Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Geshem Blessings

Yom revi'i, 5 Shevat 5770.

We tried very hard to be good Jews before we lived in Israel.

We said the prayers for rain, even when we were unable to start our car, which was stuck in a foot of snow and ice.  We tried to have Eretz Yisrael in mind.

We learned in our Jewish youth the midrash of how Hashem was so angry at the serpent for misleading Chava that He gave the serpent the worst punishment imaginable to a creature of Hashem:  He caused the serpent to become a snake, crawling on its belly on the ground, the very dust providing its nourishment.

Naturally, the question is asked, "How can having all the food one needs, available all the time, be a punishment?"

The answer is a poignant lesson in the extreme.  Imagine if your father would tell you, "I am utterly disgusted with you.  You are a total disappointment to me.  I never want to see you again."  Then, he reaches into his wallet, and takes out his checkbook.  He writes a check for you, for a million dollars.  "Take this," he says.  "It will take care of all of your needs.  Don't ever call."

The snake's food is always there for him.  He need never cry out to Hashem to provide for him.

The Jew in Israel must always cry out for rain, as Hashem did not give us unlimited sources of water via uncontested rivers and lakes.  Our Jordan River is constantly under siege by neighboring countries.  And we must constantly pray with real kavana for our Lake Kinneret to be full enough to provide the water we desperately need.

In the old country, we prayed, as per the instructions in the Artscroll siddur.

In Israel, the rabbis call for special days of fasting and prayer.  We deprive ourselves of food, and feel our collective prayer for rain as one overwhelming voice crying out from the depths, until, at last...

...when the first drops come, there is a collective sigh, a spiritual shaking of each other's hands.  "We did it.  We finally got it right.  We finally got something right together.  Hashem heard us..."

Perhaps this is the beginning of the ultimate good, when we will make peace among ourselves, when the world will at last see us for the good that we give, as per His design, in His holy name?

We will not rest.  We will not assume, nor place our trust in man, nor in princes.

We will continue to cry out to Hashem for our needs, and try to do His will in this world.

The knowledge that we pray not only for ourselves, but for the world, gives us a sense of higher purpose:  You who listen to prayer, grant dew and rain on the face of the earth, satisfying the whole universe from Your goodness.

We in Israel who so desperately need achdut, unity, feel a rush of hope that we have gotten a step closer, no matter what  is going on in the headlines.

 For all of our efforts when we lived elsewhere, we never felt as clearly our sense of purpose, our sense of connection to our Creator, to each other, and to our Land, as we feel when we speak of the weather here in Israel!

Spare us and have compassion on us and on all our produce and fruit, blessing us with bounteous rain.

May we merit life, plenty and peace as in the good years...

Geshem: one word for rain.  Just as the Eskimo has many words for "snow," the Jew has many words for "rain."
Midrash: an explanatory story, illustrating and clarifying difficult Biblical concepts
Chava: Eve
Kavana: intense focus
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