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Monday, October 31, 2005

Did rainbows exist before the Mabul?

Thee Ramban writes in this weeks parsha (Noach) that the simple understanding of the pasuk is that after the mabul Hashem created rainbows. However, the Ramban writes that this can't be true because the Greeks stated that a rainbow is caused by refraction of the light in the moist air and therefore it existed from the time of creation (before the mabul). Here again, the Ramban writes explicitly that he accepts the opinions of the Greek scientists and bases pshat in a pasuk based on that.

Here is the translation of the Ramban
Ramban Bereishis 9:12
"This is the sign of the covenant that I give" - It would seem from this sign that the rainbow which appears in the clouds is not part of the acts of creation, and only now did God create something new, to make a rainbow appear in the sky on a cloudy day… But we are compelled to believe the words of the Greeks, that the rainbow is a result of the sun's rays passing through moist air, for in any container of water that is placed before the sun, there can be seen something that resembles a rainbow. And when we look again at the wording of the verse, we will understand it thus. For it says, "I have set my rainbow in the cloud," and it did not say "I am setting it in the cloud," (in the present tense) as it said, "this is the sign of the covenant that I am giving." And the word "My rainbow" indicates the rainbow previously existed.


At 11:52 AM, Anonymous hayim said...

What does the Ramban do with the famous Medrash that in righteous doros the Rainbow never appeared ?

At 3:50 PM, Anonymous Manny said...

Why does he have to do anything with it? It's a medrash, and doesn't have to be interpreted literally.

At 4:58 PM, Blogger dilbert said...

It seems to me that the pshat of the pasuk is that the rainbow now has a significance that it may not have had prior to the mabul. Not that the rainbow is a new phenomenon.

At 9:17 PM, Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Someone once told me that a cloudy day means that God isn't accepting our prayers, and a rainbow means that God wants to destroy us via a mabul but can't because of the promise not to.

I don't take either of those literally, but i don't know... are they midrashim? Maybe they're Hhasidic stories, or something from Kabbala... or something he just made up? Any ideas?

At 10:48 PM, Blogger dilbert said...

the rainbow being a sign that God wants to destroy us but wont is straight from the pshat of the pasuk.

At 12:29 AM, Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Hrrrmmm... i don't see how it's saying necessarily that it means that God wants to destroy us right at that moment. It sounds more like a recurring reminder to me.

At 6:38 PM, Blogger BrooklynWolf said...

And how does the midrash explain places like Niagara Falls, where a rainbow is visible every (sunny) day? Or does God want to perpetually destroy Niagara Falls?

The Wolf

At 10:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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