Dear readers,

Welcoming the rain, we learn, is an even greater joy than receiving the Torah. R. Tanhum b. Hiyya teaches: "While the giving of the Law was a joy only to Israel, the falling of the rain is a rejoicing for all the world, including the cattle and the wild beats and the birds."[*] The rain, bringing joy in its presence and despair in its absence, is a reminder of man's vulnerability and of the brotherhood of all mankind.

We approach the winter months which bring the rains to the Land of Israel, by studying the topic "Rain" in Jewish sources. This feature discusses the theological implications of a land which depends on rains from the heavens (unlike Egypt) and the symbolism of rainfall as regards divine providence and edification. We share with you Biblical sources relating to the blessing of "rains in their season"; Talmudic perspectives on the source of the rains; the famous story of Honi the Circle Drawer , the miracle worker who brought the rain; and several midrashim that teach the equality of all men -- under the rain.

Poems by medieval poets Solomon ibn Gabirol and Moses Gabbai celebrate and invoke the rain, and a modern verse by Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska moves the Genesis flood story beyond the physical confines of ark and animals. Julius Greenstone explains the origins and development of Tefillat Geshem, the Prayer for Rain.

"Give dew and rain for a blessing upon the face of the earth..."
(Ancient petition for rain recited as part of the daily prayers during the winter months, up until the first day of Passover)

As we observe the drought and famine continuing to plague large portions of our world, we pray that the dew and the rains of the winter months be for a blessing upon the face of the earth.

[*] Midrash Psalms, on 117:1 [back]

RAIN Table of Contents



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