RAINBOW, "bow" (Heb. קֶשֶׁת), "in the cloud" (Gen. 9:13–14, 16; Ezek. 1:28). In the sequel to the Flood Story (Gen. 9:8–17) God sets His bow in the clouds as a sign to the people and as a reminder to Himself that no deluge shall again destroy the earth. According to the rabbis this rainbow was created during the eve of the Sabbath of Creation at twilight (Pes. 54a). Naḥmanides similarly explained that the rainbow had existed previously but was now designated to serve as this symbol (to Gen. 9:12). However, Ibn Ezra held that the bow was first created by God after the Flood (to Gen. 9:13). The bow symbolized that God s wrath had ceased since the end of the bow pointed downward just as the warrior lowers his bow on declaring peace (Nahmanides to Gen. 9:12). The rabbis held that the rainbow need not appear in the lifetime of a saint whose merit alone is sufficient to save the world from destruction (Ket. 77b and Rashi ad. loc.). Since the rainbow was the reflection of "the glory of the Lord" (Ezek. 1:28), it was considered injurious to gaze directly at it (Hag.   16a). It was reported that R. Joshua b. Levi declared that upon seeing the rainbow one should fall on his face as did Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:28). Nevertheless, in Ereẓ Israel, the rabbis disapproved of such action since it appeared as if the person was bowing down to the rainbow. They, however, approved of reciting a blessing upon the rainbow's appearance. The text of this blessing as it is today recited is "Blessed are Thou O Lordour God, King of the Universe, Who remembers the Covenant, is faithful to His Covenant, and keeps His promise" (Ber. 59a; Sh. Ar. OḤ 229:1). The blessing is to be recited even if a rainbow is seen twice within 30 days Mishnah Berurah to Sh. Ar., loc. cit.). -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Idelsohn, Liturgy, 126, note j; ET, 4 (1952), 358.

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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