For the week October 12, 2002 / 6 Heshvan 5763
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 6:9 - 11:32
Haftarah: Isaiah 54:1 - 55:5
God Doesn't Forget
Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth (Bereshit / Genesis 9:14-16).
Have you ever raced back into your house after leaving and gave the reason for your return as you forgot something? But that can't really be true, for if you really forgot the thing you came back for, you would not have come back. In fact you returned, because you actually remembered that thing you came back for. You might have forgotten it originally, but it was your remembering it that brought you back.
In this week's parsha (Torah portion) we read that when God sees a rainbow, he remembers the covenant promises he made to Noah that never again would a flood destroy the earth. I find it curious that God would speak about remembering anything, since I highly doubt that he could forget anything in the first place.
This passage almost sounds as if God were saying, "Oh look it's raining. I wonder if there will be a flood. Hey! There's a rainbow! Isn't it pretty with all those colors? A rainbow…hmm, that reminds me of something. I wonder what it is? Oh yes! Didn't I say something to Noah about rainbows? I remember now! I promised not to destroy the world through a flood again. That water is getting high. I better do something about it." Of course that's not what is happening here. God doesn't need reminders to help him not to forgot things.
The act of remembering is not only something that exists in contrast to forgetting. Remembering is actually the act of bringing something to mind in order to act on it.
God doesn't need the rainbow to keep him from forgetting his promises to Noah. It is we that need to know that God is committed to continue to act upon his promises. We need to know that God actively keeps his promises in mind and acts accordingly. Regarding rain, it is not that God has simply set things up so that rain will no longer threaten the existence of our planet. God is personally active in the creation to ensure that there will never again be a world-wide flood.
This is an example of how when God makes a promise, it is not just a mechanical universal life principle. God is personally involved in life, keeping his commitments to us.
Whether those promises are with regard to the creation in general as in the case of floods, or to the nations addressed in the Scriptures, or to us individually, God is actively involved in fulfilling those promises.
Sometimes we think that God has forgotten us, that he is afar off and doesn't really care about our lives. But that is not the case. God remembers. He is true to his promises and will act accordingly.
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