Beit Midrash

  • Jewish Laws and Thoughts
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To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

Yaakov Ben Behora

Rain and Dew in Our Spiritual Life

The physical world exists via two channels of relationship with the Creator of the Universe, through rain and through dew, and it is possible to look at the spiritual existence of Israel as existing on a kind of parallel with these two channels.


Rabbi Uzi Kalchaim zt"l

1. Introduction
2. Body and Soul, Dew and Rain
3. The Revealed Influence
4. The Hidden Influence
5. Two Paths

Just as the physical world exists via two channels of relationship with the Creator of the Universe, through rain and through dew, so is it possible to represent spiritual existence, the workings of the spiritual world and the manner of its influence upon the souls of Israel, as a kind of parallel to the rain and the dew. Therefore, in the spring, when Israel begins to mention dew in the daily prayers, we must arise and request a spiritual, lofty dew that will revive the dead and renew life in general.

One of the great early sages of Israel, Rabbi Hai Gaon, teaches us: "I have heard from the sages that the resurrection of the dead will take place in Nisan . . . and therefore in Nisan we read the 'dry bones' Haftarah portion" (Tur, Orach Chaim, 490).

The "dry bones prophecy" (Ezekiel 37) is meant to awaken and prepare us for the resurrection which will take place in the "month of spring" - Nisan. Let us consider these two elements, rain and dew, differentiate between them, and then move on to consider them from a spiritual point of view.

Body and Soul, Dew and Rain
The blessing of rain is overt by nature. Man knows that after all his toil, preparing the soil, fertilizing, sowing, he is ever dependent upon an open expression of divine compassion - the gift of rain. He recognizes his dependence upon God's goodness in sustaining life on earth. He therefore prays for rain in order to receive God's blessing through it.

This was Israel's intention in seeking God like rain - "Let us know, let us follow on to know the Lord . . . and He shall come to us as the rain, as the latter rains that water the earth" (Hosea 6:3) - like an element which is vital and necessary for worldly existence. The same is true regarding the outward service of God, the fulfillment of Torah commandments. Man merits divine favor in accordance with his toil and effort. This is our overt prayer.

God further teaches, "I will be like dew to Israel" (ibid. 14:6). Here is an additional bond, the benefit of which is not so outwardly recognizable as rain's. It seems to man that there is no reason to even pray for it, for it is constant in nature, latent and ever at work. Even in times of drought the dew does not abate. The same is true of "the incessant prayer of the soul, striving to reveal itself" (Olat Raaya, Inyanei Tefila 1:1). This is what dew teaches us.

"God provides dew covertly, unbeknownst to man . . . indeed, in the hearts of Israel there is incessant prayer. For dew also comes as a result of man's actions and his prayers. The difference between them is that rain fall as a result of man's revealed outward service of God; dew, on the other hand, results from the service of God which exists in the depths of the hearts of Israel. For within their hearts they pray incessantly day and night, such that a person does not even feel it . . . and this is called dew, and from dew all salvations come, for dew is a very small drop which God gives to man, and therefore it has the power to enter even the lowliest and most inaccessible of places, even the crevices of stones. Because of its minuteness dew is able to enter even those hearts of Israel which are not so worthy" (Sefer Hazmanim by R' Yaakov ben R' Mordecai Yosef from Isbitza, Passover Haggadah).

So, just as we have seen that there are two aspects of God's bounty which descend from heaven in the form of rain and dew, as both revealed and concealed blessings, so have we found that in man's inner world there are also both revealed and concealed manners of serving God. We shall now see that the Torah and commandments influence man in the same two ways.

The Revealed Influence
In his song, Moses proclaims "My lesson shall drop like rain" (Deuteronomy 32:2). Rain's blessing, the goodness of which is apparent, is similar to the words of the Torah which enter man's heart and influence all aspects of his life. Through the words of the Torah a person is blessed in his study and in the commandments he performs, he acquires desirable character traits and ascends spiritually. Like rain which saturates the soil, causes it to sprout, and allows the hidden potential of the seed to reach actual fulfillment, so does the Torah allow man's hidden spiritual potential to reach actual perfection.

The Hidden Influence
But Moses also likens the Torah to dew: "My saying shall flow down like the dew" (ibid.). Dew's blessing is not openly felt and recognizable like the rain. Its benefit is hidden:

"Sometimes a person closes his heart in order to block out the words of the Torah. However, there are words of Torah which are like dew, subtle and internal, capable of entering the heart even when it is sealed tight and closed off. It may seem to a person that because of his low level the Torah holds no sway over him . . . nevertheless, the minute, internal words of Torah in the depths of the heart cannot be wiped out; without knowing it, a person possesses Torah hidden away in his heart, and this is called dew" (Sefer Hazmanim ibid.). For the world cannot endure without Torah. God influences the world covertly, without the knowledge of His creatures.

Two Paths
There is an ordinary path which leads man to the World to Come. Whoever engages in the light of the Torah, in the laws of the Torah, will merit receiving life from the Torah. The performance of commandments and the joy of commandments are conduits which bring us the dew of life from the bounty of the heavenly treasure, and allow us to enjoy the brilliance of eternal life.

And so, stage by stage, level upon level, ladders are erected between our physical world and the spiritual world of resurrection and the World to Come. This sure and safe passage parallels the actions of man when he plows and sows in order to merit God's blessing via rain and bring to realization that which is hidden in the soil.

Yet there is something higher than this. It is hidden away in the soul, in the secret of the inner uniqueness of Israel, beyond the thoughts and calculations of man. This is what the sages mean when they say that in the future the Almighty will use dew, not rain, in order to resurrect the dead (Shabbat 88b).

"Indeed, in the future, the Almighty will awaken His might, and he will say 'You do not understand what I consider worship. I hereby testify that even in those places where you have completely given up hope, Israel indeed clings to Me.' This comes from the power of the dew which falls without man's noticing, and through this power will God one day resurrect the dead, as it is written, 'I will be as dew for Israel.' The Almighty will reveal the source of His people, Israel, how they clang to him without even knowing it" (Sefer Hazmanim, ibid.).

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