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In P. Noach (Gen. 9:12) in reference to the phenomenon of the post-deluge rainbow, following Noach's exit from the teivah, the verse states:

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים זֹ֤את אֽוֹת־הַבְּרִית֙ אֲשֶׁר־אֲנִ֣י נֹתֵ֗ן בֵּינִי֙ וּבֵ֣ינֵיכֶ֔ם וּבֵ֛ין כָּל־נֶ֥פֶשׁ חַיָּ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אִתְּכֶ֑ם לְדֹרֹ֖ת עוֹלָֽם

And God said: "This [the rainbow] is the sign of the covenant, which I am placing between Me and between you, and between every living soul that is with you, for everlasting generations. & verse 15 וְזָכַרְתִּ֣י אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֗י אֲשֶׁ֤ר בֵּינִי֙ וּבֵ֣ינֵיכֶ֔ם וּבֵ֛ין כׇּל־נֶ֥פֶשׁ חַיָּ֖ה בְּכׇל־בָּשָׂ֑ר וְלֹֽא־יִֽהְיֶ֨ה ע֤וֹד הַמַּ֙יִם֙ לְמַבּ֔וּל לְשַׁחֵ֖ת כׇּל־בָּשָֽׂר׃ and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.

On the words in v. 12 לְדֹרֹ֖ת עוֹלָֽם (for everlasting generations) Rashi comments the following:

נִכְתַּב חָסֵר, שֶׁיֵּשׁ דּוֹרוֹת שֶׁלֹּא הֻצְרְכוּ לְאוֹת לְפִי שֶׁצַּדִּיקִים גְּמוּרִים הָיוּ, כְּמוֹ דּוֹרוֹ שֶׁל חִזְקִיָּהוּ מֶלֶךְ יְהוּדָה וְדוֹרוֹ שֶׁל רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן יוֹחַאי (ב"ר)

It [the word דֹרֹת] is written defectively [without the letter “vav”] because there were generations that did not require the sign because they were completely righteous, such as the generation of Hezekiah, the king of Judah, and the generation of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Gen. Rabbah 35:2).

The implication is that generations that were/are defective in faith need the sign.

And yet, both Chizkiyahu and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai both experienced terrible suffering, as did the people of their generations. The implication of Rashi is that they didn't need the sign because of their righteousness.

Are there any insights into this? It's puzzling.

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  • Could you please edit to add a little more context about the underlying verse in Noach and the sign referred to? Also, could you fill in some more detail about the relationship between the sign, generational righteousness, and persecution?
    – Isaac Moses
    Dec 1, 2023 at 14:27
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    @flips Rashi (based on the midrash) suggests that the word doroth uses the defective spelling to indicate that there were generations that did not require the sign (i.e. the rainbow) to appear because they were righteous and did not need a reminder of the covenant God made. Examples of such generations are those of Hizqiyahu and Rashbi. It is nowhere suggested that those not in need of a reminder of the covenant would never suffer. I do not understand your question. Dec 1, 2023 at 15:59
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    On the contrary, the ability to bear suffering with faith is a reason why they would not need the protection of the covenant.
    – N.T.
    Dec 1, 2023 at 21:25

1 Answer 1

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You are basically asking the famous question of why צדיק ורע לו. That question, as the גמרא ברכות ז ע"א (Sefaria) explains, was already asked by משה רבינו when he asked הַרְאֵנִי נָא אֶת כְּבֹדֶךָ (שמות לג-יח) please let me behold Your Presence and, as many מפרשים explain (e.g. Likutei Batar Likutei), G'd answered him לֹא תוּכַל לִרְאֹת אֶת־פָּנָי כִּי לֹא־יִרְאַנִי הָאָדָם וָחָי as long as you are alive you won't be able to understand. They were total צדיקים but, for reasons only known to G'd, that does not mean that they are free of suffering.

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