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Rain

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This article is being written in New York on a raw very rainy day. Rain in New York is a regular happening event. However, in Israel rain is a relatively rare occurrence. For seven months of the year it hardly ever rains and the other months of the year rainfall is irregular and uncertain. Israel has suffered from meager rainfall over the past number of years and the government has instituted water conservation measures to attempt to hoard the water that the country does possess. The Torah itself addresses this issue. It describes the Land of Israel as being far different than the Land of Egypt, the place of residence of the people of Israel for centuries. Egypt has the great Nile River that irrigates its fields and provides water to its population. There are no great rivers, in physical terms in the Land of Israel. The Torah points out that the Land of Israel is almost wholly dependent upon rainfall - upon clouds, low pressure fronts, winds - all conditions over which we humans have very little control and even some difficulty in predicting and identifying. There is therefore very little doubt that heavenly intercession and benevolence is not a matter of spiritual luxury but a vital necessity as far as the necessity of rainfall in the Land of Israel is concerned. And thus rain becomes a contentious issue amongst Jews. What is it in our behavior that causes abundant rainfall and what is it that has such an opposite negative effect upon rainfall? And then there are those who blithely ignore the issue completely and ascribe the problem to fate, weather patterns, global warming and other symptoms that do not deal with the root causes of the problem. Rain is somehow the testing ground for Jewish success in the Land of Israel.

The daily prayers of the Jewish people year round always include prayers for bountiful rain to fall in the Land of Israel. During the rainy season those prayers change in their intensity and language. Jews living in New York, huddled under their umbrellas and wrapped in protective headgear, pray for rain in the Land of Israel because that is the location where rainfall is essential for survival and success. On Shmini Atzeret Jews the world over pray for a rainy season in the Land of Israel. In the springtime during the holiday of Pesach the prayers are for dew in the Land of Israel. Consciously or subconsciously Jews are always concerned about the situation in the Land of Israel. The Land of Israel for Jews is comparable to the statement of the great Chasidic rebbe of Berdichev regarding God Himself, so to speak. He said: "One can be for God. One can be against God. But no one can be without God!" The individual Jew can be for the Land of Israel. He can also be for whatever reason against the Land of Israel. But he cannot be without the Land of Israel. And therefore Jews are not only concerned about security, prosperity, social conditions, political developments and governmental policies in Israel - they are concerned about the weather there as well. Their prayers and their conscience force this concern upon them without forethought. There is no way to be a truly traditional Jew without thinking constantly about rainfall in the Land of Israel. We are truly a uniquely strange and wonderful people!

The great miracle workers recorded for us and immortalized in the Talmud are almost all rainmakers. The great Choni even was able to have the ability to fine tune and adjust the fall of rain so that it would be completely beneficial but not disruptive of normal human life. He was criticized for his temerity in being so insistent regarding Heaven but Heaven itself, so to speak, appreciated his efforts on behalf of the people and the Land of Israel and blessed him and his efforts. Heaven always sees things differently than do we humans. Rain is the symbol of Heavenly interest and beneficence to human life. All of us are aware of the necessity of rain for life to continue. The rainy season has now officially begun on the calendar of the Land of Israel. Whether the clouds have looked at the calendar is yet a matter of debate and mystery. But our prayers remind of us the fact that we are in the rainy season and that the Land of Israel desperately needs rain. People begin to realize that Heaven needs to help us, certainly in regard to rainfall in the Holy Land. May the coming rainy season be a blessing for all of us.
Rabbi Dov Berl Wein
The rabbi of the "HANASI" congregation in Yerushalim, head of the Destiny foundation, former head of the OU, Rosh Yeshiva of 'sharai Tora" and rabbi of the "Beit Tora" congregation, Monsey, New York.
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