Why are there so many songs about rainbows?

There is a little known bracha (blessing) that we recite when we see a rainbow. Why? Well for one, it’s cool. How often do you get to see a rainbow? And it’s even rarer that you get to see the little Lucky Charms guy chasing the rainbow looking for “me pot of gold”. So that should probably deserve a bracha also but that’s not why we say it.
The text for the bracha according to Torah.org is, “Boruch Attoh A-d-o-n-o-i E-l-o-h-e-i-n-u Melech ho’olom zocher habris v’ne’emon bivriso v’kayom b’ma’amoro. (Blessed are You, G-d, our Lord, King of the Universe, Who remembers the covenant, who is faithful to His covenant and Who keeps His word.)” I remember one time when I was in a corporate office in downtown Manhattan and one Jewish guy was standing next to a big window with a siddur (prayerbook) in his hand and saying the bracha. Pretty soon the CFO put on a kippah and came over to say the bracha and I joined them. You can imagine the sight of a beautiful rainbow over Manhattan and three guys in a corporate office at a window on the 34th floor blessing it.
From the text of the bracha it is clearly not on the coolness of the rainbow per se but that it is a sign of G-d’s covenant. Recall from the Torah that the covenant of the rainbow was made with Noach after the Great Flood so it’s a covenant with all the people of the world and not just the Jews. You can consider the rainbow to be a sign of pluralism and cross-national bonding.
It’s also a reminder of the importance of keeping your word. If you’re saying a blessing about how great G-d is for keeping His word, you might want to take the time out to think about how great you’d be if you would keep your word. I wonder if the corporate CFO got that message.

7 thoughts on “Why are there so many songs about rainbows?

  1. i read something else about it once, that you should not stare at the rainbow too long…that it is as direct a manifestation of hashem’s glory as you can hope to see and that to stare at it too long is inappropriate. i don’t have a source for this apart from the web.
    we see a lot of rainbows out of my office window this time of year as rainy season began right on schedule after shmini atzeret (i kid you not) and my office overlooks san francisco bay. so me and my director have said the bracha together a few times. once, looking out over a near full circle rainbow he laughed and said, “See all this?” don’t tell your new york friends.

  2. Brachot are lovely — but one should truly feel blessed to live in a city where rainbows can still be seen. Seoul, for example, hasn’t had one in ten years due to air pollution. When was the last one sighted in Mexico City? I hate to clue y’all in, but God’s sign is only shining on those nations who can afford the luxury of clean air. That CFO should probably thank his board for out-sourcing.

  3. i heard somewhere that if you see a rainbow your menna say a prayer silently and not tell anyone about the rainbow….is that just something i made up or is it true?

  4. Your words remind me of the first time I was in Northern Alaska. I carried around a copy of the brachah on a slip of paper in my back pocket. I have some kind of block that just won’t allow me to memorize it, and up there the skies that summer were perpetually filled with rainbows that appeared and vaporized, split, and re-formed all day long. And there’s so much more sky than here, and more time to take note of it (it was summer and the village is 150 miles north of the arctic circle, so there is virtually no darkness.) Like Daniel, for me the experience of daily recitations of the brachah in that setting truly drove home the connection between covenant and stewardship…Funny that you should post this just as Congress is yet again trying to sneak in to some other legislation wording that would allow for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. So next time you see a rainbow, please, do us all (and the Gwiichin people) a favor,recite the brachah, and then immediately send your congressman an email against drilling. Keep those rainbows coming.

  5. This might be too heavy for some people:
    “G-d promised Noah that there would be no more flood for ‘the rest of the days of the earth.’ Do the descendants of Noah believe this means forever? The truth is that the promise is only good as long as the heavens and earth last. When the day comes of which the prophet (Isaiah 51:6) proclaims, ‘The heavens will disintegrate like smoke, and the earth will wear away like clothing,’ the promise comes to an end.”
    Midrash Bereishis Rabba 34:11

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