we also experience the entire spectrum of light, going from bright to dark. Three in the afternoon may be an ideal time – work is great, the sky is blue, and everything seems perfect. Three in the morning is an entirely different story. You lie in bed and can’t sleep. Nothing you do seems significant; nothing seems likely to change either. Sometimes black moments are spurred by external factors – rejection, failure or perceived rejection or failure – but there are also black moments that are just part life’s ebb and flow. At both times, we can recognize that the Creator made us with an inner rhythm that moves the light within us from “red” luminosity to “violet” despair, and that our souls are still eternal and life still has meaning. Each human soul is and always will be attached to life, even if we are not always wise enough to see joy in it (based on http://www.aish.com).
A beautiful and colorful aspect of G‑d’s world, it is also a reminder of tragedy. We are taught not to stare at it, but we do make a special blessing when it appears in the sky. After the flood that destroyed the world, with Noach and his family the only human survivors, the A-mighty declared:
I have put my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between Myself and the world. When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will be seen in the clouds, and I will remember the covenant between Myself and yourselves and all living souls, and there will never again be a flood to destroy all life. The rainbow will be in the clouds and I will see it and remember the eternal covenant between G‑d and all the living souls on earth (Genesis).
Not that Noah’s Ark had looked like this, but I thought it was a cute image. So now we know that when we see a rainbow, it means that the mankind is doing something extremely inappropriate for which, in truth, it deserves to be seriously punished, yet He is true to His Covenant, and we go on living. Conversely, when no rainbow appears, we seem to be doing the right thing, and if an entire generation does not observe even a single rainbow – wow! – the entire generation is righteous, says the Talmud (Berachot). Well, not exactly, claims the foremost Medieval commentator Rashi; it is sufficient for one great and righteous person for the rainbow not to appear during his lifetime.
One such person was a great Talmudic sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, “The Light of Torah,” who lived in the second century C.E. As he was about to leave this world, he admonished his students to celebrate the day of his death with joy. It helps that, similar to some other great Biblical personages, he was also born on the same day. On this day, called Lag b’Omer (the 33rd day of counting Omer, the daily offering of grain between Passover and Shavuot), we celebrate Rabbi Shimon’s life and love with bonfires, songs, and dances. Children are encouraged to make bows and arrows, since in Hebrew “rainbow” and “bow” is the same word – keshet. Hundreds of thousands gather by the graveside in Meron, a village near Safed (Tzfat), and the joyous singing and laughter go on all day and all night.
Two years ago, B.C. (Before Covid), we still conducted the Lasting Joy Club which we hope to resume once the pandemic is over, and we celebrated Lag b’Omer by making fruit rainbows. Here is an exerpt from that post:
Did you know that in the 1950’s people laughed on average 20 minutes a day? Today we laugh about 3 – 6 minutes a day, diminishing our chances to enjoyment of life and to success. “This is so sad,” remarked one of the members present. So get those endorphins going: “If you are not happy inwardly, at least do something outwardly (power smile, power pose, power laugh, power song, power dance),” recommended Rabbi Dov-Ber of Lubavitch to a father who had lost his son. Physically connect with others, if you can. Research has indicated that physical contact during moments of joy almost doubles the joyous feeling – and it could be a cat or a dog, if there is no human available, and it could be a simple joke you are laughing at! So laugh more, laugh often, and share your joy with others.
I have not seen the final results of our remote participants’ efforts, but this is what our live members produced:
- Green grapes
- Red grapes
- Orange juice
- Honey or Agave
- Poppy seeds
You also need wooden skewers.
- Cut pineapple and cantaloupe into bite size chunks.
- Starting with strawberries, insert all fruit chunks, berries, and grapes onto skewers.
- Arrange skewers on platter to form rainbow.
- Mix 1/2 cup orange juice with 1/2 cup honey or agave and 1 teaspoon poppy seeds, sprinkle over fruit rainbow.
Happy Lag b’Omer! Enjoy!