A Reminder to ‘Choose to Be Good’

Yael Eckstein  |  October 6, 2021

Elderly Holocaust survivor tattoo on arm

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. — Genesis 9:16

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Noach, from the name of the main character, Noah. It is from Genesis 6:9 –11:32.

As a part of my work for The Fellowship, I have had the honor of meeting many survivors of the Holocaust. Some survivors are very open about their experiences, while others refuse to ever talk about what they went through.

There was one survivor I met a few years ago who surprised me. Not only did she want to talk about the horrors of the death camps, she insisted that I look her in the eyes as she told me her story. At the end of our conversation, she held up her arm to show me the number that the Nazis had tattooed there.

She looked right at me and said, “What do you feel when you see this? Sympathy? Anger? The message of this number is that humanity has the capacity for great evil. It is a reminder that we must choose to be good.”

Her words shook me. The lesson she taught me was profound. I had, in fact, felt sympathy and anger when seeing numbers like this one in the past. Ever since that conversation, all I can think when I see a survivor’s number is, “We must choose to be good.”

A Reminder to ‘Choose to Be Good’

Reminders only work when we know what we are supposed to remember. I thought about this when reading this week’s Torah portion. God placed a rainbow in the sky as a reminder to us that He will never again destroy the world with a flood. But is that what we think about when we see a rainbow? For most people, a rainbow is cause for excitement. Everyone pulls out their smartphones to take pictures without giving God’s message a second thought.

In Judaism, we recite a special blessing when we see a rainbow, “Blessed are you Lord, our God, king of the universe, who remembers the covenant.” We remind ourselves that God made a promise to humanity to never destroy us. According to Jewish tradition, if God is reminding us with a rainbow, it means that we need to correct our ways.

Rainbows are a sign of God’s promise, His grace, and His love. And a reminder to us that “we must choose to be good.”

Your Turn:

Put something in your purse or pocket to remind you of God. See what effect it has on you every time you see it or touch it.