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September 27, 2002 - Image 63

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-09-27

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Torah Portion

Singing For The Rain
On Shemini Atzeret

and for plenty.
In other words, Jews are constantly
praying for rain. But does this help?
Apparently, many Jews think not. The
Reform movement deleted the second
paragraph of the Shema largely from
skepticism that God governs the climate
in accordance with Israel's observance of
the mitzvot (commandments). This
skepticism is understandable — where's
the proof? — and yet the Torah teaches
that our conduct does have immediate
magine a new feature on
consequences upon the planet.
cable's Weather Channel:
One Talmudic tradition (Brakhot
"Prayer Watch."
59a) claims that thunderous
"Forecasters expect
rains
are the tears of God
the coming week to be rela-
who

as many midrashim
tively dry, with a 20 percent
(biblical
interpretations)
chance of showers. However,
argue — is saddened by the
reports of Jews praying with
suffering of Israel in exile.
great intensity for rain have
As moving and attractive
raised the likelihood of precip-
aggadah (legend) is,
as
this
itation to 50 percent in the
the
notion
that God actually
metropolitan area."
the Earth was
cries
rain
upon
The above scenario may be
too much for some rabbinic
far-fetched, but Jews around
the world will, nevertheless,
RABBI DANIEL authorities. The great Rav
Hai Gaon (10th century)
begin praying for rain this
N E VINS
argued that these traditions
weekend during the celebra-
Specia 1 to the
are allegorical, and that God
tion of Shemini Atzeret.
Jewish News
certainly does not have tears
This ritual might seem
or a body. Rather, the Torah
quaint if it weren't for the
is written in "human language,"
increasingly desperate situation of
employing metaphors to explain God's
drought in Israel and many other parts
eternal truths to mortal readers.
of the world. Rising surface tempera-
Is the idea that God sets the weather
tures around the globe are greatly
pattern
in accordance with our virtue
increasing the aridity of the earth, and
index
also
allegorical, or is that a literal
the huge surge in population means
truth? I accept the Torah's claim, though
that our limited resources of fresh water
the mechanism for connecting our Con-
are constantly being drained.
duct to climate may be somewhat indi-
The situation is particularly severe in
rect. It is evident that human conduct
Israel, where Lake Kinneret has been -
does have a cumulative impact upon the
drastically reduced over the past five
environment. That fact is scientifically
years due to modest rainfall and
verifiable.
It is also clear that prayer and
increased water consumption. Israel and
the mitzvot teach humans the impor-
Lebanon have veered toward hostilities
tance of humility and responsibility —
in recent weeks because of Lebanese
this, too, is good for the earth.
plans to divert waters from the Wazzani
Whether God also sends rain clouds
and Hatzbani rivers, which supply the •
in
the
direction of prayer is a mystery to
Kinneret. Israel is in desperate need of
me.
But
with a thirsty earth in urgent
plentiful rain this winter, and this devel-
need
for
rain, I'll be praying for geshem
opment lends added urgency to our
this
weekend.
May this be a year of
prayers.
good rainfall; may all our prayers for
But is prayer really an effective
blessing be answered; may the people of
response to drought? The second para-
Israel soon gather in the courtyards and
graph of the Shema promises that good
fields of their verdant land, singing in
conduct will be rewarded with ample
the rain.' ❑
rainfall.
(portion
of
prayer
serv-
The Amidah
ice read silently), from Shemini Atzeret
through Passover (the rainy season in
Israel), includes a prayer for rain. The
What do you think is the impact
elaborate Tefillat Geshem (rain) prayer
of prayer? Is it internal transfor-
this weekend recalls the merit of our
mation? Divine response? Does
ancestors and concludes with the plea
your answer affect the intensity
that God send rain as a blessing, for life
or the regularity of your prayers?
is
a
spiritual
leader
at
Daniel Nevins

Shabbat Shemini
Atzeret: Deuteronomy
14:22-16:17; Numbers
29:35-30:1; I Kings
8:54-66

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9/27

2002

63

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