January 7, 2018

Rain, Rain, Don't Go Away!

Rabbi Haber

שיטפון_בביר-עסלו'גSomething beautiful, and noteworthy, hapened in my synagogue this past Friday night.  

Here in Israel, we experienced an unusually powerful storm, with high winds and torrential rains.  As I entered the synagogue soaking wet after walking the few blocks from my home, the scene looked pretty much like what one would expect anywhere in the world: Coatracks overflowing with raincoats, and people wearing boots with their shabbat clothes,  muttering about the weather as they shake water from their hair on the way in to pray.  

As often happens at times like this, the Kabbalat Shabbat service in the well-lit and heated sanctuary was particularly lively.  The chazzan chose the "Carlebach" tunes and everyone was celebrating the beauty of welcoming the Shabbat, perhaps with an added feeling of victory and accomplishment for doing so despite the apparent obstacle. At the conclusion of lecha dodi, the congregation continued singing the lively tune without words, and people began to dance in the aisles. Again, this inspiring scene was similar to others I have witnessed in comparable conditions in other parts of the world as well.

But then came the part that can only happen in Eretz Yisrael.  After the singing petered out and as people were preparing to return to their seats, someone spontaneously began singing a completely different song.  It took a few seconds to recognize what he was singing, and another moment or two to understand the point he was making. Then the entire congregation joined in enthusiastic agreement, and another round of joyous dancing ensued.

The song was based on the words of the prophet Malachi (3:10) "I will pour upon you a blessing, with unlimited abundance".  It was a genuine, heartfelt communal expression of gratitude to the Creator for the blessing of rain.  Afterwards, our rabbi recited the prayer of gratitude for rain after a drought, and everyone responded "Amen".

This storm came after a few very dry  months, on the heels of several years of below-average rainfall.  Thankfully, Israel now has large desalination plants providing over 30÷ of our drinking water (that number will rise to 50÷ in the next few years when additional plants come online), and therefore we have not suffered from a lack of drinking water.  Still, agriculture is suffering, the economic costs are growing, and the danger of severe ecological problems is looming.  Our beautiful country has been drying up, crying out for water.  We'll need many more days of abundant rain to repair the damage, so Jews all over the world must continue to pray for rain in Israel.  Still, this one storm was a huge improvement for a situation that was becoming critical. We must all thank God for that great blessing.

As I explained to my students a few months ago before Sukkot (audio link here), Israel's arid climate is a great blessing.  Although (like many other things) it makes life here more difficult at times, that very fact enables us to develop a much closer connection with God (see Deuteronomy 11:10-12).  In other places, children are disappointed by rainy days, and sing songs like the one referenced in the title of this post.  But here, they are happy, because they are also able to see God's hand in these seemingly mundane events.

May we continue to merit divine blessings, with unlimited abundance.

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