From the Acting Head of Jewish Life
The Blessing (and Curse) of Rain
I sit here in the Saunders Building watching the torrential rain pour onto Pizem Court and wonder about the blessing and curse of rain, especially in the world today. Our Parasha this week, Bechukotai, highlights the symbiotic and Divine relationship between humanity and rain; nourishing or destructive; plentiful or scarce; polluted or pure…
I came across these thoughts by Jonathan Neril that I would like to share with you. This is an abridged version, but the link is included if you are interested in reading the complete article.
The Blessing of Rain
by Jonathan Neril
Praying for rain is a key part of the spiritual life of a Jew. For almost half of the year, our daily prayers include praise of God as the one who “makes the wind blow and the rain descend” and a request that God will “give dew and rain for a blessing on the face of the earth.”
A special blessing for rain appears in the liturgy of the holiday of Shemini Atzeret, at the beginning of Israel’s rainy season. We pray that the Divine bring beneficial rain, which falls at the right time to nourish our crops and fill our reservoirs. As the Talmud says, “The day when rain falls is as great as the day on which heaven and earth were created (Ta’anit 8b).”
Rain – Blessing and Curse
But it is not enough to just pray for rain. The Torah teaches that our actions impact the rain as well. At the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, Bechukotai, we read that rainfall is a function of our doing God’s will. If Israel keeps the Torah, God says, “I will give your rains in their time, the Land will yield its produce, and the tree of the field will give forth its fruit… you will eat your food to satiety, and you will live in security in your land, and I will grant peace in the Land.” (Leviticus 26:4-6)
This promise of abundant rains and prosperity is followed by a warning that, should Israel ignore the Torah, God will “make your skies like iron”– cease all rains and bring drought, according to the Midrash. Conversely, the fact that we specifically ask that the rain be “for a blessing” acknowledges that too much rain is just as dangerous as not enough.
Today, we have an unbelievably complex understanding of how the earth’s systems work, and how we impact them. In viewing the connection between humans and the environment through scientific analysis and statistics, we must be careful not to forget the true lesson of Bechukotai – God has created the world in such a way that, when we contradict God’s will by living out of balance, our lives are thrown out of balance in response.
We see from this that we cannot ignore the connection between our actions and the physical conditions which surround us. Praying for beneficial rain and then ignoring the problems of global warming and unchecked urban development is like praying for good health and then continuing to eat poorly and smoke a pack of cigarettes a day. We are acting against our own expressed interests when we excessively burn fossil fuels and contribute to unchecked urban expansion.
Our prayers for beneficial rain are extremely important, and our actions should be consistent with the emphasis of our prayers. We must live as earnestly as we pray. Praying for rain is a beginning, but we must follow through by acting on the awareness that we now contribute to bringing either rains of blessing or destructive storms and water shortages.
Summarised from https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-blessing-of-rain/
Canfei Nesharim. To learn more, visit www.canfeinesharim.org.