Rabbi Wein.com The Voice of Jewish History

Rabbi Wein’s Weekly Blog
 Printer Friendly


This past week we here in Jerusalem had the experience of late rains falling upon our protected or unprotected heads. In the Torah these rains coming as they did at the end of the winter season are called malkosh. These late rains are seen as a blessing, fortifying and nurturing the soil for the long hot dry summer that lies ahead. Rain in our part of the world is an especially treasured commodity. Coming from the United States where rain is pretty much a weekly event, or from England where it is almost a daily event, we Anglos are always surprised by the fact that it does not rain here from May till October.


 The great prophet Shmuel impressed his Godly message on the people of Israel by having it rain upon them in the midst of the summer wheat harvest. So the late rains that we experienced served to remind us of what a gift rain is and how dependent we are on it for food and life itself. From the way the Torah writes about yoreh – the first rains of the fall season – and malkosh – these recent late rains – it seems that these rains are especially viewed as an extra and special blessing from God, since they are, so to speak, out of season. These recent late rains come to fill the deficit of a below average rainy winter season. It is symbolic of the truism that it is never too late to be a recipient of God’s blessings.


The Torah in describing the Land of Israel to the Jewish people, before their actual entry, warned that the Land of Israel was not like the land of Egypt that they had left forty years earlier. Egypt has the great Nile River that waters its crops and provides irrigation to its fields – and therefore is not directly beholden to rains for its prosperity and survival. Primitively, the Egyptians worshipped the god of the Nile to thank the river for its sustenance of life.


In contradistinction to Egypt, the Torah pointed out that the Land of Israel possesses no great rivers. The Jordan is no comparison to the Nile in size, content and volume. The Jews would have to rely upon rain for the sustenance of their land. And relying upon rain meant relying upon God. Not the god of a particular river but upon the unseen and unfathomable God that sustains the universe and all that it contains. As Jews turned their eyes heavenward to search for rain clouds they looked to their God- the one who alone would sustain them and their land.


The Mishna makes this point clear when it discusses how the Jews triumphed over Amalek when Moshe raised his hands. It was not the upraised hands of Moshe that sealed the triumph but rather it was the fact that the Jews looked heavenward, higher than the upraised hands of Moshe, which brought them God’s aid and eventual victory. The same idea is true regarding heaven sent rain. By looking upward to the Creator, Who is the source of all blessings, and realizing what a blessing the rains are, we place otherwise natural phenomena in the proper perspective.


 In Jewish tradition, Pesach is the transitional time when we cease praying for rain and instead now ask for the blessings of the morning dew to sustain our land during the summer. Every season has its particular blessings. The beautiful prayer of Tal – the prayer for dew – is an integral part of the Pesach liturgy. It acknowledges once more our realization of our reliance upon God’s bounty and special care regarding the welfare and prosperity of the Land of Israel. It is a reiteration of our realization that God, so to speak, is our Nile River. While rain and dew can be taken for granted as natural events in many parts of the world, not so here in the Land of Israel. Here prayer and belief are necessary requirements for sustenance and prosperity. Nature by itself is very stingy with its blessings in our country. The additional ingredient of God’s special blessing is necessary in order for us to enjoy the bounty of our blessed land. The late rains that fell remind us of all of these truths. Thus the late rains should be seen as a timely reinforcement and message as to our duties and responsibilities and as to our relationship with the source of all of our blessings, the Creator Himself.


Shabat shalom.

Berel Wein

Subscribe to our blog via email or RSS to get more posts like this one.