Yom Kippur worshippers were surprised by a light sprinkling of unseasonal rain in some parts of Israel. Though the shower was light and short, descending in disparate sections of the country while most Jews were deep in prayer, the precipitation bore deep spiritual significance.
In order for rain to be considered a blessing, it is important that it falls in its proper season, as noted by the Prophet Ezekiel, which does not begin until after the holiday of Sukkot.
I will make these and the environs of My hill a blessing: I will send down the rain in its season, rains that bring blessing. Ezekiel 34:26
This is generally the case as Israel is an arid country with about 70 percent of the average rain falling between November and March. If this season is blessed with bountiful rain, it will be a continuation of a multi-year blessing that is offsetting a five-year period of drought. Last winter, rains in northern Israel broke a 51-year record within a two-week period raising the level of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) to its highest in decades. The water level came close to its record low in April 2017 at about 698 feet below sea level.
This is expected to be the case as meteorologist Uri Batz told Maariv that the upcoming rainy season will be especially blessed.
“We see the influence of climate change in the flooding in various areas of the globe,” he told Maariv. “We see more occurrences of extreme weather, even in areas of the globe where no one thought it could happen. Authorities need to be prepared for any scenario of concentrated and strong barrages of rain, which may cause flooding.”
Contrary to what Batz suggested was the determining factor, rain in Israel is a reflection of the relationship between the Jews and God.
If, then, you obey the commandments that I enjoin upon you this day, loving Hashem your God and serving Him with all your heart and soul, I will grant the rain for your land in season, the early rain and the late. Deuteronomy 11:13
As the land of Israel is central to Judaism, Jewish prayer reflects this by making the prayers reflect the passage of the seasons in Israel. But the rains in Israel are not entirely set in their seasons and, according to the Bible, are affected by the actions of the Jews.
If you follow My laws and faithfully observe My commandments, I will grant your rains in their season, so that the earth shall yield its produce and the trees of the field their fruit. Leviticus 26:4
Rabbi Dr. Leibush Hundert, the head of Simchat Shlomo Yeshiva in Jerusalem, noted that the prayer for rain is inserted in the shemona esrei (eighteen blessings) that comprise the three-times daily prayers, where special sections are added in the appropriate seasons to ask for rain to sustain Israel.On Shemini Atzeret, the last day of the holiday of Sukkot, the prayer for rain is inserted into the second blessing which praises God for his gevura (strength, judgment) and for his promise to resurrect the dead. Gevura is the aspect of God displayed through nature.
“The Talmud says that rain is even greater than the resurrection of the dead,” Rabbi Hundert said. “The smile understanding is that rain is always good, a sign of God’s bounty. When it is not in the right season, we can praise God for it but not exactly ask it. Rain is like Chesed (loving kindness). So even when you aren’t necessarily ready, it is a sign of blessing. And even though we have a set end point, the latest possible time for Moshiach (Messiah) and the resurrection, even when it comes before we are ready, just like rain, it is a blessing.”
In the summer, when rain generally does not fall and can in fact be harmful to agriculture, the prayer is modified to ask God for dew. The prayer is delayed from the beginning of Sukkot until Shemini Atzeret because it should not be invoked when fine weather is needed to enable us to dwell in the sukkah (Talmud, Sukkah28b).
WHICH PRECEDES MESSIAH? RAIN OR DROUGHT?
The concept of rain preceding the Messiah is explicitly stated in the Pri Chayim (fruit of life), the teachings of Rabbi Isaac Luria, the preeminent 16th century Kabbalist known by the acronym ‘Ari’ (lion), as recorded by his student Rabbi Chayim Vital in Tsfat (Safed) in which it is written that גֶּשֶׁם (rain) is an acronym for ‘גְּאֻלָּה שְׁלֵמָה מְהֵרָה’ (‘complete redemption quickly’).
Hopes for rain are not based solely on agricultural concerns. Eleven years ago, Israel was suffering from a horrible drought. Someone asked Rabbi Dov Kook, a renowned mystic rabbi when the Messiah will arrive. Rabbi Kook answered, “When the Messiah arrives, the Kinneret will be full.
But other opinions express precisely the opposite. SOD1820, a Hebrew-language site, posted the current meteorological situation, connecting it to a verse in Isaiah.
Grass withers, flowers fade When the breath of Hashem blows on them. Indeed, man is but grass: Isaiah 40:7
Rabbi Meir Leibush ben Yehiel Michel Wisser, a 19th-century Ukrainian Bible commentator better known as the Malbim, explained this verse, noting that Man is similar to wheat, i.e. grass, that must be dried out before being harvested. He explains that this indicates a dry season will precede the Final Redemption.
It should be noted that before King David purchased Mount Moriah as the site of the Jewish Temples, it served as a point for threshing and winnowing wheat after it dried in the fields.