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Chapter 11

The Might of Rain

"The day of rainfall is as great as the day on which heaven and earth were created." The sages liken rain to the creation of the world: Just as the expression "gevura," might, is used in relation to Creation, so is it used in relation to rainfall.
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One of the interesting expressions employed by our sages to describe rainfall is "gevurot geshamim," the might of rain. Rabbi Yochanan explains that this expression is used "because it falls with might" (Taanit 2a). The idea of rain "falling with might" can be interpreted in a number of ways:
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1. It can be seen as relating to the manner in which it falls, "with might, so that the drops penetrate the soil and saturate it."

2. From the perspective of its purpose. "Rainfall is most beneficial," for it sustains creation (Rambam, Mishnah Commentary, Berakhot 5:2).

3. As underscoring rain's contingency upon the creator. Rain was not "handed over" to an intermediary - the laws of nature - so that through them God would be able to rule over his creatures, for human life in this world depends upon rain (Ritva).

4. In the sense of "din," strict judgment, indicating the restriction of rainfall to its season (Shem Mishmuel, Shmini Atzeret).

5. The bounty that descends through God's kindness. Rain falls in a form that allows us to benefit from it immediately, like the manna, which fell complete and ready for consumption (Shem Mishmuel, ibid.).

6. The word "gevura," might, is encompassing and inclusive; it indicates both might and greatness (Tosafot, Taanit 2a, s.v., "Ukhtiv").

The Midrash relates: "The might of rain is difficult - it weighs equal to the entire act of creation" (Bereshit Rabba 13:4). That which completes an act is comparable to the act itself. The world is sustained through rain, and it follows that rain weighs equal to the creation of the world.

The expression "difficult," though, is puzzling. What is so "difficult" here? We find this expression used elsewhere in the Talmud, in another context: "It is as difficult to match them as it is to separate the Red Sea" (Sanhedrin 22a), and "Providing sustenance for human beings is as difficult as separating the Red Sea" (Pesachim 118a).

The expression "difficult" is used to underscore important matters, so that they not be taken for granted as a fact of nature. Because rainfall is not an inevitable fact of nature, Divine intervention is called for, and this is what is meant by "difficult."

Indeed, we find another version of this teaching elsewhere in the Talmud: "The day of rainfall is as great as the day on which heaven and earth were created" (Taanit 7a). The sages liken rain to the creation of the world: Just as the expression "gevura" is used in relation to the creation of the world, so is it used in relation to rainfall.
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