By Rabbi Elliot Kaplowitz
The story of Noah is one that is familiar to us. Humanity regresses to the point that God regrets having created man and brings about a flood to wipe out the entire world, with the exception of Noah, his family and the animals he brings on the Ark. When Noah leaves the Ark after the flood and is ready to go about rebuilding the world, God makes a covenant with him that God will never destroy the world again. The sign of this covenant is the rainbow.
The commentators struggle to understand the sin or level of corruption that prompted God to bring the flood. In a verse with eerie resonance in light of Israel’s war against Hamas, the Torah records: “The earth became corrupt before God; the earth was filled with lawlessness (hamas)” (Gen. 6:11). The Biblical scholar Nahum Sarna explains, “It may be deduced that hamas here refers predominantly to arrogant disregard for the sanctity and inviolability of human life.” This definition and understanding of the word “hamas” certainly rings true with the atrocities we have seen the terrorist group carry out.
While we know that God’s response to hamas in our parshah is to completely eradicate it, we may no longer know what God’s response to such moral depravity is. This is because of the covenant symbolized by the rainbow. While we typically marvel at seeing a rainbow in the sky, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 229:1) rules that while we recite a blessing upon seeing a rainbow, one should not look at a rainbow excessively. The Mishnah Berurah further rules that one should not tell their friend that there is a rainbow. The explanation for these curious rules is that the rainbow may be seen as a sign of God’s anger or displeasure. Some explain that the appearance of a rainbow is an indication that if not for the covenant made with Noah, the world would be deserving of punishment in line with that of Noah’s generation. Or perhaps the rainbow serves as a warning that we are headed down that dangerous path. The Talmud in Ketubot 77b suggests that the sign of a truly righteous person is that a rainbow was never seen in their lifetime.
In light of this, it seems clear to me that we have an obligation and moral responsibility to respond when the world is overcome by hamas. We must express shock and outrage upon learning of such wanton displays of violence, hatred and moral depravity. The Israel Defense Forces have an absolute responsibility to wage battle and destroy Hamas. While these responses are appropriate and natural, I have also been deeply inspired by the many stories of Jews around the world mobilizing to volunteer in the relief and support efforts. These include financial contributions; organizing meals and care packages for soldiers and bereaved families; and taking on extra mitzvot in the merit of the captives, injured and murdered. The very best of Klal Yisrael (the Jewish people) has been on display during the excruciatingly difficult weeks. And these effort and initiatives bring to mind another way in which we can eradicate hamas from the world: by adding light and hope. As Rabbi Abraham Isaac haCohen Kook so beautifully wrote: “The pure righteous do not complain of the dark, but increase the light; they do not complain of evil, but increase justice; they do not complain of heresy, but increase faith; they do not complain of ignorance, but increase wisdom” (Arpilei Tohar”, p. 27–28). With continued prayers for everyone’s safety, Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Elliot Kaplowitz serves Congregation Netivot Shalom.