The rainbow symbolizes peace because it demonstrates how so many can become one. It symbolizes curse because it shows how one can be divided into so many.
Noach and his family emerged from their ark and saw a rainbow.
The rainbow represented a covenant of peace between G-d and His world. The rainbow symbolized that G-d will not destroy the world again and that there will never be another flood like the one that occurred in the time of Noach.
Why a rainbow? Of all His many creations why did G-d choose a rainbow as a symbol of peace?
There is an interesting Halacha regarding a rainbow. If one goes outside and is awestruck by the multicolored phenomenon gracing the sky one is forbidden to point out the rainbow to someone else. As beautiful as a rainbow is, it is a sign of a curse and it is forbidden to share bad tidings! How can this symbol of peace become an emblem of a curse?
The answer lies in the scientific explanation of the rainbow. A rainbow is a diffusion of light. Light starts out as a single monochromatic ray. When it is filtered through a cloud in a certain way, the one single color diffuses and diversifies into all colors. In a sense, the rainbow is a revelation of the inner truth of light. What seems to be white and simple is actually made up of millions of different colors.
In the Yom Kippur prayers we describe the beautiful sight of the Kohein Gadol as he emerges from the Holy of Holies. We describe him as a rainbow. Why a rainbow? The Kohein, when he stands before G-d, represents the entire nation of Israel. Although he stands alone, he represents the entire diversity of the Jewish people. In order for the Kohein to succeed in his supplications before Hashem, in his heart he must unite all the factions of Israel. He must endure the multiple personalities and philosophies that the Jewish people bear. He must unite them before G-d while allowing for their individuality. As the Kohein stands before Hashem he goes from representing his people to being the people. The transformation is almost physical. He emerges like a rainbow.
The rainbow represents the individuality of every human being. That is why it can signify both a blessing and a curse. Our uniqueness is our greatest blessing. Our personalities range through all the colors of the rainbow. On the other hand, our distinctiveness can also be our greatest curse. Because we are so different from each other it is so difficult for us to unite. Without unity there is chaos.
The rainbow symbolizes peace because it demonstrates how so many can become one. It also symbolizes curse because it shows how sometimes one can be divided into so many.
Today, in history, we need unity. In the eyes of G-d, in the eyes of the world, and in our own eyes we must be one. But we must also remember that as a people we are all different, we represent all the colors of the rainbow. If we pool these colors together, the diversity is our strength – if those colors divide us they will be our downfall.
May we be wise enough to use our diversity as a blessing and not as a curse, and may we all merit G-d’s peace in Jerusalem.