| Parshah |

Cloudy with a Chance of Brachah

What we term “nature” is inextricably linked to our spiritual growth

 

 

“And I will establish My covenant with you, and never again will all flesh be cut off by the flood waters, and there will never again be a flood to destroy the earth.” (Bereishis 9:11)

 

With His promise, Hashem establishes the stability and blessing of rain. The Gemara (Taanis 7a) quotes Rav Yehuda saying, “The day of rains is as great as the day on which the Torah was given, as it is written (Devarim 32:2): “My lesson [likchi] will come down like the rain,” lekach referring to Torah.

The Anshei Knesses Hagedolah, when compiling the siddur, placed the petition for rain adjacent to the brachah of techias hameisim, because both are above the laws of nature. Although rain camouflages itself as nature, we must realize we need our tefillos to release this brachah. (Rabbi Yakov Barros)

Seminary year, after Succos, I started waiting for those freezing rains I’d been warned about. Yet well into Cheshvan, the country was still enjoying a long, balmy Indian summer.

Perhaps we Americans were enjoying the weather, of the mindset that rain should “go away and come another day.” But the Israelis knew the lack of rain boded no good.

The Gemara in Chullin (60b) cites a seeming contradiction between two verses. “And the earth brought forth grass” (Bereishis 1:12), on the third day of Creation. Then it is written: “No shrub of the field was yet in the earth” (Bereishis 2:5), speaking about the sixth day of Creation, before Adam was created. Rav Asi explains that the grasses were prepared to sprout on the third day, but waited for man to be created and pray for rain.

This is an astonishing testament to the part we play in empowering a “natural phenomenon.”

This was in 1990, when Saddam Hussein was poised, waiting to unleash his destruction on his nemesis, Israel. And it wasn’t raining.

It wasn’t long before the worry wormed inside me. “The Scuds have not yet fallen, yet neither have gishmei brachah!” I heard at a chizuk rally.

I began davening the special tefillah for rain, scanning the sky every morning, begging for clouds to appear on the horizon. As tensions heightened, my worries were focused on the bright blue skies that seemed to mock me, highlighting just how displeased Hashem was with us. I may have been a newcomer to this land, but never was I more conscious of Hashem’s promise in Shema — when He’s angry, there’ll be no rain, and we’ll be banished from our Land.

The Gemara in Taanis [9b] explains how rain works. The pasuk in Bereishis (2:6) says, “And there went up a mist from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.” Thus the entire world drinks rain from the evaporated waters of the ocean.

But Rabi Yehoshua said, “The waters of the ocean are salty, whereas rainwater is sweet.” Rabi Eliezer answered, “The waters are sweetened in the clouds, before they fall to the earth.”

The Chasam Sofer elaborates on this Gemara, saying that rain is partly created by the collective exhalations of humans who breathe, speak, and laugh. When speech is sullied by lashon hara, ridicule, or heresy, the vapor of our breath becomes spiritually polluted. The rain formed from such vapor has the power to contaminate the whole world.

Therefore, in such a situation, Hashem mercifully withholds rain. Then we begin to daven and do teshuvah, reversing the damage our speech would have inflicted on the rain.

According to the Midrash, originally the world was actually meant to be irrigated by water springing from the ground. But Hashem created a system in which rain falls from the sky, to teach us to look heavenward for this most essential of blessings. What we term “nature” is inextricably linked to our spiritual growth.

The Scud missiles fell, but with them came tefillah; thus we merited miracles, including the miracle of rain.

Since that seminary year, I’ve never taken that miracle for granted. Every Cheshvan I anxiously scan the skies, praying we’ll be deserving of this tangible sign of His pleasure .

A short while ago the first blessed rain came down, swirling the torrents of summer dust as it pounded the earth. Elated, I ran outside with my children. Yitzi, infected by my excitement, began dancing in the rain, improvising loudly, “Thank You, Hashem, for the rain today! Please send lots more our way!”

Together, we lifted our faces heavenward, drinking in the sweetness of Hashem’s blessings. It was a moment drenched in love.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 665)

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