There hasn’t been a drop of rain in Northern Israel for more than eight months and as meteorologists present dire forecasts, Jews who look to the heavens for a divinely-inspired understanding are getting answers that lead them to a deeper understanding of how the Messiah will arrive.
This is the eighth year in a row Israel has suffered from unusually dry winters, leading to a record low of the amount of water flowing into the Sea of Galilee. The more spiritually-inclined turn to the Bible, which mentions drought explicitly in several places as a result of sin. In Deuteronomy, God warns Israel of the dire consequences of neglecting his commandments, linking drought with fire.
Hashem will smite thee with consumption, and with fever, and with inflammation, and with fiery heat, and with drought, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish. Deuteronomy 28:22
This cause and effect relationship between attending to God’s commandments and life-giving rain was known and accepted throughout the Biblical period.
When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, when they do sin against Thee; if they pray toward this place, and confess Thy name, and turn from their sin, when Thou dost afflict them. I Kings 8:35
In fact, the Talmud (Sanhedrin 98a), or Oral Law, explains how droughts as an expression of Israel’s righteousness (or lack thereof) are a part of the Messianic process. The Talmud quotes Rabbi Alexandri, who cites two conflicting Biblical verses describing how the Messiah will arrive. He notes that the Prophet Daniel describes the Messiah as arriving on clouds.
I saw in the night visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the Ancient of days, and he was brought near before Him. Daniel 7:13
The second verse, in Zechariah, describes the Messiah as a king arriving on a white donkey.
Rejoice greatly O daughter of Tzion shout O daughter of Yerushalayim; behold thy king cometh unto thee he is triumphant and victorious lowly and riding upon an ass even upon a colt the foal of an ass. Zechariah 9:9
The Talmud explains this discrepancy, saying that the manner in which the Messiah arrives is dependent upon Israel’s actions: If the Jews are righteous and full of mitzvot (Torah commandments), then the Messiah will arrive on rain clouds, since it is the deeds of the Jews that bring the blessing of rain to Israel. The Talmud explains that if the Jews are not righteous, then there will be a drought and the Messiah will arrive on a white donkey.
This concept of weather being the result of mitzvot has been incorporated into mainstream Judaism. Rabbi Yosef Berger, rabbi of the Tomb of King David on Mount Zion, told Breaking Israel News that when he was a child, his father, the leader of the Mishkoltz sect of Hassidim in Petach Tikva, had a family tradition of how to cope with drought in Israel.
“My father said the way to fix this was to bring out good vapors from our mouths, either by learning Bible or by speaking good about our fellow man,” Rabbi Berger concluded.
Rabbi Elyakim Levanon of the Samaria Regional Council also attributed the drought to Israel’s misdeeds, citing a different cause. In his own publication last week, Rabbi Levanon claimed the drought and the ensuing fires were divine retribution for recent moves by the Israeli government to dismantle the Jewish settlement of Amona.
Tragically, the unseasonably dry weather coupled with strong winter winds led last week o the spreading of forest fires, some of them confirmed arson lit by pyro-terrorists.
“Anybody with eyes and brain in his head can see how the country thirsts for water,” Rabbi Levanon wrote. “We’re at the end of the month of November according to the Gregorian calendar, and there’s still no sign of rain…strong winds…everything is dry, flammable, burning!”
“Until the shame of the threat of destroying the settlements in the Land of Israel, in Amona, in Ofra and in many other places is not removed, there will be a drought! The day that the decision is taken that can’t be gotten around with legal wrangling—that very day the rains of blessing will begin to fall.”
Israel weathered last year’s drought, the worst drought in the Mediterranean in 900 years, because over half of Israel’s water is self-generated. Though desalination plants are currently able to provide enough water for domestic use without rationing, the Israel Water Authority (IWA) has cut water supplies to farmers while taking emergency measures to prevent a deterioration in the water quality of the Sea of Galilee. The drought is not, for the time being, life-threatening, and heavy rains are expected to begin within the next few days, but it is worth considering the spiritual implications of the drought and incorporating it into our understanding of Israel’s relationship with God.