While hanging the laundry this morning I knew it would be dry before supper and I should have been thankful I wouldn’t need to waste energy on the dryer. Celebrating my grandson’s birthday party outdoors in the park this week we had beautiful weather and I ought to have been grateful that the children could frolic barefoot in the grass. I was appreciative but it‘s an appreciation with unease. That’s because I live in Israel and I know we need rain.
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There are those who insist we’re not in crisis. They declare that with the strides in desalination there is enough water for everyone. However, I was in the north this past summer and I saw the normally flowing streams that were just trickling. I’m concerned.
In Jewish tradition water is compared to Torah. Just as we can’t survive as a people without our Holy Book no one can survive without water. The difference, though is that Torah is always a blessing. As for water, well, we only have to look at Houston and the other areas decimated by hurricanes to know sometimes water is not always positive.
Personally, I learned that lesson as a young mother when my toddler almost drowned. I remember sitting in the hospital with the rabbi at my side. As it began to rain he told me it was a good sign. I pondered how water could almost bring death and at the same time be a positive omen.
Every year on Simchat Torah we pray for rain for the coming year. It doesn’t matter whether we live in a place that needs precipitation or not. The Land of Israel does need rain to fall throughout the winter and our prayer is tailored for that. It calls upon HaShem to remember the merits of Avraham, Yitzhak, Yaacov, Moshe, Aharon, and the twelve tribes and in their honor to grant us the needed downpour. However, the prayer is very specific as to what kind of rain we need. We want it for a blessing and not a curse, for life and not for death, and for plenty and not for scarcity. We continue to acknowledge Hashem as the One who makes the wind blow and brings down rain until Pesach.
In addition to that praise, in Israel we begin begging for dew and rain as a blessing (and not a curse) on the seventh day of Cheshvan, this week. Outside of Israel Jews wait to add this request until the 5th or 6th of December.
To me, it’s interesting that in Israel we set this prayer by the lunar calendar whereas outside the Holy Land the solar one is used. I’ve been taught* that the moon symbolizes HaShem’s attribute of mercy and the sun that of justice. I pray this year The Almighty will listen to our pleas for rain with mercy and see fit to send us all we need with His blessing. I’ll then be happy to use precious energy on my dryer and to celebrate noisy grandchildren’s birthdays with crowded, inside parties.
*from a lecture by Rabbi Shmuel Herschler