תפילה בין השריפות | Prayer between the Fires (between the 32nd and 42nd days of the Omer, neohasid.org)

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Today we stand between the 17th of Iyyar,
the day when the rains of the flood began,
and the 27th of Iyyar,
the day when Noaḥ left the ark,
the day the first covenant was made
between God and all life upon the earth.

Today we stand between the bonfires of Lag baOmer
and the many lights of the rainbow,
the sign of the first covenant.

Today we stand between the fires:
the fires that rose from Auschwitz,
from Hiroshima,
and the specter of a flood of fire and water
from the burning of the Amazon and the melting of the Antarctic,
“the day that comes burning like an oven,”[1]Malachi 4:1
a day when our flames could consume so much of the earth.

Malakhi the seer prophesied:
“Here! I am sending you Elijah the Prophet
before the coming of the great and terrible day of YHVH, the Breath of Life.
And he shall turn the heart of parents unto children
and the heart of children unto their parents,
lest I come and strike the earth utterly.”[2]Malachi 4:5-6
Teach us to turn our hearts away from chasing wrong desires (zonim),
and to turn our hearts toward our children and toward our parents,
“in order that you will increase your days
and the days of your children
on the earth which God granted you.”
[3]Proverbs 3:2

It is our task to make from fire
not an all-consuming blaze
but a light in which we can see each other fully.
All of us different,
all of us bearing the spark of the One.
Let us use our light to see clearly
that the earth
and all who live as part of it
are not for burning.
Let us use our light to see clearly
the rainbow in the many-hued faces of all life.

May this therefore be the will that comes from you,
our God and God of our ancestors:
That just as you turned your bow towards the heavens,
promising to never again destroy the earth for humanity’s sake,
that we too turn our arrows away from the earth.
May we turn over our hearts and strengthen our will,
so that we care for the earth and all life,
for all life now depends on our goodness and rests in our hands.

May you sustain the word which you promised us by the hands of Malakhi your seer:
“And the fruit of the earth will not be destroyed because of you, said YHVH of hosts.”
[4]Malachi 3:11

Help us learn to use our fires to bring blessing to all life,
that we add might and majesty to the Tree of Life.

May you bring upon all life a blessing of goodness,
as it says,
“Let them drink blessings forever,
let them celebrate in joy your presence.”
[5]Psalms 21:7

May the Tree of Life return now to its original strength,
and may the strength of the Righteous One’s bow return,
that we may see the rainbow,
joyful and beautified with its colors;
and from there may the flow of compassion and mercy flow over us,
for pardoning and fixing our sins and errors;

Make the flow of desire and blessing and shefa (abundance)
flow over the earth to make all life grow and bloom,
from the beginning of the year until the end of the year,
for good and for blessing,
for good life and for peace.
“And then the Sun of Righteousness will shine forth and heal with her wings”[6]Malachi 4:2
and “the trees of the forest will sing out”[7]1 Chronicles 16:33. Cf. Psalms 96:12
and “the tree of the field will make fruit, day by day”
and we will bring the bikurim offering,
first of all the fruits of the ground on Shavuot
before the altar of YHVH”[8]adapted from Deuteronomy 26:2-4
with praise and thanks.

And may all the sparks of lives and species
scattered by our hands,
or by the hands of our ancestors,
be returned and included in the majestic might
of the Tree of Life.

Originally published at neohasid.org, and derived from the prayer “Between the Candles” by Rabbi Arthur Waskow. Text in black is from the original text of the prayer by Rabbi Arthur Waskow (the Shalom Center). Text in green is added by Rabbi David Seidenberg (neohasid.org).

This is a prayer to be read between the 17th and the 27th of Iyyar (בין י״ז ו-כ״ז באייר), between the 32nd (ל״ב) and 42nd (מ״ב) days of the Omer. For more prayers, readings, and curricular resources relating to Rainbow Day (Yom Keshet), the 42nd day of the Omer, see here.

In the Jewish seasonal calendar, the days of the Omer, between the 17th and 27th of Iyyar, fall near the midpoint between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. The 42nd day of the Omer ends the week associated with the divine attribute (sephira) of Yesod — foundation, and is a gateway for entering the week associated with the innermost sephira, Malkhut (Majesty) — the divine kingdom in nature revealed before all.

Rainbow Day[9]In the Talmud, there’s a debate about whether the dates in Genesis follow the Torah’s calendar or the “calendar of the nations.” The first month of the Torah’s calendar is Nissan, the month of Passover and spring. But according to the Talmud, the calendar of the nations begins in Tishrei (when we also celebrate the New Year). The dates we use here for Rainbow Day and Flood Day correspond to the opinion that the flood dates follow the Torah’s calendar. Shift the dates by six (lunar) months to get the dates that follow the other opinion. There’s one more date in the flood story: the day the ark landed on Mt. Ararat, the 17th of the seventh month. Any of these dates can be a time to remember the flood story and what it teaches us about the holiness of life on Earth. R. Arthur Waskow first suggested making Rainbow Day into a celebration in 1981. (David Seidenberg) — the 42nd day of the Omer (מ״ב בעומר) is the 27th of Iyyar (“the 27th day of the second month” in Genesis 8:14), when the animals, along with Noaḥ’s family, left the ark, and the rainbow (keshet) appeared as a sign of covenant. This should be a time of celebration. According to the kabbalistic counting of the Omer, Rainbow Day is also the day of Malkhut in Yesod, a unity of masculine and feminine that represents a milestone on the way to the revelation of Shavuot. For us, it can represent a chance to commit ourselves to the rainbow covenant, to turn from actions that destroy the earth, to turn our lives away from unraveling earth’s climate and the web of life, from diminishing earth’s abundance.

In the story of the Great Flood, the deluge lasted for over a year, but the time separating the beginning from the end on the calendar is only 10 days. According to the Torah, the flood began on the 17th of Iyyar (“the 17th day of the second month” in Genesis 7:11). The 17th of Iyyar falls on ל״ב בעומר (Lev BaOmer — the heart of the Omer) the day before Lag BaOmer, days already associated with fire.[10]In Sanhedrin 108b, both Rebi Yoaḥanan and Rav Ḥisda relate teachings that the Generation of the Flood were punished with scalding water. A baraita interpreted Job 12:5 to teach that the waters of the Flood were as hot and viscous as bodily fluids. And Rav Ḥisda taught that since it was with hot passion that they transgressed, it was with hot water that they were punished. For Genesis 8:1 says, “And the water cooled” (יָּשֹׁכּוּ, yashoku), and Esther 7:10 says, “Then the king’s wrath cooled down” (שָׁכָכָה, shachachah). (Talmud Bavli Sanhedrin 108b; see also Babylonian Talmud Rosh Hashanah 12a; Zevachim 113b.) cf. Bereishit Rabba 28:9 —
Rebi Yoḥanan said: We learned: The judgment of the generation of the Flood lasted twelve months: having received their punishment, are they to enjoy a portion in the World to Come? Said Rebi Yoḥanan: The blessed Holy One will boil up in Gehenna every single drop poured out on them, produce it and pour it down upon them. Thus it is written, “When they wax hot, they vanish” (Job 6:17), which means, they will be destroyed absolutely by scalding water.

Also in the tradition of Islam, in Suras 11.42 and 23.27 of the Quran, it is says of the Flood: “the oven boiled over.” cf., Suras 7:57-63, 10:72-75, 11:27-50, 22:43, 23:23-32, 25:39, 26:105-121, 29:13-14, 37:73-81, 54:9-18, 71:1ff with Talmud Bavli Sanhedrin 108b, Suras 11:40 with Midrash Tanchuma Bereishit 7 (on Noaḥ), and Suras 11:42, 23:27 with Rosh Hashanah 16a.[–ANV]

As we move from the flood waters of Lev baOmer through the fires of Lag baOmer and through the coming week, we are reaching toward a different kind of illumination, the rainbow, which balances water and fire to create such a powerful expression of beauty and diversity. The rainbow covenant is special—not only because it’s the first covenant in the Torah. It’s also not just a covenant with humanity, but rather a covenant between God and all living creatures, and between G!d and the land.

There’s also a special connection between the Rainbow covenant and the covenant of the sabbatical year (shmitah), which we will read on Shabbat Behar (Leviticus 25). Like in the rainbow covenant, the land is also a primary partner in the Sinai/shmitah covenant. In Leviticus 26:34, G!d even puts the land before the people, declaring that the people will be exiled from the land if they don’t observe Shmitah, so that the land can “enjoy her sabbaths.”

The wild animals are also remembered in the Shmitah covenant, and what grows from the land is left for them as well as for people. In this respect, the Shmitah covenant is more like a return to Eden, to before the Flood, when animals and people shared the food of the garden. (The rabbis took this very seriously: fields were not allowed to be completely enclose during Shmitah, and people could only eat and store the foods that were actually growing in the field at that time.)

The mitzvah of shmitah evokes the first commandment to humankind: וַיִּקַּ֛ח יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֑ם וַיַּנִּחֵ֣הוּ בְגַן־עֵ֔דֶן לְעָבְדָ֖הּ וּלְשָׁמְרָֽהּ׃ — “And YHVH Elohim took the Adam, and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and to protect it” (Bereshit 2:15). The corruption of the world is illustrated in the transgression of גזל — theft — a description of a host of depraved acts whereby nature itself was corrupted by the non-consensual predatory acts of humankind: violent, terrifying, and motivated by unquenchable desire.[11]cf. The Book of Jubilees chapter 5 and the Midrash of Shemhazai and Azael in Yalkut Shemoni, et al.

The time we are in today is thus a time to ask: are we so determined to undo God’s rainbow covenant? Will we truly burn the sea, chemically and literally, with the oil we unleash from inside the Earth as we did several years ago? Will we flood the sea with death as the land was flooded according to the Noah story of so long ago? Will mercury precipitating out of the atmosphere from the dust of our burnt fossil fuels continue to build up and debilitate marine life? Will our fellow human beings continue to over-fish and destroy the oceans food web, finning its sharks and slaughtering its whales? Will our earth’s defenders be imprisoned and remain imprisoned for their important work? As the cleanup from the Gulf of Mexico fades from memory, and its effects will continue for decades, what new floods will we unleash in the coming years? What enduring harm awaits from tapping the limited supply of fossil fuel from the Tar Sands of Canada? How many more aquifers will we poison and earthquakes will we trigger through hydraulic fracturing (fracking)? How much more of the global food web on which wildlife and healthy ecosystems rely will we disrupt causing untold extinctions of creatures we have only just discovered or have yet to discover?

The rainbow signified a new covenant between God and the land. It’s time for us to imagine a new covenant between humanity and the Earth, including the land and the seas, one that we start to live by as we change our lifestyles and habits. And maybe next year it will be time to celebrate that new covenant.

DOWNLOAD: Rainbow Day — Ideas, Texts, and Projects (v.4.1.1)
Rainbow Covenenant Study Sheet
Genesis, Covenant, Jubilee and the Land Ethic | abridged
Midrash on Parshat Noah and the Preservation of Species
Also see Rabbi David Seidenberg’s Prayer for the Earth.
Additional Rainbow Day resources available at jewcology.com (some resources not shared with a free-culture license)

Notes   [ + ]

  1. Malachi 4:1
  2. Malachi 4:5-6
  3. Proverbs 3:2
  4. Malachi 3:11
  5. Psalms 21:7
  6. Malachi 4:2
  7. 1 Chronicles 16:33. Cf. Psalms 96:12
  8. adapted from Deuteronomy 26:2-4
  9. In the Talmud, there’s a debate about whether the dates in Genesis follow the Torah’s calendar or the “calendar of the nations.” The first month of the Torah’s calendar is Nissan, the month of Passover and spring. But according to the Talmud, the calendar of the nations begins in Tishrei (when we also celebrate the New Year). The dates we use here for Rainbow Day and Flood Day correspond to the opinion that the flood dates follow the Torah’s calendar. Shift the dates by six (lunar) months to get the dates that follow the other opinion. There’s one more date in the flood story: the day the ark landed on Mt. Ararat, the 17th of the seventh month. Any of these dates can be a time to remember the flood story and what it teaches us about the holiness of life on Earth. R. Arthur Waskow first suggested making Rainbow Day into a celebration in 1981. (David Seidenberg)
  10. In Sanhedrin 108b, both Rebi Yoaḥanan and Rav Ḥisda relate teachings that the Generation of the Flood were punished with scalding water. A baraita interpreted Job 12:5 to teach that the waters of the Flood were as hot and viscous as bodily fluids. And Rav Ḥisda taught that since it was with hot passion that they transgressed, it was with hot water that they were punished. For Genesis 8:1 says, “And the water cooled” (יָּשֹׁכּוּ, yashoku), and Esther 7:10 says, “Then the king’s wrath cooled down” (שָׁכָכָה, shachachah). (Talmud Bavli Sanhedrin 108b; see also Babylonian Talmud Rosh Hashanah 12a; Zevachim 113b.) cf. Bereishit Rabba 28:9 —
Rebi Yoḥanan said: We learned: The judgment of the generation of the Flood lasted twelve months: having received their punishment, are they to enjoy a portion in the World to Come? Said Rebi Yoḥanan: The blessed Holy One will boil up in Gehenna every single drop poured out on them, produce it and pour it down upon them. Thus it is written, “When they wax hot, they vanish” (Job 6:17), which means, they will be destroyed absolutely by scalding water.

Also in the tradition of Islam, in Suras 11.42 and 23.27 of the Quran, it is says of the Flood: “the oven boiled over.” cf., Suras 7:57-63, 10:72-75, 11:27-50, 22:43, 23:23-32, 25:39, 26:105-121, 29:13-14, 37:73-81, 54:9-18, 71:1ff with Talmud Bavli Sanhedrin 108b, Suras 11:40 with Midrash Tanchuma Bereishit 7 (on Noaḥ), and Suras 11:42, 23:27 with Rosh Hashanah 16a.[–ANV]

  11. cf. The Book of Jubilees chapter 5 and the Midrash of Shemhazai and Azael in Yalkut Shemoni, et al.

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