I am blessed to have three kids, aged 9, 6, and 2—this means a lot of first days of daycare and school.  These first days are always exciting for us and for them.  We know that they will make new friends, have new experiences, grow and learn in unimaginable ways.  Yet they are also days filled with trepidation; they set off for new and unknown experiences for which we can’t accompany them.  On each of these days, we tuck a family photo in their backpack in a safe place.  With this gesture, we are trying to say:  “Take this with you.  We will be with you whenever you need us.  We hope that that photo can be a source of love and strength and comfort throughout the day.”  (continued below)

According to the Zohar, the rainbow from the story of the Flood tried to look after Moshe in the same manner that we try to look after our children.  The Zohar shares a story in which R. Yose encounters a very wise person on his travels who offers a radically new understanding of Moshe’s ascension to Sinai in a cloud:

 

Zohar Mishpatim II:99a

The old man began [his interpretation] and said, “And Moshe went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain…” (Exodus 24:18).  This cloud, what is it?  It is this that which is written, “I placed My rainbow in the cloud” (Genesis 9:13).  

We recite, “The rainbow cast off its clothing and gave it to Moshe.”  In that clothing, Moshe went up the mountain, and because of it he saw what he saw, and benefited from all of it.

זוהר (משפטים) כרך ב דף צט.

פָּתַח הַהוּא סָבָא וְאָמַר, (שמות כד:יח) "וַיָּבֹא מֹשֶׁה בְּתוֹךְ הֶעָנָן וַיַּעַל אֶל הָהָר" וְגוֹ', עָנָן דָּא מַאי הִיאאֶלָּא דָּא הוּא דִּכְתִּיב, (בראשית ט:יג) "אֶת קַשְׁתִּי נָתַתִּי בֶּעָנָן".  

תָּנֵינָן, דְּהַהוּא  קֶשֶׁת אַשְׁלַחַת לְבוּשׁוֹי, וְיָהִיב לוֹן לְמֹשֶׁה וּבְהַהוּא לְבוּשָׁא סָלִיק מֹשֶׁה לְטוּרָא וּמִנֵּיהּ חָמָא מַה דְּחָמָא, וְאִתְהֲנֵי מִכֹּלָּא.

 

As we read in Sefer Shemot, when going up the mountain Moshe enters into the midst of a cloud.  The Zohar teaches that this cloud is the very same cloud in which God put God’s rainbow as a reminder to God way back after the Flood.  The rainbow in this cloud casts off its colors and gives them to Moshe.  It’s as if the rainbow says to Moshe, “Take me with you.  When you go up on the mountain, when you are before God, you’re going to need all of this color.”  Moshe puts on the colors of the rainbow—and it’s in this radiant garment that Moshe stands before God and receives our Torah.  

 

These radiant colors accompany him on this journey before God.  It is because of—and through—these colors that Moshe is able to see and experience God’s Torah.  The colors are the key.

 

The Sefat Emet, in his commentary on Parashat Shemini (1896), teaches that the Torah was revealed to each of the avot, to our patriarchs, in their own color.  Similarly, in his writing on Parashat Noah (1892), he extends this and teaches this is true not only for the avot, but also to the tribes.  He writes, “והנה גם לכל שבט יש גוון מיוחד - For every tribe, there is a unique shade of color.”  The color is symbolic of the fact that each tribe had their own unique set of strengths and challenges; they were full of individuals with different needs and longings and wonderings about the world.

 

This relationship to color and revelation of Torah seems to work in two directions: it is both that every tribe is represented by their own unique shade of color in the world and that, accordingly, God reveals the Torah to them in that shade of color that is appropriate for them.  

 

When Moshe goes up the mountain, clothed in God’s very own rainbow placed in the cloud so long ago, two things are happening.  First, adorned in the colors of the rainbow, it’s as if Moshe goes up there with each of us, accompanying him as he stands before God.  Moshe has to do this hard, scary, exciting, awesome thing—but he is not alone in it because of the gift given to him by the rainbow, representing us.  Each person, in every radiant shade and hue—we stand with Moshe before God when he gets the Torah.

 

Second, God sees us.  God sees that we each have our own color, a color for every tribe, for every person, and God reveals the light of God’s Torah to us each in our own shade.  God’s Torah is one where every color of the rainbow is present.

 

As we begin this month of June, a month that’s known as Pride Month and will bring with it opportunities to celebrate the diversity in the LGBTQ community, we are also less than two weeks from Shavuot in which we stand again at Sinai and receive the Torah.  May we find comfort and joy in imagining God’s rainbow casting off its colors and sharing them with Moshe on his journey up the mountain.  When we imagine Moshe receiving the Torah this Shavuot, imagine each of us in all of our shades and hues, standing alongside him before God, as we delight in a Torah that was uniquely given for us.